Nikon Coolpix 4800

The Nikon Coolpix 4800 will definitely appeal to people who like big lenses. With a 8.3x optical zoom (36-300mm film camera equivalent), and 4x digital zoom, this $650 4Mp digital camera lets users get close to subjects from afar - a feature not common in most compact cameras.

The trade-off is that a bigger body (106x66x54mm) is needed to house the lens. This also means a heavier camera - 300 grams, or about double the weight when compared to other compact 4Mp cameras such as the 3x optical Canon IXUS 40, or Pentax Optio S40.

The Coolpix 4800's mode dial features an Auto function, 11 Scene modes (some include Party/Indoor, Sunset, Beach/Snow and Night Landscapes), four Assist modes, as well as Movie mode.

The assist modes, which include Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Portrait assist, offer a selection of framing options, allowing users to compose pictures with the help of yellow-coloured framing guides displayed on the 1.8in LCD monitor. For example, in Portrait assist, if users select "Portrait right", the shot is composed with the subject in the right frame, and with the camera focusing on that frame.

For something slightly different, in Sports assist mode users can select the "Sport Spectator" option. In this mode when the shutter button is pressed the camera takes 16 shots in roughly two seconds and captures whatever fills the screen in that time. It then aligns the images in four rows to form a single picture.

Images are saved as JPEG files onto either the 13MB onboard memory, or an SD-format card. Users can choose from various image modes including 4M High (2288x1712), 4M Normal (higher compression), 2M Normal (1600x1200), PC Screen (1024x768) and TV Screen (640x480).

Focusing, with the Coolpix, is a mixed bag. The CoolPix can take a while to focus, particularly at night, with shots tending to blur despite the use of the flash and an AF Assist Illuminator. Ultimately, it is downright frustrating having so many shots come out so poorly.

However, in all-light situations the camera warns if a shot will blur - a blinking hand icon appears on the LCD monitor to indicate camera shake. Users are then encouraged to try a different setting, keep a steady hand or use a tripod.

There are seven white balance settings and three continuous shooting options. With "Continuous" selected, the camera shoots at a rate of 1.5fps until the hourglass icon, representing wait, is displayed; Multishot is similar to the Sport Spectator option and the camera takes 16 consecutive pictures. The final mode is the "3 Shot Buffer" which shoots as long as the shutter button is pressed, but only saves the last three shots.

Apart from Standard colour, the camera offers Vivid colour, B&W, Sepia and Cyanotype (with pictures recorded in a blue tint). ISO sensitivity ranges from 50 to 400, plus Auto function.

A Best Shot Selector (BSS) is a neat feature - in theory. It is used when inadvertent camera movement can lead to blurred images. In this case the camera takes up to 10 shots when the camera shutter button is pressed, but only saves the sharpest picture. The problem is the camera decides, not you, and this does not guarantee saving the image which you may have felt was best. In light of this, it is probably best to use the Continuous function as it allows the camera user more control of what is saved and what should be deleted - with pretty much the same level of sharpness that BSS promises.

The camera connects to the computer via USB 2.0. It is also PictBridge compatible, so you can connect that same USB cable to a printer and print directly from the camera. The Coolpix ships with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery.

There are plenty of cool features on the Coolpix 4800 to keep camera buyers enthused, but the size, and its inability to handle low light situations, may well steer many users onto smaller, competing models.

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