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Nikon CoolPix 4500

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CoolPix 4500 Test Images

Review First Posted: 5/29/2002

Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 4500 Test Images

(Original test posting: 07/24/02)

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, I'm posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

Outdoor Portrait:
Normal Contrast, Plus 0.3 EV
(High contrast, highlights are overexposed to get reasonable midtones. - 0 EV adjust looked very dark.)
"Low" Contrast, Plus 1.3 EV
(Not really lower contrast as far as I can tell, and needs a lot of positive EV adjust to get back to a reasonably bright image.)

Slightly high contrast, but great resolution and color.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way. (And why I never use fill flash with it.) The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors. The Coolpix 4500 handles the challenge pretty well, although the resulting image is somewhat contrasty.

I shot with the camera's normal contrast setting, and an exposure compensation of +0.3 EV. This blew out the strongest highlights, but I felt that the shot with no exposure compensation would just look too dark to most viewers.) I was surprised to find that the 4500's Low Contrast setting really didn't work too well with this subject. It resulted in very dark images, that required an exposure adjustment of +1.3 EV to get the best shot. By the time I'd dialed in enough positive exposure compensation to get a usable image, the resulting photos were still very contrasty. (See the two images above right, for examples at normal and low contrast.)

I chose the Auto white balance setting, which produced similar results to the Daylight setting (though the Daylight setting's images were slightly cooler). I also shot with the Manual white balance adjustment, which resulted in a very warm shot. Color looks pretty good here, though a little cool from the Auto white balance. The always-difficult blue flowers are just edging over into purple hues, but not too far off the mark. (For some reason, most digicams tend to render these flowers with a purple cast. The correct color is a medium-toned navy blue.) Skin tones are about right, and saturation in the flower bouquet is also good. The Coolpix 4500 picks up great detail, with high resolution throughout the frame. Detail is also good in the deep shadows, with moderate noise.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV in the normal contrast setting, see files C45OUTAP0.HTM through C45OUTAP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

Closer Portrait:
Normal Contrast, no EV boost
(High contrast, slightly dark midtones to preserve highlight detail.)
"Low" Contrast, Plus 1.0 EV
(Slightly better midtones, but still needs a lot of positive EV adjust to get back to a reasonably bright image.)

Default setting again too contrasty, but great detail, and the "minus contrast" option does help a little.

This shot didn't have quite the extreme contrast of the one above, and this time the 4500's "low contrast" setting helped at least a little. The default exposure in low contrast mode gave very dark images, but an exposure boost of 1.0 EV gave a good image with slightly reduced contrast. The table at right shows examples of both normal and low contrast settings.

Results in this shot are similar to the wider shot above, in terms of color and resolution. The level of fine detail increases dramatically in Marti's face and hair, with very well-defined details in her skin. Details are again sharp throughout the frame, and the shadow areas show great detail, with very low image noise.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.3 EV, see files C45FACAP0.HTM and C45FACAP1.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

 

 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:

Normal Flash
Slow-Sync Flash

Bright flash with good coverage and accurate color.

The Coolpix 4500's flash illuminates the subject well (almost too well) with good overall color. At its default setting, the flash overexposed this shot slightly, requiring an exposure adjustment of -0.3 EV to get the best exposure. I also shot with the camera's slow-sync flash mode, which allows more ambient light into the image by combining the flash with a slower shutter speed. Here, the camera's default exposure setting did the best job. Color looks good, though the fairly bright incandescent lighting in the room resulted in an orange cast on the background wall.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.7 to +0.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files C45INFM2.HTM through C45INFP1.HTM on the thumbnail index page. To see the same exposure series in the Slow Sync flash mode, see files C45INFSM2.HTM through C45INFSP1.HTM.

 

 

 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great color with the Manual white balance, and good exposure as well.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. (I shoot this test because incandescent lighting is so hard for digicams to handle, yet it's very common in US households.) The 4500's Manual white balance system produced good, accurate results, though the other settings had some trouble with this difficult light source. The Auto setting resulted in a very warm color balance, while the Incandescent setting produced a pronounced magenta color cast. Color balance with the Manual setting is really excellent though, with natural, accurate skin tones. The blue flowers are also about right in hue, with only slight purplish tints at the edges of the petals (the very warm-toned lighting often results in purple color casts in the flowers, regardless of white balance correction), but overall color is still pretty good. The main shot selection has a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment.

To view the full exposure series from zero to +1.7 see files C45INMP0.HTM through C45INMP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

ISO Series:
Even at the default ISO of 100, the 4500's images of this shot show a fair bit of noise in the blue channel. (Thanks in part to the very yellowish lighting.) The overall impact isn't too bad though, and the images actually look fairly clean if you don't view the color channels separately. As you'd expect, noise levels rise along with the ISO setting, and at ISO 800, the noise is very objectionable. I'd say the ISO 800 setting is unusable for normal shooting, but am nonetheless happy to see it, as there are always times when you just want as much light sensitivity as you can get, and don't care as much about the image noise.

 

 

 

House Shot:

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great resolution and detail, with good color.

I preferred the Auto white balance on this shot, as the overall color and white value looked the most natural and accurate. That said, the Manual white balance setting also produced nice results, but I felt the red bricks were just a hint too cool. The Daylight setting produced a slight greenish cast, but overall color wasn't bad. Resolution is high, with great detail in the tree limbs above the roof and the shrubbery in front of the house. Details are sharp and well-defined, though the details of the fine foliage in front of the house are more defined by contrast than tonal or color gradations. Still, good results overall.

 

 

 

Far-Field Test

Great detail and resolution, good dynamic range as well.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this. The Coolpix 4500 handled the challenge well, capturing a lot of fine detail throughout the frame. The fine foliage details in the tree limbs above the roof and in the shrubbery in front of the house are well defined, as are the more rectilinear details of the house front. Shadow detail is very strong, as the brick pattern is completely visible in the shadow area above the front door. The camera does a fairly good job with the bright white bay window trim, holding onto the stronger details in this difficult area. (It should be pointed out though, that the weather was rather hazy on the day this was shot, so the dynamic range of the scene isn't as high as it would be (for instance) in the same shot taken in the winter time.) Color is accurate and well-saturated, without any strong color casts. An excellent job overall. Here sample images with the camera's Black and White and Sepia color options. Below is the standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, and Tone series.

Resolution Series:

Giant / Fine
Giant / Normal
Giant / Economy
Large / Fine
Large / Normal
Large / Economy
Medium / Fine
Medium / Normal
Medium / Economy
Small / Fine
Small / Normal
Small / Economy
Tiny / Fine
Tiny / Normal
Tiny / Economy

 

ISO Series:

 

Contrast Series:
The shots below show the results of the 4500's contrast adjustment option. As I noted above, the "low contrast" setting really seems to just decrease the exposure more than anything.

 

Sharpness series:

 

Saturation series:

Minimum

Moderate
Normal

Enhanced

Maximum

Black & White

 

 

 

Lens Zoom Range

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto, and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The Coolpix 4500's 4x Zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-155 mm lens on a 35mm camera. (That's a range from a slight wide angle to a moderate telephoto.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
4x Telephoto
4x Optical + 2x Digital Telephoto
4x Optical + 4x Digital Telephoto

 

 

 

 

Musicians Poster

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good color, with great resolution as well.

This shot is often difficult for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the image sometimes tricks white balance systems into producing a overly-warm color balance. The Coolpix 4500 did a good job here, producing only a very slight warm cast with the Auto white balance. The Daylight white balance resulted in a cooler image. I chose the Manual setting as the most accurate, as skin tones looked good and the white flowers in the Asian model's hair looked the best. Exposure looks a little bright, which washes out color somewhat. The blue robe looks just about right, with only a hint of a purplish tint in the deep shadows (this is a tough blue for many digicams to get right). Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the embroidery of the blue robe. (The poster used for this target is definitely starting to show its age: Even a 4 megapixel camera like the 4500 can really extract about all the detail that's to be found there.)

 

 

 

 

 

Macro Shot

Standard Macro
Macro with Flash

Excellent macro performance, well above average.

The Coolpix 4500 carries on the proud super-macro tradition of the Coolpix line, capturing a minimum area of just 0.84 x 0.63 inches (21.2 x 15.9 millimeters). Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the printed details of the dollar bill. Color is also good. The Coolpix 4500's flash does a good job throttling down for the macro area, creating just a small shadow at the bottom of the frame. An excellent job! (If you really need to do a lot of close macro shooting, it's hard to beat the Coolpix line!)

 

 

 

"Davebox" Test Target

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Good color and saturation, although the yellow block is rather weak.

Both the Auto and Manual white balance settings produced great results here, with accurate color. The Daylight white balance setting resulted in a warmer color balance, as expected. I chose the Manual setting for the main shot, because of the overall more accurate color. The exposure is slightly bright, but the camera still picks up a lot of detail in the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target at bottom center/left. The large color blocks look accurate, though just slightly undersaturated from the bright exposure. (And the yellow block in particular is a bit muddy.) Detail is great throughout the frame, including in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with low noise. (Interestingly though, the noise level on the 4 megapixel 4500 isn't quite as low as on the 5 megapixel 5700. - All else being equal, higher-megapixel cameras generally have higher noise. This makes the 5700's noise performance all the more remarkable.)

ISO Series:
The 4500's ISO options range from 100 to 800. I found image noise to be fairly low (although not nearly as low as the 5700's) at ISO 100, increasing steadily as the ISO rose. At ISO 800, the noise was rather objectionable, but as noted earlier, I'm still glad to see ISO 800 as an option, for those times when you really need all the light sensitivity you can muster.

 

Image Adjustment Series:


 

Low-Light Tests

Outstanding low-light shooting, with low noise.

The Coolpix 4500 performs very well in the low-light arena, capturing bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) at all ISO settings tested from 100 to 800. Low light focusing is another matter though: In my tests, the 4500's autofocus system could only achieve a focus lock in light levels of 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) or above. Anything darker than that, and you'll have to set the focusing distance manually, a task made much more difficult than it might be by the lack of any numeric distance readout while in manual focus mode.

Image noise under low light conditions was very low at the lower ISO settings, creeping up slightly with the 400 and 800 ISO settings. The camera's Noise Reduction option was very effective at removing so-called "hot pixel" noise, but has no effect on the random image noise that results from higher ISO settings. (With the Noise Reduction off, the 4500's images showed the amount of noise I'm accustomed to seeing in prosumer digicams at competing price levels. With the Noise Reduction on though, image hot pixel noise was virtually eliminated. Here are sample images shot without Noise Reduction at 100, 200, 400, and 800 ISO settings, at the lowest light level I test to - 1/16 foot-candle, 0.67 lux.)

Since average city street lighting at night provides about one foot-candle of illumination, the Coolpix 5700 should work well under those conditions, including being able to autofocus properly. The camera can capture excellent images under incredibly dark conditions, but below about 1/2 foot-candle, you'll have to rely on manual focusing. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.31lux
1/16fc
0.67lux
1/16fc
0.67lux
No Noise
Reduction
Click to see C45LL1003.JPG
2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL1004.JPG
4 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL1005.JPG
8 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL1006.JPG
15 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL1007.JPG
29.5 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL1007NNR.JPG
29.8 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL2003.JPG
1 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL2004.JPG
2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL2005.JPG
4 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL2006.JPG
8 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL2007.JPG
15 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL2007NNR.JPG
15.2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL4003.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL4004.JPG
1 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL4005.JPG
2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL4006.JPG
4 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL4007.JPG
8 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL4007NNR.JPG
8 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL8003.JPG
1/ 4 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL8004.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL8005.JPG
1 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL8006.JPG
2 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL8007.JPG
4 secs
F2.9
Click to see C45LL8007NNR.JPG
4 secs
F2.9

 

Love high ISO photography? Hate noise? Check out Fred Miranda's ISO-R noise-reducing actions for Photoshop. Incredible noise reduction, with *no* loss of subject detail. (Pretty amazing, IMHO.) Check it out!

 

 

 

 

Flash Range Test

A surprisingly weak flash...

It's probably no surprise, given the tiny dimensions of the 4500's flash head, but it's range is quite short. Nikon specifies it as 5'3" (1.6m) with the lens set to its telephoto position, and 9'10" (3m) with the lens at wide angle. This more or less agrees with my own testing, in which the lens is set more towards the telephoto position for most of the shots. - This is really a rather short flash range though, to the extent that you should really plan on purchasing an external flash unit if you plan to do much flash photography. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8ft. 9ft. 10ft. 11ft. 12ft. 13ft. 14ft.
Click to see C45FL08.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F6.8

Click to see C45FL09.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F7.3

Click to see C45FL10.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F7.7

Click to see C45FL11.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F8.2

Click to see C45FL12.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F8.2

Click to see C45FL13.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F8.2

Click to see C45FL14.JPG

1/ 60 secs
F8.2

 

 

 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Great performance, strong detail to 1,200 lines.

The Coolpix 4500 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to 1,250 lines horizontally and 1,200 lines vertically, and "extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,450 lines. Excellent job!

Optical distortion on the Coolpix 4500 is moderately high at the wide-angle end, where I measured a 0.84 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared only slightly better, as I measured a 0.63 percent pincushion distortion. The barrel distortion is about typical (although still too high in my opinion) for the cameras the 4500 competes with, while the pincushion distortion at telephoto is a good bit higher. Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about five or six pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Resolution Series, Wide Angle

Giant / Fine
Giant / Normal
Giant / Economy
Large / Fine
Large / Normal
Large / Economy
Medium / Fine
Medium / Normal
Medium / Economy
Small / Fine
Small / Normal
Small / Economy
Tiny / Fine
Tiny / Normal
Tiny / Economy

 

Sharpness Series, Wide Angle

Soft (-2)
Normal (0)
Hard (+2)

 

 

 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A slightly tight optical viewfinder, but LCD monitor is very accurate.

The Coolpix 4500's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing approximately 88 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and approximately 92 percent at telephoto. (This is a bit better than average though, among consumer digicams I've tested.) The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing 98 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 100 percent at telephoto (just a hint "loose" here, with only very slight cutoff.) I generally prefer LCD viewfinders to be as accurate as possible, so the Coolpix 4500 performs very well here. Flash illumination is even throughout the frame at telephoto, but very dim. At wide-angle , the flash was brighter (given that I was shooting much closer to the target), with only slight falloff at the corners of the frame.


Wide Angle, Optical

Telephoto, Optical

Wide Angle, LCD

Telephoto, LCD

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