The Coolpix 4800 is a fairly conventionally-styled compact finished almost entirely in a high gloss plastic (there is a metal ring around the base of the lens barrel) and sporting a sizeable hand grip that makes it feel very secure in the hand. It's remarkably compact for a 'super zoom', though inevitably the inclusion of a decent-sized screen, electronic viewfinder and 8.3x zoom lens means it is considerably larger than the 4200 and 5200 models it joins in Nikon's consumer camera range. Although it feels a little 'Fisher Price' and lightweight, the 4800 appears to be well constructed and capable of taking the knocks of everyday use. This is first and foremost a 'point and shoot' camera and this is reflected in the large, friendly (and relatively sparse) control layout, which is very similar to the ultra-compact Coolpix 5200.
In your hand
There are times when bigger is definitely better, and compared to the latest 'ultra-compact' cameras the Coolpix 4800 handles like a dream. The aforementioned grip makes it perfectly usable with one hand, and the large zoom and shutter controls are perfectly placed for fast snapping. Once you get over the slightly cheap feel and get on with taking pictures you soon realize that Nikon may not have made the prettiest super zoom, but they've made one that is very well suited to its purpose. The lightness means carrying the Coolpix 4800 all day won't give you arm or neck ache, but it isn't really pocketable (and when slung around your neck on a strap you'll find yourself checking it's still there every few minutes).
The 4800's sizeable Li-ion battery slots into a compartment in the base of the grip. There's no latch to hold it in place, and in an inexplicable piece of industrial design, a powerful spring causes the battery to literally shoot out when you open the door, with enough force to end up on the floor. Battery life is pretty good - around 240 shots (CIPA standard) on a single charge. One nice extra is that you can use commonly available 2CR5 batteries, which are good for about 360 shots.
The SD card slot is located under a small flap on the side of the grip. The Coolpix 4800 has approx 13.5MB of internal memory; enough for 7 full size/highest quality shots, and you can copy between the built-in memory and SD card.
The other side of the camera is home to two ports under a flexible plastic cap. Top one is for the (optional) mains adapter, the bottom one is a combined USB and AV port (both cables supplied).
The built-in flash is fairly large, and fairly powerful - it'll reach as far as 14 feet at the wide end of the zoom. We also found the red-eye reduction fairly efficient. For reasons best known to Nikon the Coolpix 4800 doesn't feature the built-in red-eye removal system seen on the 5200.
The 1.8-inch LCD has 118,000 pixels, so is pretty sharp, and has no visible lag. It's not very bright though, and can be difficult to see when you're shooting outdoors. It gains up well (brightens) in low light, but does so very slowly - it doesn't react well to rapid changes in scene brightness. Both the screen and the EVF (see below) show almost the full frame (Nikon quotes a figure of about 97%).
The 235,000-pixel electronic viewfinder is surprisingly good for a budget model, and perfectly useable in very bright - and very low - lighting conditions. In fact, if anything it's better than the color screen. And if you don't have perfect eyesight, worry not; there's a dioptre adjustment to the right of the finder.
The 36-300mm equiv (8.3x)., F2.7-4.4 Nikkor ED zoom lens is the jewel in the Coolpix 4800's crown. For those of you who like to know these things it's got
one lens with two aspherical surfaces in and two ED glass lens elements. It also focuses down to 1cm and is fast - taking around a second to go from wide to tele. On the downside it's quite noisy, and only has two aperture settings.
The zoom controls are large, and well positioned directly behind the grip, and are easy to use with your thumb.
The eight-position mode dial offers quick access to the four most common scene modes (portrait, landscape, sports and night portrait) as well as the movie mode and setup menus. There are no real manual or semi automatic exposure modes on the 4800.