Coolpix P5000

Coolpix P5000

Nikon Coolpix P5000 Review

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Nikon Coolpix P5000

Steve's Conclusion

Nikon's P5000 is the newest member to their popular "Performance" series of Coolpix digicams for 2007. Holding the "top of the line" spot, this model boasts 10-megapizels of resolution, a Nikkor 3.5x optical zoom lens, Vibration Reduction (VR), 2.5-inch glare-resistant LCD, 21MB of internal flash memory, as well as Nikon's Exclusive technologies like D-lighting and In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, all packed in a relatively compact and stylish shell. While the P5000 is designed more towards novice users, it offers a wealth of fully- automatic exposure models too, making it usable by ever member in your household.

Ergonomics are great. The P5000 is well designed, offering a nice comfortable feel in your hands, thanks in part to the large handgrip. The camera controls are well placed and functional, and I especially liked the new command dial. This dial is much like one you would find on a dSLR, and is used to adjust exposure values like aperture and shutter speed, ISO, etc. (when using the appropriate mode.) You can also us it to quickly scroll through the menu system. The 2.5-inch color LCD is used for image review, preview, accessing the Menu system and serves as the camera's information display. It worked well in just about every lighting condition, even outdoors in the bright sunlight, thanks to its ant-reflective coating. When shooting in marginal lighting, the live image "gains up" to help with shot composition. I was also glad to see the addition of an optical viewfinder. These come in handy when trying to conserve battery life, following fast moving subjects, etc.

The P5000 features a Nikkor 3.5x optical zoom lens that covers a focal range of 36 - 126mm (35mm equivalent) and during our testing, helped the camera produced sharp results throughout the zoom range. This lens offers a slight advantage in composing your shots over a typical 3x zoom, with the 36mm wide angle extreme being able to produce pleasing landscapes or group portraits, while the 126mm telephoto end will help bring your distant subjects closer. I noticed moderate barrel distortion present at wide angle, but no pin cushioning at the telephoto end. There were also traces of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) present around objects with high contrast. The lens moves smoothly and quietly through its zoom range, but not continuously; I counted 8 steps between wide angle and telephoto, adequate for most needs. If you need to extend the focal range, the P5000 is compatible with add-on lenses, including the 24mm Wide-angle lens Converter (WC-E67) and the 378mm Telephoto Converter lens (TC-E3ED).

Shooting performance was average for a digital camera in this class. Power up to first image captured averaged 3.1 seconds. Shutter lag measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 5/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged about 2.7 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and slowing to between 5 - 7 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance; the LCD also goes blank while the flash is recharging.

You can choose from three sequential shooting modes; Continuous, Continuous flash, and Interval timer shooting. Continuous mode was not very impressive; I was able to capture 6 images in 5.9 seconds; subsequent shots came at 1.6 second intervals. Continuous flash mode was a bit more responsive, allowing me to capture 3 images in 2.6 seconds, before the flash had to recharge. Interval Timer allows you to set the interval between shots (30 seconds - 60 minutes), and will continue to capture images until the shutter release is pressed or the camera runs out of memory (max. of 1800 frames.) The P5000's LCD viewfinder only briefly displays the last image captured in all continuous modes, making it difficult to follow a moving subject; luckily it features an optical viewfinder. All of our tests were done using an ATP Pro Max 2GB SD card, using 10M/Fine size/quality, Program mode, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Image quality is one of the most important factors when trying to decide on a digital camera, and the P5000's 10-megapixel images will help you make that decision. I was vary pleased with the overall quality of its 10M/Fine images, with the majority of our samples showing accurate exposure with nice color balance. Noise levels were average, becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity is increased. The P5000 allows you to use ISO settings as high as 2000 at full resolution, or 3200 at 5-megapixels. At ISO 2000, image noise looks horrible, especially when viewing an image at 100% or in playback on the LCD. I found using either ISO 64 or the Auto setting produced the best results. When shooting in marginal lighting, like indoors, Nikon claims the P5000's flash unit can cover up to 26 feet at wide angle with the ISO set to Auto. I found it had plenty of power for most indoor shooting, and helped produce pleasing close-up portraits from about 6 - 7 feet away. The autofocus system also performed well in low light situations, thanks, in part, to the inclusion of an AF- assist lamp. The P5000's Vibration Reduction feature helps when the flash can not be used, allowing you to capture more images free of camera shake. One-touch Portrait mode uses Nikon's Face Priority AF system, which targets your subject's face in the frame to sharp facial details and exposure. I found it works very well, however, like we saw with other Nikon models recently, the system is a bit sluggish and takes anywhere from 1 - 2 seconds to find a face and lock on.

There's a wealth of movie recording options to choose from, along with the resolutions: 640x480, 320x240 and 160x120. Sound is recorded thanks to the built-in microphone; as a result, the optical zoom can be used to compose movies before recording starts, but not during recording. The Digital zoom can be used, but image quality will be degraded. The P5000's Vibration Reduction feature can be enabled in movie mode, which will help you capture handheld video that is a bit more steady. Although you can activate Full-time Autofocus in movie mode, the noise generated by the autofocus system will ruin the audio track. Our movie samples were show average compression noise and the AF system does well with moving subjects. But, like we have seen with many Coolpix models lately, for some reason the last second of video contains no audio.

Power is supplied by a proprietary EN-EL5 3.7v 1100 mAh Lithium ion battery. Nikon claims you can capture up to 250 shots on a full charge using the CIPA standard testing methods. I found battery life to be good, capturing over 150 samples and concluding many of our other tests (LCD used 100% of the time) on a single charge. Batteries are charged out of the camera with the supplied MH-61 charger; we suggest you pick up at least one extra battery pack and keep it charged and ready.

Bottom line - Nikon has created an appealing consumer digital camera with loads of useful features (VR, D-lighting, Face Priority AF, 17 scene modes, etc.) and great image quality. However, shooting performance is not quite up to par with many similarly priced cameras. That said, with an MSRP of US$399 or less, the Nikon Coolpix P5000 is competitively priced for a 10-megapixel consumer model, and is sure to be a popular digicam this year.

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