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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P5100


   


Nikon Coolpix P5100 Review

Review Date: Nov 12, 2007

Category: Serious Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P5100

HANDLING & FEEL

The Nikon Coolpix P5100 body design has not changed much from that of the P5000, except the silver portions are now painted mostly black, giving it a more professional look. Dimensions and weight remain the same. It is relatively light and compact. A magnesium alloy front panel provides the necessary strength to attach optional lenses to the body; to allow that, the lens ring screws right off. The Nikon P5100 is compact enough to be carried in a large trousers pocket or handbag.

The Nikon P5100 is attractive in its (now almost all) black body with a few silver and chrome accents. It has a great handgrip that is covered with non-slip rubber and allows you to hold it very comfortably and securely. The angled shutter-release button, handy Command dial, Mode dial and well placed control buttons make the P5100 intuitive to use.

Startup time is about 2 sec. Shot to shot time is a bit longer than that on the P5000 at about 2.5 sec. (I took 4 shots in approx. 10 sec.), probably due to the larger image size but same size internal buffer. There is no practical shutter lag. Autofocus is fast though it will sometimes hunt in low-light.

STYLE
- Colours: overall black with silver and chrome accents
- Looks: rectangular, professional
FEEL
- Comfortable
- Lots of controls
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Medium Compact: fits in a large pants pocket, coat pocket or small handbag
- Dimensions: Approx. 98 x 64.5 x 41 mm (3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 in.) excluding projections
- Weight: Approx. 200 g (7.1 oz.) without battery and SD memory card
- Takes 1 Li-ion battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh
SPEED OF OPERATION
- Average startup speed with lens extending about 22 mm (0.8 in.) and LCD turning on in about 2 sec.
- Shot to shot time about 2.5 sec.
- No practical shutter lag.

The Terminal compartment is on the left side of the camera (viewed from the front) with a small squarish rubber cover.

Controls

Nikon Coolpix P5100 - Top Controls

The top of the camera has (from right to left) the Shutter Release Button, the Zoom lever around the shutter-release button, the Power ON/OFF button, the Command dial, the Mode dial, and the Hot Shoe at the very left (not pictured). All the other controls are found on the back.

The Mode Dial is reachable by the thumb. Besides the Auto mode (Green camera symbol), it has P (Programmed Auto), S (Shutter-Priority), A (Aperture-Priority), M (Manual), SETUP, Movie, SCENE (Scene Modes), Hi ISO (high sensitivity), and Anti-shake (which turns on VR and BSS).

A Command dial allows quick selection of shutter speed, aperture or other menu options. You can use the multi selector (UP, DOWN, RIGHT and LEFT ARROWS) or the Command Dial in MENU and SETUP. The Command Dial is more intuitive and faster to operate but sometimes you still need to press the RIGHT ARROW and OK button to complete the selection. You can only use the Command Dial in FUNC. In Programmed Auto mode, the Command Dial conveniently engages program shift.

As Nikon digital cameras are well known for, there is a Scene Mode for almost everything you want to do. For example, the Panorama Assist scene mode allows you to take a number of panoramic shots and line them up precisely on screen by overlaying the semi-transparent previous image on screen. This is one of the best Panorama implementation I've used, though it is a bit on the slow side saving each image captured.

You can record movies (with sound) at 640x480 at 30fps. The maximum file size for movies is 4GB. You have a choice of Single AF (default, focus locks once movie recording starts) or Full-time AF (camera continuously adjusts focus during movie recording, though focusing sound will also get recorded). You can record Time Lapse movies, Sepia movies or B&W movies.

Nikon Coolpix P5100 Back View

All other controls are found on the back of the camera. All the buttons are neatly lined up to the left of the large 2.5-in. 230,000 pixels resolution LCD. From top to bottom: Function button (can be set in Menu); Monitor button, Playback, MENU, Delete.

For those who like to have one, there is an optical viewfinder.

If you need to access the menu, you don't need to scroll page after page to find the desired menu item. A Menu icons feature condenses 4 pages of menu text into 1 convenient page of icons. A short description displays at the top of the screen as you scroll over each icon though, for quick access, you may want to familiarize yourself with what each icon stands for.

Exposure compensation is evoked by simply pressing the RIGHT ARROW key on the Multi Selector, then using UP and DOWN to dial in a +ve and -ve value, respectively.

The Playback function has its own dedicated button, which makes it very convenient to switch between the Record and Playback modes with a press of the button. Half press the shutter-release button to immediately return to Record mode. If you just want to view your pics without turning the camera on, simply press and hold the Playback button for about 2.5 sec. and Playback will start without the lens extending; when you're done, press the Power button to turn the camera off.

When in Playback mode, the Delete button will delete the displayed picture; to Delete All, you need to access the Menu.

On the bottom of the camera is the tripod socket, which is metal and placed almost in the middle of the camera. You will not be able to change battery and card while the camera is mounted on a tripod.

On the right side of the bottom is the Battery and SD Card Compartment. There is a small latch to secure the battery from falling when the door is opened.

LCD & Menus

As noted earlier, there is an optical viewfinder and the large 2.5 in. LCD monitor is bright. The 230,000 pixels resolution is quite good with a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth display. You can manually adjust the LCD monitor's brightness in SETUP. The LCD monitor gains up very well in low-light and in extreme low-light, with a smooth display that is surprisingly not too noisy. There is an effective AF-assist Illuminator to help achieve focus in low-light. You can also display a Framing Grid of horizontal and vertical lines.

SHOOTING MENU 1 of 4

- Image quality
- Image size
- Optimize image
- White balance
- ISO sensitivity

SHOOTING MENU 2 of 4

- Metering
- Continuous
- Auto bracketing
- AF area mode
- Auto-focus mode

- Note that BSS is now listed under Continuous

SHOOTING MENU 3 of 4

- Flash exp. comp.
- Flash control
- Fixed aperture
- Noise reduction
- Converter

SHOOTING MENU 4 of 4

- User setting
- Reset user setting
- Distortion control

SHOOTING MENU ICONS

- All 1 Menu options summarized on a single page of icons
- Notice on all Menu screens, ? Help (Tele button) will display a short help description

OPTIMIZE IMAGE 1 of 2

- Normal
- Softer
- Vivid
- More Vivid
- Portrait

OPTIMIZE IMAGE 2 of 2

- Custom
- Black-and-white

- Note that there is no Sepia (available as a movie option)

B&W MONOCHROME FILTER

- Select from Yellow, Orange, Red or Green filter effect

CUSTOM CONTRAST 1 of 2

- Custom and Black-and-white allow you to specify a value for Contrast, Image sharpening and Saturation

- Auto, Normal, Low, Medium, High

WHITE BALANCE 1 of 2

- Auto
- Preset manual
- Daylight
- Incandescent
- Fluorescent

WHITE BALANCE 2 of 2

- Cloudy
- Flash

ISO 1 of 2

- Auto (64-800)
- Fixed range Auto (64-100, 64-200, 64-400)
- 64
- 100
- 200

ISO 2 of 2

- 400
- 800
- 1600
- 2000
- 3200 [Image size = 5M]

- Slowest shutter speed of 2 sec. when ISO 1600, 2000 or 3200

METERING

- Matrix
- Center-weighted
- Spot
- Spot AF area

CONTINUOUS 1 of 2

- Single
- Continuous
- BSS
- Continuous flash
- Multi-shot 16

CONTINUOUS 2 of 2

- Interval timer shooting

AUTO BRACKETING

- Auto bracketing can be set at +/- 0.3, +/- 0.7 or +/- 1.0

AF AREA MODE

- Face priority: focus on face
- Auto: leave it to the camera to select an AF area to focus on
- Manual: select from 99 AF areas
- Center: camera always focuses on center AF area

AF AREA MODE

- When Manual AF area mode is selected, pressing the MENU/OK button allows you to position the Af area at one of 99 possible positions on screen
- Note that the area of the screen outside the four marked corners (i.e. edges of screen) cannot be selected

 

SETUP 1 of 4

- Menus
- Welcome screen
- Date
- Brightness
- Date imprint

SETUP 2 of 4

- Vibration reduction: turn this ON to enable image stabilization; choose OFF when camera is placed on a tripod
- AF assist: AF-assist lamp lights to enable focus lock in poor lighting
- Digital zoom
- Sound settings
- Auto off

SETUP 3 of 4

- Format card
- Language (23 to choose from)
- Video mode
- FUNC button: allows you to customize the FUNC button
- Reset all

SETUP 4 of 4

- Firmware version

 

SETUP MENU ICONS

- All 16 Set-up options summarized on a single page of icons

SETUP - Menus

- Text
- Icons

- This is where you choose whether camera will display text or icons

LANGUAGE

- 23 different languages

FUNCTION 1 of 2

- Allows you to customize the FUNC button to one of the following:

- ISO sensitivity
- Image quality
- Image size
- White balance
- AF area mode

FUNCTION 2 of 2

- Continuous
- Distortion control
- Converter
- Vibration reduction
- User setting

FUNCTION - ISO 1 of 2

- If you selected to customize the FUNC button to bring up ISO, then when you press the FUNC button, the ISO menu screen displays
- Rotate the Command dial to quickly select a value

FUNCTION - ISO 2 of 2

- Note on previous screen, the new convenient Auto ISO ranges: Auto 64-100, Auto 64-200 and Auto 64-400.

 

PROGRAM AUTO

- Clockwise from top left: Programmed Auto mode, Macro ON, Flash mode OFF, Auto ISO 64-400, Self-timer 3 sec., Date Imprint ON, space left for 25 images, Aperture F2.7, Shutter Speed 1/4 sec., Image Quality Fine, Image Size 12M, Exp. Comp. +0.7EV, Flash Compensation -0.3EV, Distortion control, Image optimization, Preset WB

SCENE MODES 1 of 4

- Portrait
- Landscape
- Sports
- Night portrait
- Party/indoor

SCENE MODES 2 of 4

- Beach/snow
- Sunset
- Dusk/dawn
- Night landscape
- Close up

SCENE MODES 3 of 4

- Museum
- Fireworks show
- Copy
- Back light
- Panorama assist (with semi transparency)

SCENE MODES 4 of 4

- Voice recording

For convenience, the following options repeated on this menu:
- Image quality
- Image size

SCENE MODES ICONS

- 16 Scene Modes summarized on a single page of icons

FACE PRIORITY

- Subject must be facing the camera for the face to be recognized and focused on
- When there are more than one possible faces to focus in, the closest face (or more contrasty one) will be selected

MOVIE MENU

- Movie oprions
- Auto-focus mode

MOVIE ICONS

 

MOVIE OPTIONS 1 of 2

- TV movie 640 * - 640x480 @ 30fps
- TV movie 640 - 640x480 @ 15 fps
- Small size 320 - 320x240 @ 15fps
- Smaller size 160 - 160x120 @ 15fps
- Time-lapse movie * - up tp 1800 640x480 stills joined into an 60s silent movie played back @ 30fps

- Movie records until memory card is full or file size of 4GB reached

MOVIE OPTIONS 2 of 2

- Sepia movie 320 - @ 15fps
- B&W movie 320 - @ 15fps

 

PLAYBACK MENU 1 of 2

- D-Lighting
- Print set
- SLide show
- Delete
- Protect

PLAYBACK MENU 2 of 2

- Hide image
- Small pic.
- Copy
- Black border

PLAYBACK MENU ICONS

- All 9 options summarized on a single page of icons

D-LIGHTING

- Enhances contrast and brightness in dark areas

HELP

- Toggle the Zoom control to T to bring up Help whenever a ? is displayed on screen

DATE IMPRINT

- Date can be permanently part of picture

PLAYBACK DISPLAY

PLAYBACK HIGHLIGHT

- Histogram
- Highlight areas blink

 

EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

- Press Exp. Comp. (Right Arrow) and rotate Command dial to select a value

INFINITY

- Auto Focus
- Infinity
- Macro (Continuous AF)

FRAMING GRID

- Thin yellow lines
- Minimum info display

- Note that the thick yellow lines in previous models have now thankfully been replaced by thin lines.
- However, we still do not see the rationale behind displaying only a subset of the info instead of full info

SELF-TIMER

- Off
- 10 s
- 3 s

The Nikon Coolpix P5100 is an attractive camera with good handling and lots of practical features. Full exposure flexibility and effective VR technology make this camera attractive to those desiring something with more control than a point-and-shoot.

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