coolpix A or new lens for NEX-5N

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by pna, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. pna macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    #1
    I've moved largely from my nikon DSLRs to Sony mirrorless (the NEX-5N) was my gateway drug, and now I also have an a6000. The only thing that I don't have for them that I'd like to have is a nice wide angle lens for the landscape photography that I used to favor before we had a baby. I used to use the nikon 12-24 for that, though I found that I tended to be fine with the 16-18 mm range of that lens.

    The 18-55 kit that came with the NEX-5N is all right in general, but not the sharpest. The 16-50 that came with the a6000 I had high hopes for, and is also all right, but has some pretty serious vignetting at fast apertures at 16mm.

    One of the things I've kept my eye on since it came out is the Nikon Coolpix A, that had a very highly regarded lens, but was absurdly priced when it first came out ($1100). It has now hit an absolute new low, of $329 refurb at cameta with a 1 year cameta warranty

    http://www.cameta.com/Nikon-Coolpix...al-Camera-Black-Factory-Refurbished-87387.cfm

    or $399 new from B&H.

    So suddenly I'm actually tempted to, rather than pick up something like the 19mm Sigma e-mount, to pick up a coolpix A and with its 18mm prime and see what I think. The trouble is, aside from the lens being a bit better and a touch wider than something like the sigma, it doesn't actually seem like it in any way is a functionally better camera than something like the NEX-5N -- no viewfinder, I think the focus may actually be slower, no tilting LCD (useful for landcapes), etc. As tempting as it is to get a whole camera attached to an otherwise still inexpensive and very nice 18mm prime (for an additional $100 or so), I'm trying to decide if the coolpix is worth it even then.

    Has anyone used the Coolpix A (or the sigma 19 mm) and if so, what did you think? At that price, it seems like it could work its way into a lot of bags... Thanks for any thoughts.
     
  2. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #2
    Just a bit of background: I have a dslr with plenty of lenses and two flashes as well as a Fuji X100s.

    In my case, the X100s is not in competition with the dslr, I use the X100s in circumstances where I would not take my big Nikon with me anyway. And I reckon that it will be very similar in your case. At around $330, the Coolpix A is a steal right now, and it is even smaller than my X100s. So the Coolpix would be the camera that's always in your pocket, a camera you take instead of your Sony NEX. While buying an equivalent lens for the NEX would mean you'd have to carry it with you.

    Put another way, the two options are solutions to different problems. I knew I wanted a smaller camera, because I was tired lugging around 8~9 kg worth of camera gear every time I go on a trip. There is one area where you won't see much of a difference, and that's image quality: the Coolpix A uses an APS-C-sized sensor, so the image quality is on par with that of most dslrs and mirrorless cameras. Moreover, both, the NEX and the Coolpix A use a more point-and-shoot-style user interface, if you owned a dslr or so, that might have been off-putting to you.
     
  3. Wahlstrm macrumors 6502a

    Wahlstrm

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2013
    #3
    I have the Ricoh GR, basically Coolpix A with another logo on it.

    It´s a really advanced camera with great image quality.

    I do a lot of work in lowlight and I usually carry one 5DII with a 50 1.2 and another 5DII with a 35 1.4 and then the Ricoh GR for wide-angle.

    Works great.

    I did buy it to use as my carry-around-everywhere camera but it´s just too big and too limited when it comes down to "just for fun" photography. IMO.
     
  4. pna thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    #4
    I did pull the trigger on this last night, and am very interested to see how it does, or doesn't, fit into my photography.

    The two main drawbacks I see to the Coolpix A that will make it less than ideal for what I'm looking for in a 'carry it everywhere' kind of camera, are the 18.5mm focal length of the fixed lens, and the lack of a viewfinder. I'm considering it as an addition to the toolbox for times when I want to go wider, but if it was even a bit longer (like the X100s) I probably wouldn't hesitate for it to be the only camera I carried around most of the time.

    You mentioned that the NEX and the A are both similar in that they're more point-and-shoot in their controls than DSLRs, so if I'd gotten past it for the NEX, I should probably be past it for the A. Unfortunately, the two things that helped me get past it on the NEX were the tilting LCD touchscreen (quite handy to be able to touch directly the LCD where you want to focus if you're using it in that mode, and the tilting is great for getting non-standard points of view), and that I ponied up for the extra EVF (which also tilts). Sometimes I'll leave the EVF at home to make the whole package even more portable, but most times I leave it on.

    In terms of portability, I think I've generally found that the 5N also fits sort of the same role that the X100s has for you, in that it's small enough to stick in a coat pocket, and that's enough for me to carry it with me. Even with the pancake 16-50, though, it is a little bulky in that jacket pocket, so I'm interested to see if the decreased lens protrusion is enough to inspire me to carry it with me even more often.
     
  5. Miltz macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Location:
    New York
    #5
    I have the Nikon CoolPix A... The camera is great for $329, but crazy for $1,100. The lens and image quality are top notch. The camera is so light you'll think its a Toy which I think is a plus. It's not like the Canon EOS M which is built like a tank. The rear LCD sucks compared to my Canon 6D. Checking to see if images are properly focused after you take them is impossible. The other issue is sensor dust. My original Coolpix A sucked more dust than a vacuum in only a few days of actual use. I had the sony 5N with a sigma 19mm and I didn't like it at all. The Coolpix is sharper and has a better sensor.
     
  6. pna thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    #6
    Thanks for the thoughts. I hadn't even considered the issue of dust getting into the A given that the lens is fixed, but I can see how the lens telescoping in and out could suck dust in. How on earth do you clean the sensor? Is there some means of access?
     
  7. Miltz macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Location:
    New York
    #7
    Actually I've have a Canon G11 for years which also telescopes not to mention countless other cameras like it, I never had a sensor dust issue. I think it's a problem with the Nikon Camera. You can't clean it.. I had to fight them to exchange it for me. The other option is you can send it in to Nikon and they will clean it for you. Good Luck with yours. I hope it doesn't happen on the new one I got. If it does it a engineering issue with the camera. Lets think positive. FYI. These dust spots were visible past F5.6 so it affected actual shooting conditions.
     
  8. pna thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    #8
    The Coolpix A came Friday, and I was able to try it out a bit over the weekend.

    On the positive side, the form factor is pretty great. Definitely a step forward to actual pocketability -- the lens really doesn't protrude much at all, and that turns out to make a big difference. Time from being off to being on and ready to shoot is fairly short, and definitely shorter than my NEX-5N with the 16-50 kit lens, perhaps not with a prime on.

    The main downside that I'm struggling with, though, is the autofocus. I had anticipated from the reviews that the autofocus was ok in terms of speed, if not super snappy, and that's not a deal breaker. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was how primitive the intelligence is for finding an initial target to focus on to, to the point that I think I must be missing something.

    It seems to me that there are just four focus options -- wide, narrow, face auto detect, and subject tracking. Wide just puts a larger square in the middle of the LCD that you can slowly scroll around the frame to a target. Narrow is the same thing, with just a much smaller box. Subject tracking tracks, but doesn't help to pick a good spot to focus on to start with.

    The issue is less with the speed of it focusing when locking on any of the areas in the respective boxes for the different modes, it's really just the fact that it doesn't seem to have any predictive intelligence at all as to where to start the box, it just starts where you left it. That's the mode that I often leave my DSLR in, but it's much faster to change the focus point on my DSLR than it is to slowly scroll the little box around the LCD screen, as it moves in small increments. My NEX-5N, and hell, even my old point and shoots, were better at taking a crack at what to focus on out of the gate.

    Am I missing something? Perhaps I should have expected this, as this is basically like the live view focusing of the D7000 that this is adapted from, but it seems like they would have grabbed some of the basic point and shoot intelligence from one of their lower end models and stuck it in as well.
     
  9. Miltz macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2013
    Location:
    New York
    #9
    No you're not missing anything... The focus point is stationary and has to be moved by the photographer. Personally I don't mind it since I prefer to pick where the camera focus anyway. Face detect works pretty good though. The focus for me is fast and reliable. I haven't had any issue with it. What are you planning to shoot with it?
     
  10. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #10
    Your expectations do not match with the camera's capabilities: point and shoots are faster to focus in large part because the depth of field is much larger (that's a downside from having a large sensor). The way the Coolpix A's focus system is used is very similar to the way dslrs work (btw, your Sony NEX is not a dslr): you have to pick a focus point manually and then the camera will focus there. Your camera isn't broken nor is it primitive, it's just that the Coolpix A is an enthusiast's camera, and it's configured as such. If you expected something else, then either the camera isn't for you or you should learn how to use the Coolpix A's focus system (e. g. learn “focus and recompose”). What you learn here will be useful for your other cameras, too.
     
  11. pna thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 27, 2005
    #11
    These are all good points. A couple of thoughts:

    Correct, my NEX is not a DSLR. The progression of Nikon DSLRs that I've shot with over time (d40->d80->d90->d7000) that followed on the SLRs of my father's that I shot with as a kid (Canon A1 and variants) are what I'm used to, but have been moving away from in recent years as similar capabilities have become available in APS-C sensor based mirrorless cameras.

    If you look back my original posting, the question has been, for what the Coolpix A has to offer, how does it compare in actual shooting against other similarly equipped cameras? In particular, for me, the question is how it stacks up against the NEX-5N, because I already have one, and could potentially just spend a similar amount of money to pick up a pancake wide angle lens. Frankly, I think the NEX-5N or any of the recent variants is a pretty solid comparison, as the sensor is very similar, and with a pancake lens, the size difference shrinks as well.

    In the Coolpix A's favor, you get a great sensor without the low-pass filter, a slightly smaller package than the NEX that definitely is easier to slip into the pocket of your jeans rather than in a jacket pocket, and a very highly regarded 18.5mm lens that is optimized for the camera. These are all great things that I expected would be enough to overcome any other issues that I had with the camera, certainly at the rock bottom price of $329.

    The drawbacks I was expecting, but also very much expecting to be able to live with, were needing to shoot via the LCD, slower AF performance, lack of VR, and a focal length that is maybe in between how wide I'd like it to be for landscapes and how long I'd generally like it to be for casual shooting of people. One of the subjects that I do like to shoot is my very fast moving 9 month old, (often indoors) though I was assuming that the A wouldn't be a great match for that.

    What I'm used to on my DSLRs OR on my NEX is that, when moving a selector to change the focus point that you can rapidly move around the screen in bigger increments than the Coolpix A allows. Hell, on the NEX if you want to and you're using the LCD to compose, you can actually just touch on the screen where you want it to focus, which is incredibly fast. I wasn't expecting blazing fast performance from the AF system in general on the Coolpix, but also wasn't expecting that it would be as slow to move the selected point as it is in Live View on my Nikon DSLRs. The NEX also has a mode that is simply better at taking an initial guess as to where the focus should be, and in certain situations I'll employ that as well.

    To be clear, focus and recompose is a method that I use. In general I prefer not to, only because I'm usually shooting pretty close to wide open on a longer prime lens, and recomposing changes the focal plane enough as I shift away to reframe that what I wanted to focused on is no longer in sharp focus. This is less of a deal on a wide angle like this, so I'm planning to try using it more like this, as it would go a long way towards addressing the other AF issues I'm calling out here.

    I also thought that shooting via a non-tiltable LCD wouldn't be that big a deal for me, but in practice, I find that I generally like to get very low or pretty high, and in both cases the tilting LCD of the NEX really is valuable. I find myself just shooting and chimping a lot from those angles when shooting via the LCD on the A, which I didn't think would be that big a deal, but is less than optimal.

    The LCD itself also doesn't get all that bright, so shooting in sunny conditions, even with the brightness maxed out, it can be a little tough to see what you're shooting. On the NEX you can switch to an outdoor shooting mode that makes the colors on the screen much more visible.

    So, on balance, I think the A can produce truly excellent images, and has some interesting other capabilities (1/2000 flash sync speed, for example) that could make it a pretty fun camera to experiment with, and at $329, is cheap enough that I don't mind thinking about it that way. If I'm being honest with myself, though, and if a quality pancake lens would make my NEX marginally more pocketable, I feel like the NEX has an all around feature set that make it the one I prefer shooting with for a number of the reasons I've pointed out. And frankly, I'm a little disappointed to have to admit that, as I was prepared to really like the A and have it be my carry-everywhere camera.

    If Nikon does iterate the A, though, I can imagine the next one could really knock it out of the park, and I hope they do. Of course, they'll also probably again price it at $1100, and at that price I still think it probably won't compete well in the field of other excellent large-sensor mirrorless cameras.
     
  12. jypfoto macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2014
    #12
    Never had the Coolpix A, but had the Ricoh GR on several occassions (similar fixed lens, 28mm FoV camera). Loved the shooting experience each time I had it, files were clean, AF was sluggish. The GR has better/faster AF than the A. But ended up selling it each and every time. To me having it as a carry everywhere camera wasn't practical since the 28mm FoV is too limiting and I found myself both wanting a viewfinder at times and also wanting something longer. And the GR has built in crop modes for 28/35/47 and I still used it so rarely that it didn't make sense for me to keep it.

    Now I'm using the a6000 with the 16-70, 70-200, 20 pancake and the 24 prime and it fits 99% of the shots that I want to take (outside of the rare UWA shot). The 19 Sigma is a nice lens for the price but of the 3 Sigma lenses it's the weakest. Sometimes having the 20 pancake on my a6000 is very liberating, since the equivalent focal length is similar to the GR/A (28 vs 30) but the faster operation and AF make it much easier to use.
     

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