Nikon COOLPIX P5100
- Sharp pictures, good colour balance, nice design
- Has trouble handling high contrast, some haloing and fringing issues, sluggish burst mode
Nikon's P5100 is a solid advanced camera and while it has a few issues, most notable is the difficulty in high contrast shooting scenarios and a very slow burst mode, it provides an adequate option for users after manual functionality in a sturdy and slim body.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Sitting at the top of the COOLPIX line up, Nikon's refresh of the P5000, the P5100, comes just six months after its predecessor. Packing in a 12.1-megapixel sensor along with manual controls into a relatively slim, compact body, makes this unit a good choice for users looking for SLR style functionality in a point-and-shoot form factor.
One particularly appealing element of the P5100 is its design. While many Nikon compacts feel a little cheap and plasticky for our liking, the P5100 is solid as a rock. Built from magnesium alloy it is sturdy and sits perfectly in the hand. The boxy, black look and rubber grip give it a slightly retro feel which should appeal to users familiar with film cameras. We liked the large and obvious scroll wheel too, which makes adjusting the settings a breeze. The rest of the controls are a standard affair and shouldn't trouble anyone. The LCD screen was quite nice with a clear and smooth picture; however, it does suffer quite a bit in bright light. Fortunately there is a viewfinder included which is becoming quite rare these days.
Image quality is a mixed bag, with the P5100 performing very well in some areas but suffering in others. On the whole, image clarity was excellent with the 12.1-megapixel sensor resolving great levels of detail. There was no blurring with sharp, crisp edges even in tough shooting scenarios such as a rainy day. There was a fair amount of chromatic aberration evident in our indoor test shots though with strong haloing visible in high contrast areas. Purple fringing was also noticeable outdoors but this is fairly commonplace.
Colour balance was fairly accurate with a nice soft tone. Nothing was too strongly saturated and skin tones in particular came out nicely. Some users may want to adjust the colour settings a little if they're used to the more vivid tones produced by other consumer cameras.
Noise performance was standard with minimal speckling evident up to ISO 200. At ISO 400 it becomes a little more obvious but is still fine for most print sizes. Even ISO 800 will probably be alright for 4x6in snaps, but ISO 1600 and above are totally unusable.
The disappointing area of the P5100's pictures is how it handles exposure. Our outdoor shots were routinely overexposed in certain places, with massive blowing out of highlights. Similarly, low light shots were generally handled poorly, with minimal detail evident in dark areas. If you're regularly shooting in standard indoor lighting situations or are happy trying to compensate for these issues using the manual controls then perhaps this won't be an issue, but we found it quite problematic.
In our speed tests the camera performed adequately if not outstandingly. It exhibited 0.09 seconds of shutter lag, 2.7 seconds startup time and 2.2 seconds shot-to-shot time all of which are fairly standard. The burst mode, however, was disappointing capturing a pathetic one frame per second.
The rest of the feature set is fairly good with a full array of manual modes (shutter, aperture, manual and program). Vibration reduction is present to help eliminate handshake but it definitely isn't as effective as the optical image stabilisation present on competing models. Face detect is included along with the usual array of focus and metering modes and Nikon's own Best Shot Selector, which takes a photo at a number of different settings and lets you pick the best.
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