White Balance

Comparing these results with Automatic White Balance to the Coolpix 5000 and 5700 things do seem to have improved slightly, the in incandescent light there is less of an orange cast and in fluorescent the color balance is almost the same as manual preset. Kudos Nikon for progressive improvement. Of course as we would expect manual white balance provides the most consistent color in any light.

Outdoors, Auto Outdoors, Cloudy (or Sunny) Outdoors, Manual
Incandescent, Auto Incandescent, Incandescent Incandescent, Manual
Fluorescent, Auto Fluorescent, Fluorescent Fluorescent, Manual

Macro Focus

The 5400's best macro frame coverage (smallest possible area across the entire frame) was 32 mm (1.3 in), interestingly we managed this at two different places in the camera's zoom range. The camera indicates the optimum macro focal length between 28 and 35 mm (equiv.) by turning the zoom indicator green, and indeed at the end of this range (35 mm equiv.) you can get very close to the subject although you will also get lots of shadow, poor lighting and strong barrel distortion. A little experimentation and we found that you can actual achieve the same frame coverage at around 53 mm equiv. which produces images with less (although still some) barrel distortion, less shadow and better lighting.

End of the macro range (35 mm equiv.)
Just under half zoom (53 mm equiv.)

Flash Performance

The Coolpix 5400's internal flash has a specified range of 4.5 m (14.8 ft) at wide angle and 2.8 m (9.2 ft) at telephoto. With the development of the 5400 Nikon has moved the flash sensor from the slightly odd position (beside the hand grip) on the 5000 to between the viewfinder window and flash. In our tests the 5400 consistently underexposed flash exposures with a light background, this could be the flash sensor detecting strong reflection and reducing the power of the flash. You could add some flash compensation (menu option) to avoid this.

Skin tone - Natural color, no blue cast, underexposed. Color patches - Good color balance, no color cast, underexposed.

Night exposures

Nikon's built-in 'Night landscape' scene mode didn't perform particularly well it pushed sensitivity up to ISO 200 (where noise is your enemy) and had a longest exposure of just two seconds. The results were better switching to manual exposure mode where you can achieve normal exposures of up to 8 seconds with or without noise reduction. In addition the 5400 has a dedicated 'timed release' mode (accessed from the camera menu) which allows you to take timed exposures of between 1 and 10 minutes. Once set this timed release replaces the 'Bulb' option in manual exposure mode.

Timed release exposure: ISO 50, 1 min, F6.7 (No noise reduction)
Timed release exposure: ISO 50, 1 min, F6.7 (With noise reduction)
Night Landscape: ISO 200, 2 secs, F3.0 (With noise reduction)

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

In our lens distortion tests the Coolpix 5400 exhibited 1.1% barrel distortion at wide angle and 0.6% pincushion distortion at telephoto. These results would be average for a normal range compact four times optical zoom len system. However considering the Coolpix 5400's 28 mm equiv. wide angle the barrel distortion figure (slightly better than the Coolpix 5000) is particularly impressive. That said we would have hoped for slightly less pincushion distortion at telephoto.

Barrel Distortion, 1.1% @ wide angle Pincushion Distortion, 0.6% @ telephoto

Vignetting / Light fall off

Our vignetting / light fall off test is very simple, a shot of a blank wall from two meters away, vignetting will always be most visible at wide angle and maximum aperture and will start to disappear at smaller apertures and/or further zoom. While the Coolpix 5400 did exhibit some slight light fall off at wide angle and maximum aperture it's unlikely to be of any concern, and unlikely to be visible in everyday shots.

Very slight corner vignetting visible at wide angle and maximum aperture (F2.8) Virtually no vignetting at telephoto (F4.6)

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

Nikon appear to have achieved a turnaround. For a long time we criticized Nikon digital cameras for producing strong purple fringing time after time. However the Coolpix 5400 appears to have bucked the trend and delivers clean 'everyday' images with virtually no purple fringing. Despite my best efforts and some pretty difficult and high contrast shots the Coolpix 5400 produced almost no purple fringing, in this respect it is considerably better than the Canon PowerShot G5. Some fringing is visible on our standard test shot, but nothing that is visible in everyday shots.

Fringing visible around reflective highlights, F4.0 Fringing visible in areas of contrast, F4.0
Our standard chromatic aberration test shot  

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

The Coolpix 5400 delivers detailed, well exposed images with good tonal and color balance. If anything images were very slightly softer than from other five megapixel cameras, although this didn't necessarily equate to less detail. Nikon appear to have worked hard to remove all of the image quality niggles we had with the Coolpix 5000. Most notably the 5400 handles the transition from highlight to detail much more elegantly. The Coolpix 5000 would often clip highlights quite severely leaving harsh edges and a 'video camera like' appearance, this is now gone with the Coolpix 5400 which maintains as much detail as it can up to the edge of the highlight and provides a smooth transition into it.