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Conclusion - Pros

  • Average resolution for a compact five megapixel, good color response
  • Wide angle (28 mm equiv.) compact four times zoom lens
  • Virtually noise free ISO 50 setting, noise kept under control at higher ISO
  • Excellent Nikon Matrix metering
  • Good Image processing parameter control
  • Fine tunable white balance
  • Re-programmable FUNC button
  • Re-programmable 'My Menu' (initial record menu)
  • Very good macro performance
  • Flip-out and twist LCD monitor
  • Good range of add-on accessories
  • Great ergonomics, deep hand grip with soft rubber
  • Virtually no chromatic aberrations
  • No 'clipping of highlights' problem of previous Nikon's
  • Timed long exposures (up to 10 minutes)
  • Compact body with excellent build quality, feels robust
  • Sharp high resolution LCD with good anti-reflective coating
  • Detailed playback information (roll command dial)
  • Above average battery life


Conclusion - Cons

  • Some lens distortion, although expected considering zoom range
  • Corners of the image can occasionally appear soft
  • Average auto focus speed
  • Weird performance issues (shutter beep, record review off)
  • Poor buffering, locks camera towards end of write process
  • Slow Compact Flash write speed / processing
  • Very long write times for 'Continuous Low' bursts
  • No AF assist lamp, poor low light AF
  • Loss of record / play switch, no quick play mode
  • Strap eyelet made hand grip uncomfortable
  • Manual focus mode has no distance readout
  • Histogram still not implemented in record review mode
  • No support for external Speedlight features such as AF assist or flash zoom
  • Connectors sprinkled around body rather than located in one place
  • Inelegant down-sampling of lower resolution images
  • No RAW mode yet


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Nikon Coolpix 5400: (5 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 9
Image quality 8
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 8
Value for money 8

The Coolpix 5400 is a worthy successor to the 5000. It does away with many of the image quality complaints aimed at that camera, maintains the 28 mm wide angle zoom and adds a little more telephoto with the four times optical zoom lens. Features wise the Coolpix 5400 is very strong, there's almost everything here that the seasoned shutterbug could require and on top of that it's easy enough to hand to a complete novice (in Auto mode).

Build quality and ergonomics are excellent, the 5400 just feels very solid and reliable, its metal case is certainly made from a thicker grade than the Canon PowerShot G5 and Sony DSC-V1 we were reviewing in parallel.

Image quality was good to very good, images weren't quite a sharp or detailed as the G5 nor were they quite as consistent, some 5400 had a little corner softness which we couldn't quite isolate. Nikon's superb Matrix metering nailed the correct exposure time after time, always using the full spread of dynamic range and not underexposing in an attempt to maintain highlights (as some cameras tend to).

At this stage of my conclusion I would be fully prepared to give the 5400 a Highly Recommended rating, however there are two issues which are holding me back from giving that accolade. The first is performance, the 5400 simply doesn't operate as smoothly or as quickly as other digital cameras, its buffering is poorly implemented and write times are slow, AF isn't any better than previous Coolpix digital cameras, and we really had expected some progress. The biggest performance concern is the 'dead time' at the end of an image write where the camera becomes totally unresponsive, even to the shutter release button.

The second issue is price, Sony have done such an excellent job with the much smaller and lighter (yet just as capable) DSC-V1 that its $100 lower price is my primary reason for giving the 5400 just 8 out of 10 for value for money. Your mileage of course may vary, and many people will be simply bowled over by the 5400's wide range of features and excellent 28 mm wide angle zoom lens, it is a unique selling point...

Recommended

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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