Nikon Coolpix 3500 Review

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Nikon Coolpix 3500



Steve's Conclusion


The Coolpix 3500 is the 3-megapixel version of the very popular Coolpix 2500. This gives it the capability to make larger (up to 11x17") prints or allow more cropping into the larger image for smaller prints without the cost of image quality. The fast f/2.7 lens has the same 37 - 111mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range but the 3500 has creative functions like continuous drive and Multi-Continuous 16 frame burst modes to capture those action sequences. It's still an easy to use point-n-shoot camera that delivers the kind of image quality that has made Nikon digicams famous.

This shirt pocket or purse sized digicam is equipped with a quick and accurate autofocus system that focuses as close as 1.6 inches in Macro mode. To aid first-time digital camera users, the Coolpix 3500 has a slider control on the top of the camera that can power up the digicam and get you shooting that easily. A simple push button on the back takes you into a SCENE menu that will automatically configure the camera to most creative functions (12) anyone would care to use. The auto exposure mode covers most average shooting requirements, for those times when it doesn't then try the Portrait, Landscape, Fireworks Show, Sunset, Close-Up, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Copy, Beach/Snow, Museum, or the Backlight scene mode. The scene modes let you work in difficult lighting conditions by adjusting the shutter speed, aperture, flash and white balance settings for you automatically.

When shooting in Auto mode you have access to a menu of options including image quality and size, exposure compensation, LCD Brightness, CF Card Format, Date Set-up, Auto-Off settings, language settings and USB output format. In Manual mode you can still have all the automation plus White Balance, Continuous, Best Shot Selector, and Image Sharpening control. These options are easily selected from a two-page menu on the color LCD screen.

Another feature to aid the novice digi-photographer is the Transfer button that lets you quickly and easily transfer pictures from the camera to the computer or the Internet. Working through the USB port of the Windows or Macintosh computer the camera talks to the NikonView software and tells it to acquire the images. If you want to share your images with the world then you can setup a free account with www.Nikonnet.com and transfer your files to your online photo album.

A digital camera is nothing unless it has the ability to preview recorded images on a color LCD. The Coolpix 3500 has a 1.5-inch color TFT LCD that's bright and readable. In fact, it's one of best I've used in bright sun without a LCD hood. This series of Coolpix digicams do not have an optical viewfinder, so the LCD must be used as a "live" viewfinder. My initial impression of shooting with an LCD only camera wasn't positive until I actually got out in the sunshine, I increased the LCD brightness, and started shooting our sample photos. The LCD performed very well and I didn't miss the optical viewfinder. The only short coming to this is the battery life is shortened as the LCD must be on all the time. Rarely is it a good practice to own a camera with only one battery.

The QuickReview button will "popup" a 1/4-screen display of the last picture captured without leaving Record mode. If you want to see it full screen then press the button a second time. Then you can zoom into the image to check focus and composition up to 6x with the zoom control and navigate around in it with the 4 way navigation control. You return to Record mode by simply tapping the shutter release or press the quick review again. The camera operates in Continuous-AF mode all the time as the LCD is always on. This keeps the camera in focus, whatever it is pointed at.

Reviewing of images and movies must be done in camera or after exporting to a computer as this series of Coolpix's have no video connector to hook up to your TV.

The Coolpix 3500 can generate 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768 or 640 x 480 size still images. Images are saved in one of three JPEG quality settings; Fine, Normal or Basic. The Large (2048 x 1536) size images will print photo-quality prints up to 11x17" although the most "film-like" prints will be the 8x10" down to 4x6" size. The camera is equipped with a standard CompactFlash Type I card slot and comes with an 16MB card that Nikon is promoting as there "Starter" CF Card. I have used the massive SanDisk Ultra 512MB CF card in the Coolpix 3500 and it's compatible with all other CF Type I cards from most manufacturers.

For those times when a still image just won't tell the story, push the navigation control dial to the Movie position and very quickly move the cursor down the pop-up menu that appears on the LCD to the movie icon. You are ready to capture a motion video instead. Up to 35 seconds of action can be captured as a 320 x 240 (Quarter VGA) QuickTime MOVie clip. These movie clips play back full screen on the color LCD. Unfortunately they are silent as the camera lacks a microphone and the optical zoom is not useable during video capture.

The small, stylish and high resolution Coolpix 3500 has a suggested retail price of just $399. We're sure it is going to find its way under the tree of many "soon to be" digicam users this holiday season. The only things you really need to buy is a larger CF card and an extra battery (that's true with every digicam), everything else including a suite of software is in the base package. If you're looking for a small digital camera with the image quality of the "big boys" then get out the wrapping paper and bows, with the Nikon Coolpix 3500, you'll have it!





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