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 – Autofocus
Image: Macro mode has a minimum focus distance of 10cm, which is quite impressive given the size of the sensor in the Coolpix A. Focusing is a little slower within the macro range
I found the contrast-detection autofocus of the Coolpix A to be steady, rather than snappy. For the types of images that will be taken with the camera it should be perfectly fine, but it is a little slower than we are used to seeing from the best CSCs. In dim light the camera does tend to hunt a little more, but unless it is very dark it still manages to focus correctly. Similarly, the Coolpix A is a little slower to focus when in its macro mode. In fact, if an image is taken in the macro setting, then switched to the standard AF mode to focus in the distance, it becomes clear why Nikon has included the macro limited range, as offering the whole range would clearly have significantly slowed down the focusing speed.
There is a reasonable range of focusing options, including single AF and full-time AF (AF-F). The latter continuously focuses the lens and is designed to be used for video capture. However, I found a way to make use of it for taking quick still shots, by first switching the function button on the front of the camera to AF lock. As the AF-F continuously focuses, often in the second it takes to compose a shot the Coolpix A will have already focused. Pressing the function button locks the focus, and with virtually no lag the shutter fires almost instantly.
Without using AF lock, AF-F mode will focus, but then as soon as the user puts their finger on the shutter button, the camera will focus again, rendering the mode almost pointless unless shooting video or using the AF lock trick.
The Coolpix A has two sizes of AF spot, normal and wide, with wide being the larger of the two. There is actually little automation of the AF area in use. By default, the AF spot is centred, but it can be repositioned to anywhere in the scene. It can be a little slow to shift the AF point around, particularly when set to its normal size, so by far the better option is to set the AF to its tracking mode. Use the centre point to select the subject to track and then simply recompose the scene. The tracking AF will now follow the position of the subject as the image is composed.