Body & Design

The Coolpix A is a small camera by most sensible standards, especially when you consider it contains an APS-C sized sensor. In this diagram we've included the dimensions of the strap lugs, which protrude by a couple of millimeters on either side of the body. If you include these, it's essentially the same width as the Ricoh GR, but a touch deeper. Both cameras will fit fairly easily into a coat pocket, if not quite into a pair of jeans.

Top of camera

The top of the camera is pretty conventional, playing host to the mode dial (with its two customizable 'U' positions) and the main control dial. The power switch is a spring lever around the shutter release, that you pull back to turn the camera on and off.

In the hand

The Coolpix A is a small camera - being around 10% larger than Sony's RX100 in every dimension. This means it will fit in coat pockets, even if it won't quite fit in most trouser pockets. The camera's front and rear panels are aluminium alloy, while the top plate is magnesium alloy, so the camera has the cold, rugged feeling you'd expect of a camera costing this much.

Despite its small size, the Coolpix is relatively easy to hold - a small rubber patch on the top right of the back plate, combined with the raised, leather-textured rubber ridge on the front of the camera provide something to hold on to. We'd still recommend using a wrist strap, of course.

The thumb dial is well positioned for changing settings from the shooting hand position. Buttons that you might want to use in combination with the dial are ranged down the left hand edge, with the exception of the Fn1 button, that is probably easier to use with the fingers of a supporting hand, rather than the right hand.

User interface

The Coolpix A's user interface will be immediately familiar to an entry-level Nikon DSLR user. As usual, pressing the [i] button brings up a settings panel screen. The arrow keys navigate around the screen, then pressing 'OK' lets you select a setting to change, with a second 'OK' press required to confirm the change.

The Coolpix A's interface is essentially the same as the one used in the company's DSLRs.

And, just as on a Nikon DSLR, pressing the [i] button allows you to interact with the settings.

Dial behavior

The Coolpix A features two control dials - a primary dial on the top right-hand shoulder of the camera and a standard compact camera dial around the four way controller. The primary dial, as you'd expect, sets the primary exposure parameter (Shutter speed in M or S mode, Aperture value in A mode, Program Shift in P mode).

Sadly, as with many photographers' compacts we've tried, the dial on the rear of the camera is rather under-used. In manual exposure mode it controls the aperture value, but it's unused in both S and A modes. There's no sign of the Nikon 'Easy Exposure Compensation' option in the menus that would allow its use to control exposure compensation directly in P, S and A modes, as happens on twin-dial Nikon DSLRs. Instead you have to hold down the Exposure Compensation button and spin the top dial.

The directional keys on the 4-way controller are used to move the autofocus point around the frame during shooting, as well as navigating menus and the [i] settings screen.

Body elements

The left-hand side of the camera features a focus mode switch, making it easy to switch between auto and manual focus.

Manual focus fine-tuning is always available in AF mode. MF mode doesn't magnify by default, but the magnify +/– buttons on the rear left of the camera allow the preview to be zoomed. A distance scale is available, whether zoomed or not.
The front plate of the Coolpix A features an infrared receiver, allowing the use of the (optional) ML-L3 remote release.
There is a manually triggered pop-up flash. It's got a guide number of 6 (m/ISO 100), which is pretty standard for a camera such as this.

Sadly it can't be used as a commander flash to control Nikon's wireless 'Creative Lighting System' as the built-in flashes on higher-end Nikon DSLRs can.
The camera has an HDMI socket on one side, to allow video playback. There's no mic socket for capturing better sound quality than the internal microphones can muster.
On the left-hand flank of the camera are the Coolpix A's other two ports. The top one allows attachment of a wired remote or GPS unit.

The lower socket is the camera's USB connector and can be used with the optional WU-1a Wi-Fi module, to offer some remote control and wireless file transfer to smartphones.
The Coolpix A uses the same 7.4Wh EN-EL20 as used in the Nikon 1 J-series. Despite this relatively large battery, the Coolpix A's battery life measures a relatively low 230 shots per charge, when tested to CIPA standards.

Function buttons

The Coolpix A has two customizable function buttons - one on the front plate of the camera, the other on the rear left. The front button (Fn1), can be set to one of eleven options. The ISO button, which can be re-purposed as Fn2, can have one of seven functions applied to it.

Any on/off setting simply requires you to press the button and the effect is active for your next shot (e.g. Flash value lock or +Raw). Any parameter that has multiple settings, such as flash mode or ISO is controlled by holding the button down and spinning the main control dial. No confirmation step is required, so the process is pretty rapid.

Better still, the camera offers good control over Auto ISO, meaning it's possible to re-assign the ISO/Fn2 button without having too much impact on convenience. The Auto ISO option allows you to specify the maximum sensitivity the camera will use, along with the minimum shutter speed it should allow before increasing ISO (with a 1/1000th to 1 sec range being selectable). Given the camera's single focal length, this makes it easy to specify a shutter speed appropriate for avoiding either camera shake or subject movement, then get on with shooting.

Fn1 Options
 • Flash mode (default)
 • Release mode
 • Self-timer
 • FV lock
 • AE/AF lock
 • AE lock only
 • AE lock (Hold)
 • AF lock only
 • AF-ON
 • Exposure Compensation
 • + NEF (Raw)
ISO/Fn2 Options
 • ISO Sensitivity (default)
 • White Balance
 • Image Size/Quality
 • Metering
 • Active D-Lighting
 • Auto Bracketing
 • Monitor brightness