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Street Photography With the Nikon Coolpix A


Rick Waldroup

In my seemingly never ending quest for smaller and lighter gear for my street photography, I recently acquired a slightly used Nikon Coolpix A compact camera.  I had previously been shooting with M4/3 gear, specifically Panasonic cameras.

 

The A was introduced in June 2013.  It features an APS-C DX 16.2 megapixel sensor in a very small, compact package.  It comes with a fixed 28mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens.  The camera has a shutter speed range of 30 seconds to 1/2000 and the ISO can be set from 100 to 6400, with two extensions available- 12,800 and 25,600.  While I rarely shoot anything beyond 3200,  I have tried the 12,800 setting and the results were really astonishing- very clean and usable images.  My settings for the camera are the same ones I have used on all film and digital cameras I have used in the past- I shoot in aperture priority with center-weighted metering.  I set the lens to autofocus about 50% of the time.  The rest of the time I switch the lens to manual focus, set the lens to f/11,  and zone focus by manually focusing the lens on an object about 6 feet away- anything from about 4 feet away and beyond is in focus.  

 

The biggest adjustment I had to make when I first got the camera was learning to use a screen to compose the shots with instead of some sort of viewfinder.  In the past I had always used some type of viewfinder, whether it be optical or electronic.  Plus, in very bright sunlight, the screen on the back of the camera can be difficult to use, so I promptly purchased an Xpro Viewfinder III for the camera.  This is an extremely well-made optical bright-line viewfinder with markings for 28, 35, and 45mm lenses.  This viewfinder is a real bargain compared to the Nikon viewfinder, which can cost as much as $300.00.  The XPro viewfinder is approximately $75.00.  I also added a Nikon lens hood which snaps into a ring that surrounds the lens.

 

Using the camera on the streets has truly been a liberating experience.  The fixed 28mm lens is just about perfect for street photography.  I tend to compose the shots a bit differently than I had previously and the small, compact size of the camera means that I virtually take it with me everywhere I go.  A lot of times, I do not carry any type of bag or pouch for the camera- I simply hang the camera around my neck (something I never did previously), stuff an extra battery and memory card in my pocket, and then I am off to explore and see what I can find.

 

In the next few weeks I will be publishing an article about another type of camera I will be experimenting with- street photography using a large format 8x10 pinhole film camera.  I will be scanning the 8x10 black-and-white contact prints using an Epson flat-bed scanner.  I do not know what the results are going to be using such a large and slow camera for street photography, but I do know one thing- it should be a lot of fun.  Stay tuned for the results. 

 

Pacific Street - Dallas, Texas

 

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Elm Street - Dallas, Texas

 

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Animas Street - Trinidad, Colorado

 

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The Eye - Commerce Street - Dallas, Texas

 

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Houston Street - Dallas, Texas

 

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El Dorado Motel - Fort Worth, Texas

 

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NW 4th Street - Fort Worth, Texas

 

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Main Street - Dallas, Texas

 

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Pegasus Plaza - Dallas, Texas

 

p2658909014-5.jpg

 

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Rick, it is always such an honour to have your articles published here on Fotozones. Thank you for contributing and for sharing with us your amazing street work. Just goes to show, the talent is behind the camera, not inside it. :) 

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Great set of photos, Rick.

So good that I can't even nominate a favourite.

 

That 16MP Nikon/Sony APS-C sensor was just the best thing for digital B&W - indeed, I bought a D7000 at the time just for that sensor and its B&W capabilities. I often shot at 3200 and 6400 ISO for the way it rendered "grain" rather than blotchy noise, which was the bugbear of other Bayer sensors I had used prior - they never did a convincing job of B&W.

Ironically I sold the D7000 because it was pretty useless when it came to colour, and I got sick of lugging it around just for B&W while still having to carry the D3s for colour. Anyhow, that all became irrelevant later in 2013 when I got my Fuji X-Pro1 and ended up switching entirely to Fuji X cameras - the X-Trans does both colour and B&W well, but now I am back to B&W film which still can't be beat. :)

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Thanks for all of the comments.  

 

Alan, I saw your post about all of your film cameras and lenses.  Oh my, that brought back some memories....😎

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I've been a long time D7000 shooter and often thought the Coolpix A would complement it well, but never saw one at a price I though was worth paying - when I did see them, they were often priced around the same as a D7000 kit!🙄

 

I agree with you and Alan about the high ISO black & white look.  However, I certainly wouldn't take it much above ISO 2000 in colour.  As a result, it was necessary to make a conscious decision to shoot B&W.

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, crowecg said:

I've been a long time D7000 shooter and often thought the Coolpix A would complement it well, but never saw one at a price I though was worth paying - when I did see them, they were often priced around the same as a D7000 kit!🙄

 

I agree with you and Alan about the high ISO black & white look.  However, I certainly wouldn't take it much above ISO 2000 in colour.  As a result, it was necessary to make a conscious decision to shoot B&W.

 

 

 

 

I agree with you.  I always wanted the Coolpix A, but did not want to pay what Nikon thought it was worth.  After years of searching, I finally found one on ebay for an excellent price and decided to jump on it.  My intent was to shoot B&W with it, never color.    For the stuff I am shooting with it, it fits my needs perfectly.

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I've been using a Coolpix A for a few years now, mainly for plant and garden photography, and find the quality remarkably high - so close to what I can get with my Nikon D2x and its various equally heavy lenses that now in any situation needing convenience and mobility the Coolpix A goes in my pocket instead of that heavy backpack!

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