The Nikon CoolPix 5000 created great hope among Nikon fans, and others for a compact, powerful and high quality five megapixel camera. After reading the specification released with the CoolPix 5000 announcement we were certainly looking forward to having one in for testing.
Features that some may find particurlaly interesting are that it offers compatibility with some Nikon Flash guns, the 5 megapixel CCD, and a lens with 7.1-21.4mm coverage (equivalent to 28-85mm in 35mm format). Not only does it have these impressive features but it is also very small and light with a high quality Magnesium alloy body.
- 2/3-in. CCD; 5.0 effective megapixels for high-definition 2,560 x 1,920-pixel images
- 3x Zoom-Nikkor with 7.1-21.4mm coverage (equivalent to 28-85mm in 35mm format); digital zoom up to 4x magnification
- Magnesium alloy body
- Noise Reduction mode, White Balance Bracketing, and Saturation Control mode to give more creative options
- Accessory shoe for external Nikon Speedlight attachment
- Vari-angle LCD for total convenience in every shooting position
- Broad shutter speed range from 1/4,000 to 8 seconds
In the box you get:
- The Nikon Coolpix 5000 camera
- 32Mb CompactFlash Card
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL1
- Battery Charger MH-52
- Neck Strap
- Lens Cap
- Audio/Video Cable
- USB Cable
- Adobe Photoshop Elements
- Nikon View 4
- Quick Start guide and manual
One of the main factors to consider when assessing the handling characteristics of a camera is how you will compose shots. Forgetting the viewfinder for a moment, which in any case is limited on most digital cameras of this type we are left with the LCD screen which can be fixed or maneuvered. The Nikon has a tough flip-out style LCD screen. This makes the camera a pleasure to use, as you can compose your shot from most tricky angles quite easily.
The grip is a good size, and has a good rubber coating. My only complaint with this part of the camera is that the shutter release seems a little high up, my finger naturally fell about 2cm below where the shutter release was. This is only a small point and many people wouldn't even notice.
The table below summarises most of the settings available:
The menu system and the features accessible through it has to be one of the major attractions of this camera and most of the Coolpix range in general. There is a high level of control of most aspects of image quality, and you can define three presets for different shooting conditions, which can be alternated through quickly using the wheel on the top of the camera. Nikon have created here one of the best user interfaces for a digital camera.
1. Change between user setting (Automatic, User Set 1, 2, or 3), White balance (Auto, Preset, Fine, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Speedlight), Metering (Matrix, Spot, Center-Weighted, Spot AF Area), Continuous (Single, Continuous high/low, Multi-shot 16, HS sequence, Ultra HS, Movie), Best shot selector, Image adjustment (brightness, contrast), Saturation control (+1, 0, -1, -2, B&W).
2. Convertor lens settings, Exposure options (AE Lock, maximum bulb duration), Focus options (AF area mode, auto-focus mode, focus confirmation, distance units), Image sharpening (Auto, high, normal, low, off), Auto bracketing (White balance bracketing, Off, On), Noise reduction, Reset all.
1. Delete (selected, all, reset print, reset transfer), Folders, Slide show, Protect, Hide image, Print set, Auto transfer.
Setup. Folders (Create, rename, delete), Monitor (Display mode, brightness, hue), Controls (camera off settings, func button settings), Zoom options (digital zoom, aperture), Auto off (30s, 1m, 5m, 30m), Seq numbers, Format, Speedlight options (Variable power, Speedlight cntrl, shot confirm), Shutter sound, Date, info.txt, video mode, language, disable delete.
|Play back menu
There are a wealth of options available to experiment with and it's a good idea to have a thorough read of the manual so you don't end up fiddling with something when you're in a rush for a shot. A feature not often seen is White balance bracketing, working in a similar way to exposure bracketing. It takes one image with the selected white balance-value, one image with a reddish cast, and one with a bluish cast.
Those of you familiar with other Coolpix cameras such as the Coolpix 995 will be glad to see not much has changed. You can choose between Auto mode, P exposure mode (For shutter and aperture adjustment), S exposure mode (for shutter speed adjustment), A exposure mode (for aperture adjustment), M exposure mode (for shutter speed and/or aperture adjustment).
Using the command dial on the top of the camera, and the buttons below it and above it you can change various settings of the camera quickly and easily. These buttons allow you to change exposure compensation, Sensitivity, Manual focus, Image size, Focus, Mode and user set. I personally really like this approach, and found it quick and easy to change all the most important settings.
Viewfinder and LCD screen
|The viewfinder is very basic, although it does provide diopter adjustment. The coverage it provides of the actual shot stored on the memory card is limited. A much better idea is to use the flexible and clear LCD screen.
|The screen can be adjusted for hue and brightness, and is one of the better screens we've seen. It's housed in a similar tough casing to the rest of the body and provides a good level of flexibility. Buttons above the screen allow for options to be selected quickly and this is a very sensible design.
The camera can take IBM Microdrives and on a 5 megapixel camera like this they are quite a good idea. Though with the falling price of CompactFlash cards you must weigh up the chance of losing the data on a dropped Microdrive to the money saved over buying a more resilient CompactFlash card of the same capacity.
Standard connections for USB, video out and power are present. We're still not seeing any cameras with faster data connections despite memory cards offering speeds above the 1Mb a sec possible through USB. A way round this is to buy a firewire card reader, which will improve the time taken to transfer the images to your computer.
Taking about 2 hours to charge the included lithium battery offers good performance. Nikon have aimed this camera at the enthusiast who will demand high levels of battery life. To make this possible there is an optional battery grip which attaches to the base of the camera in a similar style to a portrait grip on a film SLR. The model number for this is MB-E5000 and it takes 6 AA batteries. At around 125 this battery grip is far from cheap especially when you consider that the same amount could buy you three spare lithium recheargables. The grip is still a welcome option though, giving you a better holding position which will be appreciated by people with large hands who could otherwise find the camera a little fiddly.
Overall the CoolPix 5000 performed very well. However considering it costs almost 1000 I was hoping for a little higher quality. Also worrying is that both of the cameras Nikon sent us each had a stuck green pixel, though these are not always clearly visible I would assume it would be enough to warrant a replacement camera from most shops should yours suffer the same problem.
Chromatic abberations, which are seen as blue or purple fringing in areas of extremely high contrast were evident in several photos we took. Another worrying problem was the blooming seen on over exposed areas of photos. There was some detail loss in surrounding areas and this again raises doubts about the overall image quality provided.
Good points are that the 5 megapixel resolution means you get a lot of detail in your photos. So you can crop sections of the photo and still get quite a good print. Colour was generally quite good, and the metering system was reliable as we've found in previous CoolPix cameras.
|This blown up area of the above photo shows the amount of detail the camera is capable of capturing. It also demonstrates the very useful wide angle capability, at least when compared to the focal lengths commonly seen in digital cameras of this kind.
I mentioned about a blooming effect earlier and the photo above shows it. In the blown up section on the left where the sky is a darker colour detail of the railing has been retained well. In the area to the right the highlights of the sky have caused all the detail to be lost. This happens on a lot of digital cameras, but seems to be particularly bad on this model.
|The CoolPix 5000 is very capable in terms of capturing colours and has been quite accurate in this shot. White balance is not 100% reliable but we didn't have too many problems. For serious shooting it's always best to quickly set it manually. Chromatic abberations rear their ugly head in the corrugated plastic roof, and were seen less prominently in several other photos.
|Shot at ISO 100 there is little noise, however raising the ISO level further quickly sees an increase. In this photo we can see the stuck green pixel blown up to be easily visible.
The CoolPix 5000 is not such a ground breaking camera as Nikon like to make out. It doesn't provide the suggested SLR performance or image quality. It does however have some great strong points. I really like the handling of this camera, it feels comfortable to use despite being so small, and is easy to sling over your shoulder and almost forget it's there. There is a great deal of configurability which many people will relish in, though this is provided in the cheaper Nikon cameras too.
Features like external flash compatability and the swivel LCD are welcomed but don't make it stand out too much from it's competitors. The quite wide angle lens is a big plus for those wanting to get more into their photos, and is not matched by many other cameras of this class.
Still overall most people could save a lot of money by opting for a cheaper camera. At around 1000 it doesn't offer you much more than the four megapixel Canon PowerShot G2 which is available now for almost half the price. Sure it's a five megapixel camera, but megapixels aren't as important as the manufacturers often make out, especially when it's only a difference of one.
If however you feel you can cope with the drawbacks, the price isn't a problem, you want portability, good manual features and a wide angle lens then this is one of the best cameras you could buy at the moment.