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Design

Nikon has definitely rediscovered its design flair with the 4500. This camera has fashionable angular curves (Ford Focus?) and almost perfectly semicircular sides. The 4500 has a full metal body, this adds strength, style and a professional feel to the camera (no half measures here). Nikon has also simplified the 4500, gone are the eight rear buttons of the 995 to be replaced by six buttons and a new joystick-style 4-way controller. One other area of simplification is the removal of the LCD control panel display.

Just like the 995 the 4500 has a swivel lock which when engaged stops the lens portion from being twisted past the 90 degree point (useful for those heavy add-on lenses). Other immediately noticeable improvements are the clean flush fit of the pop-up flash and the larger, easier to open compact flash compartment door and larger, silver command dial. The 4500 may have a cleaner, simpler design than the 995 but it loses no flexibility or feature. Note that there is still support for external flash units via the flash sync terminal.

Side by side

As you can see the 4500 is smaller (and cleaner in design) than the 990/995 and the 950 (which to me was a design classic). Nikon has done a lot to reduce the overall size of the camera without affecting usability or reducing its feature set. It's also fairly clear that the 4500 is the most stylized and fashion conscious split-bodied Coolpix to date (we got hints of this when Nikon released the 2500).

Left to right: Coolpix 995, Coolpix 4500, Coolpix 950

In-hand

Despite its smaller dimensions the narrower hand grip remains comfortable and well designed. The finger grip on the front inside of the grip provides a great anchor when holding the camera. From the back your thumb naturally rests on the zoom controller and/or command dial. Note that the zoom controller has now changed to a single rocking lever instead of two separate buttons.


LCD Monitor

The 4500's LCD monitor may be smaller than its predecessor (it's now 1.5") but that hardly matters as it is brighter, sharper and clearer. Nikon has also shown that they listen, this new LCD monitor also has a quality anti-reflective coating, making it easy to use even in the most demanding outdoor circumstances.

The LCD monitor provides approximately 97% frame coverage when used as a 'live view' viewfinder. This is one area I would have liked seen improved.


Viewfinder

Nothing changes here, still the same optical-tunnel style viewfinder which we see on so many digital cameras. Some relief at least that there is a dioptre adjustment and that there are parallax correction lines visible through the viewfinder.

The lights beside the viewfinder indicate:

  Flash ready
  Flash recommended (shake warning)
  Flash charging
AF  Focus good, ready to shoot
AF  Focus bad, cannot auto focus
AF  Taking photo
AF  Digital zoom
AF  3:2 Recording size


Battery compartment

The 4500's battery compartment is situated in the base of the hand grip. It is opened by sliding a small lever to the right, the door will then flip open and the battery will pop out thanks to a small spring inside the compartment. Nikon appears to have now standardized on the EN-EL1 Lithium-Ion battery for all of its higher end digital cameras. The EN-EL1 is rated with a capacity of 650 mAh at 7.4 V (4.8 Wh).


Compact Flash compartment

With each evolution of split-bodied Coolpix digital cameras Nikon improves the design of the Compact Flash compartment. The older models had their CF compartment in the base of the camera with a less than satisfactory cover, after considerable owner feedback Nikon then moved it to the right side of the camera. With the advent of the 4500 we now get a much larger, easier to open door which also makes it easier to remove the card.

Just like the 995 the 4500 has a Type I/II CF card slot which means it can take either Type I (3.3 mm thick) or Type II (5 mm thick) CF cards. Just like the Coolpix 5000 (but unlike the 995) the 4500 officially supports the newer generation IBM Microdrive (512 MB / 1 GB type).

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