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Nikon Coolpix P5100 Optics


Lens

Zoom
A 3.5x optical zoom lens that performs well. Above average results with digital zoom as well.

35mm 123mm 4x Digital Zoom

The Nikon Coolpix P5100's 3.5x optical zoom lens covers the equivalent of a 35-123mm range, just a slightly wider range than the average consumer digital camera. Results at full wide angle are good, with good detail and definition throughout most of the frame. A small amount of blurring is visible in the corners, as well as minimal coma distortion. Results are also good at full telephoto, though again with moderate blurring in the corners. The camera's 4x digital zoom does compromise quality and resolution with digital enlargement, but results are actually a little better than average. Artifacts interfere with detail definition, but the camera preserves a lot of fine detail in the scene.

Macro
A very small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Closest focusing distance is too close for the flash.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Nikon Coolpix P5100's macro setting performed well, capturing a very small minimum area of 1.76 x 1.32 inches (45 x 34 millimeters). Detail and resolution were both very good, especially on the dollar bill, and there's surprisingly little softening in the corners. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) Exposure is also dim with external lighting. The Nikon P5100's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area and overexposed most of the frame.

Distortion
High barrel distortion at wide angle, though virtually no distortion at telephoto.

Barrel distortion at 35mm is 0.9%
Distortion at 123mm is less than a pixel

The Nikon Coolpix P5100's 0.9% barrel distortion at wide angle is high, and noticeable in its images. At the telephoto end, distortion is fairly low, with less than a full pixel of barrel distortion visible. Distortion is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Chromatic aberration
Moderately high at wide angle, and bright. Less noticeable at telephoto, with fewer pixels and a more subdued appearance.

Wide: Moderately high,
top left @ 200%
Wide: Fairly bright,
top right @ 200%
Tele: Low,
top left @200%
Tele: Low,
top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is moderately high at wide angle, showing about 12 or so pixels of fairly bright coloration on either side of the target lines. However, at telephoto, the effect isn't nearly as strong, with only a couple of faintly visible pixels. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
Moderate blurring in the corners at wide angle and telephoto, slightly noticeable in its images.

Wide: Soft in the
corners, especially the lower right.
Wide: Sharp at center.
Tele: Slightly soft in the
corners (lower left)
Tele: Still a hint soft at center.

The Nikon Coolpix P5100 produced soft corners of the frame at full wide angle, with the strongest blurring in the lower right corner compared to the center of the frame. At full telephoto, blurring was also moderate in all four corners, though details were a little soft at the center of the frame as well. Overall, telephoto is more affected by chromatic aberration than by coma distortion, and yields a pretty good result.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Poor frame accuracy with the optical viewfinder, though much more accurate results with the LCD monitor.

35mm eq., Optical 123mm eq., Optical
35mm eq., LCD 123mm eq., LCD

The Nikon Coolpix P5100's optical viewfinder proved quite tight, showing only 81% frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. However, the camera's LCD monitor performed much better, showing about 103% frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 99% at telephoto.