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Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent metering, great neutral color response, average resolution
  • Control over internal processing algorithm parameters: contrast, saturation, sharpness
  • Superb build quality, full metal case
  • Excellent body design and ergonomics, cleaner, smaller and more rounded
  • The best out-of-camera macro ability of any other digital camera
  • Zoom control has very fine gradation of steps
  • Four times optical lens provides a little more reach than the traditional three times
  • Three user memories
  • Great control over 'photographic' features such as selection of AF point
  • Spot metering can be tied to AF point
  • Unique focus confirmation (LCD live view sharpening) option
  • Wide range of scene modes (opens camera usage up to less experienced users)
  • Fine-tunable white balance
  • Detailed exposure information available in playback mode (roll the command dial)
  • User re-programmable FUNC button
  • No distinct play mode, becomes a true shooting priority camera
  • Good battery performance considering its small size and capacity
  • Noise Reduction mode for clean long exposures
  • New LCD is smaller but sharper and brighter with anti-reflective coating
  • Same lens thread as previous split-bodied Coolpix cameras means lens compatibility
  • USB mass storage device connectivity


Conclusion - Cons

  • Slow startup time (even worse if zoom set to 'last position')
  • Lens barrel distortion at wide angle and some pincushion distortion at telephoto
  • Longer shutter release LAG than we would expect at this level
  • Average continuous shooting, 1.25 fps up to 5 images at full resolution
  • Video camera like clipping of highlights ('video camera' look to some images)
  • Pink/yellow cast to auto white balance under incandescent light
  • Relatively slow lens (F2.6 - F5.1)
  • Poor low light Auto Focus and no AF assist lamp
  • Manual focus mode is now missing a distance readout
  • Maximum 8 second camera timed long exposure (Bulb offers up to 5 minutes)
  • Limited range of apertures and shutter speeds available for manual exposures
  • Pretty useless perspective control feature
  • Histogram still not implemented in record review mode
  • No RAW file format support
  • No support for external Speedlight features such as AF assist or flash zoom


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Nikon Coolpix 4500: (4 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 9
Image quality 8.5
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 9
Value for money 8

Nikon's radical split-bodied Coolpix 900 was surely a bit of a shock to the market back in 1998, yet owners soon realized the flexibility and comfort of being able to swivel the lens portion of the camera independently of the LCD and controls. Since then this design has been through five iterations (if you include the 910/900s) ending where we are today, with the 4500.

The Coolpix 4500 takes that original design and improves it, the body is smaller and thinner and yet the overall feel of the camera is better. Design lines are rounded with fashionable angular cuts. Nikon are also the king of ergonomics at this level, a full metal body with a rubberized hand grip a straightforward and extremely functional control layout and yet none of it gets in the way of the camera's true purpose, taking great pictures.

The Coolpix 4500 does take great pictures, metering, tonal balance and colour are all excellent. Resolution is slightly off the best in the league but we can excuse that to a slightly more conservative sharpening algorithm which is still strong enough to pull out detail but not so much as to introduce artifacts.

Noise levels are good although you can still expect to see some red channel noise in blue skies (there are very few prosumer digital cameras which don't). Great news also on the purple fringing front, Nikon appear to have solved that issue. Lens distortion is higher than I would have liked but I would say that is the price you pay for a compact internal focusing, internal zoom lens.

What's great about the Coolpix 4500 is that it provides you with a full range of manual controls in a compact and flexible body design. In the 'off' position with the lens pointing upwards the camera is narrow enough to fit into even the smallest bag and thanks to the fact that the lens doesn't telescope you never need to worry about (or wait for) lens extension or retraction.

There were a couple of other issues, I was surprised to see the relatively slow shutter lag and the camera does still exhibit clipping of highlights, something we've come to expect from Coolpix digital cameras. None of these though should detract from the fact that the Coolpix 4500 is an excellent package which offers quality build, excellent features, flexibility and image quality. If you're serious about your digital photography then the Coolpix 4500 should be on your list. The best split-bodied Coolpix to date.

Highly Recommended

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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