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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 with optional speedlight SB-400
Nikon Coolpix P5100 with optional speedlight SB-400



Friday, October 26, 2007 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Coolpix P5100
  • No Memory Card included, but 23MB of internal memory [Nikon sent me a SanDisk 256MB SD memory card for the review]
  • Neck Strap
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh (with end cap) and Battery Charger MH-61 with Power Cable
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • Accessory Shoe Cover
  • English and French Manuals: Quick Start Guide; User's Manual
  • Software CDs: Nikon SmartSuite (ArcSoft Panorama Maker 4, Kodak EasyShare Software)
  • I also received the SB-400 Speedlight (with soft case and English/French Instructions; requires 2 AA batteries, not included)

The Nikon Coolpix P5100 remains perhaps the most comfortable compact digital camera to hold and operate. It has a large and comfortable handgrip but is still compact and light enough to carry in a large trousers pocket. The Nikon P5100 has the full exposure flexibility and features prized by advanced photographers.

In fact, the Mode Dial and Command Dial make it easy to select the options you want quickly. I especially like the intuitive implementation of program shift in Programmed Auto mode (just rotate the Command Dial), the AF Area mode implementation (just press the OK button and use the ARROW keys to position the Focus area) and the Infinity focus setting (invaluable when trying to focus on far away subjects in low lighting).

Vibration Reduction optical image stabilization is effective to reduce blur due to camera shake. However, it is set via the SETUP menu, which means that you first need to switch the Mode Dial to that position, then press the DOWN ARROW key 5 times, RIGHT ARROW once, UP ARROW once, OK once, then turn the Mode Dial back to your shooting mode. If you need to transition from tripod to hand held quite a bit, this important function would benefit from having its own dedicated button. (Even Nikon's own P&S S500 has a dedicated VR button.)

The Coolpix P5100 is targeted to advanced photographers who appreciate professional features (which the P5100 has in spades) and image quality. Image quality is very good at ISO 64 and usable up to ISO 200 (or even ISO 400 with the images cleaned by noise removal software), and is on a par with that on other compact digital cameras. At higher ISOs, images are very noisy, again perhaps usable when printed at small prints and displayed for Web only, but certainly not for professional uses.

[We wait for the time when manufacturers start using an APS sized image sensor to control noise and retain image detail in their compact digital cameras.]

The shutter speed range is from 8-1/2,000 sec. and you'll be glad to know that the full 8 sec. is available in PASM modes.

One strange "feature" on my test camera is that when taking slow shutter speed shots, the camera makes a low static sound while the picture is being taken. Likewise, movies have a static background sound.

A framing grid can be displayed on screen, and this is quickly becoming a norm in many digital cameras. I find this grid of horizontal and vertical lines very helpful in framing and composition and am very glad that the lines are now thin (used to be bold, thick and intrusive in the P5000). When the grid lines are displayed, only some info displays. I fail to see the rationale behind not displaying all the info, plus live histogram.

A histogram displays only in Playback (which is OK but lots of point-and-shoot digital cameras today display a live histogram). There is no Sepia color mode available in camera. In-camera color modes do however include Black-and-white with electronic monochrome filters for Yellow, Orange, Red and Green. This should be quite useful to those who love to take B&W pictures.

The Fn button is customizable and there are now more options you can choose from than were available on the P5000.

Most of the important settings are accessed thru control buttons. When you do have to go into the Menu to access other functions, the Menu icons view summarizes 4 pages of items into one convenient page of icons.

Nikon Transfer
Nikon Transfer

PictureProject is gone and Nikon Transfer will now transfer your images from camera to PC. Kodak EasyShare (yes, you read it right) will display your pictures. Unfortunately, there seems to be no integration and images that are transferred by Nikon Transfer are not automatically picked up by Kodak EasyShare. I wish Nikon would bundle some better image editing software with their higher end digital cameras. Also on the CD is ArcSoft Panorama Maker 4, which insisted in installing some voluminous C++ routines on my PC; I did not appreciate this at all and promptly removed all ArcSoft software from my PC.

The Coolpix P5100 User's Manual is pretty good and comes with even an Index to make searching easy and quick.

I also received the Nikon SB-400 Speedlight which is quite compact and fits the P5100 perfectly, being neither too big nor too heavy. The SB-400 slips easily into the hot shoe of the P5100 and a safety lock ensures it will not slip out in use. It takes 2 AA batteries, recharges quickly and there are no settings to adjust. There flash head swivels up 60, 75 and 90 degrees to allow bounce flash off the ceiling. It was easy enough to use that my son took a couple of shots of his Bionicle creation.

The Nikon Coolpix P5100 strikes a good balance between ease of use and richness of features: it is point-and-shoot easy to use and also packed-full of practical features advanced photographers like to have in their digital cameras.

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