Compared to... Canon PowerShot G9

As noted previously the nearest the P5100 has to a direct competitor is Canon's flagship PowerShot, the G9. Both cameras sport 12MP sensors, both have high quality metal bodies (though the P5100 is a lot smaller) and both have image stabilized zooms, though the P5100's zoom range is a lot less ambitious at 3.5x.

In this section we have included comparisons at each camera's lowest ISO setting (G9: ISO 80, P5100: ISO 64), ISO 800 and ISO 1600 (the maximum setting on either camera can shoot at full resolution). There are further comparisons in the Canon G9 review.

Studio scene comparison (Nikon COOLPIX P5100 @ ISO 64, Canon G9 @ ISO 80)

  • Nikon COOLPIX P5100 : Aperture Priority mode, ISO 64, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.7 EV compensation

  • Canon PowerShot G9: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Nikon COOLPIX P5100
Canon PowerShot G9
ISO 64, 1/40 sec, F4.4
ISO 80, 1/50 sec, F5.0
3,785 KB JPEG
4,858 KB JPEG

As we noted when we reviewed the G9, the P5100's output looks very soft in comparison, though most the difference here is down to in-camera sharpening, which is relatively high on the G9 and very low on the P5100. If you open the P5100 file and run Photoshop's unsharp mask filter the difference is much less marked (although the resultant image doesn't look as 'clean', as the G9's as the sharpening brings out a little noise). Where the G9 does win (as well as capturing a little more detail overall) is in edge-to-edge performance; the P5100's sharpness drops slightly towards the corners.

It's important to note that the small differences seen here at 100% are not going to make the slightest difference to anything but the very largest prints, and even then it's debatable, and for most users this is just a matter of taste; the G9's output is punchier and more immediate, the P5100's more subtle, and more suited to post processing. Of course both cameras offer a significant degree of control over image parameters such as sharpening and contrast in-camera, with the G9 going the whole hog and throwing in RAW mode too - something we'd love to see returning to high end Coolpix models one day.