Review: Nikon Coolpix 4300
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
review has been finished using a production model camera. Product
shots have been updated where necessary, and all sample photos are
from this shipping model.
Coolpix 4300 ($499) isn't a groundbreaking product like some
of Nikon's other new cameras. Rather, it's a 4 Megapixel version
of their popular Coolpix 885 (see
our review), with a a new coat of paint. That means it's a small
camera that works well in both point-and-shoot and manual control
out more about the 4300 in our review, which begins now!
in the Box?
Coolpix 4300 has a very good bundle, with one exception. Inside
the box, you'll find:
4.0 (effective) Mpixel Nikon Coolpix 4300 camera
rechargeable Li-ion battery
featuring NikonView 5 and other software
page manual (printed)
like Nikon's other new digicams, the memory card is way too small
for the resolution of the camera. You only get a 16MB card with
the CP4300. The card is one of those unmarked Lexar "starter
cards" which only mentions the size in small print on the back
of the card. (Apparently some folks in other countries get larger
cards, but I can't confirm this.)
now familiar EN-EL1 rechargeable battery (5.0 Wh), also found on
the CP4500 and CP5700, is used here. Nikon estimates that the battery
will last for about 90 minutes in "average use". You can
also use a (non-rechargeable) 2CR5 battery if you're in a real jam.
includes an external charger for the EN-EL1. They also give you
a lens cap and strap to protect the lens.
As you can hopefully see, this is a pretty small
its predecessor, the CP885, this model supports tons of optional
accessories. That includes lenses, a macro flash, and LCD hoods.
You can get wide-angle, fisheye, and telephoto lenses. The CP4300
supports the Macro Cool Light, which is a ring light made just for
macro shots. You'll need a conversion lens adapter to use the Cool
Light as well as the accessory lenses. A wired remote control and
a slide copier are also available
4300 includes version 5.1.2 of NikonView, which is one way to transfer
photos. The software is Mac OS X native but is still sluggish and
buggy. The CP4300 is fully compatible with Mac OS X and Windows
looks as if Nikon has improved the layout of their manuals since
the CP4500 and CP5700. This is good news!
Coolpix 4300 looks exactly like the Coolpix 885, except in a new
color. This small camera is made of a mixture of plastic and metal,
and I'd rate it about average in the durability department. The
camera is very easy to hold with one hand or two.
official dimensions of the CP4300 are 3.7 x 2.7 x 2.0 inches (W
x H x D), and it weighs 225 grams (7.9 ounces) empty. It will fit
into most pockets with ease.
tour the 4300 now.
Coolpix 4300 has an F2.8-F4.9, 3X optical zoom lens. The lens has
a focal range of 8 - 24 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm.
The lens barrel is threaded (not sure what the diameter is) and
you can use the various Coolpix lens accessories (via an adapter
in most cases).
is also 4X digital zoom on the CP4300, but using it will reduce
the quality of your photos.
above the lens is the CP4300's flash. The flash has a working range
of 0.4 - 3.7 m (wide-angle) and 0.4 - 2.3 m (telephoto). Compared
to the CP4500, the CP4300 covers a larger area at wide-angle, but
not at telephoto. While the CP4300 supports the macro Cool-light
flash, you can't use a regular external flash with it.
Coolpix 4300 continues Nikon's tradition of omitting an autofocus-assist
lamp. Even the cheapest Sony models have one -- come on, Nikon!
now is the back of the camera. The CP4300 has a 1.5" LCD display
which is bright and fluid. Nose smudges won't be a problem, at least
if you use your right eye with the optical viewfinder like I do.
The LCD shows 97% of the frame.
of which, just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. It's good-sized
for a small camera, and it covers 80% of the frame. It does lack
a diopter correction knob, however, so those of you without perfection
vision may not see clearly. Below the LCD, you'll find four buttons:
compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments)
(Self-timer, landscape, macro, macro + self-timer) and manual
mode (Auto, off, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow sync)
holding down the Focus/Drive button and using the zoom controls,
you can manually focus the camera. It's too bad that you only get
a little chart of the relative focus distance instead of actual
Quick Review feature (from Coolpix 4500)
a bit to the right of those four buttons is the Quick Review button.
This feature puts the previous photographed image in the top-left
corner of the LCD (you can scroll through your other images as well).
Pressing the Quick Review button again enters playback mode.
about that button is the four-way switch. In addition to menu navigation,
the switch is used to turn the LCD on and off and active the "small
pic" feature in playback mode (more on that later).
in the northern direction, we find the Transfer button. This button
lets you mark an image for automatic transfer to your computer.
there are the zoom controls. The CP4300's 3X zoom moves quickly
from wide-angle to telephoto in less than 2 seconds.
now is the top of the Coolpix 4300. The only items up here are the
power switch, shutter release button, and mode wheel. Nope, no LCD
info display here!
mode wheel has the following options:
record - fully automatic, most settings locked up
Mode - choose one of 16 scenes and the camera chooses the appropriate
settings. The scenes include:
- for copying text or drawings
record mode - more on this below
manual mode is a bit different than on Nikon's other cameras. The
first thing that happens in manual mode is that all the menu options
are unlocked. Once there, you have your choice of programmed auto
or full manual mode. Programmed auto is just that -- the camera
chooses the shutter speed and aperture. In full manual mode, you
choose both. The aperture is F2.8 - F13.4, with not many stops in
between. Shutter speed choices range from 8 sec to 1/1000 sec. There
is also a bulb mode with a maximum shutter speed of 60 seconds (tripod
and remote shutter release cable strongly recommended).
is no shutter or aperture priority mode on the CP4300. You either
set them both at the same time, or let the camera do it.
this side of the camera, the only thing you'll find is the video
is the other side of the CP4300, all closed up. Let's open things
and take a closer look:
Coolpix 4300 has a Type I CompactFlash slot, meaning the IBM Microdrive
is not compatible. The plastic door covering the slot is sturdy
to the right are the I/O ports, which are usually protected by a
plastic cover. The ports include USB and DC in (for optional AC
can also see the famous (or infamous?) unmarked Lexar CF card.
but not least, here is the bottom of the camera, with plastic tripod
mount and battery compartment. The EN-EL1 is shown at right.
the Nikon Coolpix 4300
Coolpix 4300 takes over 4.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start shooting. When you depress the shutter
release halfway, the camera generally locks focus in a second or
so. Low light focusing is just fair -- would be better with an AF-assist
lamp of course. When you fully press the shutter release button,
the picture is taken with minimal shutter lag.
LCD in record mode, with manual focus turned
speed is average. You will wait 3.5 seconds or so before you can
take another picture (at the fine quality setting). The exception
to this is in TIFF mode, of course. Taking a picture in TIFF (HI)
mode locks up the camera for over 45 seconds (!). You can pause
and/or delete your photo on the LCD as it is being saved to the
of image quality settings, here's a chart of the various image size
and quality choices available on the Coolpix:
of images on included 16MB card
2272 x 1704
2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
1024 x 768
640 x 480
can only be recorded at the 2272 x 1704 size. To find out how many
photos you can store on a larger card, just "do the math".
Coolpix 4300 uses the traditional hierarchical menu system that
most of the other Coolpix models use. It's easy to use though some
items can be hard to locate. Here's what you'll find in the menus:
balance (Auto, preset, fine, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy,
speedlight) - more info below
(Matrix, spot, center-weighted, spot AF area) - in spot AF area
metering, the camera samples the light only in the current focus
- 1.5 frames/sec; I was able to take 10 in a row at the normal
16 - puts 16 consecutive shots into one full size image -
like a collage
Sequence - 2.5 frames/sec, 640 x 480
HS - 30 frames/sec, 320 x 240, images saved in separate folder
on the CF card
Shot Selector (on/off) - takes up to 10 consecutive shots, then
chooses the sharpest image
Adjustment (Auto, normal, more contrast, less contrast, lighten
image, darken image, black & white)
Sharpening (Auto, high, normal, low, off)
(Normal, wide adapter, telephoto 1, telephoto 2, fisheye 1, slide
copy adapter) - use this if you bought a conversion lens
Quality and Size
Quality (Hi, fine, normal, basic)
Size (2272 x 1704, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024
x 768, 640 x 480, 2272 x 1520)
Sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400) - if set to Auto, ISO will wander
mode (Program, Manual)- switches between programmed auto and
full manual mode
Lock (on/off/reset) - turning this on will lock the exposure
settings after the first shot
compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
Area Mode (Auto, manual, off) - in manual mode, you can use
the four-way switch to pick the area to focus on
Mode (Continuous AF, Single AF) - how the camera focuses (always
or when the button is pressed halfway)
Confirmation (MF, on, off) - shows what areas in the image
are in focus on the LCD
Bracketing - 3 or 5 shots in a row with varying EV values
Bracketing - 3 shots with varying white balance. One normal
image, one "bluish" image, one "reddish"
Reduction (on/off) - Noise reduction will reduce the appearance
of noise or grain in your images. It is only used at shutter speeds
slower than 1/30 sec. Note that a tripod or a very steady hand
is recommended for this feature.
quick note about white balance: the preset mode allows you to shoot
a white or gray card/paper to get the perfect WB setting. On all
of the WB modes except Auto and Preset, you can fine tune the setting
±3 by using the command dial. You can also use the WB bracketing
feature that I mentioned before. In other words, it's hard to have
bad white balance on this camera.
addition to the main menu, there is also a setup menu (accessed
via the mode wheel) with even more options. The interesting ones
Mode (Monitor on, review only, preview only, monitor off)
- options for the LCD
numbering (on, off, reset)
confirm lamp (on/off) - self timer will light after a picture
is taken if this is turned on
info.txt (on/off) - saves a text file with exposure information
along with your photos
Transfer (on/off) - turn this feature on and off
mode (NTSC, PAL)
(PTP, Mass Storage)
(German, English, French, Japanese, Spanish)
move on to photo quality now.
DCRP readers know that Nikon cameras have the best macro mode out
there. The CP4300 continues this tradition. Our 3" tall subject
above looks great in terms of color and sharpness. The 4300 can
get as close as 4 cm to the subject at full wide-angle (when the
macro flower on the LCD turns yellow). At full telephoto, the minimum
distance rises to 30 cm.
does one go for night shots when it's too foggy for Twin Peaks or
Treasure Island, and the City Hall lights aren't on? Why, USF of
course! This is the St. Ignatius Church at the University of San
Francisco, which can be seen from all over the city. At night it's
lit up with yellowish-colored lights -- this isn't a mistake on
the camera's part. I was quite happy with how this shot turned out.
It was taken with noise reduction on, so there aren't any "unnatural
stars" in the sky. The manual control of shutter speed really
helps in the night shot department!
CP4300 didn't do quite as well on the redeye test. This didn't surprise
me, given the proximity to of the flash to the lens. It's not the
worst I've seen, but certainly not great either. Note that I blew
this photo up a bit so you could see the details.
from the above average redeye, I was very impressed with the photo
quality on the Coolpix 4300. The photos look just as good as the
more expensive Coolpix 4500, in my opinion. My photos came out properly
exposed, with very little noise. Chromatic aberrations weren't a
problem either, even on the "hallway of purple fringing"
test shot (seen in the shootout).
Don't just take my word for it -- I've got plenty of sample photos
for you in the CP4300
vs. Kodak LS443 shootout gallery as well as the standard
Coolpix 4300 has a very basic movie mode. You can record clips up
to 40 seconds in length, without sound. They are recorded at the
usual resolution of 320 x 240, at 15 frames/second. They are saved
in QuickTime format.
sound is not recorded, you can use the optical zoom during filming.
a fairly dull sample photo. It would have been more exciting if
you could hear the carillon in the clock tower playing in the background.
to play movie (3.5MB, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Coolpix 4300 has a pretty nice playback mode.
basic features that we all know are here: slide shows, DPOF print
marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.
and scroll lets you zoom in up to 6X into your photo (in 0.2X increments),
and then move around in the zoomed-in area. This is useful for checking
CP4300 feature (known as Small Pic) lets you resize your image to
a much smaller size. Choose from 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 160 x 120,
and 96 x 72.
nice feature is the ability to delete a selection of photos, instead
of just one or all of them. You can also mark images to be automatically
transferred when the camera is hooked into the computer.
you want more details about your photo, the CP4300 is your camera.
You can get three pages of additional information, including a histogram.
CP4300 moves through images quickly. A low resolution image is shown
instantly, followed by the high res version about one second later.
Does it Compare?
Nikon Coolpix 4300 is a worthy follow up to its predecessor, the
885. It offers most of the features found on the more expensive
Coolpix 4500, including the use of conversion lenses and the macro
ring light! Most importantly, the 4300 has the excellent photo quality
that is found on the more expensive Coolpix. The camera can be used
in both point-and-shoot and manual modes, with the latter coming
in handy for those challenging low light shots (among others). What
would I add to the 4300? Maybe support for CompactFlash Type II
cards and a microphone. Other than that, I'm very satisfied -- this
small Nikon gets my enthusiastic recommendation.
value for a 4MP camera at $499
for many add-on lenses
I didn't care for:
16MB memory card way too small
mode could be better
support Type II CompactFlash cards
other midrange 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon
PowerShot S40 (replaced by the S45 outside of the U.S.), Casio
FinePix F601 Zoom (I suppose), HP
Photosmart 812, Kodak
EasyShare LS443, Konica
Finecam S4, Minolta
DiMAGE F100, Olympus
Optio 430RS, and the Sony
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the Coolpix 4300 and it's competitors before you buy!