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Photographic tests

White balance

The P50 has five white balance presets (Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy and Flash), in addition to an Auto mode and the ability to manually measure a preset.

Auto White Balance Fluo Preset Auto White Balance Incandescent preset
Fluorescent light - Auto white balance poor,
Preset white balance average
Incandescent light - Auto white balance average, Preset white balance poor

Flash

The P50's built-in flash has a quoted working range of 0.5m - 5.9m (1.0 - 11ft) at the wide end of the zoom and 0.5m - 2.8m (1.0 - 9. ft) at the tele end, which is about what you'd expect. And these figures are for Auto ISO mode, so the range will be reduced still further if you limit ISO down to its better settings.

The flash does also have a slow-sync function that uses a longer shutter speed to let in more background light. There is also a rear-curtain sync mode that fires at the end of the exposure and all these options allow exposure compensation - giving an excellent degree of control over the flash behavior. Our only complaint - common to all cameras powered by two AA batteries - is the recycle time. When shooting at anything other than the wide end of the lens / short distances, the flash can easily take 10 seconds to refresh between shots.

Skin tone -
Good color and exposure
Test chart
Slight warm tone, slight underexposure.

Macro

The P50 is happy to focus as close as 5cm at the wide angle end of the lens, though this rapidly rises to around 35cm at the telephoto end. At 5cm away from the subject, the P50 captures a 61x46mm area, which is pretty average. The results are distinctly distorted geometrically and are distinctly soft away from the center of the image. At the long end of the zoom it's only possible to capture an image of an 141x106mm area. The distortion isn't so prevalent but the soft corners are still there and it's not really terribly close-up by this stage.

Movie mode

The P50 has a wealth of movie modes, offering 640x480 pixels at 30 or 25fps as well as 320x240 and 160x120 at the slower rate. Sepia or black and white movies are possible at 320x240 and a time-lapse movie mode allows 640x480 frames to be strung together at 30fps.

Overall quality is very good, with movies running smoothly and showing few compression artifacts. The AVI files are average in size - at the best quality setting (640x480 / 30fps) you're burning around 1.1MB every second. However, they still exhibit what is becoming a familiar Nikon quirk - the sound cuts out around a second before the video stops. The lack of optical image stabilization also puts the P50 at something of a disadvantage compared to its peers.

The optical zoom locks in position once you're pressed the record button, but you can continue to use digital zoom throughout.

Sample movie: 640 x 480 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 9.6 MB, 5 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

Resolution

As we'd expect from Nikon resolution is pretty good and, aside from a little moiré the output is very clean (if a little on the soft side, no surprise as this is something of a Nikon trademark too). The output may lack the immediate 'punch' of some of its competitors, but the low sharpening means that it is better suited to post-processing.

Crops

Click here for the full resolution test chart

Horizontal LPH

Absolute resolution 1650 LPH
Extinction resolution 2000 LPH

 

Vertical LPH

Absolute resolution 1700 LPH
Extinction resolution 2000 LPH

 

Distortion and other image quality issues

Not helped by its wideangle lens (always a challenge for lens designers), the P50 exhibits a lot of distortion at the wide end of the zoom with the 1.1% barrel distortion clearly visible (click here for test chart). The less challenging telephoto end of things is much better, showing 0.3% pincushion distortion (click here for test chart).

General comments

One of the things Nikon should be applauded for in the P50 is its metering which is generally very reliable - this isn't a camera that will cause you to play around with exposure compensation very often. It does a good job in all but the most high contrast situations.

Softness and noise reduction

The P50 that we tested has a lens that appears distinctly soft down the left-hand side, suggesting it could be slightly misaligned. The unfortunate effect of this is that the camera's processing seems to be identifying the area as an out-of-focus region and is allowing noise reduction to run riot, even at the lowest ISO settings.

100% crop 28mm equiv., F2.8
100% crop 28mm equiv., F5.6 (F2.8 with ND filter)
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