Flash Performance

The 885's flash unit seems to be a little larger than last years (880), whether it's just the reflector or the whole flash unit that's bigger is a little difficult to tell. Flash power seemed to be quite similar to what we'd expect from a compact digital camera. Where the 885 did well was its white balance of a flash shot, no colour casts or hue shift.

Skin tone test, good colour balance no colour cast, fairly good exposure. Skin tone is maybe a little TOO red.
Wall coverage test shot, 2 m away from wall at full wide angle, coverage is pretty good. Colour chart flash test, pretty good performance, good colour and tonal balance with no obvious cast.

Night exposures / Noise Reduction

The 885 has two options for taking night exposures. The first is the Night Landscape scene mode, the second is a manual exposure of up to 8 seconds. Night Landscape shoots at ISO 400 for a maximum exposure of 2 seconds, it appears to have a very strong red cast (you can't select white balance) and is quite noisy. For the manual exposures below I set white balance to Incandescent (to compensate for street lighting) and took one shot with noise reduction off and one with it on. It's clear to see that Nikon's noise reduction works well, removing 'hot pixels' and replacing them instead with the average value of surrounding pixels.

Scene mode: Night Landscape - ISO 400, 2 secs, F3.1
Manual exp.: ISO 100, 8 secs, F3.1, NR Off
Manual exp.: ISO 100, 8 secs, F3.1, NR On

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The 885's lens exhibited some barrel distortion at full wide angle, we measured it as 1.1% which is at the low end of the scale. Better news at the telephoto where we didn't measure any pincushion distortion at all, very impressive.

Barrel Distortion, 1.1% @ wide angle Pincushion Distortion, 0% @ telephoto

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

The 885's chromatic aberrations appeared to be worse than the 995, clearly visible in several of our 'every day' shots as well as a very strong appearance in our standard chromatic aberration test shot. We understand that chromatic aberrations are not just a lens phenomena but is related to the interaction between the lens and the microlens over each pixel of the CCD.

Visible chromatic aberrations in an "every day shot"
Our now standard chromatic aberration test shot

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

The 885 performed fairly well, thanks to Nikon's excellent Matrix metering system almost every shot was perfectly exposed without the need to use exposure compensation. Resolution was clearly up there with the best of the three megapixel digital cameras, detail is well defined and images look sharp. White balance worked well in natural light, though the use of pre-programmed / manual preset white balance is recommended for artificial light.

On the negative side the 885 clearly suffers from chromatic aberrations and some wide angle lens distortion (although this almost goes without saying for such a compact lens system). Other than that I picked up on two other issues:

Shadow noise

The 885, much like many other digital cameras does have a certain amount of noise in shadow areas. However, the 885's noise appears as fairly visible magenta / cyan 'blotches' (I can't think of a better word) in shadows which would otherwise be gray or have a very slight cool or warm cast. This is in line with what we discovered below about the additional saturation of cyan and red colours.

ISO 100, 1/213 sec, F2.8
ISO 100, 1/298 sec, F2.8

Red / Cyan preference

What came as quite a surprise after browsing back through a days worth of shooting was the 885's preference for the colours cyan and red (more so red). Its colour processing algorithms appear to produce very strong red (sometimes nearing over-saturation) but it doesn't treat yellow, green or blue in the same way. Unlike the 995 there is no colour saturation control on the 885 so if you don't like this strong red saturation there's nothing that can be done in-camera.

This isn't something we saw of the 995's very well balanced images, as you can see by the side-by-side colour patch comparison below. Note especially the difference between the 885 and 995's magenta patch.

Coolpix 885 - very strong cyan and red but more neutral yellow, green and blue, colours seem 'out of balance' Coolpix 995 - neutral (yet accurate) cyan and red are equally balanced with yellow, green and blue

Two real life examples of when the 885's red can begin to dominate the image.

Note: It was possible to correct the colours to a certain degree by doing a selective hue/saturation adjustment in Photoshop: Reds saturation -15, Blues saturation +40 Greens saturation +40. The point however, is that we shouldn't have to make any correction outside the camera.