Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 3500 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the 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, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
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 shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to lighten the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Coolpix 3500 performed well, although it's somewhat high contrast level lost detail in the highlights.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which brightened the midtones at the expense of highlight detail. (Although a shot at +0.3EV really didn't show much more highlight detail, and the midtones and shadows were overly dark.)
Skin tones are just very slightly magenta but overall very good-looking, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are almost perfect. (This is a very difficult blue for many digicams to get right, and the Coolpix 3500 does produce very faint purplish tints in them. For reference, the flowers are a pretty pure light navy blue.) The strong red flower looks good, though just on the verge of oversaturation, and the green tones are a bit bright. Overall, the color here looks very good and quite accurate.
Resolution is fairly high, with good detail throughout the frame, though shadow detail is only moderate. Details are sharp, and image noise the shadows is moderate. Overall, a good job.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files CP35OUTDP0.HTM
through CP35OUTDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Great resolution and detail, very good color.
Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the Coolpix 3500's 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. Detail is excellent, with crisp, sharp details in Marti's face and hair. The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which resulted in more or less properly exposed midtones, but the high contrast produced very bright highlights. Shadow detail is stronger here than in the shot above, though again with moderate noise.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV, see files CP35FACDP0.HTM
through CP35FACDP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Low intensity at the default setting, but very good color.
The Coolpix 3500's built-in flash significantly underexposed this shot at the default exposure setting, with blue tints on Marti's shirt and features. (Such underexposure is rather common among digicams I test, as Marti's white shirt and the light-colored background frequently trick cameras into underexposing.) Boosting the exposure compensation to +1.0 EV results in a much brighter image, just on the verge of losing detail in Marti's shirt, with only faint blue tints there. Overall color looks good, even the difficult blues of the flower bouquet. This shot typically results in an orangish cast on the back wall from the background incandescent lighting. The Coolpix 3500 almost entirely escapes this trap, as there's just the faintest trace of an orange cast on the wall, in Marti's shadow. I also shot with the camera's Night Portrait mode, which produced more even lighting without harsh shadows. The bluish tints on Marti's shirt and face are stronger, however, and the automatic-only exposure in this mode resulted in a rather underexposed image.
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Slight color casts at each setting, but overall excellent handling of this tough light source. Exposure is good 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. Both the Manual and Auto options produced nearly accurate color, though the Manual setting was slightly greenish and the Auto setting a bit magenta. (Incandescent had more trouble, producing a warmer cast.) Despite the slight magenta tint, I chose the Auto setting for the main image. Marti's skin tone is pretty good here, although slightly pink, and the blue flowers are a bit dark and purplish. (Probably to be expected, considering the light source.)
Overall, the Coolpix 3500's automatic white balance system performed much better than average on this difficult shot.
Good resolution, and color, slightly soft details.
The Coolpix 3500's Manual white balance setting produced great results here, with the most accurate white value on the house trim. The Auto setting produced a reddish cast, and Daylight white balance resulted in a cool, greenish cast.
Resolution is moderately high, with good detail in the tree limbs and shrubbery, as well as in the brick details of the house. (Resolution is noticeably less than that of the best three megapixel digicams, but still good for a compact model, and a good bit more than you'd find in a two megapixel model.) Details are uniformly sharp throughout the frame, with only a hint of softness in the top corners.
Great resolution, color and detail, though high contrast limits the dynamic range somewhat.
Lens Zoom Range
A typical 3x 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 (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The Coolpix 3500's lens is equivalent to a 37-111mm zoom on a 35mm camera. This is very slightly shifted toward the telephoto relative to most compact digicams, corresponding to a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Doesn't quite nail the color here, but good detail and resolution.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The Coolpix 3500's white balance system had some trouble with this tricky subject, producing slight color casts at each setting. Auto resulted in a very warm image, while the Daylight setting produced a cool image. The Manual setting was a little better, but with a reddish tint. The reddish tint of the Manual setting gives the blue background purplish tints that aren't in the original image. Likewise, the blue robe has purplish tints in the deep shadow areas. Resolution is high, with strong detail in the embroidery of the blue robe.
Very tiny macro area with great detail and good flash performance.
Like the rest of the Coolpix line, the 3500 performs very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.36 x 1.02 inches (34 x 26 millimeters). Resolution is excellent, with strong detail in the dollar bill. The coins and brooch are soft due to the very short shooting distance (1.6 inches). Though it slightly overexposes the shot, the Coolpix 3500's flash actually does a good job here, considering the close range.
Overall, this would be an excellent camera for photographing tiny objects at close range!
"Davebox" Test Target
Slight underexposure, but good color and saturation. (Bright red and blue primaries are a little "hot" though.)
The Auto white balance produced the best color here, with the most accurate white value in the mini-resolution target and large, white color block. Manual white balance looked good as well, though slightly yellow, and the Daylight setting produced a greenish image. The images are a bit dark though, so the Coolpix 3500 has no trouble distinguishing the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. The large color blocks are nearly accurate, but seem to vary from slightly undersaturated to a bit oversaturated in the case of the red and blue swatches. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes has moderate detail, with low noise.
Overall, the Coolpix 3500 had very pleasing color in most situations, and did a better than average job with the color blocks in this test.
Good low-light performance, considering the camera's limited exposure flexibility, but the autofocus system has trouble in the dim light.
The Coolpix 3500's longest shutter time is two seconds, and exposure remains under automatic control at all times. Its normal ISO equivalency is 100, with an automatic increase to a limit of ISO 400.
The biggest problem here is the camera's autofocus system, which had trouble even at the one foot-candle setting. 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.
Flash Range Test
A slightly weak flash, that also relies upon boosted ISO for its range.
Nikon rates the Coolpix 3500's flash as effective to about 9.8 feet. In my testing, the flash seemed dim at all distances, but definitely fell off in brightness beyond 10 feet. Also, the Coolpix 3500 apparently boosts its ISO to 400 when the flash is used in very dark conditions, resulting in somewhat "noisy" images. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
High resolution, 1,000 lines of "strong detail." Higher than average barrel distortion, but very low pincushion.
The Coolpix 3500 performed well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height vertically, and 500 lines per picture height horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 lines. As I observed in some of my other test shots, the resolution of the Coolpix 3500 comes in a bit behind that of the best three-megapixel cameras I've tested, but isn't bad for a compact model, and is considerably ahead of most two-megapixel cameras. It also holds sharpness out into the corners of its images better than most cameras I test do. Bottom line, there's plenty of detail here for good-looking 8x10 prints.
Optical distortion on the Coolpix 3500 is higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 1.03 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only a 0.1 percent pincushion distortion (about three pixels). Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing only about four or five 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
Resolution Test, Telephoto
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Excellent accuracy from the LCD monitor, but no optical viewfinder at all.
The Coolpix 3500's LCD monitor is very accurate, showing approximately 99 percent of the final frame at wide angle, and nearly 100 percent at telephoto (the top measurement lines were just barely out of frame). Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Coolpix 3500's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard. Given the tiny dimensions of the rotating lens/sensor body, there's no room for an optical viewfinder, which some users may consider a disadvantage. (Optical viewfinders are much better for shooting under very bright conditions, such as under direct sunlight.)
CP3500 Test Images
CP3500 "Picky Details"
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