When considering relatively thin, fixed lens cameras, most photographers don’t expect much. Even the best compact digital cameras have pretty basic features and image quality with perhaps one outstanding feature. But my Nikon Coolpix A900 review reveals a point and shoot camera that will surprise you with several of the features it contains, including an impressive 35X optical zoom lens.
For a camera in its price range, the Coolpix A900 struggles with image sharpness and overall image quality, which is a significant disappointment. But Nikon attempts to make up for these shortfalls by giving the A900 the latest wireless connectivity features, 4K video recording, along with a tilting LCD screen, all of which are cool features to find in a compact camera. (By the way, don’t confuse the A900 with the Nikon Coolpix A; they’re two different cameras.)
(NOTE: This review refers to a preview version of the A900 shown at camera shows in early 2016. The Kumamoto earthquakes in Japan in April 2016 delayed the actual A900 production line, and the A900 now will be available in quantity in July.)
Summary: The large 35X optical zoom lens and 4K video recording feature on the Nikon Coolpix A900 are great features in a relatively thin camera, but its image quality doesn’t quite match up with similarly priced models.
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: 4K movie resolution and large zoom found in this camera.
Price: $399 from Amazon
Available: March 2016
Model: Coolpix A900
What We Liked
- Excellent optical zoom lens in compact camera
- Host of wireless technologies available (WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth)
- Tiltable LCD screen
- 4K video resolution available
- Fast burst mode of up to 7 fps
What We Didn’t
- Image sharpness lags a bit behind most other cameras in this price range
- Maximum aperture is only f/3.4
- Small image sensor in physical size limits image quality this camera can achieve
- Limited maximum ISO setting of 3200
- No viewfinder available
Nikon Coolpix A900 Key Specs
|Image Sensor Type||1/2.3-inch|
|Optical Zoom Lens||35X|
|Avg Battery Life||270 photos|
|Size||4.5 x 2.7 x 1.6 inches|
Design and Build
As it can be challenging to hold a large zoom camera steady without using a tripod, I like Nikon’s choice to include a right hand grip area with the Coolpix A900. Nikon sacrificed some of the A900’s thinness by including the right hand grip, but it’s a key design component.
The right hand grip comes into play when you’re using the Nikon Coolpix A900’s full 35X optical zoom lens and you’re trying to avoid camera shake problems. The large zoom is a great feature to find in a camera that measures only 1.6 inches in thickness. None of the other thin models on our best point and shoot digital camera list can come close to matching the 35X zoom with the A900.
The Coolpix A900 has a sharp 3.0-inch LCD screen that can tilt up to 180 degrees, which allows you to shoot selfies while hand holding the camera. You also can tilt the LCD at a 90 degree angle, which is perfect for using the Coolpix A900 when it’s attached to a tripod.
The LCD has 920,000 pixels of resolution, which is an above average screen in terms of sharpness versus other compact cameras. Consider that a Nikon Coolpix L18 review from a few years ago showed an LCD with 230,400 pixels of resolution, and you can see the significant improvement in the display screen found with the Coolpix A900.
Having WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth connectivity in the Nikon A900 makes it easier to share your photos with social networking sites right after you shoot them. The SnapBridge app that’s available from Nikon even allows you to control the A900 remotely through your smartphone, which can be a great feature when you have the camera attached to a tripod.
Nikon’s Coolpix A900 includes a 1/2.3-inch image sensor, which explains its below average low light image quality and its lack of sharpness in all types of photos. A 1/2.3-inch image sensor is the smallest type of sensor included in modern digital cameras, and it’s commonly found in compact fixed lens cameras. However, it’s a disappointment to find such a small image sensor in a camera in the A900’s price range.
Nikon was able to reach a 20 megapixel resolution count with the A900, which is a desirable resolution level. Still, even having 20MP of resolution can’t fully overcome the small image sensor in terms of the A900’s image quality.
You can only record in the JPEG image format with this model. There’s no ability to shoot in RAW, which would yield higher image quality.
Low Light Performance and Movie Mode
One area where beginner level cameras tend to struggle is with low light photography. The small image sensors just don’t perform well when working in situations where the light is less than adequate, because the individual pixels on the small image sensors are small and struggle to measure the limited light in the scene.
The Nikon Coolpix A900 includes a popup flash unit, which helps provide a better angle to the scene than the tiny embedded flash units typically tucked into a corner of small cameras. You cannot add an external flash to this camera, as it has no hot shoe.
An impressive feature that’s part of the Coolpix A900 is its ability to record video in 4K. Very few digital cameras, especially compact cameras, currently on the market offer 4K video resolution (3840×2160 pixels). The A900 can offer 30 frames per second recording at 4K, which again is a well above average performance, as some cameras are limited to 15 fps of 4K video. Consider that the Nikon Coolpix S210, a camera from a few years ago, could only record video at a 640×480 resolution, and you can see how Nikon has made impressive strides in improving video quality in digital cameras.
Nikon estimates the battery in the Coolpix A900 is able to record 270 photos per charge. Although real world testing showed that number to be a bit optimistic, the A900’s battery life is still about average at 225 to 250 shots.
If you choose to use the WiFi feature included in this model on a continuous basis, your battery life will be significantly less. It’s best to keep the WiFi feature turned off until you’re actually ready to use it while uploading a series of photos, or the camera will continually attempt to find a network whenever it’s turned on, draining the battery more quickly.
If you’re disappointed by the price point of the Nikon Coolpix A900, it’s understandable. After all, a camera with a 1/2.3-inch sized image sensor and inconsistent overall image quality perhaps shouldn’t have a starting price point near $400. But you have to remember that there aren’t many cameras the size of the A900 that have as many cool features as it has, including a 35X optical zoom lens, 4K video recording, a tiltable LCD for selfies, and built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, and NFC technologies. When compared to a Nikon Coolpix P80 review, the A900 has double the resolution and nearly double the optical zoom range of the older P80. If having the latest upgraded and cool features in a compact camera are important to you, the A900’s image quality is good enough to make this a camera well worth considering.
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