Nikon Coolpix P5100 Brief Review


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  • Supplied -USB cable UC-E6, A/V cable EG-CP14, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5, Battery Charger MH-61, Strap AN-CP16, COOLPIX Software Suite CD-ROM
  • 12.1 Megapixels for large photos and prints (max 20 x 30 inches)
  • Image resolution - 4000 x 3000 (standard), 3968 x 2232 (widescreen)
  • 3.5x Optical Zoom-Nikkor Glass Lens (35mm equivalent - 35-123mm) / digital zoom 4x
  • VR Optical Image Stabilization minimizes the effect of camera shake
  • Release Date: 2007-10-20
  • Final Grade: 79 3.95 Star Rating: Recommended

Nikon Coolpix P5100 Digital Camera Review
The Nikon P5100 is a sleek, well-designed camera, but despite its pleasant first impressions, it ultimately disappoints.
By Digital Admin, Last updated on: 8/21/2014

The Nikon P5100 offers a variety of control options for the novice to advanced user who's looking for a go-anywhere camera. Sleekly designed, with a comfortable grip and a durable magnesium body in a cool black finish, this camera sure looks nice; but the question is whether or not its performance lives up to its appearance. My conclusion? When it comes to digital camera performance, timing can be everything, and the sluggish and slow functioning of the P5100 spoils what would have otherwise been an extremely successful point and shoot.

Don't get me wrong. There are things about the P5100 that I loved as soon as I took it out of the box. Compact and easy to hold, it's got a nice solid feel and a reasonable layout that makes sense. I didn't need the manual to instantly start browsing my way through the controls. For the most part, like other Coolpix models, it feels (and is) intuitively designed and user-friendly.

It's also packed with a variety of features that are sure to impress users who want a bit more from their camera. 12 megapixel resolution, 3200 ISO, lens-shift Vibration Reduction, a viewfinder, and a good amount of manual control are all impressive features that should have put this camera above the "average" curve in its price bracket. Unfortunately, the pleasure ends as soon as you start to shoot. I'm just as surprised as you probably are.

When I first turned on the P5100, I set it to Auto mode and aimed it at a chair about four feet away from me. Plenty of sunshine in the room, and well within focus range, I pushed the shutter button, and… nothing happened.

Well, something happened, but it didn't involve a photo being taken. Instead, the lens made a whirring noise and the auto focus bracket started to hunt. And hunt. No photo. I tried again, pushing halfway to lock focus, and still nothing. I thought at first that I was doing something wrong, but this wasn't a user error; it was just a lack of responsiveness and capability in the auto focus. I did eventually get it to lock focus, but even that process was a slow one; it took about a second from the time I pushed the button to the time the focus was able to lock.

Keep in mind that this was in a brightly-lit room; the problem only worsens in low light situations. My first thought was that this camera would be wholly inappropriate for any sort of moving subject, particularly a fast-moving one. I decided to test my own theory, and let's just say I got a lot of pictures of the back end of my cat (who doesn't, incidentally, qualify as a "fast moving" subject in anyone's book).

Auto focus isn't the only area where the camera's speed was a disappointment. Recovery time between photos is slow, even for well-lit, non-flash shots. Basic indoor low-light shots cause the screen to black out for several seconds, similar to the way many cameras act in "night shot" mode. In other words, I've shot photos in complete darkness where the camera took as long to recover as the P5100 takes to recover in a lamp-lit room.

Even the buttons and menus are sluggish; pushing, for example, the Playback button results in a moment of wait time before your photos come up, and even then each photo takes a moment to work its way into focus on the screen before you're allowed to scroll past it. Maneuvering the menus on this camera reminded me of what it was like when I had my last computer virus; you find yourself holding your breath and pushing buttons carefully, trying not to go faster than your equipment can handle.
Considering how prepared I was to like the P5100, its performance was a true letdown. There are so many good things about this camera. Color reproduction, if slightly bland, is nice (it can also be punched up beautifully by changing the camera to the "Vivid" setting under Image Optimization). High ISOs perform better than I expected, as does the Vibration Reduction; (unfortunately, most low-light shots were ruined nonetheless due to the fact that I'd always end up moving the camera before the image was done shooting because it took so long to respond and recover).

The manual control options are fun to use and offer a good dose of creative control. The Macro function works beautifully and is a lot more successful than that of many other cameras I've used. The variety of Scene modes and options offered by the P5100 should have come together to make it into a truly outstanding camera. Unfortunately, the sluggish and quirky performance keeps me from getting behind this one. I expected better from Nikon.

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Nikon has long been one of the top manufacturers in the industry, and their products are still solid options today. The camera giant is continuously releasing new products with enhancements in image quality and performance.

It's hard to go wrong with a Nikon DSLR. With a different model available for every skill level from beginner to professional, Nikon's DSLR's have always been top notch. Their latest DSLRs have seen improved noise reduction, enhanced video quality and upgraded designs over cameras from just a few years ago.

Nikon made an interesting move in the realm of mirrorless cameras—instead of pushing for bigger sensors, Nikon instead has focused on speed. The Nikon 1 line cameras use a 1” sensor, which is larger than your average point-and-shoot but smaller than the Micro Four Thirds options. While the 1 line doesn't have much resolution, their cameras boast speeds upwards of 15 fps—no other mirrorless line currently comes close to that level of speed.

Nikon's compacts aren't as much of a sure thing as their DSLRs—some of their smaller cameras are quite impressive, while others are beaten out by competitors. We liked their higher end consumer point-and-shoots like the COOLPIX S6500, but be careful with their budget compacts. They offer quite a range of compact cameras, just be sure to read the reviews on the individual camera first.

Nikon offers a full range of cameras from tiny budget models to professional DSLRs. More often than not, if you go with a Nikon, you're getting a solid camera.

We here at Digital Camera HQ offer unbiased, informative reviews and recommendations to guide you to the right camera. We're not an actual store; we're just here to help you find the perfect camera at the best price possible by using our camera grades. Let us know if you have any problems or questions, we're happy to help.