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Nikon Coolpix P4

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Nikon Coolpix P4 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

Nikon Coolpix P4
Photograph: Chris Manners

Perhaps the most notable feature of the small, lightweight Coolpix P4 is its vibration reduction mode. In our informal tests, this feature did an effective job of reducing camera shake.

The basic controls on the soap bar-styled P4 ($400 as of 6/15/06) are well laid out: The shutter release button falls under the index finger and the zoom sits under the thumb, so both can be used while holding the camera in one hand. The other controls are a little awkward, though: To change the scene mode, you have to set the mode dial to "scene," press the menu button to access the list of 16 scene modes, make your selection, and then press OK to get back to shooting. That's a lot of button pressing.

In addition to full auto and program modes, the P4 has an aperture-priority mode, which is rare in a point-and-shoot. The most unusual feature, however, is the VR (vibration reduction) mode; it moves an element of the lens to compensate for hand shakes, and it's effective. (Four other recently tested models with antishake technology use electronic processing to sharpen their images.) In particular, the P4's more aggressive VR active mode significantly sharpened handheld shots; there was still some obvious camera shake, but it was greatly reduced. The P4 also offers a good selection of image controls, including contrast, sharpening, and saturation.

The camera is a little slow to start up: We found it took about 4.5 seconds before it was ready to start shooting, and there was around half a second of shutter lag. That's not particularly long, but it could lead to missed shots until you get used to it and focus ahead of time by pressing the shutter down half-way.

The images that the 8.1-megapixel P4 took were acceptable. They had a good degree of sharpness; most fine details were well preserved. The noise in the images was also acceptable; even in low light at the ISO 400 setting, the noise wasn't overly distracting, and the noise reduction mode did a good job of mitigating it further. On the downside, colors appeared muted compared with those from similar models in our tests; the images looked well exposed, but lacked impact. Also, details seemed much softer at the higher ISO settings: At the maximum of ISO 400, the images were a little blurry on close examination.

The battery life from the 1100-mAh lithium ion battery was an above-average 270 shots.

Richard Baguley

This story, "Nikon Coolpix P4" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    This camera has effective antishake and offers a good selection of image controls. It's slow to start up, however.

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