DigitalCameraReview.com
Nikon Coolpix P5000 Digital Camera Full Review
by Jim Keenan -  4/27/2007

A car company once asked if they could “build one for you”. A nationwide burger chain let patrons “have it your way”. Nikon isn’t in the automotive or fast food business, but Point and Shoot photographers who want to let their camera do all of the work, none of the work or some of the work, rejoice! Nikon just built a P&S that lets you have it your way. You might want to put down that burger and drive to your nearest camera store to check out the Coolpix P5000.

nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

 

Nikon’s latest addition to their “performance” series of P&S cameras features a 10 megapixel sensor, a 3.5X Nikon optical zoom lens that provides a 35mm film equivalent focal range of 36 to 126mm, and a 2.5 inch LCD monitor in addition to an optical viewfinder. Most significantly, the camera offers aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes as well as auto and 16 scene mode options. All this along with Nikon’s Vibration Reduction (VR) system and a flash hot shoe are packaged into a magnesium-alloy camera body about the size of a deck of cards. The camera’s black body is accented by brushed silver and chrome controls, and build quality appears first rate.

A CLOSER LOOK 

The P5000’s full complement of manual and auto control options should appeal to a wide range of shooters - a novice can set it on auto and forget about anything but picture composition, while the more experienced shooter can choose manual or semi-auto input modes to exert more creative input into their images. The 10 megapixel sensor can produce large files suitable for big enlargements or aggressive cropping to produce desired images.

nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Original (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Cropped (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Original (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Cropped (view medium image) (view large image)

Nikon provides USB and A/V cables, a rechargeable battery and charger, camera strap and Picture Project software with each camera. There are a couple of interesting optional accessories for the P5000: wide angle and telephoto converters that can allow the camera to shoot as wide as 24 or as long as 378mm, respectively. Unfortunately, we didn’t have either converter available for this review.

The camera has 21MB of internal memory and also accepts SD or SDHC memory cards. The internal memory is only good for a few shots at the highest resolution settings, so plan on acquiring one or two cards to give you an adequate shooting capacity.

Camera dimensions are approximately 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 inches, with a shooting weight (battery and memory card installed) of about 7.75 ounces.

The P5000 can capture JPEG still images at 10M, 5M, 3M, 2M and 1M sizes, along with 1024 x 768, 640 x 480, 3:2 and 16:9 ratios. Image quality of “fine”, “normal” or “basic” may be selected. 10M size and “normal” quality are the default settings. Except where noted, photos taken by the P5000 for illustration purposes in this review were made at the 10M size and “fine” quality levels.

Movies may be captured in AVI format at 640 x 480 pixels and 30 or 15 frames per second; 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 at 15 fps, and sepia or black & white at 320 x 240 and 15 fps. There is also a time-lapse option that takes up to 1,800 shots at specified intervals and combines them into a silent movie up to 60 seconds long.

CAMERA FEATURES AND LAYOUT 

The front of the P5000 features the 3.5X optical lens and lens cover, lens ring, microphone, self-timer lamp/AF assist illuminator, viewfinder and built-in flash.

nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

The LCD monitor takes up much of the camera back; also found here are the function, monitor, playback, menu and delete buttons; the multi selector and OK button; and the viewfinder, flash and autofocus lamps.

nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

A command dial, power-on lamp, power switch, mode dial, shutter release button, zoom control and flash hot shoe are found on top of the camera body. A thumb rest sits above the mode dial.

 nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

The camera bottom is home to the battery compartment and memory card slot along with their cover, and a metal threaded tripod socket.

 nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

Each side of the P5000 houses an eyelet for the camera strap; the right side also features the cable and power connectors with their respective covers, while the left includes a speaker.

nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

nikon coolpix p5000
(view large image)

SHOOTING WITH THE P5000 

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the P5000, a word needs to be said about the camera’s ergonomics: superb! Picking up the camera as if to shoot, the thumb and forefinger fall naturally onto the thumb rest and shutter button, respectively, while the middle and ring fingers wrap around the grip to promote a firm hold. If need be, the thumb can move to the command or mode dials without compromising the security of the one-hand hold. This is just a really nice feeling camera in the shooting hand. 

Auto Mode 

The P5000 features an “auto” mode which Nikon recommends for “first-time users of digital cameras”. The camera handles all exposure parameters and the shooter is left only to compose the picture and press the shutter button. There is also a “programmed auto” (P) mode where the camera sets aperture and shutter for an optimal exposure – this mode differs little from “auto” but does offer the shooter the option to input different combinations of aperture and shutter speed via the command dial, as well as other modifications to various default settings via camera menus.

Scene Modes 

There are 16 modes where the camera settings are automatically optimized for the subject selected: face-priority AF, portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, night landscape, close-up, museum, fireworks, copy, backlight and panorama assist. Scene mode can also be used to make voice recordings.

A, S, and M Modes 

Aperture priority mode (A) allows the shooter to select aperture while the camera determines shutter speed; at wide angle apertures from f/2.7 to f/76 are available - at telephoto apertures vary between f/5.3 and f/7.3. Aperture priority is usually thought of as being the setting used to influence depth of field in an image, but it also is a quick way to set maximum or minimum shutter speeds, since maximum aperture will tend to produce the shortest shutter speed while minimum aperture will produce the longest. This assumes, of course, that lighting and ISO settings together with the aperture selected by the shooter don’t require a shutter speed outside the camera’s capabilities (8 seconds to 1/2000 second).

Shutter priority mode (S) allows the shooter to set the shutter speed while the camera selects an aperture. The same caveat exists as with A; the shutter speed combined with ISO and light must not require an aperture the camera can’t provide. The P5000 only allows the 1/2000th of a second shutter setting at wide angle.

Manual (M) mode requires the shooter set both aperture and shutter speed; an exposure display will show the amount an image is under or over exposed at current settings.

Exposure Compensation 

Exposure compensation is not available in the P5000 when in M mode, in all other modes exposure compensation of +/- 2 EV in 1/3 EV increments may be selected. 

Light Metering 

Matrix metering is the default setting for the P5000, but center-weighted, spot and spot AF area metering methods may also be selected. Matrix metering worked well for most shots, but it would sometimes overexpose highlights in light/dark contrast shots that challenge virtually any camera meter. 

Focus/Macro Focus 

The P5000 will focus as close as 1 foot at wide angle and 2 feet 4 inches at telephoto. Macro focus distances for the same lens focal lengths are 1.6 inches and 1 foot 4 inches, respectively. The camera is equipped with an AF assist illuminator, with a range of about 6 feet at wide angle and about half that at telephoto.

nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

Monitor 

The 2.5 inch LCD monitor features 230,000 dot composition and is adjustable for 5 levels of brightness. In shooting mode the monitor has about 97% coverage of the frame, with about 100% coverage for playback. The monitor is excellent for picture composition and/or editing in good light, but is difficult to use in bright sunlight, particularly with subjects of little contrast. Wisely, Nikon saw fit to equip the camera with an optical viewfinder.

The P5000’s viewfinder provides about 80% frame coverage and proved to be a useful alternative to the monitor when bright lighting conditions degraded the monitor’s usefulness. The 80% coverage means some details not visible in the viewfinder for any particular image capture will find their way onto the final image. These sometimes unwanted intrusions might require cropping to arrive at a more pleasing image. 

Flash 

Nikon claims a range for the P5000’s built-in flash of up to 26 feet at wide angle, and half that at telephoto, figures which seem accurate in my experience. The camera has a flash hot shoe which permits the use of an external flash (Nikon cautions against the use of flash units other than their excellent SB-400, -600 and -800 models due to concerns of possible camera/circuitry damage due to voltage irregularities). The P5000 with an SB-800 attached is an interesting unit, with the flash physically dwarfing the camera.


(view large image)

Color 

The P5000 can capture still images in color or black & white, and movies in color, black & white or sepia. Color rendition for still images was extremely accurate in both daylight and flash conditions. The camera has menu settings that can be selected to increase the contrast, saturation and sharpness of images compared to the default values; a custom setting also permits separate adjustment of these values. I felt the image quality of the P5000 was good at the “normal” default value, but appreciated the ability to select the “fine” image quality used for this review; that and the ability to make small but incremental changes to the various settings described above should allow most folks to craft images even more to their liking than default settings might provide.

The following images illustrate normal, vivid, more vivid and normal color with additional sharpening (custom).

nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Normal (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Vivid (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
More Vivid (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Normal plus sharpening (view medium image) (view large image)

ISO 

P5000 ISO sensitivities cover a wide range: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 2000 and 3200, with 3200 available only for images sizes of 5M or less. If a shooter selects 3200 ISO with either 10M, 3:2, or 16:9 image sizes selected, the camera will default to the 5M size setting. Auto ISO is 64 by default but can range up to 800 in lower light with the flash disabled.

Photos of mixed scenes with some sky in the picture were essentially equal in appearance at 64, 100 and 200, with 400 slightly noisier than 200. 800 was somewhat noisier than 400, but still not bad. The jump in noise from 800 to 1600 was distinct in the photos, and the 2000 and 3200 shots were noisier still, as would be expected. My impression is that while you’d like to stay in the 64-200 ISO range if possible, the P5000 does a pretty good job with images at the 400 and 800 ISO levels.

I did not notice a jump in noise at any particular ISO sensitivity for images captured at 3.5x versus wide angle.

White Balance 

In addition to “auto”, the P5000 has settings for daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy and flash light sources. A white balance preset, or custom, setting is also available. Unless otherwise noted, “auto” was used for images taken by the P5000 in this review.

Battery Performance 

Nikon reports an approximate 250 shot life for the P5000’s EN-EL5 battery, and the figure seemed accurate during my usage, which was about 1/3 flash and very little chimping. The camera cannot accept alternative batteries such as AA, so a couple of spares would be a prudent investment.

Shutter Performance 

The P5000 powers up and is ready to shoot in about 1 second. In good light the camera needs about .5 to .75 seconds to acquire focus. Shutter lag is virtually instantaneous once the shutter button is depressed, but write time (even with a high performance memory card) slows the capture of the next image in single shot mode. I managed 5 shots in about 12.4 seconds.

The P5000 also has a continuous shooting mode that optimally produces an .8 frame per second rate for up to 8 shots. I managed 5 shots in about 5.5 seconds in this mode.

Lens Performance 

I found the 3.5x Nikkor optical zoom pretty uniformly sharp from edge to edge at both wide and telephoto settings. There is some barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from center of image) at the wide angle end which could cause some sharp-eyed viewers to notice a “bent” line in certain photos. Some chromic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast boundary areas of the image) was present, but to a degree that would likely become an issue only at extreme magnifications. 

MISCELLANEOUS 

The P5000 has a couple of interesting features that can dramatically improve some images: “In-Camera Red Eye Fix” will automatically process images to remove red eye it detects before saving the image, and “D-Lighting” which enhances contrast and brightness in dark areas of an image to brighten dark and backlit subjects.

nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Before D-Lighting (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
After D-Lighting (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
Before D-Lighting (view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
After D-Lighting (view medium image) (view large image)

In addition to VR to help produce sharp images, the P5000 also has an “anti-shake mode” which ramps up ISO to as much as 1600 and activates a “best shot selector” feature that takes up to 10 images while the shutter button is depressed, then determines and selects the sharpest. This would ordinarily be a mode of last resort, as the higher ISO will of necessity produce noisier images.

The P5000 is PictBridge compliant, which permits it to transfer images directly to a PictBridge supported printer without need for a computer.

One annoying, minor complaint: the camera has no provision to automatically rotate images captured in portrait (or vertical format) to view normally. Even my Nikon Capture NX software required manual rotation.

nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
nikon coolpix p5000 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

CONCLUSION 

The Nikon Coolpix P5000 provides a 10 megapixel sensor, excellent image and color quality, and an ergonomically excellent camera in a compact, easily portable package. Not only does the camera come with the full auto and specialty modes found in virtually every P&S, but a complete set of manual controls as well. This combined with the optional wide and telephoto converters gives the P5000 a versatility that could attract a varied group of shooters: those new to digital imagery can use the auto functions and be assured of quality images, while photographers who want or need the ability to go semi-automatic or manual get their wish as well.

PROS 

CONS