White Balance

In addition to the default auto white balance setting, the Coolpix 4800 has five preset white balace modes (daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, flash) and a custom (manual) function. In our tests the auto white balance actually did a perfectly good job in most 'normal' situations, but seemed more prone than usual to errors in scenes where one colour dominated (close ups of flowers, scenes with lots of foliage and so on).

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red -0.3%, Blue -0.0%

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red -0.3%, Blue -7.1%

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 2.4%, Blue -3.5%

Flash Performance

Nikon cameras have always been very reliable flash performers, and the Coolpix 4800 is no exception. Exposure is excellent and the flash powerful enough to be useable at distances of up to around 15 feet at the wide end of the zoom. Even more impressively, we were able to take very close macro shots - no more than an inch or so away - using flash without gross overexposure. The red-eye reduction (which uses a pre-flash) works very well, but be warned that it adds such a delay to the picture-taking process that your subject is likely to have moved (if not got up and walked away) by the time the picture is taken.

Skin tone
Excellent color and exposure
Color chart
Excellent color and exposure

Macro Focus

Nikon Coolpix cameras have always offered excellent macro facilities, and the 4800 continues the tradition with a closest focus distance of around 1cm, capturing an area of around 21mm across. As is usual on Coolpix cameras the macro 'sweet spot' is not at the widest zoom position, but a couple of steps in, which helps reduce the amount of distortion common when shooting so close with a wide lens.

Wide macro -
26 x 19 mm coverage
86 px/mm (2207 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: Average
Equiv. focal length: 36 mm

Mid Zoom macro -
21 x 16 mm coverage
107 px/mm (2708 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness:Average
Equiv. focal length: 57 mm
Tele macro -
123 x 92 mm coverage
13 px/mm (328 px/in)
Distortion: Above average
Corner softness: Above Average
Equiv. focal length: 300 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The 4800's lens may be sharp and contrasty, but it suffers from noticeable barrel distortion at the wide end and stronger than normal pincushion distortion at all focal lengths over about half way. It's unikely to mar everyday shots, but should be borne in mind if you need straight edges in your pictures.

Barrel distortion - 1.1% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 36 mm
Pincushion distortion - 0.9% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 380 mm

Specific image quality issues

Overall image quality in our extensive real world testing was far from disappointing; the 4800's lens is very sharp (and we saw little evidence of the slight edge softness you can see in the studio shots). It's also nice and contrasty, which together with the lack of heavy noise reduction means the images certainly look very detailed. On the downside, the exposure system seems to be easily fooled, as is the auto white balance, so bracketing (and manual white balance) are essential if you want to be sure of avoiding problems. The biggest problems with the 4800 are focus errors at the long end of the zoom in low light (once you're beyond the 1m/3 feet or so the AF assist light reaches), noise and camera shake. With such a long lens and no image stabilisation blur is always going to be a problem, and you really don't want to use ISO 400 too often due to the noise problem. Since there is no way of knowing what shutter speed is being used, you simply have to look for the red 'camera shake warning' hand - which appears most of the time in all but the best light. On the plus side we saw very little color fringing or blown highlights in the images.

Color fringing

To be fair we found only a handful of images out of 950 with noticeable color fringing, and these were the ones that were slightly overexposed. The blue fringing only occurs in areas of extreme contrast, and only in the corners of the images. Nothing too serious here, and nothing that will seriously mar normal-sized prints.

100% crop 38 mm equiv., F2.7

Inconsistent white balance

The Coolpix 4800 seems more prone than normal to being fooled by the presence of large areas of color in the scene. The two crops below were taken within seconds of each other, the only difference being that the right image is zoomed out slightly. Note how very different the color balance is on the skintones. We would recommend using the 4800's white balance presets in such situations.

124mm equiv., F3.6 86 mm equiv., F3.4

Exposure problems

The 4800 also struggles with exposure when the scene contains a wide dynamic range - specifically when there is a lot of sky in the scene. Over and under exposure occured in around 15% of all such shots we took, so you may want to be careful and check the review image. The AE Best Shot Selector function works well at avoiding this, but since it needs to take five shots and choose the best exposed, this slows down shooting.

100% crop 36 mm equiv., F2.7
100% crop 58 mm equiv., F4.4

Focus errors

A common problem with long zoom cameras, the 4800 seems espcially prone to focus errors in low light at distances over about a 1.5m (the AF illuminator works very well at short distances - focusing in almost complete darkness). The problem is especially bad at the longer end of the zoom.

100% crop 303 mm equiv., F4.4