Introduced at around the same price as the Coolpix 5000 was back in September 2001, the Coolpix 5700 offers a whole host of new features, while sharing some elements of design. The Coolpix 5700 stands out from many other consumer-orientated digital cameras, thanks to a large 8x focal-length range lens and high build quality.
- 8x Nikkor-Zoom lens with focal range of 35-280mm, two ED lens elements
- 5.0 effective megapixels, 2/3in CCD
- Magnesium-alloy body
- Shutter release lag of 70msec
- Shutter speeds from 8sec to 1/4000sec
- Five-area multi autofocus
- Electronic Viewfinder and Vari-angle LCD
- RAW (NEF) format
- Auto pop-up speedlight
- Accessory shoe for external speedlight
- Street price 999, online price around 900.
Sharing several components of the Coolpix 5000, some of these features aren't all that new. Others, like the Electronic Viewfinder, 8x lens and NEF format are a first for the Coolpix series.
Something I should have been prepared for, but wasn't, was the small size of this camera. Even having looked at press releases for it earlier and handling the similar Coolpix 5000, it still came across as dinky when held in my hands. Something else the product photos can't properly convey is the excellent build quality. The mass of black may look like plastic in photos, but the majority of the body is a tough, black-painted magnesium-alloy.
One of my first curiosities to be satisfied, was to leave the camera's lens cap on, and see what happens when switched on. The Coolpix 5000 actually caused a few problems on its initial launch, due to a bug that could render the camera unusable if you left the lens cap attached while switching on. Probably still embarrassed, the engineers have now decided to attach the lens cap directly to extruding section of the lens. This means you can have no fears of damaging the lens mechanism, should you forget to remove the lens cap before hitting the power. I do wonder though, what effect this will have on the lens structure as the lens cap is pulled on and off countless times, especially if the user is careless.
Camera functions such as image quality, flash modes and manual focusing can be controlled quickly through the four buttons on the side of the camera. Although there are quite a few buttons to get used too, this system should save a lot of time over the alternative of menu control. A minor gripe is the buttons on the left are easily pressed by accident. Without realising I hit the image quality button, causing it to go into TIFF mode. The camera was then unusable till it had finished writing.
Something I'd like to add to our testing procedures, is a toughness test. Perhaps involving a few drops, water sprinkling and knocks. Unfortunately, if we did this, we'd soon find the manufacturers stopped loaning us cameras, and would instead hand us a hefty bill! Had we got such a test, I'd have a lot of confidence in the Coolpix 5700 coping well. The magnesium-alloy body is superbly solid and the camera has a reasonable handling weight of around 500g.
As we saw with the Coolpix 5000, the hand-grip is sharply extended from the body and features a rubberised coating to parts of it. I personally, like the handling of this grip, though it's a subjective issue.
The Coolpix 5700 comes with one of the most comprehensive menus we've seen on any digital camera. Reflecting this fact, is the massive proportion of the manual covering proper use of them.
Each different menu is controlled through the four-way pad and the dial on top of the camera. The menus appearing on the EVF are identical to those shown on the LCD, handy if you need a clear view of playback on a sunny day.
The Coolpix 5700 offers a choice of 'User Set', these allow you to change default settings on the menus and assign them to one of three memories.
In the primary record mode menu, you are presented with a wealth of configurability:
Menu 1: User settings, White balance, Metering, Continuous/single shot, Best shot selector, Image adjustment, Saturation control.
Menu 2: Optional lens setup, Exposure options, Focus options, Image sharpening, Auto bracketing, Noise reduction, Reset all.
Setup: Folders, Controls, Zoom options, Auto off, Seq. numbers, CF Card format, Speedlight options, Shutter sound, Date, info.txt, Video mode, Language, USB transfer mode.
The above image, shows the different views available when playing back a photo. These include a histogram with a thumbnail image showing the image highlights. Also provided and quite unique, is confirmation of which focusing point was used.
In the playback menu, you have the options:
Delete all, or selected images, Select folders for playback, Slide show, Protect pictures, Hide pictures, Print pictures and setting up autotransfer.
As with most of the Nikon consumer/prosumer range, the modes are switched using a combination of the dial and mode button. The LCD on the top of the camera shows a letter signifying the current mode you are in. The modes are:
|Camera controls the shutter speed and aperture.
|You set the shutter speed and the camera makes the aperture is set for a well exposed photo.
|Basically the opposite of the S mode, with you setting the Aperture, and the camera setting the shutter speed.
|This allows you to set both the shutter speed and aperture yourself.
|Viewfinder and LCD screen
This is an area the Coolpix 5700 dominates, beating most of the competition and its sibling Coolpix 5000. Comparing the LCD on the Coolpix 5700 to the Coolpix 5000, the most immediate difference is the absence of control buttons. Otherwise the same, easy to use swivel design remains. Perfect for all those awkward angle shots, the swiveling LCD is something many photographers become dependent on.
In some conditions, such as bright sunlight, the quality of the LCD can be impaired. This is where the Electronic viewfinder, or EVF, works its magic. I've never been a great fan of EVFs, I used a Sony 707 EVF briefly and was disappointed. The Coolpix 5700 seems to offer an improvement over its competitors though.
The rubber surround makes using it very comfortable and a plastic covering makes it easy to clean. I found it bright and surprisingly detailed. EVFs still have a long way to go before matching a traditional SLR viewfinder, but they offer their own advantages which help to make up for their deficiencies. Diopter adjustment is provided for spectacle wearers, via a dial adjacent to the EVF, with a range of -4~1m-1.
Grouped together under a rubber flap on the left side of the camera are connections for power in, A/V out and USB. Cables are provided for the A/V and USB connections, but for the power in you need to buy a separate adapter.
A Speedlight hotshoe allows you to connect external Nikon Speedlight flash units. The compatible models include SB-80DX/50DX/30/29*/28DX/8/27*/26/25/24/23*/22s. When using an external Speedlight the built-in Speedlight can be disabled. *Use TTL Cord SC-17 with SB-29/27/23.
The Coolpix 5700 comes with a Li-ion rechargeable battery as standard. Optionally, you can use a 2CR5/DL245 lithium battery, perhaps as a back-up for when your rechargeable runs out. Should you want the most power possible there is a battery pack available that attaches to the base of the camera. The model number for this is MB-E5700 and it takes six AA-size batteries.
Few cameras come close to the Coolpix 5700's specification and price. The general lack of prosumer digital cameras with a large focal-length range lens, gives the 5700 an immediate head start. The 8x zoom lens is a pleasure to use, allowing you more creativity with depth-of-field and close-ups than with many other digital cameras. This alone will satisfy many users expectations of image quality.
Considering the quality of the test shots we produced with this camera we feel confident it is within the best of the prosumer class, at time of writing. Photos produced show a great deal of sharpness, colour accuracy and are generally well exposed. The metering and white balance did let us down occasionally, but compared to many digital cameras, overall it performed well.
Subtle noise was evident at the lowest ISO100 setting, but to be fair, I wasn't expecting the 5700 to excel in every area. At ISO200 noise was average, ISO400 acceptable and ISO800 pushing your luck. The option for the higher ISOs is welcomed though, allowing you to capture shots that you'd otherwise struggle with.
The automatic focussing proved frustratingly slow occasionally, but overall the accuracy of the eventual focus lock was good. All the options for continuos focussing, selection of focussing points and more, are all very useful and help make up for the occasional slowness.
The Coolpix 5700 is something of a gold mine for image quality options, RAW mode, best shot selector, colour saturation control, noise reduction mode, white balance bracketing and Spot AF metering are some of the features that particularly stand out.
These two shots simply illustrate the excellent range offered by the Coolpix 5700 8.9-71.2mm lens.
The left shot is full wide-angle (equivelant to 35mm on 35mm cameras), the right shot is full tele-zoom (equivelant to 280mm on 35mm).
Looking closely at a section from the above left photo, chromatic aberrations are visible in some leafy sections of the image, but aren't too distracting.
At this 100% scale of view, the sharpness levels are not as appealing as when zoomed out slightly. However, this lack of detail only becomes a problem when printing at very large sizes of over A3.
The macro facility, combined with the reach of the lens makes for some good fun. Unlike some cameras of this class, you have the choice of taking macro photographs at any section of the camera's focal range. I used the manual selection of focus points here, to focus on the right-hand tomato. Looking closely at the tomato plant, fine detail has been recorded excellently, showing off the capabilities of this lens.
The focussing system on the Coolpix 5700 can be slow and the young cat didn't stay still long, the result was more useless shots than useful ones. This is one of the areas that cameras like the Minolta Dimage 7i may have an advantage. As the manual focussing ring of the Dimage 7i would provide more flexibility than the manual focussing on the Coolpix 5700. Again, the large focal-length range of the Coolpix 5700's lens came in handy, as the cat would have stopped his pose had I come in closer.
|This close-up helps you see how well the detail of the cat fur has been captured. Unfortunately this shot is spoiled by the highlight above the eye on the left of the image.
The shallow depth-of-field seen in this shot is another virtue of the Coolpix 5700's lens. Backed up by fine detail, only a limited few consumer digital cameras have a lens to compete with this.
This shot at ISO100, shows very little noise. Finer details of brickwork are captured very well. There are a few instances of chromatic aberration again, a slight weakness of this camera, but they aren't distractingly obvious.
Lastly, even after significant cropping, there is still a lot of detail in this colourful shot.
The Coolpix 5700 is a fine camera for Nikon to have at the top of their prosumer range. It offers some of the best handling and configuration characteristics of any digital camera and is priced quite reasonably at around 900-1000.
We found a few weaknesses in the image quality and focussing speed of the camera, but nothing that overly concerned us. The Coolpix 5700 goes a long way to bridging the gap between the Digital camera and Digital SLR camera divide and will no doubt appeal to many who are not able, or willing, to afford a Nikon D100 or Canon D60.
The most immediate difference I noticed between handling a Nikon D100 and this Coolpix 5700 was the focussing. After growing used to the D100s fast, quiet focussing, the drawbacks of the Coolpix 5700 focussing were abundantly clear. Of course there's over a thousand pounds in difference between the two setups so it's only to be expected. Given the choice between the two cameras, it certainly wouldn't be a snap decision for me.
Before I start to ramble on even further, I'll finish with the positive note, that in my wide use of consumer & prosumer digital cameras, the Coolpix 5700 is my favourite so far. Thanks largely to an excellent handling feel, backed up with generally great image quality, creative options and a good lens. Whether it will be your favourite, you'll have to go try one and find out!
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