Nikon Coolpix 5000Nikon 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 3:DesignReview First Posted: 9/18/2001
The Coolpix 5000 is a significant departure from the swivel-case designs of prior high-end Coolpix models. Rather than split the case to allow the lens and LCD screen to swivel independently of each other, the Coolpix 5000 uses a "Vari-angle" LCD design that's a dead ringer for the design I liked so much on the Canon Pro 90 IS and G2 cameras. This results in a more conventional camera body design, but retains the viewing flexibility formerly provided by the swivel body. It'll likely be a matter of personal preference whether you like the swivel body or swivel-LCD design better, but I personally find the Coolpix 5000 easier to work with than the 995 and its predecessors.
The shape of the Coolpix 5000 is rather tall and shallow (front to back), with dimensions of 4.0 x 3.2 x 2.7 inches (101.5 x 81.5 x 67.5mm). It has a pleasant heft, feeling neither particularly heavy or light, and weighing in at 12.6 ounces (360 grams) without battery or memory card. With the battery installed, it weighs in at 14.4 ounces, or 412 grams.
Fans of the earlier Coolpix cameras will also applaud the return to an all-metal body design last seen in the Coolpix 990 model. (Many Nikon aficionados complained bitterly about the move to high-impact plastic for the body of the recently introduced 995, preferring the all-metal design of the earlier 950 and 990 models.)
Another big change from previous Nikon consumer digicams is the provision of a full hot shoe atop the camera, a welcome move away from the proprietary strobe sync adapter seen on the 950, 990, and 995 models. (While an adapter was available to convert the proprietary Nikon sync connector to conventional strobe connections, the part was harder to come by than the proverbial hen's teeth, with few if any resellers routinely stocking it.)
From the front, the camera looks a lot like any of a dozen current digicams, although its rather tall profile is a little unusual. Visible on the front panel are the large flash tube (its size apparently not translating into any greater flash range though), the window for the optical viewfinder, and the AE/AF-lock button. Just above and to the right of the AE/AF-L button are two small holes for the microphone, used to record audio when in movie mode. At the top of the body, just to the left of the flash tube, is a tiny opening for the flash exposure sensor. The sloping front of the hand grip, visible here on the left, holds the shutter button, on/off switch, and a mysterious clear window that serves no apparent function. (I was told that this was to have been a flash sensor, but it looks a lot more like a lamp of some kind. I wonder if Nikon had considered adding a focus-assist light to the 5000, but dropped it for some reason at the last minute. - A shame if so, focus-assist illuminators are becoming increasingly common on high-end digicams, and are a seriously useful feature for low light photography. Perhaps we can hope for the Coolpix 5001?)
The Coolpix 5000 actually isn't a very large camera, but it tends to look bigger in photos due to its more upright form factor. The photo above shows the camera with a CompactFlash card in front of it to show its scale. - As you can see, it's actually quite compact...
The camera's right side (viewed from the back) houses the memory card compartment (a Type II Compact Flash slot), an eyelet for the neck strap, and a flap that hides the USB and external power connectors. I liked the positive snap-action operation of the memory compartment cover. The spring action is apparently contained in the hinge mechanism, and it provides a much better "feel" than the usual friction snap-latch that's used at the outside edges of these flaps on other cameras I've seen. Nikon also got the orientation of the memory card right on this model too: The card faces the front of the camera, so the little lip on the rear of the card projects toward the back of the camera. This makes it very easy to hook a fingernail under the lip, easing extraction of the card from the camera.
The left side of the camera is pretty empty. The only items here are the other neckstrap eyelet, and a flap hiding the jack for the audio/video cable.
The top of the camera has relatively few controls, as the data readout found atop many cameras has been moved to the rear panel. The most obvious feature here is the hot shoe, with the standard 5-contact design used by the Nikon Speedlights, even though many of the contacts are apparently not active on the 5000. Also on top are the shutter button and surrounding power switch, the Mode and +/- buttons, the Function button, and a command wheel at the back rear corner. As on the 995, the command wheel is used in conjunction with various buttons on the body of the camera to make camera settings. In aperture or shutter priority or full manual exposure modes, the command wheel directly adjusts aperture and shutter speed settings. In programmed exposure mode, the command wheel lets you vary the camera's program, to select larger or smaller aperture settings than the defaults, with the camera then choosing the corresponding shutter speed to match.)
Most of the controls and user interface elements for the Coolpix 5000 are on the back of the camera. At top left, we see the optical viewfinder eyepiece, with status LEDs on its left, showing focus and flash status. A small slider adjustment underneath the eyepiece makes diopter adjustments for eyeglass wearers. Just to the right of the viewfinder is the LCD data readout, which displays a variety of camera status information. The data readout is also an integral part of the 5000's control architecture. Most settings adjustments that make use of a button and the command wheel together use the data readout screen to show the current selection. This arrangement is a carryover from the previous Coolpix designs, and is a feature I like quite a bit. - The data readout panel has much lower power consumption than the large LCD screen, so this design cuts power consumption dramatically relative to cameras forced to rely more upon their color LCD displays.
At top right you can see the command wheel edge-on, and just below that the toggle control for the zoom lens. The back of the camera body is sculpted here, providing a nice indentation and associated ridge for your thumb to grab onto. You do have to shift your thumb down to actuate the zoom toggle, but the grip is quite comfortable, and I never found myself accidentally actuating the zoom control when I was just holding the camera normally.
Continuing down the back panel, we see a slide switch to select between record and playback modes, a multipurpose button that controls ISO (in conjunction with the command wheel), flash mode, and thumbnail display (in playback mode). Below that is a button that controls focus in record mode and image deletion in playback mode. Under that is the size/quality button that changes image size when used in conjunction with the command wheel, and image quality when it is actuated alone. To the right of these buttons, a conventional 4-way rocker toggle control is used for making selections in the LCD menu system.
I've shown the camera in two operating configurations, with the LCD turned in against the camera body, and with it facing out toward the user. With the LCD facing out, three control buttons are exposed. These aren't labeled on the prototype model shown, but they control (from the left) the quick review function, the LCD menu system, and the LCD display itself. (The button controlling the LCD display is labeled on production models, but the others are "soft buttons", whose function is shown by legends displayed on the LCD panel.)
The bottom of the Coolpix 5000 is nice and flat, with some raised rubber inserts that help the camera grip tripod mounting plates. The tripod socket itself is a rugged metal unit, with mounting screws that seem to indicate that it's replaceable. Kudos to Nikon on both fronts! The tripod socket is also roughly centered on the camera body, which is good for mounting stability, but which does put the lens quite a bit off-center from the mount. This isn't an issue for normal shooting, but does mean that a special tripod head will be needed to shoot panoramic images, to compensate for the parallax error introduced by offset between the lens' optical center and the tripod mount. Having the tripod socket centered also means you can't remove the battery without unmounting the camera from the tripod plate. (Again, not an issue for most users, but something I'm attuned to given how much I shoot in the studio with cameras I test.)
Finally, here's an interesting little item I noticed: There's a small plastic plate next to the battery compartment that pops out quite easily. (A little too easily, IMHO.) Underneath there's a place obviously made for a connector of some sort. (The shot above shows the bottom with this cover plate removed.) When I asked Nikon about it, they replied that this is where the power/vertical hand grip will plug into. I confess that up until that point, I somehow hadn't grasped (no pun intended) that the power pack using 6 AA batteries was going to plug in as a hand grip. (It was right there in the marketing literature, our eyes just skipped past the fact that the 6-AA pack was also a hand grip. Very interesting, particularly so since it will provide a very hefty boost in power capacity. (Six 1700 mAh NiMH AA cells will provide about 2.5 times the power of the standard EN-EL1 internal Li-Ion battery, a very welcome addition for serious users. - See also my comments on the Maha/PowerEx LiIon PowerBank external battery pack in the Power section of this review.)
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