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Testing / Performance
Color* (7.23) *
Colors tend to vary by manufacturer just as different brands of film develop into slightly different colors. We use an industry standard color chart to help us evaluate and compare the many digital cameras that come through our office. We photograph the chart in optimal lighting and run the files through Imatest software, which chooses the most accurately colored image and then renders the following chart. The program modifies the chart so we can compare the colors from the original GretagMacbeth chart (inner vertical rectangles) to the Nikon P5000’s colors (outer squares). The inner squares represent the ideal colors corrected for luminance.
This pop art-like chart can be more easily understood with the graph below. This shows the ideal colors as squares and the Nikon Coolpix P5000’s colors as circles. There is a line connecting these shapes so users know which is which and how erroneous the color is from the length of the line.
Different ends of the spectrum on the P5000 are troubled. The yellows and blues seem to be the most inaccurate, so beware of taking pictures of sunflower fields and blue skies and the like. The Nikon P5000’s mean color error came out to 8.3 and the saturation was nearly perfect at 100.1 percent.
White Balance*(7.35) *
In general, users should avoid using the automatic white balance setting. It was more inaccurate than every preset other than flourescent. We suspect the setting is not optimized for normal white fluorescent light, so the auto setting would be preferable under fluorescent lights. The auto setting was especially inaccurate under tungsten and flash lighting.
The Nikon P5000’s preset white balance modes were generally more accurate and should be used when possible. The only exception to that rule is under white fluorescent light, when the auto setting performed better.
Still Life Sequences
Click for high-resolution images.
**The Nikon Coolpix P5000 boasts a 10.1-megapixel image sensor, which puts it in direct competition with the Canon G7. We’ve put both of these digital cameras through the same tests, beginning with the resolution.
We photographed an industry standard resolution chart at various focal lengths and apertures to find the absolute sharpest image possible. For the Nikon P5000, Imatest imaging software determined that its sharpest image came from a shot taken at f/6, 19mm, and with the ISO set to 64.
The image is sharp, but the edges of the frame are considerably washed out when compared to the center. To quantify the resolution, Imatest output numerical results in units of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a measurement of how many theoretical alternating black and white lines could fit across a frame without blurring.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 resolved 1793 lw/ph horizontally with 4.7 percent oversharpening. Vertically, it resolved 1670 lw/ph with 3.29 percent undersharpening. Compare this to the 10-megapixel Canon G7’s results: 1903 lw/ph horizontally with 4.8 percent oversharpening and 1695 lw/ph vertically with 13.9 percent undersharpening. The Canon clearly wins out in the resolution test, but the Nikon P5000 still does a decent job of snapping sharp pictures.
Noise – Auto ISO*(1.74)*
When we photographed the resolution chart, we took a shot with the automatic ISO setting just to see what the camera would do. Most digital cameras choose the lowest ISO setting because of the bright lights, but the P5000 produced the amount of noise at the manual ISO 264. This was too much noise and resulted in a poor 1.74 score.
Noise – Manual ISO*(5.79)*
The P5000 has manual ISO settings from 64 to 2000. We photographed the resolution chart in optimal lighting using each ISO setting and let Imatest measure the amount of noise in each image. Below is a chart showing the manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis of the chart and the percentage of the image turned to noise on the vertical axis.
In general, there is less noise in the Nikon P5000’s images than the Canon G7’s. Still, the P5000’s slope jumps sharply from 800 to 1600. When it’s absolutely necessary to shoot in dim lighting without a flash, ISO 800 is about as far as you’d want to go. In optimal lighting, the ISO 64 or 100 settings should be used.
We dimmed the lights and put on some romantic music for this test. We photographed the color chart at 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux to see how well the Nikon P5000 can keep subjects illuminated. At 60 lux, most people’s eyes can adjust and still be able to read comfortably. At 30 lux, you’ll be squinting. At 15 and 5 lux, you’ll put your book down and fall asleep because it’s too dark.
All of the P5000’s images remained properly illuminated but the colors suffered terribly and noise was an issue. At 30 lux, the mean color error was 13.3 compared to the camera’s 8.3 error in optimal lighting.
Noise was a problem whether the noise reduction system was turned on or off. One would think that a noise reduction system would perhaps reduce the amount of noise in an image; makes sense, right? However, after several rounds of testing and retesting, we concluded that the noise reduction system removes some of the chroma noise (colored splotches), but the monochromatic, granular noise appears more apparent. Imatest confirmed these observations, detecting more noise when the NR setting was on than off. Below is a chart showing our results. The average amount of noise is on the vertical axis and the shutter speed is on the horizontal axis.
To its credit, noise levels remain steady and fairly low on the Nikon P5000. But the noise reduction system is best kept off for long exposures.
If you’ve ever photographed the bright sun rising over dark mountains, then you’ve seen the dynamic range of a camera. We tested the Nikon P5000 by photographing a backlit Stouffer step chart that shows a row of rectangles ranging from light to dark representing 13 exposure values. A camera with good dynamic range shows the details in the mountains and sky, whereas many compact digital cameras would show a blown-out sunrise and a completely black mountain. We photographed the dynamic range chart at various manual ISO settings because the dynamic range typically falls as the ISO increases. The chart below shows the exposure values captured on the vertical axis and the ISO settings on the horizontal axis.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 performs very well at its ISO 64 and 100 settings when compared to other compact digital cameras. The dynamic range falls off very quickly after ISO 100 though, so avoid anything above ISO 100 when details are important. The P5000 performed better at this test than the Canon G7 and earned a 5.12 score.
Startup to First Shot (7.0)
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 took an entire 3 seconds to start up and take its first shot. The Canon G7 took 1.9 seconds in the same test and many other compacts are even speedier than this. The P5000 aims to be a high-end compact digital camera, so its slow startup time is quite disappointing.
Also disappointing is the burst mode, which isn’t much faster than the single drive. The continuous burst mode only allows 6 shots to be taken at a time. The first 5 shots are 1.3 seconds apart and the sixth shot follows 1.7 seconds later. The camera then took 4.5 seconds to process all the images. In the continuous flash mode, the P5000 snaps 3 shots at the same rate of 1.3 seconds apart and then takes another 2 seconds to process.
When users manually focus or have already auto focused by pushing the shutter release halfway down, the shutter lag is hardly measurable. If snapping candid pictures and the camera isn’t already focused, it takes the camera an average of a half-second to focus and take the picture. This is very slow especially for a "high-end" camera.
It takes a whopping 2 seconds to process one shot. The Nikon P5000 certainly won’t be known for its speed.
**Bright Indoor Light - 3000 lux (3.78)*
In bright lighting, the movie mode produced horribly inaccurate colors. Surprisingly, the yellows that were so inaccurate while shooting still pictures were the most accurate colors in the movie mode. Just about every other color was wandering around the spectrum. The mean color error was an outrageous 30.6 and the saturation jumped to a whopping 143 percent. The video had an average of 0.535 percent noise in it.
Low Light - 30 lux (3.72)
While the bright lights caused the video to oversaturate, dim lights caused it to undersaturate. The colors appear toward the center, indicating undersaturation. Indeed, saturation was only 57.37 percent. The mean color error dropped to 18.3, which is still bad but not as awful as the bright light’s 30.6. The average amount of noise in the movie jumped to 2.4 percent.
*Just as with the still images, Imatest output resolution results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph) for the video. The Nikon P5000’s top video resolution of 640 x 480 pixels was tested by shooting an industry standard video test chart. Some of the video was dark and the information was lost in Imatest so the results are probably better than what shows here. But according to the program, the P5000 resolves 228 lw/ph horizontally with 27.8 percent undersharpening and 290 lw/ph vertically with 17.1 percent undersharpening. This is pretty typical of compact digital cameras’ movie modes.
*Outdoor Motion *
We took a breather from the studio environment and headed outside for a few videos. The Nikon Coolpix P5000’s video isn’t as bad as some point-and-shoot digital cameras, but it’s not that great either. We recorded cars and people going by and noticed a few things. The overall image was soft and hazy. The exposure was in constant flux when capturing moving cars, as was the focus – obviously distracting. When cars, people, and other moving objects left the frame, there was some stuttering too.
The Nikon P5000 has an optical zoom viewfinder that is located above the LCD screen on a protruding plane with two LED indicator lights. The viewfinder itself is very small and putting your eye up to it won’t be exceptionally comfortable because there is no real eyecup and it only protrudes as far as the LCD screen. The viewfinder isn’t perfectly accurate; none of the optical viewfinders on compact models are. It is more accurate when zoomed out, and it doesn’t "see" the bottom third of the recorded image when zoomed in. According to Nikon’s specs, it is 80 percent accurate horizontally and vertically and is most accurate when the subject is within 3 feet, the lens is zoomed out, and the 3:2 or 16:9 image size is in use. Overall, the optical zoom viewfinder isn’t amazing, but it is better than the average compact digital camera’s optical viewfinder.
**LCD Screen ***(7.25)*
A display button to the left of the LCD screen turns on the display and add grid lines, shooting info, and even a live histogram. The 2.5-inch LCD screen has ample resolution at 230,000 pixels. It has a very wide viewing angle, and it can be seen from above, below, right, and left. It is one of the best LCD screens we’ve seen in terms of its viewing angle. It has an anti-reflection coating that works indoors but doesn’t do as well outdoors. There is a 5-level brightness adjustment in the setup menu but even then the P5000’s LCD was hard to see in bright light. The LCD screen acts as a viewfinder or playback medium. It is best in the playback mode where it shows 100 percent of the recorded image. As a viewfinder though, it only shows 97 percent of what is being recorded. This will only be a problem for users who are trying to frame to strict specifications – such as our resolution test! Most digital cameras offer roughly 100 percent accuracy on the LCD screen in both recording and playback modes, so this is disappointing. This could be a major blow to the camera’s enthusiast appeal.
Overall, the view is nice and smooth with the great resolution, decent refresh rate, and wide viewing angles but the slight inaccuracy will irk a few photographers for sure.
The built-in flash unit is located to the upper right of the lens on the front of the camera. This off-axis placement translated to a hot spot slightly left of center on the picture. The Nikon P5000’s flash has impressive specs: It can reach from 1-26 feet when the lens is zoomed out and 1-13 feet when zoomed in. It isn’t effective when shooting anything in the macro mode, but performs decently when within its specified range.
Users can change the flash mode with the right side of the multi-selector. Auto, Auto with Red-eye Reduction, Off, On, Slow Sync, and Rear-Curtain Sync are available. The latter two options seem to show more even flash coverage than the other options. The hot spot’s intensity can be decreased with the flash exposure compensation option in the recording menu. It allows users to adjust the brightness of the flash in steps of a third on a scale of +/- 2. This works wonders for portraits, but it may take a few tries to find the right setting because there isn’t an effective live preview of this.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has a hot shoe placed off-axis from the lens that can accept Nikon’s i-TTL Speedlight flashes. This includes the SB-400, SB-600, and SB-800. The SB-400 is the smallest of the three, and it still looks ridiculous atop the compact P5000. The hot shoe has a safety lock and the camera comes with a plastic fitting that protects the contacts when no accessory flash is attached. In the recording menu, users can turn the built-in flash off or program the camera to automatically use the accessory flash if one is attached.
Overall, the amount of flash options is impressive. The coverage is spotty though, and the flash adds extra time to the shutter lag. There is a continuous flash mode that snaps three pictures in about three seconds using the flash – but the flash is less powerful so users would have to be close to their quickly moving subjects.
The P5000 has a Zoom-Nikkor 3.5x optical zoom lens that is similar to those found on other P-series cameras. It is constructed from seven elements in six groups and measures 7.5-26.3mm, which is equivalent to 36-126mm in the 35mm format. The lens is controlled with a zoom ring that surrounds the shutter release and allows users to stop at eight different focal lengths throughout the range. The control moves the lens smoothly forward when zooming in, but it backfires a bit when zooming out.
The lens itself isn’t that long considering its performance designation as a digital camera. Other cameras with similar modes and controls have longer zoom lenses but chunkier SLR shapes too.
Conversion lenses can be purchased to extend the focal length or widen the angle. The Nikon WC-E67 and TC-E3ED lenses can be attached with the optional UR-E20 adapter ring. Users can select the attached conversion lens in the recording menu.
Unlike most other Nikon digital cameras, which have electronic vibration reduction, the Coolpix P5000, like the Coolpix S50 and S50c, has an optical VR image stabilization system that compensates for up to three shutter speed stops, according to Nikon. The system reduced blur in still images significantly. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as noticeable in the movie mode – perhaps because we often look at this feature on cameras with 10x lenses instead of 3.5x and the difference is more pronounced with longer lenses.
The optical zoom lens doesn’t function in the movie mode. The 4x digital zoom functions but it degrades the video quality exponentially.
The Zoom-Nikkor lens has maximum apertures of f/2.7-5.3, which can be manually controlled in the manual and aperture priority modes. The aperture when the lens is zoomed out is impressive since most cameras max out at f/2.8. The tiny f/5.3 aperture when zoomed in is disappointing, though, because it won’t let much light in. The image stabilization is a plus, but the limited zoom range is disappointing.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(7.75)*
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 is built from magnesium alloy, so it is lightweight and durable. It is very sturdy and smaller than its competition; the Canon PowerShot G7 is a lot thicker and heavier. The P5000 looks like other Coolpix models such as the P4 with its thick but still compact body and protruding hand grip. The front of the camera looks very much like a compact model, but the back has elements from compact and DSLR cameras. Overall, I’d say it leans more to the compact look but the hot shoe and placement of buttons make it appear more sophisticated.
**Size / Portability ***(7.0)*
Reading all the specs on the P5000, one might think that this camera would have an SLR-like shape. Not so. It is still compact, although not comfortably pocket-sized. It measures 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 inches and weighs 7.1 ounces without the card and battery, which feels like the perfect weight for this model. I could fit this camera into my pants pocket, but it was not comfortable at all and the protrusions looked very strange through denim. It surely won’t dent the ultra-slim market. This Coolpix has eyelets for the included neck strap on each side of the camera body. The P5000 will most likely require a pouch or small carrying case, and perhaps a full camera bag if users tote around the flash and lens accessories. The compact size of the Nikon P5000 is a deliberate move. It suits both DSLR owners as a backup camera and compact digital camera owners who want a more advanced model, but are not ready to purchase a DSLR.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has some great handling features for being such a compact camera. The weight feels just right for its size, and the rubber grips and contours fit in the hands nicely. Rubber material wraps around the front of the hand grip where the fingers clutch the body. On the inner portion of the hand grip on the front, there is a divot where the finger tips rest to further ease handling. On the upper back of the P5000 is a wide and comfortable rubber pad for the right thumb. While the P5000 isn’t SLR-shaped at all, it certainly has the same handling comfort.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(7.75)*
The Coolpix P5000 melds controls from traditional compact and DSLR digital cameras onto a single compact platform. Atop the camera is the somewhat small power button, but its size is not much of a hindrance because it is only accessed twice during shooting sessions. Nearby are the domed and nicely sized shutter release button and the surrounding zoom ring control. Exposure mode and control dials are also on the top of the camera. The mode dial has large and intuitive icons and text on it. The mode dial is a bit tough to turn though. The control dial is easier to rotate. Both have ribbed edges and protrude from the back for easier rotation.
The rest of the camera’s controls are located on the back. There is a set of five buttons to the left of the LCD screen. These look similar to Nikon DSLR backs, which a Nikon rep at the PMA show in March 2007 pointed out is part of their strategy to win over DSLR owners who want a compact camera to tote around. The buttons on the side are fitted into tight niches with hard contours around them. This makes the buttons harder to push and even hurts the fingers when using them frequently. The P5000’s multi-selector is on the right side of the LCD screen and looks more like a traditional compact camera component. The selector has large icons and looks cheap, but it feels fine. All of the buttons fit nicely in the camera body and are intuitively placed and labeled.
The Nikon P5000’s menu system is accessed by the Menu button. The menus appear with large text but can be changed to display as large icons within the setup menu. When I looked at the P5000 at the Photo Marketing Association trade show, the menus were quite different. Many of the items had the same options but were in a different order. And some options were strangely worded. That was a pre-production model though, and now the Nikon P5000 is on the market with an improved menu structure. Below is the recording menu.
The menus are set on a dark gray background with the selected item appearing with a yellow background. The only setting that shows a live view in the background is the white balance – and that can be set to be changed by the Function button and control dial as well as in the regular recording menu. The perk with the Function setup is that it has a larger live preview. Below is the setup menu, which has its own position on the mode dial.
The Function button can be customized to perform common camera setting tasks: ISO sensitivity, image quality, image size, white balance and vibration reduction. This allows the setting to be changed without navigating through the recording menu. Not that the recording menu is overwhelming; it’s just faster to push one button rather than push a button and scroll around with the multi-selector. Still, the multi-selector makes the menus easily navigable and large fonts make them easy to read.
Ease of Use*(7.0)*
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 is aimed at seasoned photographers, but it still caters to beginners and those who value ease of use. It accomplishes this with the inclusion of a help function that can be found by pushing the telephoto end of the zoom ring (marked with a "?" icon). When this is done in the menu, the selected option is explained. For instance, the Metering is described this way: "Choose the metering system used by the camera to calculate the correct subject exposure." Although the P5000 has manual and priority modes, it is also equipped with automatic and scene modes. The controls are properly labeled and the interface is intuitive, making it easy to use.
The auto mode automates just about everything except image size and quality. The only options that can be adjusted are located on the multi-selector: flash, exposure compensation, macro, and self-timer. The auto mode is the only green-colored position on the mode dial while all others are labeled in black. This makes it easier to find when in a hurry. The P5000’s auto mode is everything it should be: easy.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000’s movie mode is easily accessible from the mode dial. It offers auto exposure controls like exposure compensation and macro shooting. These options are easy to access from the multi-selector. Videos can be recorded at a max of 640 x 480 pixels at 30 or 15 fps. Frame rate is only adjustable at this resolution; the rest of the video resolutions operate at only 15 fps: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120.
The QuickTime movies can also be recorded in sepia or monochrome at the 320 x 240-pixel resolution. In addition, there is an interesting time lapse movie mode that snaps a string of still images and stitches them together into a video file. This allows users to set the camera on a tripod and monitor construction or other slow-moving objects and projects at set intervals without much intervention from the photographer.
The movie mode’s recording menu isn’t very extensive. It includes only video size and single and full-time auto focus mode options. The single auto focus mode is only good for subjects that don’t move anywhere – which makes an extremely boring movie. The full-time auto focus is reliable, quick, and quiet.
Mono audio is recorded with the movies, but it isn’t very good. The internal microphone didn’t pick up voices well and when it did, they weren’t very clear. On top of that, the audio picks up the constant hum of the camera, which is much louder than most cameras. At the end of movie clips, the audio cut off about a half-second before the video actually stopped – a disappointing quirk.
The optical zoom itself isn’t functional while recording movies. Only the digital zoom works and it makes subjects look like piles of colorful blocks because of the poor resolution. The stabilization system can be activated in the setup menu and helps the 3.5x optical zoom lens. Movies can be played back on the camera but not edited. The videos recorded with the Nikon P5000 are decent, but the audio isn’t that good.
**Drive / Burst Mode ***(5.75)*
The P5000’s initial specs claim a 3 fps burst mode but it didn’t shoot this fast. It shot about one frame per second and stopped to record images to the memory card after seven shots. The Continuous item in the recording menu had single, continuous, continuous flash, and interval timer settings. The continuous flash mode shot just as fast – or as slow – as the continuous mode but stopped after three images. The interval timer snaps pictures up to the capacity of the memory card in intervals of 30 seconds or 1, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. The camera powers down after each shot and then up again just before the next shot to conserve energy.
Generally the camera is slow. It takes its time processing photos after capture, reviewing in the playback mode, and even firing the flash. Unfortunately the burst mode continues this trend. The Nikon P5000 is supposed to be a good camera for enthusiasts but this slow burst mode is a huge blow to that audience.
Pictures and videos can be viewed in the playback mode, which is accessible from the central button to the left of the LCD screen. The multi-selector and control dial can be used to scroll through the images. The control dial is much more comfortable as there is less repetitive stress on the thumb. Viewing individual pictures quickly isn’t flawless. When an image first appears, it takes about a quarter-second to fully load with good resolution. The picture appears fuzzy at first, then with better resolution.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 also allows pictures to be viewed as index screens of nine pictures at a time. The shooting info can be hidden or viewed with a push of the Display button. There are some editing features, although there isn’t any editing available for videos. All of the playback mode’s features are laid out in the playback menu, which is as follows.
This isn’t an elaborate list of options in the playback menu - many cameras offer color modes or at least cropping. The D-Lighting feature worked well, and it provided a before and after image and an option to cancel. It brightened up underexposed images very well and is perfect for consumers who don’t have time to fix pictures in software and need to directly print photos from the camera.
Overall, the playback mode isn’t extensive, but the high-resolution LCD screen has wide viewing angles that still provides a nice medium for displaying pictures.
Custom Image Presets*(7.5)*
The P5000’s scene modes are as follows: Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Back Light, Panorama Assist, Dawn/Dusk, and Close Up are found in the "SCN" position of the mode dial. Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, and Sports are also there. On previous models, these four scene modes offered framing assists but those are not available on the P5000.
Nikon’s face-priority auto focus mode has been placed in several locations on the past few Coolpix digital cameras. It used to be grouped with the red-eye fix and D-lighting functions on a special technology suite button. It had a stint in the menu too. On the Coolpix P5000, though, it resides in the scene mode menu.
The Face Priority AF hasn’t been updated since it was released, and it is still too slow to effectively recognize faces and when it does see one, it overlays a big scary yellow smiley face and makes it hard to see the real face. It doesn’t track well and looks worse compared to newer face recognition technology now available on Canon, Fujifilm, and Samsung digital cameras.
There are two preset modes located on the mode dial: High ISO and Anti-Shake. Both use high ISO sensitivities, although they are designed for different uses. The High ISO mode is meant to be used in low light and the Anti-Shake mode is meant to be used when the camera is zoomed in or the flash is turned off. Both were effective at reducing blur but also showed more noise and less fine details in images.
Manual Control Options
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has manual and priority modes and some manual controls can be changed with the control dial and multi-selector. Read on for more details on the P5000’s manual controls.
***Auto Focus (6.75)
*The Nikon Coolpix P5000 is marketed as a performance digital camera for serious photographers, so its auto focus system should be snappy. But the camera lacks in this area. It took a long time to focus and process just about everything, so shutter lag was an issue.
The specs indicate that the lens can focus from 1.6 inches in the macro mode and 1 foot normally. The camera has Auto, Manual, and Center auto focus area modes. The manual mode has 99 focus areas around the frame and the multi-selector can move the point of focus around.
The P5000 has an orange auto focus assist lamp that can be turned on and off in the setup menu. There is also a Best Shot Selector (BSS) in the recording menu that snaps a string of photos and selects only the sharpest focused one to save.
There is a Face Priority Auto Focus mode, but it is positioned as its own scene mode on this camera. It didn’t work very well at all. It takes a few seconds for the camera to recognize a face and still doesn’t get it right all the time.
Users can choose between single and full-time auto focus control. The full-time control makes odd clicking noises while shooting still images but performs much quieter and more effectively in the movie mode.
Overall, the camera’s auto focus isn’t very quick and thus not impressive. It does offer a Face Priority AF setting, though it is slow and outdated. This is another disappointing feature on the Nikon Coolpix P5000.
Manual focus is not available on the Nikon Coolpix P5000. This is a little strange for a camera targeted to enthusiasts, but manual focus modes found on compact digital cameras never have an interface desirable enough for these consumers anyway.
In the recording menu, users can scroll between a wide range of ISO sensitivity settings: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 2000 and 3200 settings can be found, with the top ISO setting operating only when the image size is set to 5 megapixels. When the camera first debuted at the Photo Marketing Association Show in March 2007, it did not have an ISO 2000 setting. By production time it was added though, and it functions at full resolution.
The automatic ISO mode has a somewhat wide range of 64-800, which doesn’t cover all the bases of the manual settings but is still more than the average camera’s automatic ISO range of 80-400. The High Sensitivity and Anti-Shake scene modes both use an ISO 1600 setting to reduce blur in still images.
There are only seven white balance options in the recording menu. They can be scrolled through there or set to the Function button so they can be changed with the control dial. Auto, Preset (custom), Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Flash can be found. This list isn’t very extensive at all; some cameras have three fluorescent preset modes and a shade mode. However, the inclusion of a custom setting is key since it can adjust to any lighting situation.
The P5000’s shutter speeds and apertures can be changed. Like other digital cameras, there is also an exposure compensation scale of +/- 2 in steps of 1/3. This gives the Nikon P5000 a total exposure range of -1 to +17.5 EV according to Nikon. A live histogram can be viewed while shooting and in the playback mode, so the exposure can be monitored even in harsh lighting. In the playback mode, users can activate Nikon’s D-Lighting to automatically brighten underexposed images.
The Coolpix P5000 has a 256-zone metering system with evaluative, center-weighted, and spot modes. These are typical, but the camera also has a spot auto focus mode that syncs with a selected auto focus point rather than sticking to the center like the standard spot metering mode. The metering modes are found in the recording menu.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has shutter speeds ranging from 8-1/2000th of a second that can be changed in the manual and shutter priority modes. This seems a little short for adventurous photographers who want to creative with long exposures.
The most aperture choices are available when the 3.5x optical zoom lens is zoomed out: f/2.7, 3.3, 3.4, 3.8, 4.3, 4.8, 5.4, 6.1, 6.8, and 7.6. The maximum aperture is quite large and lets in a lot of light. The light wanes in the telephoto end of the zoom range though: f/5.3, 5.8, 6.5, and 7.3. Users can select a specific aperture in the manual and aperture priority modes.
Picture Quality / Size Options***(7.5)*
The 10-megapixel CCD measures 1/1.8 inches, which is a typical size for that amount of resolution. Nikon’s website claims that the P5000 can print pictures up to 20 x 30 inches; check the performance section of this review to see how the 10-megapixel resolution really pans out in prints. Images can be captured as JPEG files in the following resolutions: 3648 x 2736, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, and 640 x 480. There is also a 3:2-formatted option that snaps 3648 x 2432 pixels and a widescreen-optimized resolution of 3584 x 2016 pixels. Pictures can be resized in the playback menu to 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels: these make transferring and e-mailing a faster process. Of note is the ISO 3200 setting that trims the image size to 5 megapixels when in use. All other modes and settings can operate in full resolution though. Many serious photographers considering this camera may wonder if the P5000 can shoot in RAW format. No, it can not and it’s an unfortunate omission.
**Picture Effects Mode ***(7.5)*
The P5000 has a handful of picture effects grouped under the Optimize Image portion of the recording menu. Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, Custom, and Black-and-White settings are available. However, the lack of a live preview makes it difficult to choose a proper setting because it’s hard to how the final image will look. The custom image option allows users to change the sharpness, saturation, and contrast all with auto or +/- 2 scales in full steps.
Connectivity / Extras
*The Nikon Coolpix P5000 comes with a CD-ROM in the box with PictureProject organizational and editing software on it. The PictureProject software allows users to import and browse photos and videos via a simple interface. Users can view pictures in three different styles typical of this type of software: thumbnails, preview, and details modes.
Pictures and QuickTime video can be viewed. Images are rotated and cropped while browsing, and red-eye can be removed in this way as well. Other editing features are accessible from the Edit portion of the program. The rest of the editing tools are in the Edit menu and are: Brightness, D-Lighting HS, Color Booster, Photo Effects, Sharpening, and Straighten. This isn’t much. In fact, there are more picture effects on the camera than there are in the software: only black-and-white and sepia can be found.
Users can print and e-mail from the program and even make Pictmotion slide show movies, although there is a lot of processing time involved with the latter option. There is a help function that demystifies any settings but the software is easy enough to use without it.
*Jacks, ports, plugs (6.5)
*The P5000 has two rubber covers on the right side of the camera. The larger one covers the USB/AV jack, and the smaller one covers the power adapter port. These are well-sealed against the elements. In the setup menu, the AV function can be set to NTSC or PAL standards so pictures and video can be played anywhere in the world. The USB can be set to MTP/PTP or Mass Storage, and can be set to automatically transfer pictures when connected to a device. The power adapter is optional and fits into the battery compartment through the tiny rubber cover.
Direct Print Options (5.5)
The Nikon P5000 is DPOF compliant and can create orders through the playback menu. The second option on the list is Print Set, which allows users to scroll through lots of pictures and make selections for the final order. Each picture can be set to print from 0-9 prints. The P5000 can be directly connected to a printer with its PictBridge compatible USB port and cable.
*A rechargeable lithium-ion EN-EL5 battery comes with the P5000. It doesn’t get a lot of mileage with only 250 shots per charge. This is a bit disappointing for a camera that flaunts its performance ability as its best feature. This is a flaw found on the Canon PowerShot G7 too: its battery gets 220 shots per charge. The P5000’s battery weighs 1.1 ounces and carries 3.7V, 1100mAh of charge. The skinny battery fits into a compartment on the bottom of the camera and locks into place with a tiny plastic lever. The compartment’s door is constructed of very flimsy plastic; it is so flimsy that you can bend it. This is disappointing: even kids’ toys are more durable! The P5000 comes with a battery charger in the package and a cord that connects it to the wall. It takes about two hours for a completely exhausted battery to recharge.
The Nikon P5000 has 21MB of internal memory, which can hold only 4 pictures at the top resolution and finest compression. Changing the compression to Normal significantly increases the amount of memory available though: the internal memory can hold nine 10-megapixel pictures with the normal compression. Users will want to purchase an SD or SDHC memory card to take more pictures and record larger videos. The Nikon Coolpix P5000 doesn’t accept MMC media. In the playback menu, users can move pictures and videos from the internal memory to the memory card and vice versa. One of the Nikon P5000’s selling points is that it can be a compact digital camera for someone who already owns Nikon DSLR equipment. Most DSLRs save pictures to CompactFlash memory though, so SD memory may have to be an additional purchase for this set.
**Other features ***(3.5)*
Audio Voice Recording – Grouped with the scene modes is a voice recording mode that has nothing to do with snapping pictures. Instead, it can record up to 5 hours with the built-in microphone and play it back with the built-in speaker. This doesn’t do well for lectures in large halls; it does best when the speaker is within about 5 feet.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has a retail tag of $399 but can be found almost everywhere online for under $349. This is a great deal for a 10-megapixel digital camera that is equipped with a hot shoe and a vast number of exposure modes. There isn’t a ton of competition in the high-end compact market anymore because DSLRs are getting cheaper and cheaper, and so are general compacts – leaving a big hole in the middle. Filling that hole are cameras like the Canon PowerShot G7, which offers features like 10 megapixels, image stabilization, and face recognition. Sound familiar? The G7 may have similar specs to the Nikon P5000, but it costs a lot more. It started at a retail price of $599 and is now offered for $499 only a few months after its release.
Unfortunately, image quality also minimizes the value of the P5000. The camera displayed very average performance across the board, with moderate color accuracy, limited dynamic range, and an average handling of noise at best. Also, consumers should consider the associated costs with this camera. It has only a 3.5x optical zoom lens, so the telephoto conversion lens may be desirable. A more powerful flash unit is also additional. The Nikon P5000 isn’t a budget camera, but is still an affordable fit for consumers who already own Nikon gear.
Nikon D40 – At the bottom of Nikon’s DSLR lineup is the D40, which is one of the most compact DSLRs on the market and weighs a mere 16 ounces. It has 6.1 megapixels and the same host of manual and automatic modes that is available on the Coolpix P5000. The D40 appeals to consumers who print at home via the PictBridge connection. The camera is stocked with editing features like red-eye correction, trimming, filters, and color balancing. The Nikon D40 has a more powerful 520-shot battery, but skimps on its 3-area auto focus system and 2.5 fps burst mode. Both the D40 and P5000 have 2.5-inch LCD screens with the same 230,000-pixel resolution and 170-degree viewing angle. The D40 has a nicer built-in flash along with a hot shoe. It retails for $599 and includes an 18-55mm kit lens.
Canon PowerShot G7* – This high-end compact digital camera targets the same audience as the Coolpix P5000: enthusiasts who want great pictures from a camera that’s easier to carry around than a DSLR. The G7 is thicker than the P5000 and weighs a lot more too. Both cameras have hot shoes for flash units and are compatible with conversion lenses. They flaunt high ISO sensitivity although the G7 only goes up to 1600. The 10-megapixel Canon G7 has a longer 6x optical zoom lens with an image stabilization system that is very effective at eliminating blur from pictures and bumps from videos. The G7 has 25 exposure modes covering everything from fully manual to fully automatic, and there is a host of picture effects available. The Canon PowerShot G7 has superior face recognition technology that works much faster and more effectively than Nikon’s face priority auto focus system. At $499, it costs a bit more though.
Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 – If you’ve read this far and you’re thinking the Nikon P5000 sounds a bit too intense for you, the Casio Z1000 is a much lighter alternative. It has 10 megapixels squashed into a much thinner 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9-inch body. It is trendier with its satin metal sheen and flat surfaces but it’s harder to handle. The camera has tiny control buttons, lengthy menus, and no manual exposure modes. It does not have an optical viewfinder but has a larger 2.8-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels. The built-in flash is effective to about 12 feet, which is nothing compared to what the Nikon can do. The 3x optical zoom lens is a little shorter and it locks in the movie mode just as the P5000’s does. The Casio Z1000’s movies record at the same VGA resolution but at 25 fps with worse audio than the P5000. Surprisingly, the Z1000’s burst mode is faster at 3 fps and this model even has a Rapid Flash mode similar to the one on the P5000 – except it is faster. The Exilim has 35 preset scene modes and a voice recording mode. It records to SD media like the P5000. It originally retailed for $399 but is now sold for under $250.
Who It’s For
Point-and-Shooters – The P5000 is designed for point-and-shooters that have grown bored of previous compact cameras. It is the step between compact point-and-shoots and DSLRs and comes with automatic, scene, and priority modes to make the transition easier. It isn’t a first-timer’s camera though.
*Budget Consumers *– The Coolpix P5000 is cheaper than much of its immediate competition. The Canon G7 costs a hundred dollars more at $499 and has 10 megapixels and many of the same features.
Gadget Freaks – There might be an initial spark of interest with the time lapse movie mode, but there isn’t much else to hold the attention of these consumers.
*Manual Control Freaks *– Full manual control is available on the Nikon P5000 and its interface is the closest to a DSLR’s available on a compact camera. There is a function button and a control dial that adjusts the manual exposure settings. Manual control freaks should appreciate this.
Pros/Serious Hobbyists – The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has a hot shoe and is designed to work with Nikon Speedlight flash units. This could make the P5000 an attractive backup camera or a good vacation camera because of its compact yet flexible nature.
The preproduction model we first looked at was riddled with silly issues like incomplete and errant menus and missing features. There were lots of problems that we hoped would disappear on the final production model – and only some of those hopes panned out.
The 10-megapixel Nikon Coolpix P5000 filled in the missing features and menus but not with things that will attract true enthusiasts. Here is the problem. The camera is marketed for people who already own Nikon DSLRs and Speedlight flashes and who don’t want to haul 20 pounds of camera equipment to every birthday party they attend. Unfortunately, the P5000 really caters more to consumers who are moving up the digital camera food chain rather than down.
What I mean is this: the P5000 is stocked with picture effects and has no RAW file format. It has a trendy face recognition system, but it hardly functions and the auto focus system is quite slow. The P5000 can record movies, but the optical zoom is locked in this mode and the audio is cut off before the movie clip actually ends.
DSLR owners don’t care for picture effects and face recognition as much as they do for a good burst mode and a solid auto focus system – the P5000 has neither of these. The burst mode stutters and the auto focus adds lag time to an already slow camera. The P5000’s constant humming noise coupled with slow processing when viewing pictures makes it seem that the camera is working really hard.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 is meant to bridge the gap between compact digital cameras and DSLRs, but it is definitely weighted towards compact models.
*Click on the thumbnails below to view the full resolution images.
Specs / Ratings
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