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Design and Handling

The P50 is a very traditional-looking compact camera. Whether you consider it to be utilitarian and functional or just a bit unimaginative will depend on your own perspective but it's a perfectly sensible shape for a camera to be. The use of materials is pretty good, though - they're not quite as impressive as the plastics used on the P5100 (which look and feel just like the magnesium alloy body panel on the same camera), but the combination of slightly textured plastic and rubber hand grip are above average for a camera of this price. It'll certainly do well in the all-important 'pick it up in a camera shop' test.

Handling

The P50 is a very pleasant little camera to hold. There's a well positioned dimpled thumb grip on the back and a comfortable, grippy rubber grip at the front. Even people with the largest hands should be able to get a solid grip on the P50.

Key body elements

The mode dial gives direct access to three scene modes and a further option to reach the others. Don't let the little 'M' fool you though - It offers very little control. This is very much a 'point and shoot', not a camera to learn about manual exposure control.

It is also easily knocked when the camera is in a bag or pocket. Get used to the message: "Warning! Mode dial is not in the proper position."

The P50 has a 2.4inch, 115,000 pixel screen. This is pretty low resolution by contemporary standards but is about what you'd expect to find on such an inexpensive camera.
There is an optical viewfinder on the P50, but it's pretty much useless. It shows 75% the width and 75% of the height of the frame - so it gives a good impression of what will appear in the top-right-hand 56% of the final shot's area. This isn't unusual for the optical viewfinders on compacts cameras. They are essentially pointless in the majority of situations, though they can get you out of a stick if the sun is so bright you can't see the screen.
The Nikon has a lens that goes to a very useful 28mm equivalent at the wide-angle end of things. The 105mm equivalent long end of the zoom, with its f/5.6 maximum aperture is less exciting, however.
The P50 uses SD standard memory and takes two AA batteries. These add convenience but expect slow flash-recycle times with NiMH and paltry battery life with alkalines. Again, it keeps the purchase price of the camera down.

Controls & Menus

Unsurprisingly, the P50 uses a very similar interface to the one that appears on the higher-resolution P5100. However, without the P5100's control wheel, many of the interface's quirks and inconsistencies pretty much disappear, making the P50 rather more pleasant to use.

In a tried-and-tested manner, the P50 gives you a choice of view during record mode. You can just choose to view the recording mode and the focus area, or you can add the shutter speed and aperture values... ...or see the full shooting details, including shots remaining, image size, image quality and sensitivity settings. What you can't do is add composition gridlines - an unusual and disappointing omission (The P5100 has them).
The shooting menu contains the 11 options you're most likely to want access to. They're well selected but spread out over three pages, so require a lot of scrolling... ...or they can be displayed as a grid of icons. Once you've learned what each symbol means, it's a quick and simple way to access the commonly changed settings.
The setup menu is accessed from a dial setting on the top of the camera and allows the underlying, less regularly changed settings to be altered, including the menu/icon option. Adjusting the White Balance suddenly offers a view of the image being shot - allowing you to preview the effect of the change you're about to make. It's a nice touch.
Many menus options have a '?' icon at the bottom left of the screen. Pressing to zoom in brings up a brief, usually useful explanation of what the option does. Rather than having to connect the camera to a computer to retrieve images from the internal memory (which fits around 8 full sized images), the camera lets you copy them off to a memory card.
Like all good modern point and shoots, the P50 has a lot of scene modes. It gets the balance about right between having a useful mode for the situation you're in and having so many that you can't remember them all and never use them. The P50 has what seems a good selection of movie modes but, as we'll come to later, anyone wanting to use them may find themselves feeling a little let down.
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