Nikon Coolpix P5100 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Very compact and pocketable
- Excellent handling for a small camera
- Solid build and excellent fit / finish
- Good resolution and decent edge-to-edge consistency
- Realistic natural color, subtle processing, excellent tonality for a compact
- Extensive system support - optional add-on lenses and flashguns
- iTTL flash hot shoe
- Optical image stabilization works well, even at very slow shutter speeds
- Very good distortion control, especially for macro
- Excellent output quality at lowest ISO settings - though default settings need post-processing
- Best Shot Selector helps produce good shots in tricky situations
- Command dial and custom function button give quick access to settings
- Optical viewfinder
- In-Camera Red-Eye Fix works, but is slow
- D-Lighting function
- Excellent flash performance
- Very keen pricing
Conclusion - Cons
- User interface somewhere between 'quirky' and 'frustrating'
- Very slow focus and rather sluggish performance overall
- Frustrating manual control mode
- Poor performance above ISO 200, ISO 3200 pointless
- Unimpressive burst mode
- Default settings produce images lacking 'punch' (of course you may see this as a Pro, not a Con)
- Screen can be difficult to see in bright light, occasional blooming of preview image
- Sound cuts out before the end of movie clips
- No in-camera video editing capability
- Even the finest quality JPEG is still quite heavily compressed and no raw mode
- Lens range (35-123mm) not the most versatile - would be nice if it started wider
- Lens fairly dark (f/5.3) at the long end of the zoom
- No live histogram, no raw mode
Like the P5000 before it, with the P5100 Nikon has taken a different approach to creating 'photographers' compact' camera to that taken by Canon with its G9. The Nikon more closely resembles the form and cost of other compacts, so won't be too daunting to users wanting to get more involved in the photographic process without taking on the weight, size, cost or initial complexity of the G9 - or an SLR.
The noisy images (and unimpressive noise reduction) at anything significantly above base ISO are to be expected from a camera built around such a small sensor, but there's no good reason why the P5100's control system needs to be so awkward. Inconsistent use of the control wheel and a lack of clear reporting of relevant information back to the user make the P5100 more frustrating than it needs to be. It's hard to escape the feeling that Nikon has borrowed the interface from its other compacts and tried to find uses for the control wheel and function button, rather than designing a new control system around them.
For example, in manual mode, we’d expect to select an aperture or shutter speed then fine-tune the other value. Instead, because the P5100 only changes shutter speed in whole stops, fine tuning can only be done with the aperture, turning manual mode into a slightly more time-consuming shutter priority mode. Frustratingly, in all other shooting modes, the camera will change shutter speed in fractions of stops (although it still reports only whole stops, making it impossible to get a clear understanding of what settings it’s using). These foibles, which limit the degree of control a user can usefully have, are unacceptable in a camera purporting to offer full manual control.
Flash performance is very good but its usefulness is hampered by the P5100's slow and unreliable focusing in low light, limiting its use in all but the best-lit social situations. And, unfortunately, this isn't something that would be rectified by adding an external flash.
All of which is a shame, because there's much to like about the P5100 and the images it produces. It's a good-looking, well built camera with top-notch ergonomics that applies useful features such as distortion control and vibration reduction in a way that improves your images. As a point-and-shoot, it is above average in almost every respect, bar focus speed. Overall it meters well and produces very little in the way of chromatic aberration or fringing, it produces subtle, natural colors and impressed us with its 'SLR like' JPEG output, free from the 'over polishing' so frequently applied by other cameras. Its default settings err on the side of caution in a way that leaves options open for those users who wish to tweak their images when they get home - and you can get far more immediately appealing results by turning up the sharpness and saturation settings (though what we'd really like would be a RAW mode).
Ultimately, for us, the P5100 was a disappointment, but not a surprise. Like Canon's G9 reviewed last week, Nikon essentially turned a blind eye to the only issues anyone really had with the P5000 - the sluggish performance and the rather counterintuitive control interface - and instead took the all too familiar route of bunging even more pixels onto a sensor already creaking under the strain when it had 10 million. So not only don't they fix the issues, to add insult to injury they actually reduce the quality of the high ISO output and call it an 'upgrade' (bangs head on wall). Sure there's a couple of nice new features, and sure the low ISO output is still excellent, but the feeling that this was a missed opportunity is simply unavoidable.
And so, once again Nikon has produced a compact capable of excellent results in the right conditions, but one that cannot ever be described as an 'all rounder' (just try using it indoors in low light and you'll discover why). It's a superb walk around camera for the landscape photographer (and has unusually 'purist-friendly' output) and it manages to fit an awful lot into a very small body, but it is disappointingly far from the camera it could have been.
- Ideal for: Learning about photography, use with external flash, travel, shooting stationary objects
- Not ideal for: Shooting anything fast, social snapping in low light
|Detail||Rating (out of 10)|
|Ergonomics & handling||6.5|
|Fangorn Forest by cand1d|
|Yosemite Falls with Moonbow by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Best Landscape of the Week 4
DPReview editors Rishi Sanyal and Carey Rose hosted a Facebook Live discussion to share their impressions about the Sony a9 so far. Watch the video
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more
Sony's newest G Master telephoto zoom, announced alongside the a9, is the first of the company's FE lenses to reach 400mm natively. We had one in California and photographed horses, portraits, and landscapes - check out how it did. Read more
Garmin has entered the 360-camera market with the VIRB, which captures 5.7K video at 30p as well as 15MP stills. Read more
German media reports that the founders of the company behind the Panono 360-degree ball camera have filed for bankruptcy at a court in Berlin. Read more
With a claimed 800 new custom parts, Microsoft's updated Surface Pro comes with the latest Kaby Lake processors, better battery life, a new hinge, plus the Surface Pen is updated as well. Read more
DW Photo is attempting to resurrect the Hy6 medium format camera, though the legal tangles of its development may stop it being branded Rolleiflex.
The Kodak EKTRA, the company's 'camera first' smartphone, is now available to purchase in the United States. Read more
Apple and Nokia have settled their years-old patent dispute. Apple will make an undisclosed payment to Nokia and sign a licensing agreement related to digital health products with the Finnish company.
David Gibson, one of Britain's best known street shooters, shares all.
Photographers from the SKYGLOW project travelled 150k miles and took 3 million photos in increasingly rare locations: those without light pollution.
The world's fastest 200mm was produced for 16 years. In that time, only 8000 were made.
Photokina, the biennial photo industry trade show in Cologne, Germany, has announced that it will become an annual event beginning in 2018, and expand its focus to additional areas of imaging technology. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
How does the iPhone 7 Plus stack up against the Arri Alexa cinema camera? Watch this short video to find out.
Canon Australia's video series "The Lab" is designed to make photographers experiment and think outside the box. In the latest video a group of photographers create images based on their sense of taste.
The GH5 is expected to get a firmware update this summer to support 400Mbps internal recording. NewsShooter explores what memory cards you'll need to make it work.
Microsoft's new Surface Pro offers Intel's latest processor generation and improved battery life.
Riding a mountain bike downhill is dangerous enough in daylight, but potentially lethal at night. Which is where drones come in.
Rumors abound that Canon (and maybe Nikon) may produce a mirrorless camera based using their existing DSLR mount. Does this guarantee immediate great lens choice or a perpetually second-rate experience? Read more
According to rumors, the next camera from Nest will be able to capture 4K video, though that resolution will be only used for 'virtual' pan and tilt functions.
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.