Nikon Coolpix 4200 Review

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Nikon Coolpix 4200



Steve's Conclusion


Positioned in Nikon's consumer digicam product line between the Coolpix 4100 and 5200 models, the Coolpix 4200 is an ultra-compact camera that packs a 4-megapixel imager and a Nikkor ED 3x optical zoom lens in a durable all metal body. Designed for simplicity, it offers users a point-n-shoot "Auto" exposure mode, and helps the less-experienced photographer obtain good results with its variety of pre- programmed scene modes. Its scene-assisted modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait) also help with shot composition by displaying framing assist outlines on the LCD.

Despite the 4200's small size, its ergonomics are very good. It is comfortable to hold thanks to the well-shaped handgrip, and the controls are well-organized, preventing accidental activation. The 1.5-inch color LCD is used for image review, preview, access the settings menus and also serves as the camera's data display. It was a joy to use in both bright and dim lighting, being bright enough to use as a viewfinder on the sunniest of days, and intensifying the live image in low ambient light for indoor shot composition. The 4200's LCD's live image is uninterrupted during autofocus, allowing you to follow a moving subject. The LCD introduces less than 1/10 second delay in the live image, useful when trying to capture an image at the critical moment.

The shooting performance of the 4200 was good. Power up to first image captured measured just under 3 seconds. Shutter lag measured a fast 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 7/10 of a second including autofocus. Sports Assist mode has an option, Sport spectator, which reduces the AF shutter lag to 5/10 second; your subject should be no closer than three meters in this mode. The shot to shot time averaged about 1.7 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and between 2 and 8 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. The 4200 offers three Sequential shooting mode to choose from (Continuous, 5 shot buffer, Multi- shot 16.) Continuous mode was impressive; I was able to capture frames at 7/10 second intervals continuously without being slowed by the emptying of the camera's buffer onto its SD memory card. In 5 shot buffer mode, frames were captured at 7/10 second intervals with only the last 5 saved. Multi-shot mode captures 16 frames, then makes a single 4M/Fine image out of all 16 frames. Using this mode, I was able to capture 16 frames in under 4 seconds. The LCD viewfinder briefly displays the last image captured in all Continuous modes; you'll prefer to use the optical viewfinder if your subject is moving. All test were done using a Sandisk 512MB Ultra II SD card, using 4M/Fine size/quality, without the use of the flash, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc. The Coolpix is responsive enough to satisfy most family shooting requirements.

The Nikkor 3x zoom lens is sharp and largely free of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) due to its Extra low dispersion (ED) element; the lens is clearly a step up from the non-ED lens of the Coolpix 4100. The lens does exhibit noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle, but the telephoto end of the zoom range is nearly distortion free. The lens moves smoothly and quietly through its zoom range, but not continuously; I counted 9 steps between wide angle and telephoto, adequate for shot composition. Its 38-114mm (35mm-equivalent) optical zoom range is typical for a camera in this class, offering a sufficient field of view for portraits of individuals, small groups, and landscape shots, and enough telephoto magnification to bring your subject closer. The autofocus system complements the lens nicely, producing sharp images in all conditions. The 4200's focus-assist lamp worked well within its limited range of 6'6" (wide), 4'11" (tele), producing sharp images even in complete darkness with flash.

I was happy with the overall image quality in 4M/Fine mode. When using the camera outdoors, most of our samples were sharp and colors were nicely saturated and well balanced. Beginners will benefit from the 4100's assistance with shot composition in the Landscape Assist mode, which offers framing guides for Scenic View, Architecture, and foreground portraits.

I was also pleased with our indoor test shots, the images are well exposed and skin tones look very natural. The 4200's red eye reduction flash mode was very effective, helped by both the pre-flash and the camera's internal Red Eye Fix feature. I saw virtually no occurence of red-eye in the "people" pictures; Nikon seems to have gotten it right. See the following 100% crops of shots taken without red eye reduction on the left, and with red eye reduction flash mode on the right.


withour red eye reduction with red eye reduction

The red eye reduction was not effective, however, on animals, whose eyes usually reflect a green, not red, color.

The range of the built-in speedlight (about 15 feet) is generous by consumer digicam standards, producing good results with moderately sized rooms and groups. You'll be able to include yourself in those group portraits thanks to the 4200's tripod socket and the use of its self-timer. Beginners will find the Portrait Assist mode handy, offering help with shot composition for several types of portraits. The CoolPix 4100 is very effective at squelching its flash at close range, and, combined with its macro focusing capability, would be a good choice for capturing images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings. Your Macro shots without flash will be improved by using the Best Shot Selector mode, which captures a sequence of up to 10 shots and saves only the sharpest. The 4200's limiting factor indoors is the range (6'6" wide, 4'11" tele) of its AF-assist lamp.

Movie mode has a "TV" setting for shooting clips at 640x480, plus settings for 320x240 or 180x120 resolutions, all at 15 fps; movies are limited in size only by the remaining amount of unused memory. The Coolpix 4200 includes a microphone and movies are always recorded with sound; as a result, the optical zoom can be used to compose movies before recording starts, but not during recording.

The camera is powered by the supplied proprietary Nikon EN-EL5 Li-ion rechargeable battery pack. Nikon claims that a fully-charged EN-EL5 pack can take approx. 150 shots with the flash used 50% of the time, a result confirmed in our testing. There is no retail off the shelf replacement for the EN-EL5; you should obtain a second battery and keep it fully charged to avoid the disappointment of a rare photo op meeting a dead battery.

The Coolpix 4200 is a great all-around camera. Its designed for simplicity, pleasing the beginner and intermediate user with terrific images without unnecessary complications. The combination of PictBridge compatibility and in-camera cropping even allow the beginner to forego the use of computer applications for editing and printing, further simplifying the process of producing prints. Families will enjoy the VGA-size (640x480) videos at 15fps with audio. Its 4 megapixel Fine images have plenty of resolution to create photo-quality prints up to 11x14-inch, or cropped prints of lesser size. If you want to take great photos but don't care to get involved in the details, the Nikon Coolpix 4200 is a good value at its ~$400 MSRP and very worthy of your consideration. If you like the features of the 4200 but want more resolution, consider the Coolpix 5200 with its 5-megapixel imager for about $100 more. Or if you don't need the 4200's higher-quality LCD, Red Eye Fix feature, all-metal body and higher-quality ED lens, consider the Coolpix 4100; it has the same 4-megapixel resolution for about $100 less.





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