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Nikon CoolPix 885

More Pixels, More Features, (a little) More Money - Nikon extends their sub-compact Digicam line!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 9/19/2001

Executive Overview
The Coolpix 885 is a versatile digital camera designed to appeal to users at both ends of the experience spectrum. Its 3.21-megapixel CCD delivers images as large as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, more than enough resolution for razor-sharp 8 x 10-inch prints. The high-quality 3x Nikkor Zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm film camera, providing plenty of flexibility for composing shots. It features a fully Automatic mode, in which the camera makes all exposure decisions, plus 12 preset Scene modes and a Custom Shooting Mode (CSM) that allows photographers to choose from a wide variety of exposure settings. Its jet black body has the look and feel of a conventional film camera, but measures a scant 3.7 x 2.7 x 2.0 inches (95 x 69 x 52mm) with the lens closed, and weighs less than 10 ounces with the battery and memory card installed. While it's a bit bulky for a shirt pocket, it should fit easily into a large coat pocket, purse, or waist pack.

An upgrade to the Coolpix 775 model introduced earlier this year (2001), this model incorporates several features Nikon introduced just this year. Most notable is the Transfer button, which is billed as a "One-Touch Upload to the Web." Functionally, it's similar to the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF), which marks specific images in-camera for digital output on a DPOF-compatible printer. In this case, One-Touch Transfer marks the images for automatic upload to the computer as soon as a USB connection is made, or if used when the camera is connected, immediately uploads each selected image to the computer or the Internet, using the supplied NikonView software. Images are automatically sent to Nikon's photo-sharing website: www.nikonnet.com, where they can be emailed to friends and family or stored in online photo albums, or you have the option of emailing images through your own Internet service provider.

In addition to the four standard modes -- Auto, Movie, Setup, and Playback -- the camera's Mode dial also offers a Scene mode selector and Custom (CSM) option. In Scene mode, you can access 12 image presets through the on-screen menu, all optimized for special shooting situations. Scene modes cover many common (and some rather tricky) exposure challenges, including: Portrait, Party / Indoor, Night Portrait, Beach / Snow, Landscape, Sunset, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks, Close Up, Copy, and Backlight. The Scene modes are a great for photographers who want to get the good shots in difficult lighting conditions, without learning all the ins and outs of shutter speeds, f-stops, ISO settings, etc. By contrast, the CSM mode provides access to a full array of exposure settings and options, including White Balance, Metering, Frame-Advance Rate, Best-Shot Selector, Image Adjustment (Contrast and Brightness), Image Sharpening, Lens Converter settings, Image Size and Quality, ISO, Exposure Options, Focus Options, Auto Bracketing, Noise Reduction, and Card Formatting.

The 885's optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens and the 1.5-inch LCD monitor can be set to turn on automatically when the camera is powered on (or for specified functions), or it can be turned on and off manually. When the LCD is turned on with the full information display engaged, it shows camera settings in the form of icons distributed around the edges of the screen. These include Auto, Scene, or Movie mode indicators, Flash mode, Image Size and Quality, and the number of remaining images. Other settings are displayed as they are engaged, for example Digital Zoom, Self-Timer, Best Shot Selection, Continuous Shooting, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Image Sharpening are all indicated on the monitor when they are in use. The low-battery indicator only appears when the battery is nearly drained.

The Coolpix 885 has three Image Size options for still captures: Full (2,048 x 1,536 pixels), XGA (1,024 x 786) pixels, and VGA (640 x 480 pixels), plus three JPEG compression levels: Fine (4:1), Normal (8:1), and Basic (16:1). There's also an uncompressed TIFF option, labeled "Hi", that's available for Full size images only. As part of the one-touch Transfer function, the 885 can also create "small picture" files for e-mail and Web use. This takes place in the Playback mode, where you can mark normal size images to be copied and saved in one of four file sizes for quick transfer over the Internet: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 160 x 120, and 96 x 72 pixels. (This is very handy, and answers one of the most common questions we receive in our in-box, namely how best to resize images for emailing.) The Movie mode records video clips (without sound) at 15 frames per second, at 320 x 240-pixel (QVGA) resolution. Movie files are stored on the memory card as QuickTime files (designated by .MOV at the end of the name).

The 3x Zoom Nikkor lens has an 8-24mm focal length range (equivalent to 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera), and an f/2.8-4.9 maximum aperture, which varies depending on the focal setting. By default, focus is automatically set by the camera's autofocus system, which reads the distance between the camera and subject using a through-the-lens (TTL) contrast detection system. In Normal (default) mode, the camera focuses on subjects 12 inches (30cm) or more from the lens. By pressing the Focus Self-Timer button under the LCD monitor, you can change the focus mode to Infinity or Macro. Inside the lens barrel is a set of filter threads for attaching optional lens converters and / or the Coolpix Slide Copy Adapter for copying mounted 35mm transparencies. A Lens menu in the CSM mode allows you to set up the camera for each converter, with options for a Wide Adapter, Telephoto 1, Telephoto 2, Fisheye 1, and Slide Copy Adapter. The Self-Timer function is available in Normal or Macro Focus modes, with a shutter release delay of 3 or 10 seconds.

The camera's Autofocus system operates in one of two modes: Single AF or Continuous AF. Single AF, which is activated by default when the LCD monitor is turned off, sets focus whenever you depress the Shutter button halfway. Continuous AF, which is automatically engaged when the LCD monitor is turned on, adjusts focus continuously as you move the camera around, or as the subject changes position within the frame. In CSM mode, you can change the focus mode to AF Area, which divides the scene into five focus areas, or you can focus manually by selecting one of 49 preset focus distances, from 0.10 feet (0.03 meters) to infinity, by holding down the Focus / Self-Timer button and adjusting the Zoom control.

The 885 has five Metering modes (Matrix, Spot, Center-Weighted, and Spot AF Area) and seven White Balance settings (Auto, Preset, Fine, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Speedlight). The CCD's light sensitivity (ISO equivalency) can be set externally or through the CSM mode's on-screen menu to Auto, 100, 200, or 400 ISO. Exposure Compensation can also be adjusted externally or through the CSM mode menu, from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. Additional exposure options include: Program or Manual Exposure modes, AE Lock, Auto Bracketing using three or five exposures, and White Balance (WB) Bracketing in three exposures.

The 885 offers a choice of five "Continuous" shooting modes, including Single frame, Continuous, Multi-Shot 16, VGA Sequence, and Ultra HS. Single capture is the default setting, in which the camera records a single exposure at a time. The Continuous option records a rapid sequence of images at a rate of about three photos every two seconds. Multi-Shot 16 records 16 consecutive 400 x 300-pixel thumbnail images and combines them into a single-frame collage. VGA Sequence is similar to an animation sequence in which the camera records multiple 640 x 480-pixel images at approximately two frames per second. Ultra HS takes up to 70 320 x 240-pixel images at approximately 30 frames per second.

Coolpix cameras are well known for their Best Shot Selection (BSS) feature, which records up to 10 continuous exposures of the same subject with one press of the Shutter button. The camera then analyzes the series and chooses only the sharpest image to record to the memory card. This is particularly useful in situations where there is an increased potential for camera shake, such as in Macro mode, at maximum telephoto range, or when lighting is poor. The 885 model also provides a Noise Reduction option, which reduces the "noise" or artifacts that are typically seen in long low-light exposures.

An Image Adjustment menu allows you to control the amount of image contrast and brightness compensation that is applied to each image before it's written to the memory card. You can set the camera to automatically adjust contrast and brightness to produce optimum results, or ask for standard adjustments, more or less contrast, more or less brightness, or convert the image to black-and-white. Image Sharpening is also adjustable, controlling the degree of in-camera sharpening, with one of five options: Auto, High, Normal, Low, and Off. Auto Sharpening makes adjustments based on the subject and its surroundings, so the amount of sharpening will vary from shot to shot; Normal applies the same level of sharpening to all images; High increases image sharpness, making edges more distinct; Low reduces the amount of sharpening normally applied; and Off shuts down the sharpening function completely. These options are only available in the Auto exposure mode. In Scene modes, the camera determines the level of sharpening based on the subject matter.

Coolpix models offer a unique Quick Review function, which enables you to view thumbnails of previously captured images while still observing the live action taking place on-screen. You can scroll through stored images just as you would in Playback mode, without having to switch the Mode dial. Quick Review is activated by pressing the Quick button on the back panel while in any image capture mode. Pressing the button twice expands the review image to full screen size. Another unique feature is the Pic / Data Transfer option, which automatically saves a text file with every image, including such pertinent information as the date the image was recorded, the camera model and firmware version, metering mode, shutter speed, EV, white balance, aperture, focal length, ISO, and image size and quality. Each Pic / Data file is stored in the same folder as the image file and can be opened in a text editor or word processing program when copied to your computer.

In Playback mode, the LCD monitor displays captured images as single, full-screen shots or in multiple thumbnails (Index mode). Single images can be viewed with or without the normal information display, which includes the date and time the image was captured, the image size and quality, file number and type, and current frame number / total picture count. When engaged, the Playback screen also displays the low-battery, image transfer, print-order, and protect icons. By pressing the Information button below the LCD monitor, you can bring up three more pages of picture information, including all of the information stored in the Pic / Data file (above), plus a thumbnail preview of the image with a histogram to show distribution of tones.

The Coolpix 885 is powered by a single 2CR5 (DL245) lithium battery, included with the camera, or by Nikon's EN-EL1 LiIon rechargeable battery pack. Take our advice and just buy the LiIon battery/charger kit. It only costs as much as 4 or 5 of the non-rechargeable batteries and will last for hundreds of charge cycles. Nikon also sells an optional AC adapter that can power the camera directly from wall current. All images are saved to a standard CompactFlash Type I storage card; a 16MB card is provided with the camera (you can third-party cards as large as 512MB).

The camera connects directly to Windows and Macintosh computers via a USB cable supplied in the box. The 885 also comes with a Video Out port and video cable for viewing images on a TV or VCR. (An NTSC cable is supplied with US and Japanese models, and a PAL-compatible cable is shipped with European models.)

The 885 ships with a robust set of software programs for managing and manipulating images, including NikonView 4, which enables you to upload images to your computer and distribute them via the Internet; Canto Cumulus 5.0 Trial and iView Media Pro (Mac only) for image storage and management; plus a full suite of ArcSoft digital imaging programs: PhotoImpression 2000, for editing, retouching, and applying special effects to your images; VideoImpression for viewing and editing QuickTime movies; PhotoPrinter Pro 2000 for preparing images for printing; and Panorama Maker 2000, which allows users to stitch together multiple images to create panoramic photographs.

All in all, the Coolpix 885 offers impressive capabilities in a very compact camera. Its scene modes let even novice photographers take good photos under challenging conditions, while its full-auto mode is great for people who don't want even that level of complexity. At the same time the "custom" mode lets you take full control of camera operation for creative photography.


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