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Conclusion - Pros

  • Very compact and pocketable
  • Excellent handling for a small camera
  • Solid build and excellent fit / finish
  • Good resolution and edge-to-edge consistency
  • Realistic natural color, subtle processing
  • Excellent range of manual exposure controls
  • Extensive system support for a compact - optional add-on lenses and flashguns
  • iTTL flash hot shoe
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Excellent output quality at lower ISO settings - subtle NR means more fine detail preserved
  • Best Shot Selector
  • Command dial and custom function button make for fast, simple control of exposure controls.
  • Easy to use - works well in 'point and shoot' auto mode
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Comprehensive range of image parameters
  • Very little purple fringing and well controlled distortion
  • In-Camera Red-Eye Fix works, but is slow
  • D-Lighting function
  • Excellent flash performance
  • Very keen pricing

Conclusion - Cons

  • Very slow focus and slightly sluggish performance overall
  • Unimpressive burst mode
  • Default settings produce images that are a bit soft and a bit flat - may or may not be a problem depending on your point of view
  • Screen can be difficult to see in bright light, occasional blooming of preview image
  • Finest quality JPEG is still quite heavily compressed, still no raw mode
  • Some aspects of the user interface still feel clunky
  • Lens range (36-126mm) not the most versatile - would be nice if it started wider
  • ISO 400+ noisy, ISO 3200 totally pointless
  • Sound cuts out before the end of movie clips
  • No live histogram

Overall conclusion

Unlike Canon, whose PowerShot G7 is a real 'statement' camera that has undisguised aspirations to be a genuine SLR replacement, Nikon has taken a much more cautious step towards a truly serious high end compact with it's new flagship model.

The P5000 - Nikon's first such camera since the days when you could charge the best part of a thousand dollars for a well-specified compact - is a considerably less ambitious product than the G7; it reminded me of a Coolpix 7900 with added bells and whistles, and it's not as big a leap forward from the P3/P4 as it first appears, physical design aside.

So is this a bad thing? Not at all; the P5000 offers pretty much everything the Canon G7 does - with SLR-like levels of control - in a package that is truly pocketable. This puts it, essentially, in a class of its own, and this is why the promise of Nikon quality and full photographic control in such a small package caused such excitement when the P5000 was announced earlier this year. I remember thinking myself that this looked like exactly what I'd been looking for as a 'carry anywhere' compact that gave me back the controls I missed with most pocket cameras.

As to whether it delivers on that promise depends on how - and what - you take pictures of. This is because the P5000, in common with most recent Coolpix models, has a serious issue with focus speed that makes it totally unsuitable for use in situations where quick reactions are essential. If you're taking landscapes you can live with waiting a second (or two if you're unlucky) for the camera to focus and take the picture, but snapping restless children (or in fact anything moving) is frustrating and ultimately a hit 'n' miss affair.

This is all the more infuriating because the P5000 is otherwise such an impressive little camera; it's got an extensive and useful range of features and an easily mastered control system that doesn't have you scrolling through menus to change the aperture, is expandable via add-on lenses and flashguns and is, if you know what you're doing, capable of superb results. And it does all this in a compact lightweight body that makes the Canon G7 look like a house brick - and at a price that means you can still feed the kids at the end of the month.

And so, in conclusion, the P5000 is a product that - like so many we look at - has an achilles heel that we feel is important enough to reduce its rating, because it has a serious effect on the overall usability of an otherwise excellent camera. Put simply it feels sluggish in use and has focus speeds that would have been considered 'average' 5 years ago. For many users it won't be a serious issue, but if you've got used to the focus speeds of the best cameras in this class (some of which focus 2 or even 3 times faster) it's irritating, to say the least, to miss shots because the focus takes too long. I found myself pre-focusing for virtually every shot to avoid the delay.

Weighed up against the many positives the sluggish focus has to be put into context; only you will know if the kind of pictures you take are going to be affected by an extra half second or so delay, and I can't stress enough that there is an awful lot to like about the P5000. For this reason it just about earns our recommendation, even if it's a recommendation that comes with an important qualification: 'if you don't need fast focus'.

  • Ideal for: Landscapes, learning about photography, use with external flash, traveling
  • Not ideal for: Shooting anything fast, point and shoot social snapping in low light
Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.0
Ergonomics & handling 7.5
Features 8.0
Image quality 7.5
Optics 8.0
Performance (speed) 6.5
Value 8.5

Recommended

Highly Recommended

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