Nikon Coolpix 5400A solid update to Nikon's upper-midrange Coolpix. 5 megapixels, 4x zoom, tons of features!
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C5400 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 07/12/2003
Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 5400 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
|Outdoor Portrait: |
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Nikon Coolpix 5400 had a little trouble with the harsh lighting.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, and the normal contrast setting. Oddly, I found that the "low contrast" camera setting actually seemed to hurt the 5400's dynamic range, so the normal contrast setting ended up being preferable. (See the shots below, comparing the normal and reduced-contrast exposure. I chose the Daylight white balance as the most accurate overall, despite a slight cool cast, as the Auto setting looked a little greenish. The Manual setting looked pretty good, but was a little too warm for my tastes.
Skin tones have a noticeable magenta tint, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are a bit more purplish than the light navy that they are in real life. (This is a difficult blue for many digicams to get right, and the Coolpix 5400 does handle it a bit better than many digicams I've seen.) The strong red flowers look about right, with good saturation. Resolution is quite high, with a lot of fine detail visible even in the shadows. However, details are just a hint soft throughout the frame.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +1.0 EV, see files CP54OUTDM1.HTM through CP54OUTDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
To view the exposure series from -0.3 to +1.3 EV with the low contrast setting, see files CP54OUTDC1M1.HTM through CP54OUTDC1P4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
The following two shots show the difference in exposure and contrast between the camera's default contrast setting and the Low contrast setting.
Saturation Series: The following series was shot with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. bit a ramge of saturation options. This looks like a nice and very usable range of saturation adjustment.
Excellent resolution and detail, though details are a bit soft, and contrast is still a bit high.
Exposure and color are similar to the wider shot above, and the Coolpix 5400's 4x zoom lens does a good job of preventing distortion of Marti's features. Detail is even stronger in this shot, especially in Marti's face and hair, although details throughout the frame are just a little soft. (It looks to me like the 5400 focused a bit behind the plane of Marti's features, as the strands of hair midway back on the left-hand side of the frame are pretty sharp.) The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which captured bright midtones, though at the expense of some highlight detail. Shadow detail is again strong, with low noise.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.7 to +0.7 EV, see files CP54FACM2.HTM through CP54FACP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Good intensity and coverage with the built-in flash at the normal setting, though difficulties with color in the slow-sync mode and flash white balance adjustment.
The Coolpix 5400's built-in flash illuminated the subject well in its normal mode, though it required a +1.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get a good exposure. (The default setting was much too dim. - This shot normally seems to require about +1.0 EV from the cameras I test, so 1.7 EV is a good bit more than average.) Color is just about spot-on perfect, there's good detail in the subtle highlights of Marti's shirt, and resolution is very high. I also shot with the camera's Slow Sync flash mode, which required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. Color balance was quite blue from the mismatch between the room lighting and the flash, resulting in bluish/purplish tints throughout the frame. However, lighting was much more even. In an effort to balance out the color, I shot with the Flash white balance setting (at +1.7 EV), but found a very strong orange cast, due to the influence of the room lighting. By far the best results in this shot (with rather strong incandescent room lighting) were obtained in the normal flash mode, under the Auto white balance.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +2.0 EV in the normal flash mode, see files CP54INAFP0.HTM through CP54INAFP6.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Very good color with the Manual white balance option, good exposure as well.
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The Coolpix 5400's Manual white balance did by far the best job here, with a nearly accurate white value on Marti's shirt and just the slightest hint of a green cast overall. The Incandescent option resulted in more of a warm cast than I like to see, and the Auto setting had a really tough time, producing a very strong orange cast. Marti's skin tone in the manual white balance version looks pretty good, although the blue flowers came out quite purplish (a common problem with this shot). The shots at right were taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which gets a good exposure without creating hot highlights.
Great resolution, detail, and color, though soft details.
The Coolpix 5400's Auto white balance setting produced the best overall color here, despite a slight red tint, with an accurate white value on the house trim and a natural color balance overall. The Manual and Daylight settings both produced slight greenish casts. Resolution is very high, as the tree limbs and shrubbery show a lot of fine detail. However, details are slightly soft, especially on the left side of the frame. (Some of what I see here looks like an over-aggressive noise-suppression algorithm, particularly in the brick patterns in the shadows under the eaves, on the front of the house.)
Generally good detail and resolution, but soft details in areas, good overall color, but an over-fondness for greens. High contrast limits the dynamic range.
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.
This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the Coolpix 5400 picks up an excellent level of detail, although in some places I see evidence of what looks like an over-aggressive noise-suppression algorithm. (For instance, in the roof shingles, and in the brickwork under the leftmost gable.) Dynamic range seems fairly good in this shot (a surprise frankly, after the Outdoor Portrait results above), as the camera manages to not blow out the strong highlight of the central bay window, while still preserving good detail in the shadows around the door. Overall color looks good, although the camera tends to exaggerate the saturation of bright greens, as seen in the rather "electric" color of the lawn. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, and saturation series.
Lens Zoom Range
A nice 4x zoom range.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (4x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The Coolpix 5400's lens is equivalent to a 28-116mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a very good wide angle to a moderate telephoto. (Great for Real Estate applications, and anywhere else you need a really wide angle lens.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Good color, though slightly cool-toned. Detail is also very good.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The Coolpix 5400's Auto white balance setting fell victim to this trap, and produced a very warm image. Daylight white balance produced the most pleasing color here, though color is slightly cool and skin tones a hint pale. The Manual setting resulted in a similar image, though with a cooler cast. Even with the slightly cool Daylight white balance, the blue background has purplish tints that aren't in the original image. The blue robe is almost an electric blue, and quite bright, though the shadow areas also betray purplish tints. Resolution is very high, with great detail in the embroidery of the blue robe. Again, details are sharper in the right half of the frame than in the left.
A very tiny macro area with great detail.
Like most Coolpix models, the 5400 turned in an exceptional macro performance, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.48 x 1.11 inches (38 x 28 millimeters). Resolution is high, with strong detail in the printing of the dollar bill. The coins and brooch are soft due to the very shallow depth of field at such short shooting distances. As I've noticed throughout my testing, details are sharper on the right side of the frame than the left, but definition in the dollar bill is still good. At this close shooting range, the Coolpix 5400's flash had trouble throttling down for the macro area, and overexposed the shot.
Good overall color and exposure, excellent color.
The Coolpix 5400's Auto white balance setting produced the most accurate white value in the mini-resolution target and large, white color block, with good overall color as well. Both the Daylight and Manual settings produced similar, slightly greenish images. Exposure looks pretty good, and the camera distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target without any trouble. Colors are bright and vibrant in the large color blocks, though maybe a hint dark. Saturation is pretty good, although I found the red, blue, and green additive primary color blocks just on the verge of oversaturating. Detail is moderate in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with low noise.
Excellent low-light performance, with good color and low noise.
The Coolpix 5400 has a maximum exposure time of eight seconds, and a Bulb shutter setting for exposures as long as 10 minutes. Combined with adjustable ISO and a Noise Reduction feature, the Coolpix 5400's exposure offerings ensure excellent low-light performance. The camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings. The Coolpix 5400's Noise Reduction setting does an excellent job of controlling image noise, as even images taken at ISO 400 show only moderate noise levels, and 60-second time exposures show only a few hot pixels. (See Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro for an excellent tool for dealing with the remaining hot pixel noise.) Overall, an excellent job. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all my sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
Flash Range Test
Flash exposure is a little low overall, but decreases only slightly during the testing range.
In my testing, the Coolpix 5400's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet with just a slight drop in intensity, although the images were underexposed even at short range. (I always shoot this test with no flash exposure compensation adjustment, to try to give the truest measure of flash performance.) The camera does boost its ISO slightly at the greatest distances to eke out a bit more range from its flash unit, but the highest ISO it went to here was only 87, lower than the point at which most cameras ISO range begins. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
High resolution, 1,200 lines of "strong detail." Very low barrel distortion, and low pincushion as well.
The Coolpix 5400 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,200 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines.
Optical distortion on the Coolpix 5400 is low at the wide-angle end, where I measured only one pixel of barrel distortion (!). The telephoto end had slightly more difficulty, as I found 0.5 percent pincushion distortion. Overall, this is less geometric distortion than I find on most cameras, all the more impressive given the 5400's 4x zoom lens. Chromatic aberration was exceptionally low as well, showing almost no color around the target lines in the corners of the res target shot. (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 one recurring defect that I found was that image details were very often a bit soft in the left half of the frame. (This suggests that the CCD chip was slightly cocked in its mount. I'll investigate the possibility of obtaining another sample from Nikon, to re-test this aspect.)
Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Resolution Test, Telephoto
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
A nearly accurate LCD monitor, though the optical viewfinder is a bit tight.
The Coolpix 5400's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing approximately 92 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 83 percent at telephoto. (92 percent coverage is pretty good, but 83 is a bit below average, and I particularly dislike viewfinders whose accuracy varies as a function of zoom setting, because that makes it very hard to know how much to adjust mentally for them.) The LCD monitor proves to be much more accurate, showing about 97 percent frame accuracy at both telephoto and wide angle lens settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Coolpix 5400's LCD monitor performed well here, but I'd have liked a more accurate optical viewfinder. Flash distribution is fairly even in the center of the frame at wide angle, with relatively slight falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is even, but the image is a bit more underexposed.