I stopped by Precision Camera yesterday, at the end of the day. It was quiet, unlike the crowded weekends so I had time to play with some cameras and talk to my friend, Jon. Of course, I was most interested in mirrorless and the new high-end point and shoots. Later Ron came over and we had a good old time debating the merits of each camera.
I showed them an absolutely hysterical YouTube video of the mirrorless party, which you can see below. The new Precision Camera is so much larger and it feels a lot more comfortable to linger and talk — certainly a pleasurable experience — and with a friendly sales staff that is more than willing to help.
I first played around with the Olympus XZ-2 and the Sony RX1, two cameras that interest me for different reasons. They also just got the new Cookpix A, Nikon’s newest and highest end point and shoot. With a large APS-C sensor and a fixed 28mm equivalent lens, it’s an interesting camera. One that I considered adding to my list of cameras to watch, until I played with it. What didn’t I like? Continue reading to find out.
Precision had the silver Coolpix A. It seemed a bit too shiny for my taste. Even a bit cheap looking, like an overly showy bauble — I definitely prefer the black. In actuality, the camera is nicely built with smooth dampened controls. The camera body is almost exactly the size of my Olympus E-PM2. The retracting lens protrusion, however, is more svelte than the Lumix 14mm lens that I use on the Olympus. The Coolpix A is light but has enough heft to feel like a premium point and shoot.
A couple of things made me less than excited when Nikon first announced this model. While I love the 28mm equivalent prime lens, it starts at an f2.8. I really wished it was a f2.0. More importantly, it lacks image stabilization (IS). For someone like me who shoots, in often dark conditions, IS is something that is highly prized.
Reports of a really good lens, better than the 14mm Lumix, made me reconsider the camera. That along with a large APS-C sensor that matches or exceeds the Nikon D7000 DSLR makes this a formidable camera. Ming Thien, a Pro photographer out of Malaysia who I really respect, has a preliminary report on the Coolpix A and compares it with the Fujifulm X20. In theory, this expensive point and shoot would exceed my Olympus E-PM2 setup in image quality while being slightly smaller.
Except, soon as I started using it, I didn’t like the feel. The focus was slow. The lens moved in and out when locking focus. It kind of had the feel of a contrast detect focusing system from several years ago. It wasn’t slow like the Canon EOS M, it just wasn’t snappy like the latest generation micro 4/3 cameras. It is certainly usable but it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t inspire me with confidence.
The user interface was also confusing. The physical controls looked promising. There was a unlabeled jog-dial in the back, another dial on the top and beautifully smooth ring around the lens. Except, best I can tell, the lens ring and the jog-dial didn’t do anything in Aperture priority mode. I turned them but I didn’t see any of the exposure settings change. The top dial, I discovered, adjusted the aperture but I didn’t see an easy way to change the exposure compensation or the other typical settings. The unlabeled jog-dial was puzzling since most small cameras these days allow exposure compensation, flash compensation and other frequently changed settings to be accessed from these type of controls.
I looked through all the menus for at least 10 minutes seeing if there is a way to reprogram the controls. Other than the F1 and F2 buttons, I didn’t find any. I sincerely hope there is a way configure the dials — maybe I just missed it. I would love to program the lens dial to control aperture, the top dial to control ISO and the jog-dial to adjust exposure compensation. If I can, I would be more willing to overlook the slowish focus.
I shot a few JPEGs inside the store but nothing that would give a true indication of image quality. I can tell you that the camera defaults to 1/30 second shutter speed before changing the ISO. I also realized that I would have to improve my holding technique since image stabilization has made me a bit lax. I noticed several of my unstabilized Nikon shots were blurry because of motion blur.
Do you see a similarity with the 3 cameras I picked? They are all point and shoots with lenses that can’t be changed. I have the Canon for my interchangeable DSLR system. I have the Olympus for my interchangeable mirrorless system. I’m not looking to add yet other lens system. These high-end point and shoots are what interests me the most these days. Not that I need another camera, mind you.
Click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure detail. Multiply the focal length by 4.66 to get the 35mm equivalent