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Nikon Coolpix 5000

Nikon moves into the 5 megapixel era with a new chip, new lens, and new body, but no retreat from the legendary Nikon feature set!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 9/18/2001

Test Results
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In keeping with our standard policy, my comments here are rather condensed, summarizing my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Coolpix 5000's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the Coolpix 5000 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the Coolpix 5000 performed very well, delivering good image quality and excellent color throughout my testing. Colors were very natural and accurate, looking more "film-like" than some competing models with higher color saturation. Under daylight conditions, the auto white balance was quite accurate, although I sometimes chose the Daylight white balance preset to get a slightly warmer tone. Manual white balance seemed a little problematic though, as I frequently got a slightly greenish cast from it. - I'm going to experiment a bit further with it, to see if it might have been the paper I was using as a white reference, but at this point, I'm thinking it's the white balance itself that was just a tad green. Indoors (under household incandescent lighting), the Manual white balance option was the only satisfactory option, as both Auto and Incandescent settings produced shots that were too warm-toned. Overall though, for the vast majority of shots, Auto white balance worked fine.

The default tonal balance of the Coolpix 5000 was just slightly contrasty for my tastes, but overall about in the middle of the range among digicams I've tested. In contrasty scenes, highlights tended to get a little "hot" if the midtones were properly exposed, but as noted, the 5000 was actually about average in this respect. I also found the 5000's image noise levels a bit higher than average, relative to its competition, with the greatest impact in the blue channel. Image noise is an area that people respond very differently to. For some, noise is anathema, cause for much wailing and gnashing of teeth. For others, it's just "digital film grain", and not a cause for particular concern (unless it's *really* bad). The noise levels on the Coolpix 5000 are a bit higher than some competing models, but well within the range most users will find acceptable. - But please don't take my word for it: The whole point of me shooting all the standardized test photos I do is so you can form your own opinions of which camera you like best.

On the noise front, I've just recently become aware of some amazing and very affordable Photoshop "actions" developed by pro photographer Fred Miranda that do an incredible job of reducing image noise without significantly impacting detail. Fred's developed a custom set of actions specifically tuned to the 5000's image characteristics that do a fantastic job of cleaning up the 5000's chroma noise, especially at high ISOs. (The ISOR filter cuts the image noise by almost two stops, making ISO 400 look nearly as good as 100, and 800 look nearly as good as 200, etc. - I checked a chunk of the wall in these sample images, the standard deviation at ISO 400 from the camera was 4.96, but only 2.27 after ISOR. At ISO 100 out of the camera, it was 2.11.)

The photo above (click to see the full-sized version so you can really see the noise) shows how effective Fred's action is on an ISO 400 shot from the Coolpix 5000. If you have Photoshop, I think the $15 for Fred's "ISOR" actions should be a complete no-brainer for any Coolpix 5000 owner. - Click here for more information, or to buy them! (Congrats to Fred on an amazing job with this!)

The Coolpix 5000 did pretty well on my "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 - 1,100 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions, but I found "strong detail" out to about 1,250 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,500 lines. These results were somewhat interesting relative to the Sony F707, which uses the same CCD (AFAIK), but a different lens and different image processing. - The 5000 edges the 707 slightly in terms of the maximum frequency it can cleanly resolve (the 707 showed more aliasing at the 1200-1300 line level), but the 707 shows at least some image activity to much higher levels (the "extinction" point). - This supports my earlier conclusion that the 5000 seems to be capturing as much actual detail, but just isn't displaying it as crisply in its files. I spent some time squinting at 8x10 and larger prints from both cameras, and found that the 5000 seemed to do a better job with high-contrast fine detail (eg, tree branches against the sky), while the F707 did better with low-contrast fine detail (eg, hair on people's heads). Both cameras capture a lot of detail, and you can make quite large prints with no pixelization or artifacts from both. Ultimately, it'll come down to personal preference (as it always does anyway) which camera any given user will prefer.

Optical distortion on the Coolpix 5000 was just on the high side of average with the lens set to its widest angle focal length, where I measured an approximate 0.88 percent barrel distortion. (The average is closer to 0.8 percent. I'd really like to see *all* digicam lenses have lower barrel distortion, but the 5000 is only just over average in this respect.) The telephoto end fared better, as I found about 0.19 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about three or four pixels of red coloration and five or six pixels of green coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The Chromatic Aberration doesn't seem much worse than average (on this test at least), but IMHO, "average" is too high for a high-end camera like the Coolpix 5000. (For what it's worth, the Canon G2's lens had less, while the F707's lens had the same amount or more.)

The Coolpix 5000 offers full manual exposure control and a maximum timed exposure of 8 seconds (outside of the Bulb setting), with bulb exposures as long as 5 minutes possible. Combined with Nikon's noise reduction system, this gives the camera excellent low-light shooting abilities. The camera captured bright, clear images at light levels down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) light limit of my test at all four ISO settings (100, 200, 400, and 800 equivalents). Color looked good as well, even at the darkest light levels. Noise remained low at the 100 and 200 ISO settings, increasing slightly at ISO 400. Noise was much higher at ISO 800 (as you'd expect), even with the camera's Noise Reduction feature turned on.

The Coolpix 5000's optical viewfinder is a little tight, as I measured approximately 87 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 82 percent at telephoto. (Most digicams seem to aim for about an 85% frame coverage with their optical viewfinders, so the 5000 is average in this respect. Inaccurate optical viewfinders are a pet peeve of mine though - I really don't see why digicams, especially high-end ones like the Coolpix 5000, shouldn't have more accurate optical finders.) The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98 percent of the frame at wide angle, and about 99 percent at telephoto.

Like the rest of Nikon's Coolpix line, the Coolpix 5000 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of just 1.29 x 0.96 inches (32.7 x 24.5 millimeters), among the better macro areas I've seen. Resolution was outstanding in the details of the dollar bill, and the printing details were very sharp. The close shooting range rendered the brooch details out of focus (this is normal, due to the limited depth of field this close), and I noticed some minor corner softness from the lens in the left corners. (Corner softness is also common in extreme macro shots with digicams. - You really need to go to a high-end macro lens on an SLR to avoid the curvature of field that produces this in extreme macro shooting.) Color was good as well. While the Coolpix 5000's flash had trouble throttling down for the ultra-close macro range, it actually did much better than I expected, given the very close proximity of the camera to the subject.t.

Overall, I liked the Nikon 5000 quite a bit. Most of all, I liked its very natural, "filmlike" color rendition. I really think Nikon got the color management on the 5000 just right: Appropriately saturated, hue-accurate, very pleasing. I'd like to see a bit less image noise, and "crisper" in-camera image sharpening, but prints I made from its files were very pleasing to the eye. On the plus side, its macro and low light capabilities are really outstanding. My favorite feature is the (magical) Best Shot Selector feature, which let me capture reasonably sharp handheld exposures at shutter times as long as 1/2 second.(!) Probably the bottom line is that I really enjoyed shooting with the Coolpix 5000 in the time I had with it, and it ended up being my camera of choice for several family events while I had it around. - Impressive, considering the range of cameras that were in the studio at the same time. (Sorry, I won't name names, to protect the innocent.)

Conclusion

In final analysis, the Coolpix 5000 is a great photographic tool. It offers excellent color, 5 megapixels of resolution, and the usual bevy of cool Nikon features. I really liked the articulated LCD screen, actually preferring it to the swivel-body design of earlier high-end Coolpix models. I also found the Nikon accessory lenses (I had a 2x telephoto and wide angle to play with) to be of exceptionally high quality, far beyond the typical add-on optics common in the digicam arena. The hot shoe for connecting an external flash is a very welcome addition, but I'm puzzled as to why Nikon didn't provide support for the zooming flash heads on their high-end speedlights. Still, the standard hot shoe makes interfacing to a host of third-party flash products (including studio strobes) easy. Looking over some of the emails I've gotten lately, and seeing some of the chat in our forums, I think Nikon's having a hard time living up to some of the advance billing of the product. It's a great camera, but not an event on the order of the Second Coming, which many Nikon enthusiasts had been building it up to. Nikon themselves raised expectations by touting it as being "as fast as a film camera", but that claim turned out to only apply to a very restricted shooting condition (when the camera is prefocused by a half-press of the shutter button), and shutter delay otherwise is only average. Had they not made the early speed claims, the 5000's performance in this area would likely have passed without comment. Apart from the speed, the 5000 wins in some areas (color, IMHO), and not in others (image noise, although not badly, again IMHO). Image-quality issues will have to be decided by each individual user, which is why I shoot so many standardized test images: Compare the test shots with other cameras you're interested in and make up your own mind. At the end of the day, I (personally) found the Coolpix 5000 to be a very appealing, functional, powerful photographic tool, comfortable in the hand, and easy to control. - And it took pictures I was happy with, often under challenging conditions, the true bottom line. Overall, I'm pretty confident in predicting that Nikon will have no trouble selling as many 5000's as they can make, and that they're going to make a lot of photographers very happy!

 

 

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