Nikon Coolpix 5200 Review

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Nikon Coolpix 5200

Steve's Conclusion

New for 2004, the Coolpix 5200 is an ultra-compact camera that packs a 5.1-megapixel imager and a Nikkor ED 3x optical zoom lens, in a durable all metal body. It offers users point-n-shoot simplicity with its "Auto" exposure mode, and allows you to explore your creative side with its wide variety of pre- programmed scene modes. Its scene-assisted modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait) display framing assist outlines on the LCD to ensure proper framing and you get the optimum exposure for select shooting conditions.

The ergonomics of the 5200 are great. Despite its very compact size, the well-shaped handgrip makes it easy to hold and one-handed shooting is a breeze. Controls are well placed and functional, and the menu system is logically organized. The 1.5-inch color LCD is used for image review, preview, access the settings menus and also serves as the camera's data display. This is a high quality display with a real-time refresh rate, and I found it was quite usable outdoors in bright sunlight. I was also impressed with its usability in low-light conditions as the display "gains up" to give you a brighter view, which is crucial when using the LCD to frame your subject(s) in these conditions.

The shooting performance of the 5200 was good. Power up to first image captured measured just under 4 seconds. Shutter lag measured a fast 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot time averaged about 1.8 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and approx. 2.5 seconds with the flash. The 5200 offers three Sequential shooting mode to choose from (Continuous, 5 shot buffer, Multi- shot 16.) Continuous mode was very respectable, I was able to capture 9 frames in about 3.5 seconds. When using the 5 shot buffer mode, you can capture several images, but the camera stores only the last 5 frames. In 5 shot buffer mode, I captured 5 frames in about 2 seconds. Multi-shot mode captures 16 frames, then makes a single 5M/Fine image out of all 16 frames. Using this mode, I was able to capture 16 frames in approx. 4.5 seconds. All test were done using a Sandisk 256MB Ultra II SD card, using 5M/Fine size/quality, with the use of the flash, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The Nikkor ED 3x zoom lens is sharp and you should have no problem focusing in low-ambient lighting conditions thanks to the camera's focus-assist lamp. For some "unknown" reason, many manufactures still don't use these on their cameras. The lens has excellent macro coverage down to about 1.6 inches, and exhibits moderate barrel distortion at full wide-angle but is relatively free of pincushioning at full telephoto. The zoom and focus mechanisms move smoothly and quietly through their range. Its 38-114mm (35mm-equivalent) optical zoom range is typical for a camera in this class, offering a sufficient field of view for portraits of individuals, small groups, and landscape shots, and enough telephoto magnification to bring your subject closer.

I was happy with the overall image quality in 5M/Fine mode. When using the camera outdoors, I found that most of our samples were sharp and colors were nicely saturated. Looking at our sample of the restaurant, I did notice a little softness on the left hand side, but nothing a little sharpening in a digital image editor won't take care of. I was also pleased with our indoor test shots, the images are well exposed and skin tones look very natural. When taking pictures using the redeye reduction flash mode, you will notice that sometimes the in-camera redeye removal changes small red "things" or objects in the picture. You can see what I mean by looking at the two samples below. The necklace has small red beads that the camera thought was redeye, and changed them to a dark brown or blackish color. The other sample is where we tired to "fool" the camera -- it didn't work. We saw virtually no occurence of red-eye in our "people" pictures so we must conclude that Nikon's in-camera red-eye removal definitely works.

necklace sample1 necklace sample2 fool sample

The camera is powered by the supplied proprietary Nikon EN-EL5 Li-ion rechargeable battery pack. Nikon claims that a fully-charged EN-EL5 pack can take approx. 150 shots with the flash used 50% of the time. I had no problem taking about 80 test shots one afternoon (using the LCD 100% of the time and the flash 25% of the time) and doing all of our other tests, before the camera indicated that the battery was exhausted.

Bottom line - the Coolpix 5200 is a great all-around camera. This camera will please the less experienced as well as the intermediate user and thanks to its compact size and light weight, you can carry it almost anywhere. And if you like to record movies, you'll love the ability to record VGA-size (640x480) videos at 30fps with audio - just make sure that you have a large SD card. Its 5 megapixel Fine images have plenty of resolution to create photo-quality prints up to 13x19-inch. I feel this would be a great camera for the family, business, or "tourist" user and with all of its scene modes, you'll always be ready to capture that special moment, no matter what the shooting conditions are.

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