Small and lightweight, but with a 16.2-million-pixel, APS-C sensor and 18.5mm lens, the Nikon Coolpix A could be an ideal second camera for many enthusiasts. Richard Sibley puts it to the test
Nikon Coolpix A review – Metering
Image: (Left): the raw image seems to have a little blown-out highlight detail, and the plinth is very dark. (Right): Adjusting the highlights and shadows reveals a lot of detail that looked lost
With centreweighted, spot and evaluative metering, photographers using the Nikon Coolpix A should be able to cope with any tricky lighting situations. That said, I would imagine that for the most part the Coolpix A will be used in its evaluative mode (or matrix, as Nikon calls it).
When shooting landscape images using matrix metering, the Coolpix A produces good exposures with the emphasis seemingly on retaining as much highlight detail in the sky as possible. On a bright but hazy overcast day, I found that the metering tended to underexpose the foreground of a scene while keeping detail in the sky. Naturally, this meant that the foreground needed lightening in software, which, given the capabilities of the sensor, presents no significant problem, especially at low sensitivities where noise isn’t an issue. Those who shoot JPEG images may want to increase the Active D-Lighting in this situation to help brighten shadows a little.
With a prominent subject occupying most of the scene, the matrix metering performs admirably, providing the subject with a good exposure. With quick access to exposure compensation via a button on the rear of the camera, exposures can be quickly adjusted, and most photographers should feel confident leaving the Coolpix A set to matrix metering while shooting.
One mode I found useful was Auto ISO. Most cameras have this function in some form, but it can be quite basic and will simply select the lowest possible ISO sensitivity while maintaining a fast enough shutter speed to shoot handheld. The Coolpix A offers a little more in terms of control, as the minimum shutter speed, which by default is set to 1/30sec, and maximum ISO setting can be selected. Now any ISO sensitivity can be chosen, and the auto ISO will only kick in when the shutter speed drops. So, for example, the camera can be set to ISO 400 and then, only if the lighting conditions become dark enough that the shutter speed falls below 1/30sec, will the ISO sensitivity change and only enough to maintain the minimum shutter speed.
Shooting close-ups of flowers in aperture priority mode, with a sensitivity of ISO 100, I noticed that the Auto ISO feature shifted the sensitivity just a little to ISO 160, which was enough to increase the shutter speed so I could take the image handheld. In manual mode, the user can even pick the desired shutter speed and aperture, perhaps for a specific motion and depth of field they wish to capture. By then setting the Auto ISO minimum shutter speed to the selected exposure shutter speed, the Auto ISO mode will change the ISO appropriately if the light changes.