Nikon Coolpix 885 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Coolpix 885 is an updated Coolpix 880 with a full 3x optical zoom lens, a one-touch Transfer button for easy downloads to a USB-enabled computer, a Small Picture option, long exposure Noise Reduction, white balance bracketing, color saturation control, a larger handgrip, and a smaller, lighter body. Gone are the P/A/M exposure modes, they've been replaced by the CSM (custom) exposure mode that allows for either Program AE or Manual operation with access to a full menu of options. The AUTO exposure mode is for point-n-shoot operation, the camera sets all of the exposure controls for you with no menu available.
The first thing you notice when handling the Coolpix 885 is the new, enlarged handgrip makes this camera very stable in your hand. One-handed shooting is simple and I'm glad to see that Nikon realizes that even a small camera like the 885 can benefit from a larger handgrip. Gone is the status LCD found on the top of the 880, the 885 uses its smaller 1.5-inch color LCD for all information displays as well as review, preview and access to the settings menus. The color LCD is a high quality display with a realtime refresh rate and is very visible in all but the very bright outdoors. Nikon is going to be delivering its own HL-E885 LCD hood for the 885, an industry first as all other LCD hoods are third-party accessories. We'll update this review after we have received and used the new 885 LCD hood and let you know how it fares.
The Coolpix 880 was Nikon's first camera to use a lithium rechargeable battery pack and since then we have seen the EN-EL1 show up on the Coolpix 995, 775 and now it can be used with the 885. For U.S. buyers the 885 does not come with the rechargeable pack, it is supplied with a one-use 2CR5 battery. The EN-EL1 and MH-51 charger are an option that you will want to purchase, those 2CR5 batteries get expensive at ~$6.00 each. The EN-EL1 battery pack can run the camera for about an hour and thirty minutes with the LCD on and takes 2 hours or less to charge. Nikon included the EN-EL1 with the Coolpix 775 and I see no reason not to include it with the 885 other than marketing and price points.
The Coolpix 885 shares quite a few features with the 995 such as 5-point autofocus with manual AF point selection, Quick Review function, excellent macro focus coverage, exposure/drive modes (Single, Continuous, Multi-Shot 16, VGA Sequence and Ultra High Speed) as well as Best-Shot Selection, white balance with fine tuning and manual preset, 256-segment Matrix, Centre-Weighted, Spot or Spot AF Area metering, Noise Reduction for long exposures, adjustable ISO sensitivity (100, 200, 400 or Auto), control over image contrast and sharpness and 320x240 (QVGA) QuickTime movie capture at 15fps up to 40 seconds.
Gone is the aperture priority exposure mode but with only two possible settings (wide open or fully closed) this is not really going to be missed. When in the Scene mode the menu gives you a choice of twelve possible situations (Portrait, Party/Indoor, Night Portrait, Beach/Snow, Landscape, Sunset, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks Show, Close Up, Copy, Back Light). These presets will aid the novice user in getting the best possible photographs by selecting the optimum camera settings for each of the desired scene conditions. The Transfer button further aids the novice when downloading image data to the host computer running the NikonView software. The new USB mass storage class drivers make the camera appear as a removeable drive so you can now use any file management utilities to copy images to your hard drive.
The 3x optical zoom lens is quite sharp and reasonably fast at F2.8, it has the usual amount of barrel distortion at full wideangle that we see in most digicams. At the telephoto end it is relatively clean of pincushioning though and the zoom mechanism is quiet and smooth. With the LCD on the camera is in Continuous-AF mode and locks the focus very quickly when the shutter is half-pressed. With the LCD off the average AF lock time is about a second to a second and a half. Using the UR-E4 lens adapter you can attach the Nikkor Coolpix 2x or 3x telephoto lenses, the WC-E24 or WC-E63 wideangle lenses, the FC-E8 fisheye adapter lens or the ES-E28 Slide Copier to the Coolpix 885. The MC-EU1 wired remote control can be plugged into the USB port to control the camera's shutter, zoom lens and add a time-lapse recording function.
A quirk that first appeared on the Coolpix 775 is also showing up on the 885 as well. The cameras are supplied with 8MB and 16MB CF cards and when used with these cards they function as expected. When I put a larger CF card like the SanDisk 256, 384 or 512MB size in these cameras they both exhibited slower startup times (double the normal time), aprrox. twice as long to get a focus lock with the LCD on and about triple the time to get an AF lock when the LCD was off. I have made Nikon aware of my findings but have yet to have heard anything back from their tech folks in Tokyo. Hopefully there will be a firmware fix for this forthcoming as a 3-megapixel camera needs to be able to use the larger CF cards.
Other than the somewhat quirky operation with large CF cards I was more than pleased with the overall operaion of the Coolpix 885. The shot to shot time even in the Large/Fine quality setting was very quick with the supplied Lexar 16MB CF card. Thanks to the Quick Review feature you can quickly check your last picture on the LCD and jump right back to capture mode by simply tapping the shutter button. I did see considerable "shadow noise" in many of the pictures that I took, this is where you see a lot of speckled pixels in a shadowed area that should be one smooth color. For the average shooter this isn't a problem but I'm sure it will get noticed by the more advanced users. The overall color reproduction and saturation is good with the camera settings at default although it is a little "hot" on the reds. There is also more than the occassionally occurence of chromatic abberations, this is when you see a line of one or more purple pixels along a strongly backlit object.
The bottom line is that the Coolpix 885 is an easy to use and reasonably priced three megapixel compact camera. It yields those "Nikon sharp" pictures that have become a defacto standard since the Coolpix 950 first arrived. It will please the novice as well as the intermediate digi-photographer and thanks to its small size and light weight, it can be carried around all day with little to no fatigue. If you want a good camera for someone making the switch from film to digital, the 885 is an excellent choice. Be sure to purchase the optional EN-EL1 battery and charger if you're a U.S. buyer, it's either that or a handful of one-use 2CR5 batteries.
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