I have always admired the Nikon Coolpix A from afar.  It’s been around for almost two years, so it’s not a new camera.  I loved the fact that it truly is a shirt pocket camera with a APS-C sensor,  not many cameras have that.  However, its $1,100 price tag was a little to steep for me especially since I already own a FujiFilm x100 ( sold and waiting for delivery of my x100t).  I could not justify the expense just for the sake of owning one.  Recently that all changed.  As I was leaving my home on Long Island to head north to spend the weekend photographing the Peacham area of Vermont, I received an email from a local camera store.  To my delight the email was about a big price drop of one particular camera – The Nikon Coolpix A.  The big news was that the price of the Coolpix A was dropped to $399 for that weekend.  Well now I had to have one and the camera shop was on my route.  I stopped in and purchased one, the last one they had in stock.  I was now off to Vermont with one extra camera.  I would have to work it into my camera rotation comparing it with my Nikon D800 and FujiFilm X-T1.  The harsh winter weather of central Vermont would be a good test.

When I arrived in Vermont I immediately  opened the box; grabbed the battery and charger and proceeded to give the battery its first full charge.  My goal was to spend the next day using the Coolpix A exclusively.   The battery charger does not require an electrical cord the entire charger sits in the electrical outlet – this is good for traveling.  The initial camera setup was easy since I am a long time Nikon user and the menu set is similar to their other cameras.  The camera is very easy to operate the layout and design is very initiative and user friendly.   I even found it easy to use while wearing winter gloves.

The first thing you notice when you hold the camera in your palm is it’s sturdy solid construction.  It is 4.4″ wide and 2.6″ high and even though you can place in your shirt pocket its got some weight to it.  The back screen is a large 3 inch 921,000 dot TFT- LCD screen that is clear and bright even outdoors on sunny days.  The top has a program dial and selection wheel and the on/off switch surrounds shutter button.  The back has a fly wheel for selections and buttons on either side of the screen for various functions.  There are two program able function  buttons, one on the front and on on the back.  The camera is equipped with a pop-up flash and a hot shoe that can accommodate any of the Nikon Speedlights.  I find the very small SB-400 to be a nice fit.

The camera sports a Nikkor Prime 28mm f2.8 lens.  This is a high quality Nikkor lens and is very sharp.  It’s not the fastest lens but f2.8 should be plenty fast for most needs.  Remember this is a prime lens so if you want to get closer or father away you are going to have to use your feet.  The images are recorded on a large 16.2 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor capable of producing very sharp well balanced images even in low-light situations.  I believe that this is the same sensor that is in the Nikon D7000 DSLR, but I have no way of confirming if that is fact.

Before I get into the rest of the camera let me talk about what it does not have.  The two big items missing are image stabilization and a view finder for your eye.  I did not find any problems with camera shake since it is a wide fast lens and any shutter speed over a 1/30th of a second should be fine, below that you will need a tripod or some form of support.  Nikon makes an Electric Viewfinder (EVF) that attaches to the flash hot shoe however, it costs over $400, but if you need it you can get it.

The Coolpix A is equipped with Nikon’s Smart Portrait System that can track faces in a image to make sure you always capture sharp faces.  You can set the ISO sensitivity from 100 up to 6400 with three different equivalent settings that take it to ISO 25,600, although I have not taken it past 500 yet.   It’s top continuous shooting speed is 4 frames per second so this is not a sports camera.  Available shutter speeds are 30 seconds up to 1/2000 of a second.  The camera could use a faster shutter speed than 1/2000 of a second especially if you are working with the aperture wide open in the bright daylight.  The camera comes with 19 different scene modes available, most are common to all cameras although the Autumn colors setting was new to me and does add some vibrancy.   There are 17 different in-camera image editing settings available including Nikon’s popular D-lighting which helps keep shadows and highlights under control.   The in-camera RAW conversions performs well and can be expected to yield JPEG’s that are very usable right out of the camera.

The camera has excellent video capabilities with full 1080p HD at frame rates of 24, 25, & 30 per second.  Movies are recorded in stereo sound.

There is a robust list of accessories available from Nikon.  Along with the previously mentioned EVF you can purchase a Wireless Mobile Adapter to give the camera wireless capabilities.  You can also add a wireless remote control, a lens shade with filter adapter (46mm filters) and a leather or vinyl case.

As an $1,100 camera it has a very robust feature set that would be desirable to many photographers, especially those looking for a good street camera or small second camera.  At that price, it does give one pause but as a $399 camera it is a must have as it would be difficult to find all these features in a camera of this size from other manufactures.  I don’t know the reason for the price drop, either it is being discontinued due to poor sales or the Coolpix B is ready to be announced.  I’m just glad it was reduced.

The photos below were taken on a snowy day in Peacham, Vermont with my Coolpix A and all are hand held and processed in Adobe Lightroom 5.7.

 

 

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Light is the life blood of any good photo, in fact it is the only thing. We get up early to catch morning light and stay out late to catch the last rays of twilight. We look to take advantage of diffused light on cloudy days and directional light when the sun is playing peek-a-boo with the clouds. We can also classify our light by temperature such as warm light and cool light and we look to avoid the dreaded grey light of a dark cloudy day.  Light is also directional, light can fall on its subject from the front, back, or side.  All of these types of light are used by photographers to create engaging images.  Vermont with its rolling hills and mountainous terrain often sandwiched by long stretches of  farmlands is a perfect subject for all of these forms of light.

There is one additional form of light, it can’t be seen but it can be photographed – Infrared light.  Infrared light is in the spectrum of light that you can not see, it is just above the visual spectrum. It falls in the red light spectrum which give it it’s special qualities. Think of the light from your TV remote to your TV or cable box.  Infrared light and Vermont come together nicely.   Infrared landscape photography is best done during the middle part of the day, when the sun is high in the sky and hot.  Photographers who are used to getting up at 4 AM and staying out to 10 PM to capture summer’s last light, find this time frame a welcome change.

So how can you photograph light you can’t see?   Well you need to make some camera modifications, more specifically modifications to the silicon chip in your camera. Actually all chips in all digital cameras can see infrared light but since it would interfere with your photos they attach a filter to block infrared light. Modifying your camera to “see” only IR light is just a matter of reversing this process. Remove the infrared filter and replace it with a visible light filter so now your camera only sees infrared light. You can do this yourself however, it is not recommended.   It is best to use a third party vendor, my choice is LifePixel (www.lifepixel.com).  Life Pixel gives you a choice of filters for your conversion.  You can get Deep color IR, color IR or black & white.  My choice is color IR which gives a nice smooth collection of color and I can then do a post processing black & white conversion.

Vermont as scene through the lens of an IR camera is both beautiful and surreal.  The thick green vegetation of the summer creates a canopy of wispy white that can often be mistaken by a viewer at snowy winter scene.  When explained the viewer is often drawn to the images and the unique light of its composition.  The elements of a natural Vermont landscape are perfect subjects for this medium.  I find the nostalgia of black & white infrared complements this the best although there are times when color infrared works best.  It’s a personal choice.

 

Check out the  infrared gallery on this site for more examples of both black & white infrared and color photography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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