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Design

Anyone who has seen or handled the Coopix 5000 will find the initial appearance of the 5400 quite familiar. Having said that there are several significant differences including the move of the AE/AF-L button to the rear of the camera, the relocation of the flash sensor (groans / cheers from Coolpix 5000 owners are allowed at this point), the removal of the status LCD, a dedicated shooting mode dial (very welcome), an improved four way controller, removal of the play/record switch (less welcome) and several other subtle control movements. Those observant among you will also note that the Coolpix 5400 follows the 5700 in having a 1.5" LCD monitor and no soft buttons below it (I don't know a single 5000 owner who liked those buttons anyway).

The appearance of the camera is professional and featured, with a sprinkling of controls around the camera body and no apologies for the occasional bulge and bump where it's required. This is a photographers tool, not a piece of fashion. The new lens happily continues the wide angle abilities of the Coolpix 5000 but extends the zoom range to 116 mm at the telephoto end. Notable is the relative shortness of the lens at wide angle and the fast telescoping.

Side by side

Below are the three cameras likely to compete against each other, all are five megapixel four times zoom; Canon PowerShot G5, Sony DSC-V1 and Nikon Coolpix 5400. Of the three the Coolpix 5400 sits squarely in the middle from a size and weight point of view, it's just over 100 g (3.5 oz) lighter than the bulky looking PowerShot G5 and just under 100 g (3.5 oz) heavier than Sony's subcompact DSC-V1. The Coolpix 5400 is the only camera here with a native (without add-on lenses) 28 mm equiv. wide angle ability.

In your hand

The Coolpix 5400 also has the best hand grip of the three cameras, it's deep, well shaped and coated in a soft, sticky rubber, this means that the camera feels more professional and steadier in your hand. The Coolpix 5400 is built from a solid (and surprisingly thick skinned) metal alloy which does make it feel more robust than the competition, it certainly feels very well put together.


LCD Monitor

The Coolpix 5400 has an 'articulating' LCD monitor which can be flipped against the body to protect it, flipped out and twisted to various angles and even folded back against the body as with a traditional LCD monitor. This design is very useful, especially for waist level shots, overhead shots, shooting on a tripod, self-portraits and macros. The monitor although the same size as the Coolpix 5400 (1.5") has higher resolution, some 134,000 pixels (one of the highest available) and an excellent anti-reflective coating which makes it easy to see in any light.


Viewfinder

The Coolpix 5400 goes back to the standard 'optical tunnel' type of viewfinder, no EVF style viewfinder as seen on the Coolpix 5700. The eyepiece view shows a center AF bracket indication and parallax correction line across the top of the frame for images taken at short subject distances. The viewfinder also has a dioptre adjustment. Unfortunately it offers just a 77% frame coverage.

The three lights beside the viewfinder indicate the following:

Red Steady Flash ready
Red Flashing slowly Flash charging
Green Steady Auto Focus good, ready to shoot
Green Flashing quickly Auto Focus can not lock
Green Flashing slowly Recording / Digital Zoom / 3:2 Recording size


Battery Compartment

In the base of the camera is the battery compartment door, held shut by a small catch. The Coolpix 5400 is powered by Nikon's now virtually standard EN-EL1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery which provides 7.4V with a capacity of 680 mAh (5.0 Wh)*. The camera can also be powered by a non-rechargeable 2CR5 Lithium battery (although I would only recommend this for emergency situations). One EN-EL1 battery and battery charger are included with the camera.

* Interestingly this 'standard' battery appears to have increased its capacity slightly since the Coolpix 5000, that EN-EL1 had a capacity of 650 mAh (0.2 Wh less).


Compact Flash Compartment

On the right side of the camera (from the rear) is the Compact Flash compartment door (it's plastic again but a little sturdier than that of the Coolpix 5000), it flips open to reveal Type I/II CF slot which is also compatible with the Type II IBM Microdrive. Interesting to note that Nikon has now orientated the slot so the front of the CF card faces you (the opposite to the Coolpix 5000).

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