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Nikon Coolpix 4600 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 09/03/05
Buy Now: £149 / $199
Rating: Recommended!


Introduction: The Nikon Coolpix 4600, is available for £149 / $199 - the Coolpix 4600 is a compact 4 megapixel digital camera, with a 3x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 34-102mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.8" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a silver plastic body. It records unlimited 640x480 / 15fps and 320x240 / 15fps videos without sound. The camera's quite compact with the following size: 85 x 60 x 35mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 130g (without the battery and memory card)

Nikon have this to say about the camera:

"If you are looking for a high-quality compact digital camera that is easy to take amazing photos, but at an affordable price, Nikon COOLPIX 4600 will be your best choice. Packed with a host of new and enhanced in-camera features that are easy and fun to use, the COOLPIX 4600 is an ideal digital camera for beginners of all ages."

More information can be found on their site.

The Camera: It's compact and made out of silver plastic.
(Photos of the camera taken with an Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, self-timer led, optical viewfinder.


Back - the 1.8" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, mode-dial, zoom control, menu button, 4-way controller / OK button, play, and delete.


Top - on/off, shutter, green 'on' light, and the microphone hole (even though it doesn't use it!).


Bottom, under the camera there is a plastic tripod mount, and the battery compartment.


Left Side (from back) Video out.


On this side is the memory compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • Compact size and lightweight body
  • High image quality with 4.0 Effective Megapixels
  • 3x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens
  • "D-Lighting" provides a powerful in-camera solution to repair and rescue underexposed images without the need of using PC
  • In-Camera Red-Eye Fix
  • 16 pre-programmed Scene Modes (4 with Scene Assistance)
  • "Help" button provides straight-forward explanations of each menu function
  • Long battery life
  • Compatible with a wide range of batteries, rechargeables and disposables
  • 5 Color Options
  • Macro: 4cm.
  • ISO: Automatic (the photos I took were between 50 and 200).
  • TV Out

Full Specifications can be found on their site.

Box Contents:

  • Nikon Coolpix 4600 Digital Camera
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • Video Cable
  • 2x AA alkaline batteries
  • Nikon PictureProject software
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Instruction Manual

Average box contents - A case and some rechargable batteries would have been a nice thing to find in the box. The camera comes with 14mb built in memory - a memory card is definitely needed!

Battery usage: The camera uses AA batteries, meaning you should never run out of battery availability. Battery life seemed good, although I would definitely recommend high power rechargable batteries and a charger.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial / play button.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a fairly decent resolution, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is no live histogram available.
Optical Viewfinder: The optical viewfinder is a bit small for me as I wear glasses.

Menu options are: Image mode, white balance, exposure compensation, continuous shooting, BSS - best shot selector, colour-options (standard, vivid, black and white, sepia, cyanotone).

Scene modes Setup Menu

Scene modes: (shown on the left, above) Party / Indoor, beach / snow, sunset, dusk / dawn, night landscape, close up, museum, fireworks show, copy, back light, panorama assist, underwater.

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Welcome screen, date, monitor settings, date imprint (date or date and time), sound settings, blur warning, auto off, format memory, language, interface, auto transfer, reset all, battery type, menus (text / icons), firmware version.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is quick up to 10x.

Playback menu options: Print set, slide show, delete, protect, transfer marking, small pic, copy (allows you to copy between internal memory and memory card and vice versa).

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 14mb internal memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
High (*) Normal
4mp 9 14
2mp n/a 27
PC (1024) n/a 57
TV (640) n/a 123
Video 640x480 15fps 24 seconds
Video 320x240 15fps 49 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is an okay choice of image sizes, although there is very little choice regarding image compression (4m normal or 4m high).

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Nikon Coolpix 4600:

128mb SD memory card - £11.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £19.00 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £33.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £59.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos - however the camera can occassionally 'hunt' for the focus in darker indoor conditions. The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also quite quick, although I did occassionally find myself becoming impatient when switching to playback mode from photo mode. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 10x. The camera has a quick continuous shooting mode.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use - the menus are responsive. The camera is compact and fits very easily into pockets. The menus are also fairly easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly (you also have the choice between icon menus or text menus). The modes are easy to access, quick and simple.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. Some people may find the camera a bit small. I personally didn't find the handgrip especially comfortable, however, it's better than a lot of cameras that don't provide anything in the way of grip.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower Heather and me

Inside: The camera has good colour. It has a decent flash, and copes quite well with group photos - it also does a good job of keeping noise low. The camera did a good job at focusing the majority of the time, although occasionally struggled. The camera's built in Red-eye reduction worked Very well.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and no manual ISO settings therefore I have not completed this test. (However you can see example's in the gallery at various ISO settings that the camera automatically selected)

From what I saw in the photos I took, noise levels seemed very low the majority of the time.

Outside:

Unisys Building People in the park

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail although images could be improved by being sharpened. Noise seemed quite low. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what these features do, although I would strongly recommend you avoid using digital zoom.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 3x Optical Zoom + 4x digital zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are around 14 steps between wide and telephoto giving you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: I did notice purple fringing in flash reflections (on my glasses), and other coloured chromatic abberations in photos (such as the Unisys Building photo, and the clock tower photos).

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you press the macro button - it suggests you zoom the lens in to the green arrow. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 4cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.

Macro Watch Actual Pixels (100%)
Macro Dog Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is very good - the camera does a good job of toning down the flash, and colours and detail are very good.

Movie: 640x480 at 15fps and 320x240 at 15fps without sound. The movie is recorded as an .MOV file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos.


BBC News - 320x240 movie - Download. (right click, save target as, 1.74mb) (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is quite good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is fairly average and there is no sound.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good, the images have good colour, saturation, contrast and detail - however there is some purple fringing. The camera did a good job focusing - although indoors it did occassionally struggle. Noise was controlled well. I didn't notice any vignetting in the corners . There is an good range of image sizes and not much in the way of compression options. The macro mode is very good. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. Red-eye was controlled very well with the built in red-eye reduction. The movie mode is average, and unfortunately lacks sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and is designed well. The camera will fit easily into pockets. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there are is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a good choice of features and options (although the majority are aimed and point and shoot users), such as scene modes, blur warning, best shot selector, built in red-eye reduction, manual white balance, help screens etc - although some may be dissapointed to find that there is no live histogram, or manual focus. The camera speed is good, with a okay switch on time, good focusing time, and good shutter response.

Alternative 4 megapixel digital cameras: Kodak Easyshare DX7440 (£129 - 4x optical zoom - read my review), Canon Powershot A85 (£171), A520 (£183 - 4x optical zoom), Pentax Optio S40 (£149), Fuji FinePix A340 (155), Sony Cybershot S40 (£149), Sony Cybershot P73 (129), Olympus Camedia C-470 (£149 - read my review), Olympus Mju Stylus 410 (£159), Olympus Mju Mini Digital (£193), Nikon Coolpix 4100 (£149) / 4200 (£182), HP Photosmart R507 (4mp, £163 - read my review).. Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices.

Summary: The Nikon Coolpix 4600, has some very appealing qualities, it's compact size, red-eye reduction, blur warning, lots of scene modes, built in help, a 3x optical zoom lens, a 1.8" screen, a 4 megapixel sensor, and a very good macro mode. Another bonus is that the camera takes AA batteries, something quite rare for compact cameras. The camera has very good image quality - however the camera is let down by purple fringing, and a lack of sound on videos. The Nikon is very good value for money especially for a Nikon - it's a real shame it doesn't record sound on videos - but if you're not interested in videos then this would make a very good digital camera.

Nikon Coolpix 4600 Rating: Recommended!
Buy now: £149 / $199.

What I like:

  • Very good image quality (good colour, contrast, saturation, and detail)
  • Quite low noise the majority of the time
  • Takes AA batteries
  • Advises you when pictures are blurry
  • Red-eye reduction works very well
  • Very good macro mode
  • Custom white balance
  • Compact

What I don't like:

  • No sound on videos! (even though there is a microphone hole and speaker!!)
  • Although speed is generally good, it could be a quicker
  • Occassionally struggles to focus in low-light
  • Purple Fringing / Chromatic abberations

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.