Despite Nikon and Canon being at the forefront of optical image stabilisation in stills cameras, rivals such as Sony and Panasonic have been the fastest to establish this technology as the latest must-have feature across their product ranges.

Until now, both Nikon and Canon have reserved the capability for their high-end pro-am models sporting telephoto zooms.

Nikon's new pocket cameras, the Coolpix P4 and P3, a similarly specified version with WiFi capability, boast Nikon's excellent Vibration Reduction (Nikon-speak for image stabilisation), as well as a long list of other desirable features. Foremost among these must be the 8.1-megapixel chip, 2.5-inch screen and a well-made, if slightly chunky, metal body.

While the P4 doesn't have the looks of the Digital IXUS range, it's clever. There are a host of innovative tricks, such as a focusing sensor that is able to detect and focus on a human face, as well as a post-capture option to correct strong backlighting in-camera.

But it's the picture quality that impressed us the most. It doesn't just do a great job of capturing neutral colours with superb gradation; the high-resolution sensor sucks up an enormous level of detail and pictures have an 'involving' look to them.

A top ISO 400 setting might seem a little limiting, but it means noise from the pixel-dense chip isn't unduly intrusive, while image stabilisation allows sharper shots at slower shutter speeds - ideal for low-light shooting.

Best of all, the camera can be left to its own devices, enabling you to concentrate on the job in hand, rather than fiddling with countless overrides. Our only criticism is a poorly made and oddly placed shooting dial that's all too easy to inadvertently nudge.

However, given the price, picture quality and ease of use, Nikon's Coolpix P4 stands out as one of the most compelling compacts we've ever seen. Kevin Carter