nikon coolpix a

New On-the-Bike Camera: Nikon Coolpix A

In Blog, Reviews by Eric Benjamin2 Comments

I started this blog in 2009, riding my bike for fun and shooting almost 100% professionally. Adventure Monkey took hold, gaining an audience and things changed. Soon I was training for events and shooting mainly to add images to this blog which I built as a creative outlet. Riding became more serious and shooting became more relaxed and enjoyable. But there was a change to my shooting since 2009 – size. Camera size that is.

In 2009 I was riding a 20-year-old mountain bike on the roads of the Flint Hills. I was clueless. I didn’t carry much for tools and didn’t even have a spare tube with me. Hell, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it back then. The lesson? Whatever bike is in the garage is the one you should ride. But please bring a tube and learn how to change a flat on the road. What I did have a clue about was cameras.

giant atx 760

The Giant ATX 760 with the Nikon D300 in the trunk

I attached a rear rack and more important than water or tubes was my ginormous Nikon DSLR. My trunk bag weighed about 12 pounds with camera gear, food and supplies. Back then, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a small camera. I was a pro after all. People paid me to shoot amazing things. My first digital camera was a mere $8K, 6.1 MP brick that had only manual flash controls and wouldn’t shoot a useable image over 100 ISO. My how things have changed.

The brick named the Kodak DCS 760. This attached with a flash and huge lens would cause hand cramps by the end the day.

The brick named the Kodak DCS 760. This attached with a flash and huge lens would cause hand cramps by the end the day.

I started seeing images out there by some other cycling photographers, mainly a guy named GNAT. He was more of a cyclist that loved photography while I was a photographer that loved cycling. He has gotten better (way better) at photography and I have improved at cycling. At least my bike(s) are cooler. But the one thing that got me about him was he shot small cameras with great results. I couldn’t imagine shooting with a smaller sensor than I was already shooting in my DSLR.

But then I started training on a CX bike. It was light and fast and racks were out of the question. What was I to do? I had to go small. I needed a camera that would fit in my pocket. Riding without a camera is ludicrous.

It took some time but I found the perfect on-the-bike camera. For me that means it’s small, has RAW shooting capabilities, manual settings, and most importantly a great lens and sensor. As you all know, I like to get the clouds and the ground exposed correctly which means I shoot somewhere in the middle and bring out the detail in post. I like contrast and vibrancy. Back in the day I used multi-contrast Ilford paper with a 3 filter in the enlarger. I didn’t do color back then, just lovely BxW’s. A few years ago I found what I needed in the Panasonic Lumix LX-5. I used it for years and still would be using it but I dropped it so many times from the bike that it’s pretty much done. I tried a Sony RX 100 iii and it did not live up to the hype. I returned it because of lack of photos being in focus and its RAW images couldn’t capture details in the highlights (clouds) like the LX-5. Then I recently stumbled on another camera. I am not sure how I missed this one.

nikon coolpix a

The Nikon Coolpix A

I never get silver versions of cameras but it was cheaper, like over $100 cheaper on Amazon than the black version. (Buy it here while it lasts.) Here is what I liked about it. It has a Nikon DX sized sensor in it – the same size as the cropped DSLR, huge for a point-and-shoot! That also means it will shoot in Nikon’s beautiful 14-bit RAW format which captures beautiful highlights and shadows in one shot. It is small and has a pretty good lens on it too. All for $430 from Amazon! I couldn’t pass it up. The only drawback for me was the lens is a fixed lens so no zooming capabilities. But that usually means a better, sharper images. Here’s what I found with it so far:

Pros:

  • beautiful RAW images
  • fits in my jersey pocket
  • sharp images
  • focus is decent and images sharp from the bike
  • easy to use controls and manual settings
  • built-in lens cap
  • good ISO range
  • but most of all, large sensor with Nikon RAW capabilities (a 14-bit RAW image has tons of info in it)

Cons:

  • doesn’t feel as sturdy as the LX-5 did (one drop from the bike and it’s probably going to be over)
  • ergonomically not as nice as the LX-5. I have smaller hands and it feels OK, but not as good of a grip as other cameras. I wish it had more of a grip. Larger hands may have trouble. This is no biggie normally, but when shooting from the bike on bumpy terrain it’s HUGE!
  • The images are nice but there’s more chromatic aberration (color fringing and artifacting) than I was expecting (fixable in Lightroom)
  • Focus isn’t very fast
  • No zoom

That is about it for now, but I’ve yet to run it through the paces. I wanted the new Panasonic LX-100, but this was about half the price. Working on my own these days I need to stick to a budget. The price is very good and so far the images are great. It is not as sturdy feeling as the LX-5, so I am careful when I shoot from the bike. I want to try it out in low light situations and shoot some video too. But the RAW capabilities and huge sensor make this a great camera and the price is very good. Here are a few shots from my latest rides:

Little rollers in the Flint Hills

Little rollers in the Flint Hills

The Gravel has been hot this week

The Gravel has been hot this week

There is Road D Hill that takes every rider's breath away. It looks like barely a bump in the earth from this distance.

There is Road D Hill that takes every rider’s breath away. It looks like barely a bump in the earth from this distance.

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric