Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 4300 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 open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Coolpix 4300 did a good job.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which brightened the midtones while losing only the brightest highlight detail. I chose the Daylight white balance as the most accurate, as the Auto and Manual white balances both resulted in warm images. (The Manual setting produced the warmest of the two, with a strong yellow cast.)
Skin tones are a hint magenta, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are just slightly dark and purplish. (This is a very difficult blue for many digicams to get right, and the Coolpix 4300 actually performs fairly well. For reference, the flowers are a light navy blue.) The red flower has good saturation, though it borders on being too bright.
Resolution is very high, and details are sharp throughout the frame. Shadow detail is fairly strong, with fairly low noise.
Overall, an excellent job!
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files C43OUTDP0.HTM through C43OUTDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent resolution and detail, good skin tones, although slightly pink.
Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the Coolpix 4300's 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. Detail is outstanding, with very sharp details in Marti's face and hair. (Probably more detail here than Marti would care to see, which is why I don't show it to her 1:1 on screen;-) The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which is just a little bright, but loses only the brightest highlights. Detail is strong in the shadow areas, with moderately low noise. An excellent job.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +0.7 EV, see files C43FACDM1.HTM through C43FACDP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent exposure and color, but a fair bit of exposure compensation needed.
The Coolpix 4300's built-in flash did an excellent job on this shot, producing even coverage and very good color rendition. I did find that I needed to boost the exposure compensation setting by +1.0 EV though, as the normal exposure came out very dark. There's only a very slight orange cast on the back wall, as the flash seems strong enough to overpower the rather bright room lighting. Shooting with the slow sync flash mode resulted in a much lighter image overall, and more of a yellow cast from the room lighting, but the overall effect was still quite pleasing. (The Slow Sync again required quite a bit of exposure compensation as the default exposure was quite dark.) All in all, an excellent performance on this test.
Most accurate color with the Manual white balance option, but better than average with Auto. A good performance.
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. The Coolpix 4300's Manual white balance clearly produced the best color, but its Auto option did much better than average. (Incandescent really had trouble though.) Marti's skin tone is pretty good here, and even the always-difficult blue flowers turned out pretty well. Here again, quite a bit of exposure compensation was needed, as the camera's default exposure produced very dark images. (All the shots at right were snapped with an exposure boost of +1.3 EV.)
The Coolpix 4300 offers variable ISO settings ranging from 100 to 400. Noise at 100 is pretty low, but as always increases along with the ISO. At ISO 400, it's quite pronounced, but no worse than the majority of consumer-level digicams out there.
Great resolution and detail, good color with Manual white balance.
The Coolpix 4300's Manual white balance setting produced the best results here, with the most accurate overall color. Though slightly warm, I preferred the warmer cast to the Daylight setting's cool tone. The Auto setting was just a little too warm here. All white balance settings were close enough to neutral to be considered usable though. Resolution is very high, as the tree limbs and shrubbery show great detail. Details are also sharp throughout the frame, though the corners betray a hint of softness.
Great resolution and detail, though dynamic range is slightly limited.
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, and the Coolpix 4300 performs very well. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show excellent detail, with strong definition in the leaf patterns and branch details. The image is pretty sharp corner to corner, with just a hint of the corner softness that plagues many consumer digicam lenses. The camera loses detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. At the same time, the shadow area above the front door shows moderate detail but a fair bit of image noise, pointing to a somewhat limited dynamic range. The Auto white balance produces good color, though exposure is a bit contrasty. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO and sharpness series.
"Image Adjustment" Series:
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 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Nearly accurate color, detail and resolution are very good.
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 4300's Daylight white balance system produced the best color here, albeit with a slight magenta cast. Still, I preferred it over the cool tones produced by the Manual setting and the very warm cast from the Auto setting. The reddish cast of the Daylight setting gives the blue background purplish tints that aren't in the original image, and produces purplish tints in the deep shadows of the blue robe. Resolution is high, with strong detail in the embroidery of the blue robe, as well as in the beaded necklaces and flower garland. Overall, a good but not exceptional performance on this target.
Very small macro area with great detail, though the flash has trouble this close.
The Coolpix line has always had excellent macro performance, and the 4300 is no exception. The camera captured a tiny minimum area of only 0.85 x 0.64 inches (22 x 16 millimeters). Detail is very strong in the dollar bill, but the coins and brooch are soft due to the very short shooting distance and the small depth of field at macro distances. The corners are very soft in this image, a common failing of digicam lenses in ultra-macro shots, caused by the optical phenomena called "curvature of field." The Coolpix 4300's flash almost throttles down for the macro area, but it's blocked by the lens barrel and overexposes the top of the frame. You'll probably be able to use the flash down to about twice this distance, but when shooting this close, plan on using external lighting.
Good exposure and color, but the camera doesn't quite nail the white balance.
All three of the Coolpix 4300's white balance settings had a little trouble here, producing slight color casts in all cases. I settled on the Daylight setting, despite the slight green cast, feeling it was closest to accurate. The Auto white balance has a red tint, and the Manual white balance is yellow. Exposure is about right (though slightly dark), and the Coolpix 4300 distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the pastels in the Q60 target well. The large color blocks are nearly accurate, but the yellow block is a bit weak. Detail is moderate in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with low noise.
Excellent low-light performance: Great color balance, fairly low noise, but no AF assist light, and no distance readout in manual focus mode.
The Coolpix 4300 turned out to be an excellent low light performer, capturing bright, clear images all the way down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, even at ISO 100. (This is quite dark, only 1/16th as bright as typical city streetlighting at night.) Its full manual exposure control,maximum exposure time of 1 minute in "bulb" mode, and functional noise reduction system make for great low-light photos. The one limitation is that there's neither an autofocus assist lamp nor a numeric readout on the manual-focus distance scale. It can thus be a little problematic achieving accurate focus under low light conditions.
The Coolpix 4300 has a dark-frame subtraction noise reduction system that can be engaged via a menu option. This works pretty well at eliminating "hot" pixels from long time exposures, but sometimes leaves black pixels behind in their wake. Not as capable in this regard as some cameras, but quite serviceable. (For more sophisticated noise-reduction processing, see Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro software.) For comparison, the rightmost column in the table below shows the results at the lowest light level I tested, with the noise reduction processing turned off.
All in all though, a very capable camera for low light shooting. The table below shows the best exposure we were 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
Slightly low flash power, with a range closer to 8 feet in our tests than the 12 feet of Nikon's specs.
Nikon rates the Coolpix 4300's flash as effective to about 12.1 feet. In my testing, however, the flash was brightest at the eight foot distance, and decreased in intensity steadily from there as the distance was increased. I'd therefore rate the 4300's effective flash range as around 8 feet, rather than the 12 feet claimed by Nikon. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
High resolution, 1,050 - 1,100 lines of "strong detail." About average barrel distortion, and low pincushion.
The Coolpix 4300 performed well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height in both vertical and horizontal directions. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,050 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, and about 1,100 lines horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred about 1,300 lines.
Optical distortion on the Coolpix 4300 is about average (which is nonetheless too high in my opinion) at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared a little better, where I measured a 0.2 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing only about three pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines in the corners of the image. (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
A tight optical viewfinder, but accurate LCD monitor.
The Coolpix 4300's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing only about 81 percent of the frame at wide angle, and about 79 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor is much more accurate, showing approximately 98 percent accuracy at wide angle and telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Coolpix 4300's LCD monitor performs well here, but the optical viewfinder leaves a good bit to be desired. Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just slight falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform, but dimmer.
CP4300 Test Images
CP4300 "Picky Details"
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