DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix 885
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Friday, September 28, 2001
Last Updated: Friday, October 26, 2001

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In recent months, I've tested the low-end and high-end Nikon digital cameras (for consumers, at least). The entry-level Coolpix 775 failed to impress (find out why), while the top-of-the-line Coolpix 995 remained as one of the best in its class (see our review).

The Coolpix 885 ($599) is the midrange camera in Nikon's rather small line up, and it leans more towards the Coolpix 995 rather than the 775, which is a good thing. Find out more in our review...

Since the two cameras are so similar, much of the text and screen shots from the camera are from the Coolpix 995 review. Hey, why reinvent the wheel?

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix 885 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.14 (effective) Mpixel Nikon Coolpix 885 camera
  • 16MB Lexar 8X CompactFlash card
  • 2CR5 Lithium battery (non-rechargeable)
  • Wrist strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Nikon View 4 and drivers
  • 205 page manual (printed) + Quick Start guide

The Coolpix 885 includes a non-rechargeable lithium battery. Your options are to:

  • Buy Nikon's EN-EL1 rechargeable battery pack
  • Keep buying non-rechargeable 2CR5 cells

Most people will opt for the rechargeable battery kit, which will run you about $50. You might want to pick up a spare battery if possible (about $35 more). I'm not a big fan in general of nonstandard (meaning anything but AA) batteries.

The non-rechargeable battery won't last terribly long -- about 100 minutes before it ends up in the garbage. The EN-EL1 lasts for around 90 minutes before needing a recharge.

Aside from that, there isn't much else to complain about. The 16MB Lexar 8X CompactFlash card is still a bit skimpy for a 3.3MP camera, but at least they didn't put in an 8MB card.

Nikon includes a lens cap and strap, which is always nice.

The NikonView software is now up to version 4, and it's still pretty mediocre. If you're looking for a serious photo editing suite, try something like Photoshop. I did have trouble with it crashing on my Mac OS 9.1 system on several occasions.

Like the Coolpix 900-series cameras, there are a number of accessories available for the 885. You can get wide-angle, fisheye, and telephoto lenses, as well as a slide copier and remote shutter release cord. For those lenses, you'll probably need to buy the UR-E4 step-down ring first.

Thankfully, the manual is printed and not on CD like it was on some earlier models. The quality of the manual is above average.

Look and Feel

One of my big issues with the Coolpix 775 was the build quality - it just felt cheap for a Nikon camera. Thankfully, the 885 doesn't have the problem. While still plastic, it's a higher quality plastic that seems like it could take almost whatever you throw at it.

Size-wise, the CP885 is just a bit larger than the CP775. It's very easy to hold with one hand, as well. It's not a "micro camera" but it's certainly small enough to hide in a pocket. The dimensions of the camera are 3.7 x 2.7 x 2.0 inches (W x H x D) and it weighs 225 grams empty.

The Coolpix 885 has a F2.8 Nikkor optical zoom lens, with a focal range of 8 - 24 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is threaded (I'm not sure of the measurement though) and requires a step-down ring to use other lenses and filters.

The flash has a working range of 0.4 - 3.7 m at wide-angle, and 0.4 - 2.3 m at telephoto. External flashes are not supported on this camera.

Something missing on all current Nikon cameras is some sort of AF assist lamp, to help the camera focus in low-light.

Now on to the back of the camera. One thing I don't like on this camera is that each button serves many different functions. I'd rather have more buttons.

The 1.5" LCD is smaller than average but is of good quality -- images are fluid and bright.

Just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which covers about 80% of the frame. There is no diopter correction for those of you with glasses.

Below the LCD are some of those multifunction buttons I was referring to. From left to right, they are:

  • Exposure compensation or shutter speed/aperture (CSM "M" mode only) [record] / Delete [playback]
  • Landscape/macro/self-timer [rec] / Info [play]
  • Flash [rec] / Thumbnail mode [play]
  • Menu [rec/play]
  • Quick Review [rec]

The self-timer can be set for 3 or 10 seconds, and can be used with or without the macro mode. Pressing the Quick Review button once will put a thumbnail of the photo you just took in the top left corner of the LCD. Pressing it again will make it a full-screen image, where you can do all normal playback operations on it.

Directly to the right of the LCD is the four-way switch, which is mainly used for menu navigation and changing settings in manual mode. It can also be used to set the focus area, as well as turn the LCD on/off, or produce a small photo in playback mode.

The transfer button just above that is used to transmit all or whichever photos you choose to your Mac or PC.

Finally, at the top of the photo, you can see the zoom controls. I would have preferred them to be a little further to the right, but that's just nitpicking.

There's not much on the top of the camera, just the mode wheel, power switch, and shutter release button. I would've liked an LCD info display up here, since you have to turn on the LCD to find out things like the number of photos you can take. Interestingly enough, the Coolpix 880 that this camera replaces actually had one.

I had some trouble with the mode wheel getting stuck and I'm not sure why. I'd check this when you get your CP885. The choices on the wheel include:

  • Auto Record
  • Scene Mode
  • Custom (CSM)
  • Movie Mode
  • Setup
  • Playback

Auto Record mode is very limiting. You can only change a few things like flash and exposure compensation settings, and you cannot use the menus.

If you want more control, turn the dial to CSM mode. Here, you can choose from Program or Manual modes. Curiously, there's no shutter or aperture priority mode -- it's full manual or nothing.

In CSM/Manual mode, the aperture is limited to F2.8/F7.6 at wide-angle, or F4.9/F13.4 at telephoto. The shutter speeds available range from 8 sec to 1/1000 sec. There is also a bulb mode which will hold the shutter open (up to 60 sec) for as long as you have the shutter release button pressed.

Scene mode is found on the Coolpix 775, 880 and 885. It was first done by Casio, and is still done better in my opinion. Here, you can choose between various situations, and the camera will choose the best settings for you. The scenes available on the Coolpix 885 include:

  • Portrait
  • Party/indoor
  • Night portrait
  • Beach/snow
  • Landscape
  • Sunset
  • Night landscape
  • Museum (new to the 885)
  • Fireworks show
  • Close-up
  • Copy
  • Back Light

I'll have more information about the other choices on the mode wheel later in this review.

The only thing to see on this side of the camera is the video out port.

On the other side, you'll find the CompactFlash slot and more I/O ports (under that rubber cover).

The CF slot is Type I, so obviously the IBM Microdrive is not supported.

The I/O ports on this side include "Digital I/O" for USB, as well as a power input.

Finally, here is the bottom of the Coolpix 885. You can see the battery compartment, metal tripod mount, and the included battery.

Using the Nikon Coolpix 885

Record Mode

The camera takes five seconds to start up before you can start taking photos.

Depressing the shutter release button results in locked focus in under a second. When you fully depress the button, the photo is taken after a short, but noticeable lag. Shot-to-shot speed is good -- you'll wait about two seconds at normal quality before you can take another shot.

One feature that seems less common these days is the Coolpix's ability to pause and delete photos just after they were taken. Where most cameras only show you a preview, Nikon lets you pause and/or delete the photo as well.

Writing an uncompressed TIFF file to the CF card will take roughly 30 seconds. You can do the same pause and delete with TIFFs as well, though you'll have to wait about 10 seconds before you can do so.

The Coolpix 885 doesn't have as many choices for image resolution and quality as its more expensive sibling, the Coolpix 995. Here's what you can choose from:

  Image Quality
Image Size # Hi (TIFF) on 16MB card # Fine photos # Normal photos # Basic photos
Full
2048 x 1536
0 10 20 39
XGA
1024 x 768
N/A 39 76 177
VGA
640 x 480
N/A 97 177 324

The CP885 is almost exactly like the CP995 when it comes to manual controls -- in other words, it's got tons of them!

Let's take a look at the extensive menu system, which contains all those manual controls. The menu system (in CSM mode only) can be overwhelming at first with lots of weird icons, but you get used to it. Take a deep breath - here goes.

  • White balance (Auto, Preset, Fine, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Speedlight) - for many of these, you can do fine adjustments using the command dial, from -3 to +3. For fluorescent, you can choose between 3 different selections. You can also shoot a white piece of paper to choose what you want to be white, using preset mode.

  • Metering (Matrix, Spot, Center-weighted, Spot AF Area)- Spot AF Area measures the exposure at the point which you choose to focus on
  • Continuous (Single, Continuous, Multi-shot 16, VGA Sequence, Ultra HS)
    • Continuous mode shoots at 1.5 frames/sec until memory buffer becomes full
    • Multi-shot 16 takes 16 shots in a row and puts them into one Full sized image (like a collage)
    • VGA Sequence - Takes 640 x 480 sized images at 2 frames/sec until the buffer is full
    • Ultra HS - Takes 320 x 240 sized images at 30 frames/sec for 70 frames

  • Best Shot Selector (on/off) - take up to 10 pictures, and camera picks the sharpest one and saves it. Best for macro and low-light shots.

  • Image Adjustment (Auto, Normal, Contrast, Brightness, Black & White)

  • Image Sharpening (Auto, normal, high, low, off)

  • Lens - select your accessory lens here

  • Image Quality - see chart above

  • Sensitivity / ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)

  • Exposure options (AE Lock, EXP +/-. Exposure mode)
    • Exposure mode (Program, Manual) - described earlier
    • AE Lock - locks exposure settings after the first shot. Useful for panoramas.
    • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, in 1/3EV increments)

  • Focus Options (AF Area Mode, Auto-Focus Mode, Focus Confirmation, Distance Units)
    • AF Area Mode - in manual mode, you can choose one of 5 areas on the LCD that you want the camera to focus on
    • Auto-Focus Mode - you choose whether camera is focusing constantly, or just when you press the shutter release halfway
    • Focus Confirmation - If turned on, the outline of the in-focus area of the image is emphasized on the LCD
    • Distance Units (meters/feet)

  • Auto Bracketing (on/off/WB bracketing)
    • On - take 3 or 5 continuous shots with different exposure compensation values
    • WB Bracketing - takes 3 shots: one with chosen white balance, one reddish image, and one bluish image. I haven't seen this feature on any other camera.

  • Noise reduction (on/off) - helps to reduced hot pixels in long exposure shots. See night shot test below for examples. Note that turning this on doubles the time it takes to write the image to the card.

There's also the usual setup menu with the basics settings that need not be discussed here.

Let's move onto the photo tests now...

Like the Coolpix 995, the 885 is adept at macro shots. You can get as close as 4cm in macro mode on the CP885.

It was an exceptionally clear night when I took the above night shot, so it came out nicely. You can even see my other photo-taking spot, Twin Peaks, just left of the Transamerica Pyramid.

One word of warning: I took this shot in Scene Mode as well, and it moved the ISO up to a point where the image was very, very noisy. My advice: throw it in CSM mode and set the ISO to 100, and choose the settings yourself. It made a HUGE difference.

Since the Coolpix 885 is *almost* a 995, you can probably guess what I'm going to say: the photo quality is excellent. The color was accurate and the images were quite sharp. I didn't have any problem with chromatic aberrations while using it, either. Take a look at the photo gallery to see for yourself.

Movie Mode

The movie mode on the Coolpix 885 is the same as on all recent Coolpix cameras. You can record up to 40 seconds of 320 x 240 video, at 15 frames/second. There's still no sound recording, but at least you use the zoom lens during filming.

Here's a quick sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (2.5MB, Quicktime format)

Playback Mode

The Coolpix 885 has the same, very nice playback mode as on the 995.

The basic features include 4 or 9 thumbnail mode, slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, and "zoom and scroll".

The zoom and scroll feature allows you to zoom in as much as 4X into your photo, and then scroll around in it.

How about those cool extra features? One of my favorites is the ability to delete a group of photos at once. You just mark the thumbnails you want to delete, hit a button, and they're gone.

Another interesting feature is the Auto Transfer function. You can mark photos as "Auto Transfer" and NikonView will automatically copy them to your Mac or PC when you connect the camera.

If you want more information about a photo you've taken, you'll love the Coolpix 885. You get all kinds of statistics, plus a histogram.

Moving between photos takes about a second. At first, a lower resolution picture is shown, and about two seconds later, the high resolution version appears.

By pressing down on the four-way switch, you can create a "small picture", which is small and easy to e-mail. You can't do the zoom and scroll trick on those small pictures though, for some reason.

How Does it Compare?

After a disappointing time with the Coolpix 775, I'm pleased to say that the Coolpix 885 is a camera which deserves the Nikon name on the front. It has almost the exact same feature set of the more expensive Coolpix 995, but with a different lens and body. The photo quality is top notch, and there are more manual controls than you'll ever need. The only real downsides are the battery situation, small CompactFlash card, and lack of LCD info display. For a midrange camera, the Coolpix 885 is one of the best out there.

What I liked:

  • Excellent photo quality
  • Great camera for macro shots
  • Every manual control ever conceived
  • Support for external lenses, filters, and flashes
  • Lots of info about your photos in playback mode

What I didn't care for:

  • Proprietary battery / no rechargeable battery included
  • No sound in movie mode
  • No LCD info display - was on CP880 too!

Other 3 Megapixel cameras I recommend taking a look at include the Canon PowerShot G1, Casio QV-3500EX, Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom, Olympus C-3000Z and C-3040Z, Sony DSC-P5 and DSC-S75, and the Toshiba PDR-M71.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Coolpix 885 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the Coolpix 885. If that's not enough, Imaging Resource has one too!

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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