Quick first thoughts – Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20

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I recently picked up review units of the Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20 at B&H – the store itself is an incredible experience for any photographer, by the way – after a few days of intense shooting during my Making Outstanding Images workshops, I’ve had a chance to put together a few quick thoughts on the two cameras. I will be doing more complete reviews once I get a chance to shoot further with them and pore through the hundreds of images. Until then, this should tide over the curious.

Let’s start with the Fuji X20*:

  • Build quality appears to be a notch up from the X10 I handled: everything that appears to be metal, is. It’s cold to the touch and doesn’t seem to have the thick paint I remember my X100 having. It’s a very high-quality item. 
  • Focusing is fast and accurate. The phase detect sites added to the sensor do really make a difference; this is one of the fastest compacts I’ve used in that regard.
  • It’s a really enjoyable camera to handle and shoot with; very tactile and the controls operate with solidity. Everything is snappy. You can’t shoot it one-handed, though: no way to use the zoom ring. And it isn’t really pocket friendly, either.
  • The JPEGs are still excellent…ACR has improved RAW processing from the XF1, but they’re still very noisy and a little soft.
  • Image quality-wise, the sensor appears to be the same or very slightly better than the XF1 (they’re both 12MP, 2/3″ types). I think ISO 800 is the cutoff point for clean images. 1600 is usable in a pinch.
  • You have to be careful with DR auto: it will pick much higher ISOs than required in an attempt to retain highlight detail, though this appears to only increase noise in RAW. I’ve got some poor images in bright sunshine from the first day because the camera chose ISO 400 instead of the base 100; my recommendation is to leave it on DR100 and use the spot meter instead.
  • I’m not using the OVF as much as I thought due to very poor (75-80%?) frame coverage. However, it does have very helpful shooting info and AF point overlays – too bad they’re not that visible.
  • IS is very effective.
  • At a guess, battery life is about 350-400 frames per charge – not bad considering how tiny the battery is.

Many of you are wondering why I didn’t review the X100s; with the 28mm converter it would make a much better comparison against the Nikon Coolpix A. The simple answer is – I requested one, but none were available. I’m still curious about this one and will try to get one to review in the future as soon as it is available. The only downside I see is that it’s rather large; enough so that I might as well have a second OM-D. To me, this rather puts it out of the running in the pocketable category.

The following series was shot with the X20 in Midtown New York City:

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And now the Coolpix A:

  • Build quality is similar to, or perhaps slightly better than the X20; spatter-paint finish black magnesium, with a similar feel to the pro DSLR bodies. (Both are made in Japan) 
  • The menu system and UI logic are identical to the DSLRs – a very easy transition, for the most part. Unfortunately, some of the more questionable decisions carry over too – the inability to zoom in to the focus point with the OK button, for instance; redundancy of the second control dial in anything other than M mode, for another.
  • Focusing isn’t as fast as the X20, or the OM-D I’ve also got with me. It’s about the same as the Ricoh GR-Digital III, I think. But unlike the GRD III, it doesn’t remember the manual focus distance when switched off, nor does the distance scale also have a depth of field scale. These two minor changes would make a HUGE difference to speed – just shoot it zone-focused; an 18mm real focal length is ideal for this. Actually, I could live with just the former…at least the manual focus ring is sensibly geared, though.
  • Everything else about the camera is blazing fast – startup time, burst mode, writing, reviewing, menu navigation…
  • The bit you’ve been waiting for: image quality is stunningly good; slightly better than the D7000, not quite as good as the D7100. Probably about on par or slightly better than the OM-D. ISO 3200 is not too bad, and ISO 6400 usable in a pinch. The files have lots of latitude and are handled well by the latest versions of ACR.
  • The camera really needs VR; on a windy day, 1/50s or higher is required for critically sharp images at 100%.

The following series was shot with the Coolpix A in Midtown NYC:

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And a 100% crop from the previous image:
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Personally…I’m still trying to decide which one to keep to replace the Sony RX100 – these are big (small?) shoes to fill, but it appears that there is no Goldilocks camera – in every case, there’s a tradeoff of some sort. The RX100 doesn’t focus close and has a rather slow optimal aperture for maximum image quality, but this is offset by a sensor that is happy even at ISO 3200 and has fantastic resolution. It’s also the smallest of the bunch. The X20 has the weakest image quality by some margin and is neearly as large as an OM-D, but it’s also the most fun to use, has a built in optical finder, mechanical zoom, a mechanical exposure compensation dial, and the fastest and most accurate focusing. The Coolpix A leads the pack on image quality and UI, but lags on focus speed and VR/IS. I think the dissonance comes from what I think I want (small, fast prime, high IQ, fast AF, optical finder) vs. what I actually tend to use (small, flexible lens range, taking my time to frame and shoot precisely using the LCD, high IQ). Honestly, perhaps the trouble is I like them both – but for different reasons. My heart says ‘buy both’, my wallet says ‘pick one’. Choices, choices…MT

The Fuji X20 is in stock and available from B&H or Amazon; the Nikon Coolpix A is available here from B&H or Amazon.

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Comments

  1. “You have to be careful with DR auto: it will pick much higher ISOs than required in an attempt to retain highlight detail, though this appears to only increase noise in RAW. I’ve got some poor images in bright sunshine from the first day because the camera chose ISO 400 instead of the base 100; my recommendation is to leave it on DR100 and use the spot meter instead.”

    Thanks for informing this! this is why i got so much pic noise in daylight shoot especially in the shadow.

  2. When I first saw a Sigma DP-1 Merrill, I was intrigued. Most reviewers didn’t get it. For me, though, it appealed to the part of me that loves simplicity. Now I see almost everyone is in on the game, and they’re getting better and better. These two are both fairly useable! I can’t wait until there are full frame versions. A fixed fast lens, full frame, almost pocketable compact camera would be ideal for me. And make it monochrome only! Just so it restricts its appeal to me and 5 other people in my city of 1,000,000+ citizens. Yes, then I will have found compact camera nirvana.

    • We’re getting there. But if only 5/1,000,000 buy it, then there won’t be enough economic justification to build it – either that, or you’re going to pay through your nose for the privilege.

  3. I have had my Fuji X20 for about a week and sadly must return it, because it is unusable on bright sunshine in Missouri. I wanted to use it at f/2.0 to f/4.0 as I walked, but the camera will not allow me because it is limited to a shutter speed of 1/1000 at these fast apertures. It is impossible to shoot at 1/2000 or 1/4000 like most cameras. The lens is beautiful and provides smooth bokeh inside when I can use the lens at a large opening. I keep my ISO at 100 outside and I constantly overexpose my images. It works great as I get up to about f/5.6 or slower, but that is not the “Look” I bought this camera for. Apparently the leaf shutter is not fast enough to clear the the aperture blades at the faster openings. With no built in Neutral Density filters, it is not the camera to use in the bright sunshine. Great build quality and stunning quality when used indoors.

    • I can’t imagine you’ll get that much bokeh off those aperture settings unless your subjects are very close; however, things definitely get soft due to diffraction at smaller apertures; enough to be noticeable. I found the same thing with my test camera.

    • Joachim says:

      I own the X20 since early April and was near to returning it due to the limited shutter times. But what I’ve learnt is that the X20 also offers an electronic shutter (or an electronic shutter supporting the leaf shutter) – in S and M modes you can select up to 1/4000s at every focal lenght and from the fastest aperture. The exposure time in M + S is displayed in red, but it obviously works well. Right now this seems more like some kind of “random feature” (or not yet finalized feature) and I’d wish Fuji implements some extra parameter to allow using the e-shutter also in A and P modes (like e. g. Pentax did with the Q).

      • That’s interesting, I wonder if it’s something that works in conjunction with high DR modes and Auto ISO (so is a processing implementation) or is a real electronic shutter…and if the latter, why not just use it all the time?

    • Why not just get a regular screw-on ND filter?

  4. My RX1/RX100 shows adjustments (exp, DOF etc.) on the LCD/EVF in real time. You must depress the shutter button on the A for a preview of your adjustments. Might sound like a niggle but its a deal breaker for me.

    • I don’t remember the RX100 previewing exposure compensation, actually.

      • Oh yes, it absolutely does. I’m looking at as I type. That and the lack focus peaking has me completely turned off by the A vs the RX100 for just about every aspect except build quality which is second to none in its class IMO. To me, build quality superiority alone does not justify paying six more hundred dollars for the A over the RX100.

        • Last comment on the A…promise. The batter life is abysmal.

        • Nobody is forcing you to buy it, of course. We all have our preferences. The sensor is also significantly larger…

        • Having owned the rx100 for several months and played with RAW of the Nikon A, all I can say is that the Nikon IQ is MUCH BETTER: more fine detail, much better lens without soft corners and better colours (at least to my taste).

          I haven’t used it, so I can’t talk about handling, but there’s no contest between the two, I don’t understand how people can say the IQ is better in the rx100 when clearly it’s not.

          • I’m always intrigued by how folks defend their brand or model or sensor or whatever so fervently, like William Wallace defending Scotland. Mine’s better, mines’ sharper, mines got better color, mine’s this mine’s that…ugh. I really don’t care who makes it or what the specs are or how much or how little it costs as long as I like the results I see on the screen in front of me. As I’ve stated ad nauseum, the A is a lovely camera with exemplary build quality and acceptable but not better (to my eyes) image quality than that of the RX100 (at least for OOC jpegs). Other than that, I just don’t care for it and especially to the point that I would pay six hundred more dollars for it, over the RX100. That said; I am actually extremely pleased that Nikon decided to bring a fixed prime lens APS-C sized sensor compact to the market. To me, it sends a clear message that the RX1 changed some thinking…all the better for us I say. But to take the sensor from a soon to be retired DSLR and strip the AA filter off then call it “The Premier Point and Shoot”…no way, too many niggles and too darn slow AF.

            • Miguel Angel says:

              1. Nikon it’s not my “brand”, I don’t even own a Nikon camera, and never had.
              2.I was talking about facts, and the fact is that the Nikon A has better IQ, no matter how you look at the images.
              3. I’m always intrigued by the folks who deny the evidences just to prove their point and be the cock of the farm. People like you look at the sky and try to convince to others that it’s green…well, here are the news, it’s blue, no matter how cocky you are. We have eyes, people in this forum has eyes (and manners), and it’s clear that you have not.
              4.Good for you if you like the RX100, buy a couple and kiss them every night, but they produce images of lower quality than the Nikon A.
              5.I know a guy who has a fat and ugly girlfriend and he truly thinks that she is prettier than Charlize Theron. That seems to be your case with your camera.
              6.Look at the corners of the files of your RX100 and compare them to the Nikon A, if you still think then, that the rx100 is sharper than the Nikon, then you have a serious problem, go to the ophthalmologist.

              best regards,

              • Well I appreciate the kinds but none less I gave away the A to a relative of whom will appreciate it more than I. But still having a bad case of GAS, went out and picked up a new D7100. WOW! …I like it better than my D800E and I think with the right Zeiss lenses maybe I’ll even cheat on my RX1. The D7100 IMHO is one of the BEST cameras Nikon has ever produced and is the same price as the Coolpix A sans a lens. If your on a budget, pick up the AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1,8 for $199.

                • Miguel Angel says:

                  I agree with your comment on the D7100, I actually was thinking about the D600, but after handling both and shoot some pictures in the store (and reviewing in my computer), I’d probably go with it over the D600. Both cameras, with a good lens, resolve the same amount of detail (amazing!).
                  With the D600, you get the advantage of FF aesthetics (less depth of field), but nothing else. Perhaps 1stop of noise advantage in high ISO, too. It has a much better AF system (51 points vs 39 points), it’s smaller for carrying, it doesn’t have the “dirt sensor” problem that everyone complains about in the D600 etc..

                  So, if you like the advantages of APS-C size sensor (more depth of field for street shooting, among others), this SLR it’s the best out there right now, in my opinion.

                  P.S.I actually think that the best APS-C sensor, it’s the one of the SD1 Merrill, it’s unbeatable right now, it resolves detail at the level of medium format cameras, but there’s a big cost involved (besides the price of the camera): you can’t go over ISO100, 15sec for saving one picture, bad battery life, slow autofocus. My dream would be this sensor inside the body of a D7100. :)

                  • No question about it, that Siggy Merrill renders some ridiculous detail but I’m afraid I just do not possess the patience needed to shoot with it and I do a lot of low light stuff. On the flip side, this D7100 continues to amaze me. I’m seeing that Leica POP and smooth buttery bokeh from a $1200 camera body and $199 Nikkor 35/1,8 lens. And the colors are better than my RX1 (OOC). I can’t wait to throw the new Sigma 35/1.4 Art lens on it…should be here tomorrow. PIP PIP!

                  • It may be time to jump off the Merrill & A bandwagon and climb aboard the GR APS-C train :) Woo Hoo!!

  5. Hi Ming, I am a bit curious about your opinion regarding the AF of the Coolpix A after you have used it for quite some time now.

    I just “tested” the A in the local camera shop with test shots etc. and the AF just didn’t feel too good. It is not even close in AF performance to my 20 year old Nikon 35Ti compact film camera which focuses spot on in near darkness?

    • You probably had the AF/Macro/MF button set to Macro. Very slow to focus on that setting and obviously won’t focus outside of 2ft. Easy enough to do in the showroom :)

    • I don’t think it’s any worse than the GRDIII or Leica X2. I’ve found zone focusing or putting AF-ON on the FN1 button makes a lot of difference to responsiveness, though the latter is a bit contorted ergonomically. Still experimenting with the best settings.

    • Thanks. I’ll give it another try next time I go to town.

    • Just got the A and I must say that the auto focus is much better than I expected after my first look in the camera shop. It is really a great little camera with very good image quality. Frankly I’m sure I will not miss any features as it has everything needed for taking great shoots. My old Nikon 35Ti do not have very many features, but is still capable of delivering great images with its 35mm f/2.8 lens and slow, slow Fuji Velvia ISO 50 film. I would of course have preferred that the A had the same bright optical viewfinder as the 35Ti :-)

      • So would I – but not really, since we can’t turn off the damn LCD.

        • As a sort of workaround the LCD brightness can be turned down to -5 which makes it less disturbing when using a viewfinder. This can be done in SETUP MENU -> Monitor brightness.

          • But that’s clumsy and you’re stuck digging through menus if you suddenly need the LCD again.

            • Then you could assign the Fn2/ISO button to monitor brightness and change ISO using the Information Display which gives quick access to many parameters. Not ideal, but possible :-)

              • True. I’m using FN2 for metering mode now, which I tend to flipflop between matrix and spot depending on the scenario. I find this camera can be set up and shot two ways – run and gun street/ hyperfocal, or deliberate and careful still-life. It’s a bit of a bipolar beast.

  6. Hi Ming, I’m just wondering, why the need to replace the RX-100 at all? You seemed to be quite fond of it.

  7. Alexander says:

    In MF mode you can use the Function 1 button to have an AF in between. Very helpful! It adjust your manual focus to the point you like!

  8. Re: your Voigtlander viewfinder on the Nikon A ; by choice or Nikon’s still unavailable ?
    Do you use the Nikon lens hood ?

  9. I’ve been shooting with the Coolpix A for about a week now and, as a 28mm lover, I love it! I’ve had a GRD3 and still have a GXR-28 and I find the Nikon to combine the size of the GRD with better than GXR output and more ISO range. I find 6400 workable for street shooting, particularly B&W. Yes, it would be nice if it remembered manual focus distance after power off/on, but the focus ring is so quick to get back to the 4-6 foot range I almost always use for zone focus that it becomes about as fast as turning on the camera. As much as I love the Ricohs, I actually prefer a decent focus ring to snap focus. The Olympus 12mm is about perfect, but for a pocketable 28mm equivalent at 3:2 (which I also prefer to 4:3), the Nikon is great. I’m also happier without a DOF scale – most of the electronic ones are far too conservative for me anyway. The one on the GXR 28 is about perfect, but the one on the GRD3/4 is horrible, using identical assumptions to the GXR with a sensor several times smaller!!! I know my zone focus points, so just give me a decent distance scale with easy and quick to set focus and I’m good. The Nikon does exactly this. And one of the best auto-ISO implementations in the business, for shooting in either A or M modes…

    I’d take a “sticky” MF distance, but I’m OK without it. Otherwise, a close to perfect camera for me.

    -Ray

  10. Hi Ming,

    Congratulations on your review. I was in the fence trying to decide between the Nikon A or the Fuji X100s for street photography. I think I’ll go with the Nikon as I’ve always been more confortable with the 28mm (many hours of walks with grd’s cameras ;) )

    A couple of questions:

    -is it possible to turn off the “autoreview” after shooting a picture? I’ve seen in the menus (in the manual) that you can only set it to 1sec as minimum.

    -can you turn the lcd off when shooting with the viewfinder?

    Thanks a lot!

    • You can’t turn off the LCD – that’s rather annoying, actually. As for autoreview – yes, it’s on the first playback menu – ‘image review on/off’.

  11. Coolpix A, My impressions:
    -Even with AA removed, sensor is old-tech, 16MP not enough for me. OOC jpeg can’t touch RX100 no matter how much I fiddle with picture control. File processing in LR is uninspiring. RX100 files much hardier.
    -Auto ISO select is buried in menu.
    -JPG adjustments e.g. sharp, contrast, sat & hue again,buried in menu. REALLY?
    -Camera forgets self timer … ugh…
    -Build quality is very impressive but not enough to justify the $1200 price point. I’m keeping my RX100.
    It’s a shame because I really tried to like this camera. In the end, it left me with the feeling that Nikon loses this one trying to play catch up with Sony, Fuji and Olympus.

    • Nauseatingly good photos as always Ming. I don’t really think it matters what you use, you always seem to make a great image. Frustratingly so :) !! I’m gonna have to come on a course and experience some tough love to lift my photo game!

    • 1. How big do you print? If you can’t do a good 20×30″, then perhaps your technique is at fault. The lens on the A is much better than the RX100, whose corners suffer. 2. Disagree on file plasticity – this is better than the RX100; much more dynamic range. 3. You can put any settings you want on the quick menu.

      I agree that the camera forgetting settings when turned off – especially the MF distance – is a much bigger problem…

      • It’s pointless for me to argue with you on the niggles that I have with the A and I do respect your opinion Ming. I’ve been shooting with the RX1 and the RX100 since Christmas and I view the files on a Hi-Res Dell 2560 x1600 30″ monitor (no prints ever). I’ve simply grown accustomed to the look of the Sony files on my monitor which I was unable to duplicate to any degree of satisfaction with A. The quick menu does indeed let you access settings, just not to drill down on them. For that you must go back into the menu. Sony lets you drill down. As I said, the A is a very nice camera indeed but it is simply too hobbled for me to use without frustration.

        • This is why we have choices…

          • Yes, and I love the fact that we now have so many more choices at the high end delivering phenomenal IQ, rendering and file quality in a significantly smaller package than was available to us, just a short time ago. Thanks in no small part to the ballsy moves of one or more outstanding manufacturer(s). PIP PIP to choices!! …its a wonderful time to be an enthusiast.

  12. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    One thing more. Some people act very choosy complaining about focals. Like I would buy X100s if it had a 50mm (eqv.) or Sony R1 if it had 24mm and so on. Dont`t you think it would be a cool feature in fix focus cameras if they had a crop function? Not a digital zoom which I find very unphotographic. Like in Nikon A you could choose 35mm and 50mm crop with corresponding black or grey semitransparent frame in LCD. It would have an advantage of visual check of elements entering actual picture, smaller file size, increased taking and writing speed. Kind of Leica finder idea but instead of framelines a greyed out crop just like some FF marking the use of DX lenses.

  13. stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

    Ming. You mentioned GDR wishing it`s ergonomics implanted in Nikon A while Eric expects updated GXR 28 unit. We the Ricoh users are all waiting for Ricoh response to Nikons encroaching into Ricoh teritory – a high quality 28mm compact. It could be something in- between GDRIV and GXR A12 28. Making it smaller ( read flatter ) then Nikon A, would most probably ask for something like MFT sensor. Meanwhile it would be interesting in your future review of Nikon A, mention GXR 28. I know the sensors are not the match but what about the lenses?
    p.s. You`re one of the coolest reviewers for being not just a reviewer but foremost super proff photographer.

    • If there is a GRD with a reasonably large sensor – M4/3 is more than fine (I should know since my OM-D has been used enough to recently pass 30,000 frames) – I will almost certainly buy one because Ricoh got something very right with the way the camera feels and operates. Lens-wise…well, we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we? I don’t think you can do a direct comparison between the GRD IV and the A as it’s much harder to make something covering a larger sensor. The A’s lens is absolutely superb, though; corner performance is excellent and it’s clear that it was designed to match the sensor…

  14. Phukhanh Vu says:

    Hi Ming,

    How have you been? Great mini review you got there. I am tempted to get the Coolpix A because of its image quality. Quick question regarding the battery life on the Nikon Coolpix A. How many shots were taken per charge in compare with Fuji X20. Its battery life is about 350-400 frames per charge??

    Thank you for your time.

    • Hard to say as I haven’t been able to fully exhaust the battery of either. I think both are in that range – you’ll need a spare if you’re going to shoot with it as your primary camera for the whole day.

  15. I’m getting the impression that the Nikon Coolpix A is sort of an incomplete camera. A camera that hasn’t fully developed yet – perhaps much like the Fuji X100 when it was first released.
    Still I do like the concept of the Coolpix A. It would be a lovely truely ‘pocketable’ camera that can be added to any camera bag – especially for people who shoot primarily medium or large format film… … … such that the digital camera occupies a minimal amount of space; which will also allow the bag to focus on the film equipment.

    • Exactly right. Stuff the Nikon D7000 sensor in half the volume done before, create a stellar lens with built in cover. The result is a pocketable powerhouse that looks humble. Skimp on luxuries like VR and Evf. Create a 10 ounce daily carry with IQ that competes with the very best. Get it done. Fuji X100 and Leica X1 had 4 years and are still twice the volume and 50% more weight. Note most wide DSLR lenses have no VR.

      • DSLRs have a stability/ damping advantage because of higher weight and the ability to brace them to your face. But go half a stop or a stop higher with shutter speed, and you’re fine.

    • Actually, all it needs are two small tweaks via firmware update: let it remember the manual focus distance when the power is cycled, and then add a depth of field scale. Perhaps the option to turn off the LCD too when using an external finder. That’s it.

      • Exactly!!! I tried the A yesterday! Great camera! X20 was disappointed compared. I have the feeling the X10 was/is as good, maybe evan better than X10!!

        • The trouble is, the X20 is really enjoyable to use…and that’s half of the joy, I think. If you’re not wanting to use something, its image quality becomes moot.

  16. Ming: I have been hearing a lot of negative feedback on the A’s AF. I’m finding it to be very speedy from 2ft. and out. It’s the Macro selection that slows down quite a bit. Build quality crushes the RX100 IMO.

  17. Ricoh really needs to release an updated 28mm GXR module.

  18. Jorge Balarin says:

    Thanks for another nice review that kept me in front of the computer instead of making photos : )

  19. Jorge Balarin says:

    So the Coolpix has better IQ than the D7000. That’s pretty good.

  20. Well, I was getting set on a Coolpix A to replace my stolen GRD IV, but on Saturday I chanced across an Olympus XA in full working order for exactly 25 CHF (more or less $25). So that can tide me over as my pocket camera until / if Ricoh produce a GRD V (maybe with a 1″ sensor?). Although actually I’d still say the IV is a perfectly valid choice.

    • That’s a great deal!

      If only the Coolpix A had the same ergonomics as the GRD series…slow AF wouldn’t even be an issue since we’d have snap mode and zone focus with distance remembered on cycling power.

  21. Two questions about comment you wrote which I didn’t quite understand:

    X20: “It’s cold to the touch and doesn’t seem to have the thick paint I remember my X100 having.”

    Did you have the black paint version of the X100? What was wrong with the paint?

    A: “The menu system and UI logic are identical to the DSLRs – a very easy transition, for the most part. Unfortunately, some of the more questionable decisions carry over too – the inability to zoom in to the focus point with the OK button, for instance; redundancy of the second control dial in anything other than M mode, for another.”

    I am not sure I get this comment. I use the center button on the multi-control to zoom directly to 100% on my D800 in live view and review. Is it something different you are talking about?

    • My X100 was silver, and felt like there was a layer of expoxy over the metal. The X20 feels like it’s just bare metal.

      The D600 and lower cameras cannot use the OK/ center button to zoom. I use it on the D3/D700/D800E too, and miss it sorely on my D600.

  22. It’s so frustrating that none of the manufacturers seem to get all of the basic shooting functionality right. Don’t they care, can’t they do it or is it a case of “don’t build a perfect camera, otherwise the customers will never buy a replacement”?

    • Could be that, or something more simple: marketing tells them to do one thing, and the engineers are so busy trying to figure out how to make the silly new features work that nobody actually shoots with the damn things before production…

    • Marvin 8 says:

      yeah, I suspect that it’s planned obsolesence. Perfect camera = no future sales. Which is also why they play the game of giving major features on the one hand and taking some away on the other.

  23. Armanius says:

    Nice short reviews! I found the JPGs on X20 nearly unusable even in low ISO thanks to the excessive NR. Wish Fuji had kept the JPG engine with similar qualities as the X10. However, RAW in combination with LR4.4 improved detail considerably on the X20.

    I didn’t think I’d like the Nikon A. Slow lens. No bult in viewfinder. 28mm. Then I took a few photos, pixel peeped, and was like “wow.” Super sharp. Tons of detail. And the AF wasn’t all that shabby. Better than my X100. Now I’m torn about the A vs the X100S. To my eyes, the IQ of the A beats the X100S. But everything else about the X100S is better — form factor, hybrid VF, faster AF, focus peaking, and 35mm. Decisions decisions.

  24. Great thoughts as usual.

    I’m looking for a large sensor compact camera with a bright lens, so this post is very timely. I took my E-M5 to a wedding last weekend, and I found it to be just too big and cumbersome at the ceremony and the reception. So I’m looking for something that’s small; not necessarily jeans pocket small, but small enough to go in a coat pocket or be generally inconspicuous for taking to events, dinners, friends’ houses, etc., when I don’t necessarily want to be in photographer mode but still want to be able to make great images when the mood strikes. I have an old Canon S95, which isn’t bad, but I want something with quality that’s closer to my E-M5 as a carryround.

    I’m surprised at how much I liked the Nikon A when I tried it at my local Best Buy. The camera felt pretty sweet in hand, and handled great. The size is good: It won’t fit in every pants pocket, but it will fit in some, and definitely will hide in any coat pocket. That focal length is both a plus and a minus: i prefer a narrower angle of view, but I don’t have a quality wide angle option for my E-M5, so it could have a use in addition to the E-M5, not just as an alternative to it. How well it focused in low light is still a question I have. The lack of image stabilization and an articulated LCD are bummers (more so than the lack of a evf/ovf) – I rely on both on my E-M5 a lot.

    As for other options, I’m renting an X100S next month, so I’ll get a good look at that then, and the Leica X2 is too expensive by half. The rumors sites claim that Pentax and Panasonic are both coming out with large sensor compacts later this month, and it seems about time for Canon to update the G1X. It’s an interesting time to be looking in this category.

    I’m definitely looking forward to more detailed thoughts on both of these cameras when you have the opportunity!

    • Sounds like you’ve got the same requirements as me. The X20 is too big – I think the OM-D plus 14-42 X pancake (I just bought one) is not much larger and much more flexible. What you lose on lens speed, you gain from the excellent IS and sensor. The A is turning out to fit me quite well – just wish it focused a bit faster or remembered the MF distance when turned off. Image quality is excellent, though. The X100s should be similarly good, if not better; the problem is that’s very much into unpocketable territory. The large sensor compact I’m waiting for is a Ricoh GR series of some sort…

  25. love your photo of the construction worker digging and throwing dirt!!!!! Very cool. Great reviews… :)

  26. Ming, thank you for your evaluation. One missing feature of the Nikon Coolpix A I have noticed, is no option to make 1:1 (square) images, like Sony’s RX100 and Nikon’s P330 & DSLR cameras provide.

  27. Ming, excellent mini-review; thanks for sharing your thoughts. Just a quick question you may have covered before and I missed – why are you looking to replace the RX100 in the first place?

  28. Which viewfinder on Coolpix A ?

  29. I know you and many others here are primarily RAW shooters, but when you do a more detailed review of these cameras, I’d be interested if possible in a few more details about JPEGs, particularly for the X20, as that’s what I would mostly look to shoot with this camera. Because of the handling, and given what I’d heard about the beautiful JPEGs with the X-trans sensor, this was the camera I’d intended to get (not sure I’m ready for a fixed lens compact though the Nikon A now has my attention). But I’ve heard conflicting opinions, even in your article and comments above (I’ve read them!); you say in the piece that JPEGs are excellent, but mention later they have “an odd watercolor appearance” – which is what I’ve heard elsewhere (though have also heard adjusting DR and NR settings helps with this). There’s also that interesting remark about the X20 not having the advantage you’d expect from it’s 2/3″ sensor…hmmm.

    Love the colors in your sample X20 images though, especially the first from around Times Square. I shot with an older (non-EXR) Fuji compact for a long time, and miss that…

    Thanks for the quick first takes on both cameras – will look forward to your further evaluation.

    • The X20 JPEGs have texture at 100% – much like the XF-1, but at any other size, they look very pleasing. I don’t know if it’s NR or something else; my NR is set to low, and DR 100.

      I think X-trans only goes into the APS-C cameras (correct me if I’m wrong).

      • Iskabibble says:

        Ming, the X20 has an X Trans sensor. It is 2/3 inch in size like the XF1 but the XF1 has an EXR sensor. These dramatically different technologies produce very different images. The EXR sensors always yield better images at half resolution.

        • I stand corrected – the JPEGs look about the same in terms of absolute quality, though. RAW files of the X20 are better than the XF1, but still don’t blow me away…maybe the expectation was too high.

  30. I had a brief flirtation with an X20 in Penang (which I neglected to tell you about, Ming) – I think it was all of five days. I really loved using the camera, but the images seemed just a bit too soft and noisy for me above ISO400, and as beautiful as it is, I felt ever so slightly fake using something so obviously retro. Like I needed to be dressed in canvas and a panama hat with a leather notebook. I think I might have felt more at ease with the black version. Fuji got four things really right with this camera; the natural wonderful colour and the tactile feel of the lens zoom, the near silent operation, and the very snappy focus. I think the sensor is just a bit small to deliver real quality. I took it back only because I think you can get better image quality in a similarly sized package, and I’d rather be paying for that, than the premium retro finish. Only because if you are going to take that one in a million street shot, which is of course wishful thinking on my part, I want the best base file possible rather than the rangefinder looks. And actually I really want a Leica, but I cant afford one…so who am I fooling here?

    • Whoa, you had the equivalent of a clandestine photographic affair! :P

      I’m in the same boat as you: love the usage experience, the image quality isn’t impressing me – it’s good, but not great. You might want to try the Coolpix A…it’s growing on me. Also, I just picked up the 14-42 X pancake for the OM-D…we shall see how that does…

  31. Hi Ming, looks like you had a great trip, love the pictures you get from every city you visit.

    I bought a X20 a week ago and am noticing the same great color rendition that a couple of the comments above referenced, and that while the noise level is higher at any given well-exposed ISO level than my OMD (expected with 4-fold smaller sensor area), it seems “photographic” in quality, so not obnoxious and very usable. It reminds me of the look of film, even if it is not really the same.

    It may just be my perception comparing the two, but the Nikon doesn’t look as pleasing even with higher IQ from a technical perspective. Mainly it seems to be the colors though, which could be adjusted in post I guess. The skin tones bugged me in particular for some reason.

    About the X20 viewfinder, I barely used it the first couple days, but then started finding myself drawn to it for certain shots. Even though it is only ~85% coverage, it zooms with the lens and is consistently clear and informative. The key for me was finding that I can see exactly when someone has the expression I want to capture, or the elements of a rapidly changing scene come together just right. So, the LCD is now getting used mainly for critical focus or framing a static shot just right, but I can’t see the eyes and the expression without visual immersion in the viewfinder. Even with 6fps available in burst mode with raw capture, The ovf gives me an edge.

    One other note, the pop-up flash seems to be perfectly fitted to the optical and electronic system. Every shot I’ve taken with either fill flash, or low light slow-synch has turned out exactly the way I would want it to. For people shots, this has been a big advantage and made up for any higher ISO limitations.

    Interestingly, before I actually tried one, I thought that Fuji marketing was too much hype and that the images tended towards over processed jpegs, but I was pleasantly surprised. I am definitely not getting rid of the OMD, but may be cutting down my kit to the essentials – 25mm f/1.4 and 75-300mm zoom, both of which offer somewhat unique characteristics and seem to be worth the extra weight.

    I would wish you good luck finding what you are searching for, but maybe it’s the searching that we enjoy. Cheers!

    • After your post got me thinking about it, I tried to demonstrate the “film-like” quality I really like seeing from the X20. Pinging back to your blog as well, in case others are trying to decide about these cameras based on image examples.

      http://gerafotografija.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/good-noise/

      • Arejukas, please take the following comments in the constructive and positive spirit that I offer them in, as it is hard to convey tone over the Internet, but in your two pictures, I see a lot of the watercolor effects that many people have talked about. Were they shot in JPEG? I’ve also found that very aggressive sharpening and noise reduction on RAW files in Lightroom can cause a similar effect, but smaller in magnitude.

        I happened to take some photos of the same kinds of subjects (chrome motorcycles) with the X20, and processed the RAWs in LR4.4RC (the release candidate instead of the official version released earlier this week). Take a look at this, and let me know what you think. http://www.flickr.com/photos/9750392@N02/8587824043

        • Hi Andre, thanks very much for the comments. I definitely appreciate the positive spirit, and constructive criticism is always welcome. Your photo is definitely better exposed with higher IQ. I didn’t see EXIF data, but I am guessing it may be at base ISO.

          What I didn’t mention before is that I purposefully pushed the X20 to the highest ISO setting I thought produced usable images, and then tried to come up with a workflow that would give me something approaching the type of push-processed aesthetic that I can get with film such as Tri-X. Mainly because I am tired of lugging around a Nikon F3 when I want to make a “film like” capture.

          Unfortunately, I have been putting off upgrading to CS6 and I use Aperture instead of LR with CS5. So, I can’t import RAF files with anything other than Silkypix, which I tried briefly before giving up.

          Although my starting point is an OOC X20 JPEG, and the end result may be a little less optimal than is possible, I added some 100% comparison screen shots to the blog post you looked at. I am definitely not saying that this high level of noise is good, but what I am hoping to figure out is whether there is a way to use it creatively without losing too much aesthetic appeal.

          http://gerafotografija.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/good-noise/#jp-carousel-2297

          Let me know what you think.

          I just noticed Ming’s response to this growing thread, and I agree it is better to have a choice of noise or no noise!

          • Perhaps “noise plus sharpness” or “no noise plus watercolor effect” is a better description.

          • Hi Arejukas, thanks for the 100% samples, and the ISO for my picture is 200. Just FYI, in LR4.4RC, I sharpened to 45 with a radius of 0.5, with no noise reduction. The default settings for those 2 parameters are 25, and 1, and detail is set to 25.

            I’m not sure what kinds of deals Adobe offers in other countries, but Lightroom in the US will occasionally go on sale for a really good price, and it uses the same RAW conversion engine as the latest Photoshops. I’ve been using CS4 for editing, and the latest LRs for RAW development, and editing 16-bit TIFFs in CS when needed. But lately most of my PP workflow is just in LR as I’ve tried to adapt what I’ve learned from Ming’s excellent videos to LR.

            BTW, Ming’s videos are an excellent guide to finding your own way to get that film look, as he tends to explain why he’s doing things a certain way. Those explanations to me are more valuable than his actual workflow because they let me figure out how to get the look that I want instead of trying to copy him. Definitely check them out if you haven’t already!

            I would alter Ming’s choices slightly: “noise + almost sharpness” or “no noise + watercolor.” I found the files to be somewhat soft viewed at 1:1, and part of that may be due to the subjective effect of the noise, which is different than the noise from the NEX-5N’s. To be fair though, the X20’s noise doesn’t seem to degrade too much with high ISOs, and LR noise reduction is less prone to watercoloring. And the best thing for me about the X20 is how quiet it is! if it weren’t for that blinking orange light next to the viewfinder, I wouldn’t know that I’d taken a picture.

            I’ve been looking at files from the X100S with its APS-C-sized X-Trans, and while it looks sharper, the grain still has that softening effect, but the X100S’s high ISO performance is pretty darned impressive. If only it came with a 50mm equivalent lens. Take a look at this ISO 6400 shot, slightly cropped down: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9750392@N02/8630671942/in/photostream

      • I don’t disagree with you – but I guess with digital, I’m used to having a choice of whether I want the noise or not…

    • I agree with the Nikon colors being a bit off – but it’s similar to what I see from my D600/D800E, so I think I could probably use the same profile to resolve that issue.

      The searching drives me bonkers and costs a lot of money; I prefer to just shoot :)

  32. The picture of the confused looking women taken with the A makes me think the lens/sensor combination on that camera works really well. Does it deliver on a consistent basis or was that shot just a “perfect circumstances” thing?

  33. Interesting stuff Ming!

    My own thoughts are I love fuji rendering but quite simply the X100 I have is shockingly poor in build quality that leaves a bitter enough taste that I would really need to be convinced to buy another one. On top of that I have not really produced quality stuff with the camera – I think I simply don’t like 35mm. That’s been compounded by me recently buying a 28/1.8g and realising that is more natural for me and gives an interesting perspective. I’ve also realised I could shoot all day with it and not really miss a zoom function.

    I would also want something pocketable – my philosophy is if I need a neck strap I’m happy enough just to take the D700. So narrows down to the A and RX100. Personally not a fan of the rendering of the RX100 but it is a lovely sensor. And to be honest to keep ISO down I would probably end up keeping the lens at 28mm only – which would by default leave the A as the default winner. Shame its a bit too rich for my blood at the moment….and then we are back to square one :)

    • I think there’s some sample variation – the X100 I had isn’t as nice as the X20 I’ve got now. There’s also 28mm adaptor for the X100s now, but that’s not at all pocketable.

      Maybe you should revisit film…I hear there are some NOS Mju IIs in Kota Raya…

      • I bought my x100 from the fuji uk refurb shop thinking that I would lessen the risk of sticky blades – which I was lucky enough not to get. I also saved a fair bit of money as well on normal retail. But in the end maybe some of those models were lacking in build? Who knows. I think I’m still under warranty so will go back to fuji when I get a chance to send it. Was tempted by the 28mm adaptor and may still get it if things turn out ok with the fuji.

        Ah the Mju II – I have a soft spot for it as I enjoyed shooting with a friends last yr….but that was 35mm, does a 28mm exist as well?

  34. Charlie Z says:

    Welcome to New Yawk, Ming!

  35. How is AF speed compared to Leica X2? And X1?
    Best regards

    • Similar to the X2, much faster than the X1.

      • And if you say a quick word about the picture quality compared to X1/X2?

        • Well I have the X1 which is reported to have better IQ than the X2. I got rid of the X2. But took plenty of pictures with it. I find the A to have better colors that the X1 and the X2. More natural. The X’s skin tones were too pink or orange. I liked the look of the X’s but the A is more Nikon. The A blows some highlights, like the D7000. But it does well in ISO 3200. The X1/2 has more noise in ISO 3200 than the A. The A is truly pocketable, whereas the X1/2 taxes the jacket pocket. It is also lighter. I am now gonna get rid of the X1. Also I get more focus keepers with the A. 90% vs 60%. I also get a nice 3D effect with the A, like the X1 feels.

        • Better.

  36. Jonathan says:

    Hi Ming,
    Thank u so much for the review. I have come to trust and appreciate your judgment regarding usability and image quality. I am an experienced amateur photog and currently, my main camera is the heavy D800E and an extensive assortment of Nikkor optics. My sidearm is currently the Olympus XZ-1 which I find to have unacceptable image quality above ISO 200 due to noise plus the 28mm lens isn’t wide enough most times. I am probably spoilt by my FF bodies but the Olympus was the best option back in its time.

    I am thinking of upgrading to either the x20 or LX7, though I am currently leaning towards the LX7 due to the wider angle lens, faster aperture, and built in ND compared to the x20. Having reviewed both, which of the two do you think has higher image quality? Is the slightly larger sensor of the Fuji offset by the Panny’s faster aperture and superior optics? Is the glacial slowness of the LX7’s zoom a huge hindrance in use? Is the handling and image quality of the X20 so superior that it’s worth bearing with only a 28mm wide angle? Which of these two would you choose and why? Will I see an appreciable difference in image quality from either compared to my XZ-1?

    I know I’m asking a barrage of questions and any insights from you will be appreciated. As always, I recognize there is no perfect camera so we all have to live with compromises. I guess all I want to know is if you had to choose between the Fuji and the Panny, which compromise would you ultimately settle for? Thanks so much for your advice. Your insights are highly appreciated.

  37. How pocketable is the A?

    I have an X100 as my “pocket” camera at the moment (without the hood, I can fit it in my jeans, or coat when I am somewhere colder), with wallet and phone in the other pocket, but that’s a squeeze, so I tend just to take my M9 with a 35 summarit over my shoulder instead. Especially as the X100 is such a pig to use in my view.

    A genuinely pocketable (think Oly Mju or similar) aps-c or bigger sensor camera would be great, especially with good IQ and a decent UI, and this looks like it may be it, but I can’t work out if the lens folds flat to make this pocketable.

    Close to buying an LX7/Digilux 6, but the A looks very tempting (I don’t like zooms as I want a focal length at a time, and to have to make a conscious decision to change).

    My ongoing search for a digital replacement for my Minilux continues!

  38. Ming: You say: “Personally…I’m still trying to decide which one to keep to replace the Sony RX100″.

    Why replace the RX100? Does the Coolpix A have that much better IQ? Are the images sharper? GAS?

  39. You’re right – it isn’t an easy choice! I personally wasn’t overly struck on the Coolpix A as it was too slow for my liking, but the image quality is formidable. The x20, on the other hand, is great fun to use, and delivers great image quality for a compact. It also has a spectacular macro mode. I guess it all comes down to personal taste!

    • Not sure I agree with the X20 being spectacular in the image quality department; it’s good but doesn’t have the advantage you’d expect a 2/3″ sensor with large pixels to have over 1/1.7″. The trouble is, the camera itself is pretty large…OM-D sized, in fact.

  40. Well it ain’t no M9 but OMG does it focus quickly and I find the RAW files very workable in Lr4.4. but what I find unfortunate is the terrible jpeg output at high iso with terrible chroma noise which isn’t at all present in the RAW files. I would be interested as to why and I hope that it can be sorted in a firmware update as otherwise it is a fantastic little quick street shooter. Anyway role on the new M

    • No idea which camera you’re referring to, but the M is at least 7x more expensive, and that’s before lenses…image quality is not 7x better than the Coolpix A, that’s for sure. If you want an M, why bother looking at these at all?

      • Yes Ming I am mainly a leica M user for all my more serious work but I wanted something small quick and pocketable and the X20 seemed to fit the bill. I really like the camera for the OVF and the auto focus seems to be really fast in all lights with almost no delay. What I am finding strange is the amount of chroma noise in higher iso jpegs. High iso RAW files appear to show no chroma noise in Lr4.4 even up to 3200 but it starts to show even at much lower iso levels in jpeg. Now I find this strange as i had thought that Lr was supposed to have some problems handling the fuji X-trans sensor RAW files and the fuji in camera jpegs were meant to be very good, so now it appears to be the other way round. Do you think this is fixable in future firmware updates?

        • No idea, not a software engineer. I think you have to like the files as they stand, and not risk waiting for a future update that might never come…

  41. Thanks Ming, as always your thoughts and comments are appreciated! I use the X20 since a week, it’s a real fine camera. Only major drawback is the lack of a built-in ND filter which in bright daylight and use of large apertures forces the photographer to use manual mode because of the 1/1000 sec limitation in the other modes. I also find the RAW files noisy, even at base iso 100. The Jpegs don’t look as good as from the X100, even taking sensor size in consideration. Hence my question, were the images you posted processed from RAW of Jpeg?

    • Yes, I agree: the raw files are noisy, but oddly better if you set DR to 100 and don’t move it from there. The JPEGs are a bit better but have an odd watercolor appearance. All images from RAW via ACR 7.4.

      • Ming, thanks for rushing this article out despite your hectic schedule!

        It is said on the Internet that reducing NR to -2 will help with the watercolor effect in JPEG. I didn’t try that with my brief spell with the X20, as I switched immediately to RAW only as soon as I saw the first JPEGs. Like you, I found the files noisy, but still pleasing and with plenty of latitude for post processing. I’ll be very curious to see how you get along with it when you start doing B&W. I really liked it for that.

        • Doesn’t seem to help the raws, either. Perhaps some of the other settings that are baked in are affecting the raw files – Fuji is known for its preprocessing…I will keep fiddling.

  42. I don’t have the budget for either at the moment, but looking at them, aside from their image producing qualities (which would be the first thing I’d look at – had I the budget), I would guess that the x20 is a more practical street phot camera – as the viewfinder isn’t a sticky out bit bound to snag on a pocket as it’s pulled out to snap something?

  43. Asides from the image quality: great shots!

  44. robotroyal says:

    Nice reviews, but I do not have a clue one the price range. I could look it up, but a ballpark would help.

  45. Ming, thank you for the review.

    I use a Olympus E-PM2 with the Panasonic 14mm f2.5 lens, which in theory has the same quality as the OM-D. Do you seen any reason to get the Coolpix A? The E-PM2 and 14mm is about the same size as the Coolpix A and it even has IS. Perhaps the A has a better lens? Low light performance seems about the same, according to your review. Do you think the Nikon Sensor has more dynamic range than the Olympus? (though both sensors are probably supplied by Sony, anyway?)

    Thank you,

    Andy

    • The sensor of the Nikon A is much larger and has higher IQ than the sensor in the PM2. The A is thinner and lighter than the PM2 with its pancake. The lens in the A is better than the Pana 14mm. You are comparing an excellent camera with as Ming says “image quality is stunningly good; slightly better than the D7000″

      The PM2 will not give you clean ISO 3200.

      • Actually, neither will be perfectly clean; they run pretty close sensor-wise, but I’d give the edge to the Nikon. Color on the Olympus is nicer, though, and it’s got IBIS. The 14/2.5 is not even close to the Coolpix A’s lens, especially at the edges.

        • MIng and mgauss7, thanks for your thoughts. I may consider the CoolPix A in the future, especially if I can get it at a steep discount.

          Yes, the Olympus color. I too really like it. I’ve moved over to the Olympus from the Sony (NEX) because I wasn’t crazy about their colors.

      • I am in a similar boat as you. I own a few more m4/3 lenses including the 20mm 1.7 which I love. The problem is e-pm2 is not pocketable except for when used with the body cap, lens (which doesn’t really count).

        I own a D5100 wich uses the similar sensor as the Coolpix A, difference being the lack of AA filter, and often I prefere the image quality of my e-pm2 over it due to color rendition. ISO 3200 on e-pm2 is usable for me. Although I have to admit the Nikon’s APS-C sensor in question is slightly better in that regard. And like Ming mentioned, e-pm2 has IBIS which can help in low light.

        Personally I am in the market for a more compact fixed lens camera. But don’t know yet how pocketable Coolpix A really is.

        • I just picked up a 14-42X pancake – that might be a solution with the OM-D. I think that sensor (and the E-PM2, same sensor) is usable to 3200 with careful processing – and even higher under some circumstances.

          Coolpix A is very pocketable – not supercompact, but midsize.

          • I considered the 14-42X pancake, but wasn’t sure due to mixed reviews, potential manufacturing inconsistencies as well. I am curious as to what you think of it.

            As for the Coolpix A, you are making my resolution to enjoy the gear I own and hold of on new purchases harder to keep :)

          • sirmo, your right the E-PM2 is just big enough that It’s not pocketable. But where I live, it is usually hot so I don’t wear a jacket and the CoolPix A will also not be jeans pocket pocketable. So pocket-ability is less of a factor for me.

          • I’ve been pleasantly surprised in what the new Olympus micro 4/3 sensor can do.

            Body wise looks like the Olympus E-PM2 and Coolpix A are virtually the same size.

            http://camerasize.com/compare/#387,445

            Looks like It’s the lens factor (the protrusion)that tips the balance in the A’s favor.

          • So I think I found an answer to my dilemas. A small P&S camera, smaller than rx100 (size comparaison: http://j.mp/152XbCH
            ), 1.7″ sensor, fast lens F1.8 – F5.6 24–120 mm (5x) lens, and RAW support.

            I just ordered a Nikon Coolpix p330!

            • I thought about that, but the f5.6 part wasn’t quite so exciting. Let us know how you get on with it, though – maybe it makes sense as a companion to the Coolpix A…

              • I think the lens is in line with what I would get with rx100 aperture wise. They are both f/4.9 at 100mm, if I am not mistaken? (this one just has 20mm more focal length at the expense of aperture). In any case, it arrives tomorrow, will know more this weekend. Let you know how I like it.

                • Yes, and that was too slow for me too…

                  • Gotcha! I do own a (somewhat heavy, but excellent) Olympus 75mm 1.8 on my m4/3 system for when I need speed at those focal lengths. I am just hoping p330 will keep me happy for something that fits in a pocket. I also plan on taking it on my mountain biking trips, so size and low price is a plus as it is very possible it might get dropped.

              • I got my p330 3 days ago. Been using it, and I must say overall it is a positive experience. Not without faults though. I was looking for a RAW shooter that can fit in a pocket. And Coolpix P330 is tiny. Definitely fits in my jeans pockets easily. It is lightweight too, so it’s pretty comfortable to always have on you. Accomplishes the main reason why I got it. A camera this small, that can shoot RAW and produce pretty good images.

                However, lightness probably comes with the drawback of the camera feeling, it feels quite cheap. Not the most responsive camera either, completely different experience than my e-pm2. I suspect you would probably be quite annoyed with it. AF is not the best (and this is coming from someone who loves his m4/3 20mm panny lens), and turning the camera on, is flaky. The ON/OFF button has the be pressed hard or it doesn’t register. I guess it’s better than having the opposite problem, which could cause the camera to turn on in your pocket by accident. Uncertainty of the on/off button feels very cheap and it can be quite frustrating.

                No lens correction profile in Adobe ACR or Lightroom at the moment, and lens distortion barel and vignette is quite pronounced. NX2 software that ships with it, handles this, but I just use the manual distortion correction in LR, because I find it easier. And I am ok with approximate correction for the time being. Jpeg mode doesn’t exhibit this problem because lens barel distortion is handled by the camera in jpeg mode. I shoot RAW though.

                The sensor is quite a performer for its size I think. I get pretty clean images at ISO 800 and after shooting outdoors in bright sun, it handles highlights pretty well.

                Ergonomically, I think Nikon missed some opportunities when it comes to control layout, but the menu system should feel right at home for any Nikon DSLR user. Coming from my D600, the menu felt quite familiar.

                I have handled an LX-7 recently. And I must say it feels like a much higher quality product. But if ultimate pocket-ability is the goal, I think p330 can foot the bill.

                • Thanks for the update. I played with one briefly at B&H and felt the same way – it definitely isn’t built like the Coolpix A, though it looks the same; and the controls don’t have the right level of responsiveness. Ah well, the search goes on…

    • Probably not. Actually, that’s a combination I didn’t consider…

      Yes, the sensor seems to be slightly better than the Olympus, but I prefer the Olympus’ colors.

      • I’ve been really happy with the 14mm f2.5 actually. It is certainly not as good optically as my Lumix 20mmf1.7 or the Lumix Leica 25mmf1.4 but I also have the Panasonic wide-angle adapter for the 14mm so it becomes a 11mm with it on. I works well for my urban landscapes.

        Here are some images with the 14mm + the wide-angle adapter.

        http://www.mostlyfotos.com/search/label/P14w

        • I landed up picking up a 14-42 X today – that plus the OM-D isn’t much bigger than the X20, just as flexible (more so) plus is nice and familiar. No idea about optics, will find out tomorrow…

          • Thank you, Ming. I’ll be waiting for your thoughts on the 14-42X. Never considered it seriously but it would make for a really compact kit especially on my E-PM2. The lens is not quite as fast as the X20’s but I guess we can use a higher ISO to compensate over the X20.

  46. I’m struggling with the choice of a daily walking-around camera. (My main camera is the Nikon D800.) I’ve tried the NEX-7 but couldn’t get used to the menu system. I tried all of the first generation Fuji X series and kind of liked all of them though the only one I loved was the X100, but a single fixed focal length doesn’t suit me. Right now I’ve got the OMD but it’s just too big and I don’t want to invest in another series of lenses what with all the Nikon lenses I own. The Nikon mirrorless cameras are not interesting to me. The Sony RX-1 is out of my budget and, again, a single focal length. So where to next? Sony RX-100? What are your thoughts on Canon G-15? What else is out there that I haven’t looked at?

    • I should have also added: one reason I’m not pulling the trigger on the RX-100 is the Sony menu system. One of the things I loved most about the Fuji’s was the easy access to manual controls without having to push buttons or dig into menus.

    • X20 and LX7 (reviewed here) are the only two I think would fit.

    • Spike, try the NEX-6. The PASM controls are on dials, and once you set up the custom menu on the dial button, you won’t need to enter the regular menus. With the Sigma 30/2.8, the image quality is very high and the camera very responsive.

      I’ve been on the compact camera search for the last year (and didn’t know so many other people were in the same boat!), and have rented all of the usual subjects for at least a weekend or more, and I think I’m settling on the NEX. YMMV, and my second choice would be the OM-D.

      FWIW, I had the X20 a couple of weeks ago, and the X100s this weekend. They are nice cameras but not for me for various reasons (X20 IQ, X100s focal length is uncomfortable for me, and Adobe LR4.4 RAW processing is very slow for the larger sensor on my ancient Mac, AF on both can be dodgy in low light). For the most part, both cameras handle very well, and were a pleasure to use, and I found the sensors to be sympathetic and flattering to my B&W processing workflow.

  47. That was my choice of three cameras:

    Nikon A for excellent IQ. Flash free pictures at meetings.
    Sony RX100 as walk around
    Fuji X20 for portraits (with bounce hot shoe flash), as outdoor high sun OVF camera, and just fun, it feels like a photographer’s camera

    • Steve Jones says:

      Picked up the X20 in the store. Feels really good in the hands…and then I looked through the finder…Whaaat? Blacks out as soon as your eye isn’t centered. A huge let down for me. Compared it directly with the X100s and the finder in the latter was worlds better with a nice big Ricohesque frame line. On that feature alone I’d choose the X100s even though it’s not as small… but you’re right. may as well just keep on using the OMD.
      I think at this point for a really small camera, I’d still rather put a D-Lux 6 or LX7 in my pocket until Goldilocks comes along.So was interested in Bruce’s comment. Haven’t tried the Coolpix yet.
      One observation..the color from the Fuji in your images here is just outstanding.
      mgauss, you’d think that in 2013 they could come up with ONE camera that could do all of those things!

      • Well, it’s a ‘compact’ with shooting info in the finder…something that seems to have gone missing since the last generation of premium film compacts. I think we’ve been spoiled by image quality of the smaller system cameras: I guess the image quality of the X20 is just a bit too ho-hum for me. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have the same bite of the Coolpix (or even the LX7, for that matter). Agree on color: the X20 has that nailed; the Coolpix A needs some work.

        • > “I guess the image quality of the X20 is just a bit too ho-hum for me. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have the same bite of the Coolpix (or even the LX7, for that matter). ”

          You know I was just thinking the same, and went trough the comments to see what you thought of x20. At $600 I wonder who the x20 is for. LX7 is more pocketable, similar size sensor, possibly a more versatile, faster lens and $200-$300 cheaper.

    • The problem is…we need three. No single one works fine.

  48. What about the operability of Coolpix A? I love my GRD3 because of the size and easiness in operation, but sometime missing out the quality of my D90. I was hoping that Coolpix A may be the right compromise of both world… something like GRD on steroid :D…

  49. The X20 looks like a real deal, based on only one thing..it has the spirit and feels like a real camera maybe because of the OVF..the Nikon looks promising but is not it bigger than X20? and its price range and specs makes it comparable to X100s not X20.

    • Big difference in image quality between the two. The Nikon is smaller. And like I’ve said in the review, and 100x elsewhere – the X100s was not available, but I did request one. And that’s even larger and less pocketable, even worse with the 28mm converter.

  50. the guy who got your old slingshot :) says:

    in my humble opinion, given the om-d so tiny and only really really usable with the accessory grips attached, would not the OM-d be compact enough?

    • No – the lenses make it not pocketable, and it’s heavier than it looks. This is a neck strap camera rather than a pocket camera. The X20 is going into neck strap territory, too.

  51. Awesome work once again Ming, in regards to the Coolpix A, I totally agree with you on the startup time, menu navigation was pretty easy to grasp even for a myself in which my last Nikon was a D40 which was ages ago.

    • Thanks – it’s speedy to start, but not so speedy to focus. That said, what you lose on one is offset by what you gain on the other…

      • Ming do you think Nikon was asking a fair price for this camera or should it less than 1K US given the highly competitive nature of this high end compact segment ?

        • Tough question. The image quality punches far above this price point; the only other competition is the Leica X2 and Fuji X100s, both of which are more expensive. I suppose the Sigma DP1 is here too, and around the same price. It feels like you’re getting the output of a D7000+ (no AA filter on the Coolpix A, and it shows) plus an excellent 18mm lens (the only one I can think of is the ZF.2 4/18 Distagon) – together which cost more, be significantly larger and perform worse in low light (sensor is slightly better than the D7000 and you gain a stop vs. the Zeiss). I see it replacing my 28/2 Summicron…

          • You have som very good points regarding price. I just got the X100s and didn’t think twice about the price. I want one A “now” for “pocket use”, but in the past Nikon has lowered the price on new cameras quite a bit (20% or more) after a few weeks or a month. While the X100 were selling for the same price for almost a year, the D600 had a price drop of 20% within two weeks after its release. It’s not that I need it. I just want it! :-)

  52. Bruce Granofsky says:

    Thanks for the review Ming.
    I had the Sony Rx100 as my designated pocket camera but found it missed that magic I used to have with my Leica D-lux 4.

  53. Thank You Ming! Great Information!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Nikon Coolpix A Pros: That sensor: 16MP APS-C; outstandingly good image quality; excellent lens – not that fast (f2.8) but compensated by the sensor; just about pocketable; buffered RAW; good UI; great build-feel Cons: No VR; high price; sometimes you need more than 28mm; not the fastest at focusing; price. [...]

  2. [...] Fuji Finepix X20 (<a href=”B&H” target=”_blank”>B&H | Amazon) – A very enjoyable camera to shoot with due to the mechanical zoom lens and tactile feel, but ultimately one I did not land up keeping as the size/ image quality tradeoff wasn’t really a good one – it was big enough (nearly as big as the OM-D and a small lens) to be unpocketable, required two-handed operation, and has somewhat weak battery life. Really fast to focus, though, and the lens is pretty good. Fine if you’re not carrying a larger camera and don’t intend to do any processing of your images – best for the JPEG shooters. [...]

  3. [...] wait ages and ages and ages…and suddenly we now have no less than three APS-C options: The Nikon Coolpix A, The Fuji X100s with wide converter, and (drumroll please): the brand-spanking-new Ricoh [...]

  4. [...] I recently picked up review units of the Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20 at B&H – the store itself is an incredible experience for any photographer, by the way – after a few days of intense shooting during my Making Outstanding Images…  [...]

  5. [...] countable on the fingers of one hand; I had a feeling this one might be special. I picked up the Nikon Coolpix A, set it to manual and a 15s exposure, chose ISO 800 and f2.8 and gave it a shot, bracing the camera [...]

  6. [...] a formidable camera. Ming Thien, a Pro photographer out of Malaysia who I really respect, has a preliminary report on the Coolpix A and compares it with the Fujifulm X20. In theory, this expensive point and shoot would exceed my Olympus E-PM2 setup in image quality [...]

  7. [...] Just saw this on Ming's site. Quick first thoughts – Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20 – Ming Thein | Photographer [...]

  8. [...] – mingthein has to make a choice: buy the Nikon Coolpix A or the Fuji X20 to replace the RX100 ? “Quick first thoughts – Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20“. Read here. [...]

  9. [...] Source: http://blog.mingthein.com/2013/04/07/nikon-coolpix-a-fuji-finepix-x20/ [...]

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