Nikon Coolpix 5000 review

Started Dec 15, 2004 | User reviews thread
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rurikw
rurikw Veteran Member • Posts: 3,196
Nikon Coolpix 5000 review

I am an architect so I shoot mainly architecture at an amateur level and project documentation. For this I need wide angle. At the time (spring 2003) there were only 2 alternatives: Minolta Dimage 7 and Coolpix 5000. dslr-s were not affordable then. The Dimage I ruled out because it lacked an optical viewfinder and the electronic one gave me a headache. However I find myself using the monitor almost exclusively. With a spare battery there is enough power.

Even 28 mm 35 mm equivalent is mostly not wide enough so I also bought the 0.68 wide converter, which gets me down to 19 mm. There is heavy barrel distortion at wide angle but that is easy to correct with Photoshop's pano tools. There is a very useful freeware program with calibrations for most lenses.

Some softness is perceptible, particularly with the wide converter. Therefore I try to stop down whenever possible. This combined with rather bad noise levels at 200 ASA or more has me constantly using a tripod or looking for support for the camera. Here the fliptilt monitor is very helpful. You can put the camera in very awkward places and still see what you are getting. For instance, I often flip it out and rotate it 180 degrees and press the camera against a wall opposite the subject or place it on the floor.

It seems I have worried too much about softness. I finally ran a test comparing the outcome with different apertures using the WC-E68. There was slight softness in the center at f8 (diffraction?) and at the edges at f2,8, but nothing much. The sweet spot is probably around 5,6 but the whole range is usable.

The camera body and the controls have a nice, solid, well-crafted feel and sits very comfortably in the hand. Every time you turn the camera on and off it performs a solemn ritual, the lens protruding and retracting so you leave it on between shots and try to protect the lens.

Considering the small size of the camera, the controls are reasonably well positioned. You mostly have to use both hands to operate buttons and dial simultaneously which is not a big problem but the dial would have been more ergonomic on the front side of the camera.

To transfer the images to a computer is a breeze (I suppose it is on most cameras): you connect the USB cable and do something else for a minute and there they are on your hard disk in a new, automatically created directory. The Nikon software is good only for that transfer operation, you can't do any serious editing with it.
With the above qualifications, I find image quality quite satisfactory and enjoy the ease and possibilities offered by digital photography.

I loaded the RAW option and used it on one shot. but still have to learn what the conversion programs are about...

The shortcomings, however, mean that I am considering buying a better camera sometime soon. After all, a lot has happened in 3-4 years. Since I have become totally dependent on the fliptilt monitor, I could not imagine myself peeping through a viewfinder any more. So that rules out all SLR-s except Olympus E-330. Reading tests, I have, however, decided to go for the Sony DSC-R1 unless something comes up before.

Actually, I wonder why high end digital camera design is so conservative. Why are they all making slr-s with basically the same configuration that was invented over 50 years ago when they were limited to optics and mechanics. Now we have electronics, digital processing and LCD. Why are we still supposed to press our eyes against a little hole in the camera body when we could have a large LCD screen which could be turned in any direction and even removed from the camera (wireless connection) so you could put the camera in any position and still follow accurately what it's seeing. The prism and mirror mechanism is expensive, prone to failure, causes vibration and pushes the lens away from the sensor which is detrimental to optical quality in wide angle. So at least we should be given the alternative of high quality cameras without it.

Problems:

Autofocus is erratic. Sometimes it fails without any apparent reason, besides not working in dim light, which everybody has noted. This can be overcome by using manual focus which, according to the manual, does not work with converters which is funny because you are supposed to tell the camera that you are using one (on the menu). Maybe there is a conversion factor for that but the manual does not tell, so I will have to try it out.

I finally ran a test, focussing manually with the WC-E68. The result was that manual focus seems to work all right so why do they say it doesn't??? Also, I have no idea what the converter setting on the menu does. I keep forgetting to turn it on when using it but I never noticed any difference.

When using selftimer (to prevent shaking) autofocus seems to get even worse. When it decides it can't find focus, it goes to closest position instead of infinite or some other useful position. All this fuss makes operating the camera quite slow, which is a problem especially on architectural excursions where you have to follow a guide/crowd. Sometimes it even seems that focus on a flat, perpendicular, low contrast surface (unfortunately one of my favourite subjects) is wrong even when the camera indicates a lock. So with this camera, remember to take along lots of patience, a tripod, a tape measure and forget about action photography.

Sometimes shots taken seconds apart of the identical subject in identical circumstances with identical settings turn out very different in color. Not a big problem.

 rurikw's gear list:rurikw's gear list
Nikon Coolpix 5000 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-R1 Sigma DP1 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP3 Merrill +28 more
Nikon Coolpix 5000
5 megapixels • 1.8 screen • 28 – 85 mm (3×)
Announced: Sep 18, 2001
rurikw's score
3.5
Average community score
4.2
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