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I am an enthusiastic amateur photographer completing Photography GSCE and A level, before going on to study biology. I continue with my photography, and over the years have used many digital cameras. I was given the Coolpix 4300, which was my main camera while I was at school. It may not be the best digital compact now, but, I have rediscovered it, as it is useful to have in my bag when I do not want to risk my newer, more expensive cameras to get damaged or stolen.
The spec for this Coolpix does not look particularly good in the current market. It has a pretty standard 3x optical zoom and 4MP (megapixels), and I am currently looking at a Technika in the 'Tesco direct' (like Argos) catalogue, which has 5MP for £29.97. However, megapixels are not as important as they are made out to be - the human eye can only process 8MP (at normal print size). So, unless you plan to significantly enlarge your images, you can live without 10 or 12 MP. In fact, too many megapixels squashed onto a small sensor can actually decrease image quality. Do not underestimate a good piece of glass, Nikon are a lens company above all else, so they can be trusted to produce excellent lenses. The lens contributes as much, if not more, to image quality than the MP number (above a threshold). The Coolpix 4300 exposes images well and actually takes surprisingly good quality images. To illustrate this, I uploaded a set of 5 totally unedited pictures taken on my holiday to Thailand when I posted my review on Ciao (by the same name). I don't know if I should be directing you over there, I think sample picture are particularly important for this review and I have included further analysis in the descriptions, and the Ciao XXL view will give you a better idea of the resolution. I have not mentioned digital zoom, as it is a totally useless feature on all digital cameras. Digital zoom is exactly like cropping an image on your computer; the more you use it, the more the image quality is degraded.
The Nikon weighs 200g, which is light enough for any bag. The camera looks small enough from the front view, but it is actually quite a lot larger than any of the other compacts in Tesco direct, as it is 2 or 3 times as thick. I actually like this chunky quality makes it a bit more like a SLR to hold, but annoyingly it makes it too wide to fit into my coat pocket. The screen on the back is very tiny compared to current standards (only about 1"), and the resolution is inadequate for view images in any detail. There is a solid flap that conceals the CF compact flash card slot - this memory card format used to be the most used until the smaller SD card took over, but is still widely available and used in many pro DSLR cameras. A typical Nikon mode dial is on top, next to the on/of switch, and allows you to swap between auto, movie, scene, manual, setup and playback mode. The zoom in / out button is actually very nicely designed - it looks a switch and perfectly rests a thumb between the 2 sides, allowing you to zoom easily and smoothly with almost a joystick action. The Nikon Coolpix also has a metal ring around the lens, which can be used to screw in various lens attachments, such as fish eye, wide angle and macro. I haven't used this feature and don't if you can eve still get the attachments, but it could be interesting to give it a go.
Battery Flap Issue
I don't know it this has happened to anyone else, and while Nikon are normally well known for their excellent build quality, a tiny weak point on the Coolpix 4300 resulted in a photographic disaster for me. A few summers ago, my family and I took the trip of a lifetime to Thailand and I only had this camera with me. We travelled to Bangkok, then flew out to the small island of Ko Samui where we took a boat out to see the Ang Thong National Marine Nature Reserve. After stopping on a few tiny islands, we reached the largest one and climbed for hours up an extremely steep and rocky scramble before we finally reached 'The Viewpoint'. This is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in my life (as you can see by the uploaded photo taken on the way), it was absolutely stunning. I then leaned over the viewpoint wooden railing (with the camera very securely attached to my wrist) to take the perfect picture. At this moment, the catch that hold the battery compartment opened and I could do nothing but watch as the last remaining charged battery tumbled down a 200ft cliff. I was devastated!
One other issue with this camera is speed. The normal instinct when I see a good photo opportunity is to reach for my camera and flick the on switch, sometime even before it has left my bag, n order to react fast enough to catch the moment. While is works with every other compact camera, the Coolpix 4300 continually catches me out. I hold up the camera to take the picture to be greeted with "WARNING!! Remove Lens Cap!" in bright red letters. I must then remove the lens cap and switch it off and on again. I don't see why such a small camera needs a separate lens cap - the Panasonic TZ6 (which I have also reviewed) has a much larger lens and still manages the automated shutter you expect with a compact. Once you have restarted the camera, more often than not I still cannot take the picture because there is a new warning "WARNING!! Mode dial is no in the proper position" - this occurs when the mode dial is very easily knocked slightly out off place in my bag. By the time I have finally managed reach the bird has literally flown the nest and the photo opportunity is gone. Having said all this, once the camera is on, the autofocus is very fast, even in low light levels. The digital processing is not that slow either, so you can take another picture soon after the first.
The Nikon Coolpix is not as compact as the modern competitors; it has fewer megapixels and a few design issues. I would not recommend having this as your main camera if you are really into photography, or if you just want something convenient on a night out, regardless of image quality. However, the image quality of this camera is pretty good, and it feels great in the hand. If you can find this model as a low price, it makes a great backup / emergency camera. It takes great landscape, close-up and tourist shots, and if you don't want to spend a lot, it makes a great holiday camera (bring spare batteries!). I also think that this would be a great first camera for a kid. Try ebay and you could end up with a fantastic bargain (in the last fortnight, 4 have sold for less than £25!) - even with all the problems, I am not even considering selling mine.
If only image quality was the only thing that mattered- poor design, bulky body and out of date features mean that the Coolpix is not worth spending much of your hard earned cash on. However, if you find a cheap, there may be a compromise worth taking.
The Nikon Coolpix 4300 is the first ever digital camera I bought. At the time I bought the camera I wanted it to be able to take decent photos in all sorts of different light conditions and different situations.
I was very impressed with this camera when I first bought it as I found that inside the box there wasn't just a camera, there was various different photo programs that came with the camera as well as a few different leads such as a USB cable so you can transfer images from your camera to the computer. One of the first things I felt let down with though was the lack of a memory card. Unfortunately the Nikon Coolpix 4300 does not come with a memory card but that is alright nowadays as you can get large memory cards for as little as £10 if you shop around.
One of the discs in the box is Nikon's own software, this is very useful and one of it's best features is that every time you put images on the computer they are put in separate files so the images don't get muddled up with another set of images. Another piece of software that comes with the camera is quicktime 5 which is a media program for watching videos.
The Nikon Coolpix 4300 also has the ability to capture 40 seconds of video in decent quality but the only problem with this is that there is no microphone on the camera so there is no sound captured whatsoever which is disappointing but it doesn't really matter because I mainly bought this camera for taking pictures. Also if you wanted to use this camera to take videos it can only capture 40 second clips which is rather short so you won't be able to capture much action.
Although the camera only has 4 mega pixels this does not stop the Nikon Coolpix 4300 from taking good pictures. When the images are loaded up onto your PC you will notice that the images have lots of excellent vibrant colours as well as a high resolution for lots of good detail. There are 12 different scene modes on the camera which are very useful especially if you are trying to take pictures in bright light or if your taking pictures of fireworks as the images tend to come out better if a scene mode is selected in these situations.
In the dark the camera uses flash automatically so you don't have to fiddle about with anything but I do find this rather annoying as people usually end up having there eyes closed on these pictures due to the very bright flash. You don't have to stand the perfect distance away to take a photograph with this camera as you can use the zoom in and zoom out buttons to get the picture just right. There are useful features on the camera such as format, this is where you can wipe off all the photos you have taken once you have put them on your computer. There is also a quick view button which you can press to view the pictures you have taken on the small camera screen.
Also you can delete single photos by pressing the delete button on the back of the camera. The camera can also be set to automatic mode so you can set up the image then get in the shot yourself if there is nobody to take the picture or if you all want to get in the shot.
The Nikon Coolpix 4300 has a few bad points:
Small Screen It is sometimes hard to see the pictures on the camera screen as it is so small.
No Memory Card You have to buy a memory card separately.
No Case If you want a little bit of protection or something to carry the camera round in you have to buy it separately.
Big/Heavy Because it is a few years old the camera is quite big and probably won't fit in your pockets, unless you have really big pockets! It also weighs quite a bit and is a bit annoying to carry around.
Apart from the bad points listed above the Nikon Coolpix 4300 is a very good camera that takes good images and can be used in a variety of different situations, it also comes with good software and now that it it is a few years old you can probably pick it up fairly cheaply.
The Nikon Coolpix 4300 is my second digital camera, and I have been using it now for 6 months and can thoroughly recommend it. You can choose to be very lazy and literally just point-and-shoot and get excellent results ? but should the mood take you, you can take control of virtually any or all of its functions, which puts you in complete control of a very capable photographic tool. As an amateur photographer with around 30 years experience, I?ve always had a 35mm SLR with interchangeable lenses for ?serious? work, plus a smaller compact camera for more ?informal? occasions where you just want to stick a small camera in your pocket for quick ?snapshots?. The Nikon Coolpix 4300 is by far the most used of my compacts ? in fact I hardly ever use my SLR now, except for motor sports photography where the delay time of a digital camera is just too big a handicap. The Coolpix just gives excellent quality results in all situations. It does take a while to get to know (and find!) all it?s capabilities, but it?s worth the effort. The only thing an experienced photographer may miss is the lack of an aperture-priority or shutter-priority option (you can choose to set both manually, but you cannot set one and then leave the camera to set the other automatically). However this minor handicap should be offset against the many other functions that 35mm cameras just don?t normally have (multiple shots, variable ISO speed rating, automatic best shot selector, and lots more). You can spend ages just exploring the camera?s facilities! This camera is equally at home in the hands of a rank beginner on full auto-mode, or being used by a serious photographer who wants to be in control of exposure, focus, metering etc. Advantages: excellent lens, loads of functions if you wish to use them, good shape for holding. Disadvantages: although small, it?s relatively bulky shape means that it is not quite so pocketable as some other cameras ? but don?t let this put yo
u off buying one!