This page has been formatted to facilitate printout of the review.

Use your browser's "Back" button to return to the previous page, or the links at the top and bottom of this page to navigate to related information. If you have difficulty fitting the text on this page onto your printer output, simply resize your browser window to a narrower width and print again.




Remember us when it's time to buy!

Dave here: Have our reviews been helpful to you? (Is this article you're reading right now useful?) Preparing this level of information on as many products as we do is incredibly hard work, not to mention expensive. Things on the Internet may look like they're free, but they're not. (As a lot of big dot.com companies are finding out these days.) Somewhere, somebody has to pay to produce worthwhile content. YOU can help us though, by remembering us when it comes time to make your purchase. Would you consider coming back to our site and clicking-through to one of our advertisers to make your purchase? Every dollar you spend with one of our advertisers helps us directly (in affiliate fees) or indirectly (the advertiser will keep renewing their ad contract with us). To make it easy for you to support us, here's a URL you can visit, to see all our current advertisers, with links to click on that will register your visit to them as having come from our site. It's up to you where you buy, but Mike, Mike, Kim, Yazmin, Marti and I would be really grateful if you'd help us out by choosing one of our advertisers to purchase from.

Thank you for your support!
Dave Etchells, Founder & Publisher


Visit our "Buy Now" Page:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm





Back to Full Nikon CoolPix 5700 Review
Go to Nikon CoolPix 5700 Data Sheet
Go to Nikon CoolPix 5700 Pictures Page
Up to Imaging Resource Cameras Page


Nikon CoolPix 5700

Nikon expands their 5 megapixel offerings, with a long zoom, a new body, but the same legendary Nikon feature set!

Review First Posted: 5/29/2002




Click here to check prices on this camera!


Must-have e-book for this camera -- $20, Click Here!

MSRP $1200 US

 

*
5.0 (effective) megapixel CCD delivers images up to 2,560 x 1,920 pixels.
*
New Nikkor lens provides 8x, 35-280mm equivalent zoom range.
*
"Articulated" LCD tilts/swivels 270 degrees.
*
White balance bracketing and noise reduction modes extend capability.
*
New electronic viewfinder for better framing accuracy with long zoom lens.

 


Manufacturer Overview
As I say before each of my Nikon reviews, Nikon is one of the names that literally needs no introduction in the world of photography. Long a leader in the film world, they offer cameras for both the serious amateur and working professional. Their professional line contains cameras like the legendary F3, continuously produced for over 20 years now, and new "legends in the making" like the F5 and F100, renowned for their toughness and advanced features. In the digital world, Nikon has developed a commanding presence in the "prosumer" market with their Coolpix series. They broke new ground for usability and features with their Coolpix 900 several years back, building on that success with the 2 megapixel 950, followed by the 3 megapixel 990, which has now been upgraded to the 995 with a 4x zoom lens and improved flash configuration, and the five-megapixel Coolpix 5000. At the same time, they've broadened their line to include more purely consumer-oriented cameras like the Coolpix 775 and 885, and the new internal-swivel Coolpix 2500. In the pro arena, they rocked the photo world with their original D1 pro SLR, followed last year with the D1X and D1H, and this year followed up with the aggressively priced D100 model. The "Nikon Total Imaging System" also includes the hugely successful Super Coolscan 4000ED, 8000ED, and Coolscan IV film scanners, which I've reviewed elsewhere.

The big Nikon news in the consumer arena last year was their Coolpix 5000, a 5 megapixel design that quickly developed a loyal following. This year, they've upped the ante once more, keeping the same 5 megapixel sensor, but now adding the first really long-ratio zoom lens on a Nikon digicam. The new Coolpix 5700 sports an 8x zoom lens, with an equivalent focal length range of 35 - 280mm, but has the same range of features and operating controls that have been so successful on the previous Coolpix models. Read on below for all the details, and stay tuned to this space for a complete review once I can get my hands on a production model.


High Points


Executive Overview
(This is a quick digest of the rest of the review. If you plan on reading the whole review, you can skip this page and continue on with the Design section that follows.)

Released as an update to (but not replacement of) the Nikon Coolpix 5000, the new Coolpix 5700 builds on the 5000's prowess with an 8x zoom lens and an "electronic optical viewfinder" (EVF). Internally, the Coolpix 5700 offers the same five-megapixel CCD and very similar exposure options, though externally it has a rather different control layout and appearance. A pop-up flash unit replaces the 5000's fixed internal flash, and the longer lens barrel dominates the new body design. Where the 5000 model seemed slightly tall (due to the top-mounted optical viewfinder window and flash unit), the Coolpix 5700 has a lower-slung appearance, appearing more compact, despite the large lens. Too big for either shirt pocket of purse, the 5700 really begs for a camera bag to be transported in, but its neck strap eyelets are well positioned to let the camera hang level when suspended by them.

The biggest news on the 5700 is its 8x Nikkor 8.9-71.2mm ED lens, which provides a zoom range equivalent to a 35-280mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focus can be automatically or manually controlled, with an adjustable, five-point AF area. In addition to the 8x optical zoom, the Coolpix 5700 also provides up to 4x digital zoom, depending on the image size selected. (Keep in mind that digital zoom compromises image quality because only the central portion of the CCD's image is enlarged, decreasing resolution.) An electronic viewfinder offers a miniaturized version of the LCD monitor for TTL (through the lens) framing, complete with a detailed information display. (Much as I like seeing the long-ratio zoom lens, I'm a little dismayed by the need for an EVF, even though the 5700's is better than many. - See my discussion in the Viewfinder section of this review for more details.) For a larger view, the 1.8-inch LCD monitor has an articulated design similar to that of the 5000, popping out from the back panel and swiveling around approximately 270 degrees. The LCD can also flip around and fold flat against the back panel, giving it the familiar rear-panel position common to most digicams. Finally, it can be closed (turned with its face against the camera body) when not in use, protecting the monitor from dirt and scratches.

Following the standard of prior high-end Nikon Coolpix models, the Coolpix 5700 offers a very extensive set of exposure controls. Program AE, Flexible Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes are available, each with a wide range of features. Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 (1/2,000 in most modes) to eight seconds, with a Bulb setting for exposures as long as five minutes. An optional Noise Reduction system decreases the fixed-pattern image noise that would normally be present in long exposures. The maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 - f/4.2, depending on the zoom setting, and is adjustable in one-third EV steps. Four metering options include 256-Segment Matrix, Center-Weighted, Spot, and AF Spot (which ties the metering spot to the selected AF area). An ISO adjustment provides options that include Auto, 100, 200, 400, and 800. The camera's adjustable White Balance setting offers Auto, Fine (daylight), Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Speedlight, or Preset (which allows you to manually adjust the white value by using a white object as a reference). Additionally, all white balance settings other than Preset can be adjusted from -3 to +3 units on an arbitrary scale, letting you fine-tune them to your liking. A White Balance Bracketing mode captures three images with slightly different white balance adjustments, letting you pick the best image when you view the photos on your computer.

Exposure compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments, and is controllable in all exposure modes. The Auto Bracketing feature takes three or five shots of the same subject with varying exposure values determined either by the photographer in Manual mode or by the camera in all other modes, with variable exposure steps between shots. Best Shot Select snaps multiple images and then automatically picks the sharpest, making it feasible to handhold the camera for surprisingly long exposures. The "Quick Review" button lets you quickly check the last shot taken without leaving Record mode, going so far as to make most of the Playback mode options available, while permitting a very quick return to shooting. Through the camera's settings menu, you can also adjust the image sharpness and color saturation. An Image Adjustment menu offers Contrast, Lightness, and Monochrome adjustments as well. Additionally, the Coolpix 5700 allows you to save up to three sets of user settings for focus, exposure, and other camera options, for rapid recall via the setup menu. A Self-Timer mode offers a three or 10-second countdown before firing the shutter. The camera's built-in flash operates in Auto, Flash Cancel, Anytime Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync modes. An external flash hot shoe is also included in the camera's design, and accommodates a more powerful external flash unit.

Like the 5000 before it, the Coolpix 5700 offers a wide range of "motor drive" rapid-exposure modes for capturing quick sequences of images. Continuous L, Continuous H, Ultra High Speed Continuous, and Multi-Shot 16 modes are available through the settings menu, and offer a range of sequence shooting speeds. (Multi-Shot 16 mode subdivides the image area into 16 sections and captures a "mini-movie" of small images at 400 x 300-pixel resolution.) Finally, Movie mode records moving images (with sound) for a maximum of 60 seconds, at approximately 15 frames per second. Movies are recorded in the QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) resolution size.

The Coolpix 5700 stores images on CompactFlash cards (Type I or II), and a 16MB "starter" card comes with the camera. File formats include several levels of compressed JPEG files as well as an uncompressed TIFF mode (Hi quality setting), and an NEF (RAW data) format. Available image sizes are 2,560 x 1,920, 3:2 Ratio (2,560 x 1,700), 1,600 x 1,200 (UXGA), 1,280 x 960 (SXGA), 1,024 x 768 (XGA), and 640 x 480 (VGA) pixels. A Video Out jack connects the camera to a television set or video monitor, for larger screen image review.

A rechargeable EN-EL1 lithium-ion battery pack powers the camera, and an AC adapter is available as a separate accessory. (The battery and charger are included in the box with the Coolpix 5700.) The camera connects to a computer via a USB cable (included), and the accompanying software provides image downloading and organizing capabilities. The Coolpix 5700 downloads its images fairly quickly, as I clocked it at a transfer rate of 577 KB/second, definitely in the upper range of digicams I've tested.

Newly designed with an 8x optical zoom, an electronic optical viewfinder, and pop-up flash unit, the Coolpix 5700 is a dramatic update to the earlier Coolpix 5000 model. The rotating LCD monitor makes shooting at odd angles a lot more comfortable, and I found the new control layout to be slightly more intuitive than the previous design. The new 8x lens is a significant enhancement to the earlier model, but the requisite EVF that accompanies the longer lens is less welcome in my opinion. Based on my tests of a production sample of the 5700, image quality and color rendering appear very much on a par with previous Coolpix models. - The 5700 looks like it's going to be another strong member of the Coolpix line.


Design
Building on the well-received design of the Coolpix 5000, the new Coolpix 5700 employs many similar design elements. For starters, the 5700 model features a less conspicuous pop-up flash unit and a (much) longer 8x zoom lens. The new electronic viewfinder takes up less space than the previous real-image optical viewfinder, making the 5700 a little more compact in the vertical dimension than its predecessor. The large lens barrel provides a rounded contour on the left side of the camera (apart from the bottom corner, which is squared off by the LCD hinge) and provides useful surface area for additional camera controls. A carryover from the Coolpix 5000, the Coolpix 5700 has a "Vari-angle" LCD design that swivels, a feature I personally like a great deal. The Coolpix 5700 has an all-black, body composed of a mixture of metal and plastic. It's fairly compact at 4.3 x 3.0 x 4.0 inches (108 x 76 x 102 mm), about 0.2 inches shorter than the 5000, and 0.3 inches wider. It has a pleasant heft, somewhat heavier than the 5000, due no doubt to the mass of the larger lens. It weights 16.8 ounces (480 grams) without battery or memory card. The battery adds another 62 grams to its weight.

 

 

Visible on the front panel are the lens and self-timer lamp, the latter at the top of the handgrip, just below the power switch. The telescoping lens extends as much as two inches when the camera is powered on. (The lens extends two inches when set to its telephoto position, but only a bit over an inch at its wide angle setting. There are body threads at the base of the lens barrel, presumably for mounting an accessory adapter, but it's hard to see how you could use front-element accessory lenses with the 5700, given how much the lens extends when it's zoomed. A removable plastic lens cap protects the lens from scratches, and comes with a tiny strap to tether it to the camera body and prevent it from being lost. Tucked beneath the Coolpix logo are two small holes for the microphone, used to record audio when in movie mode. A large hand grip, coupled with the deep recess between the grip and the lens barrel, provides a firm hold on the camera, and a rubbery coating provides a good gripping surface for your fingers.

 

 

The camera's right side (as viewed from the back) houses the memory card compartment (a Type II Compact Flash slot) and an eyelet for the neck strap. I liked the positive snap-action operation of the memory compartment cover: The spring action is apparently contained in the hinge mechanism, and it feels much better than the usual friction snap-latch I commonly find on the outside edges of these flaps on most cameras I test.

 

 

The left side of the camera is rounded to conform to the shape of the lens barrel, and holds several control buttons, the second neck strap eyelet, a connector compartment, and the speaker. The four control buttons (Flash / ISO, Image Quality and Size, AE/AF Lock, and Focus Mode buttons) on the side of the lens serve dual purposes, changing one setting when pressed, and another when pressed and held while turning the Command dial. A rubbery flap covers the connector compartment, which houses the DC In, A/V Out, and I/O Digital jacks. The flap remains fastened to the camera body and folds out of the way easily, using the new, more substantial connector/hinge tab design I saw and approved of on Nikon's new D100 SLR. Also visible from this angle is the diopter adjustment dial on the viewfinder eyepiece.

 

 

The top of the camera has a handful of controls, a small status display panel, the pop-up flash, and the external flash hot shoe. You can either pull the flash up manually, or the camera will pop it up automatically when needed. The hot shoe has the standard five-contact design used by the Nikon Speedlights, but should also host some third-party flash units. (Particularly since the camera doesn't use most of the special Nikon-proprietary contacts on the flash shoe.) The small status display panel reports most camera settings, including battery power, and is very useful for making quick camera adjustments. Top panel controls include the Power dial and Shutter, Mode, Exposure Compensation, Illuminate, and Function buttons. As on the 5000, a Command dial on the top panel is used in conjunction with various buttons on the body of the camera to change settings.

 

 

Many of the controls and user interface elements for the Coolpix 5700 are on the back of the camera. At top left is the electronic viewfinder (EVF) eyepiece, with a diopter adjustment dial on the left side. On the right side of the eyepiece is a Monitor Select button, which toggles the viewfinder display back and forth between the EVF and LCD monitor. A rocker button in the top right corner controls optical and digital zoom, as well as playback viewing options. The remaining controls include the Menu and Quick Review buttons, Mode switch, Four-Way Arrow pad, and the Erase and Display buttons. The right edge of the back panel is sculpted, providing a nice indentation and associated ridge that provides just enough of a lip to give your thumb something to hold onto.

 

 

Like the Coolpix 5000, the 5700 has a "vari-angle" LCD monitor, which lifts off of the back panel and swings outward. Once out, the monitor swivels 270 degrees. One benefit is that in addition to facing a variety of angles, the LCD can flip around and face the back of the camera when closed, protecting it from any scratches.

 

 

The bottom of the Coolpix 5700 is nice and flat, with several raised inserts of resilient plastic that increase the camera's grip on tripod mounting plates. The tripod socket itself is a rugged metal unit. 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 the offset between the lens' optical center and the center of rotation for the tripod mount. Having the tripod socket centered also means that some tripod mounting plates will prevent you from removing the battery while mounted to the 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, a small plastic plate next to the battery compartment pops out revealing a connector for the power/vertical hand grip accessory.

 

Viewfinder
A new feature on the Coolpix 5700 is the electronic viewfinder (EVF), essentially a miniaturized version of the LCD monitor, complete with information and menu screens. The Monitor Select button on the right side of the viewfinder switches the view back and forth between the EVF and LCD monitor displays. Though you can call up the LCD menus in the EVF display, I found it rather tedious to actually make menu selections that way. It's much easier to use the larger display of the LCD monitor for menu navigation. Still, the EVF's informative display reports exposure settings, camera mode settings, and battery information, all of which are useful during normal operation. A diopter adjustment dial, tucked on the left side of the eyepiece, adjusts the view to accommodate eyeglass wearers. Through the Setup menu, you can specify whether the EVF or LCD monitor automatically activates by default at camera startup.


 

The 1.8-inch, 110,000-dot, low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD monitor features a swivel design. The LCD monitor actually lifts up off of the back panel, flipping out toward the left side of the camera. Once opened, the LCD monitor can swivel around to face up or down over about a 270 degree range of rotation. You can also turn the LCD monitor around to face the camera and then close it to protect the monitor from any accidental scratches. I really like swiveling LCD designs, as they greatly increase the camera's shooting flexibility, allowing you to hold the camera at a variety of angles and still clearly see the LCD display. (They're particularly handy for over-the-head shots in crowds, or for ground-level macro shooting.)

A nice touch in the Coolpix 5700's LCD viewfinder implementation is that you can adjust not only the viewfinder brightness, but its color (hue) as well. A menu option lets you adjust the viewfinder color towards either the blue or the red ends of the spectrum, to help match the viewfinder display to the actual color balance of your captured images. I applaud this, but note that having control only over blue/red tints is only a partial solution. (Technically, you need separate controls for red, green, and blue, in order to be able to completely control the display color. You could get away with only varying two of these relative to the third, but I suspect that full control would result in a bewildering user interface. Still, I'd like to see some attempt to offer more complete color adjustment. Big kudos to Nikon for providing any sort of LCD hue adjustment though.)

The Coolpix 5700 again features Nikon's powerful zone-based autofocus system. The camera automatically chooses between five different autofocus zones, or you can lock it in on any one of them manually. Either way, the viewfinder displays all five zones, and highlights the currently active one in red. Very slick!

 

A Quick Review function lets you quickly check the last exposure while still in record mode, simply by pressing the Quick Review button above the LCD screen. This isn't an uncommon feature on digicams, but what's absolutely unique on the Coolpix cameras is the "picture in picture" review mode (shown here), which opens a playback window in the upper left-hand corner of the display screen, while keeping the viewfinder image live on the remaining LCD area. Note too, that this image isn't restricted to the most recently captured photo. You can scroll through all the images on the memory card by pressing the rocker button arrows. The first press of the Quick Review button activates the picture in picture review mode, a second press enables full-screen playback, and a third press returns you to full capture mode. At any point, pressing the Shutter button returns you to capture mode and snaps a picture. Cool!

In Playback mode, the LCD offers a wealth of information via several display pages. In total, no fewer than five information screens are available, accessed by turning the Command dial. The first display is the standard Playback information readout, which reports the date and time of the shot, file name, quality setting, and the image number on the card. The next two screens report a long listing of camera and exposure settings, including the firmware version, focal length, shutter speed, ISO, etc. A fourth information page shows a histogram view of the image, illustrating the distribution of brightness values in the image, with the left edge corresponding to pure black, and the right edge to pure white. Once you learn how to read it, a histogram is very useful in determining whether you've managed to capture a good exposure or not. Ideally, a well-exposed image would produce a histogram curve that just filled the graph from left to right, indicating that it contained a full range of tonal values. The final information screen shows lens, shutter, and focus settings, and indicates (by the red brackets) what the autofocus system had locked onto when the picture was taken. Histogram displays won't always show you if only a small portion of your image is blown-out: To address this need, the 5700 blinks those parts of the image that are overexposed, letting you see exactly where you're losing highlight detail. Very nice, I'd like to see more manufacturers adopt this feature!

Also in Playback mode, the LCD offers a thumbnail index display, showing either four or nine images to a page depending on the setting. The Zoom Rocker button controls the index display, as the wide-angle side of the zoom lever increases the number of thumbnails displayed (from one to four to nine). The telephoto side returns to the single image display, and also activates the playback zoom, which enlarges the displayed image up to 6x. When you're zoomed in on an image, you can pan around the image with the rocker control.


Why I don't like EVFs
I guess this is where I need to express my concerns over EVFs in general, and the one on the 5700 in particular. When it comes to cameras with long-ratio zoom lenses, EVFs prove to be a necessary evil. There's just no way to manufacture an optical viewfinder with a long zoom ratio that'll accurately track the field of view of the lens and have acceptable optical characteristics (brightness, distortion, etc) for an affordable price. As a result, once you get over about a 4x zoom ratio, you pretty much have to go with an EVF.

So what's wrong with an EVF, and why do I call it a "necessary evil?" The problem really comes down to light sensitivity. In order to provide a "live" display, the LCD inside the EVF has to be refreshed quite rapidly, certainly no less than 5 times per second or so. This places a severe limit on the amount of light the CCD can gather for each refresh. (If the refresh rate were 5 times per second, the maximum shutter time for each frame would obviously be about 1/5 of a second.) While you can generally tolerate a darker image in the viewfinder than you'd accept in the final photograph, the fact remains that EVF-equipped cameras can almost always capture acceptable photos under much lower light levels than those at which you can actually see anything through the viewfinder. There are tricks the camera engineers can play to help this situation somewhat, but they're limited. Slowing refresh rates in dim lighting is the first trick to use, and that's what the Nikon designers did with the 5700. The 5700's refresh rate gets much slower in dim lighting conditions. Another trick is to crank up the signal amplification between the CCD and LCD, to get a brighter image. You'll get more image noise on the LCD, but most users will accept pretty noisy EVF images if the increased noise at least lets them see their subjects. Nikon appears to have adopted this latter practice as well, but only to a degree.

In playing with the 5700's EVF, I found that it responded pretty directly to the camera's ISO setting: Higher ISOs produced brighter EVF displays under darker conditions. I discovered though, that changes in EVF sensitivity lagged changes in the ISO setting by a few seconds.The viewfinder display was at least somewhat usable down to surprisingly low light levels with the ISO set to 800, but it took a good 6-10 seconds for the display to brighten after changing from a lower ISO setting. If want to shoot at lower ISO settings to minimize image noise (and are patient enough), it's possible to set the ISO up to 800 to frame your shot, then dial it back down to whatever value you want to shoot at. This is feasible, but far from convenient. (Here's a suggestion to the Nikon engineers: How about a firmware option that would boost the effective ISO dramatically only for the viewfinder display? A menu option could turn this on or off, preserving the relationship between viewfinder brightness and ultimate exposure level for normal shooting.) Overall, the EVF in the 5700 does a somewhat better than average job of letting you see under dim lighting, but it's still no match for a true optical viewfinder when it comes to low light shooting.


Optics
The Coolpix 5700 features an 8x Nikkor 8.9-71.2mm ED lens, the equivalent of a 35-280mm lens on a 35mm camera. The maximum aperture varies from f/2.8 to f/4.2, depending on the lens zoom setting, with the largest aperture available when the lens is at its maximum wide angle focal length. Apertures are adjustable in 10 steps with one-third EV increments, and are created by a seven-blade iris diaphragm. (The seven-blade diaphragm is a nice but subtle touch - it will produce less distortion in sharp, specular highlights than apertures made by diaphragms with fewer blades in them, and hence more irregular shapes. The seven-blade iris also provides finer-grained aperture control than simpler designs.)

Focus on the Coolpix 5700 operates under automatic or manual control, and features Macro and Infinity focus modes as well. The Coolpix 5700's autofocus mechanism employs a contrast-detection method, which determines focus from a five-area multi-pattern or spot AF area. There are five possible focus zones (center, top, bottom, left, right), useful for achieving accurate focus on off-center subjects, although all are clustered rather closely about the center of the frame. (I'd really like to see them extend a bit further out toward the edges, perhaps a third of the distance from their current locations toward the edges of the frame.) The Focus option under the settings menu defaults to AF area selection under automatic control, or lets you explicitly set the location of the focus area. (This last is a nice feature that works well when combined with the spot metering mode, which can likewise be directed to determine exposure from the same five zones.) In the "Auto" option for focus area selection, the camera chooses the area corresponding to the object closest to the camera. When the area focus option is set to Off, the camera bases focus on the central area. (One Playback mode information screen displays a focus area overlay, and shows which focus area was chosen for each image, by highlighting the appropriate set of marks in green.)

Two AF modes are also available: Continuous AF and Single AF. Continuous AF mode means that the camera constantly adjusts the focus, good for moving subjects. In Single AF mode, focus is only determined when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. When the LCD viewfinder is off, the camera remains in Single AF mode.The camera continuously focuses by default, but you can select the Single AF mode through a menu option.

The manual focus option is accessed by pressing the Focus Mode button and turning the Command dial. A distance scale in the LCD monitor reports current focusing distance in a very general sense, showing a bar that extends from a macro symbol on one side to an infinity symbol on the other. The minimum focusing range depends strongly on the lens zoom setting, so the focus-distance display turns red if you try to manually focus closer than the lens can support at its current focal length. I have to say that I dislike the 5700's distance readout because it makes it difficult or impossible to know the actual focusing distance you've selected. I've often had occasion to set an approximate manual focus distance in advance of a shot, based on my estimate of the subject's distance. (After-dark candid and wildlife photography are two situations where I've frequently needed to do this.) I would think Nikon could use the combination of lens focal length and stepper motor position to derive the actual focusing distance. - Certainly, I've seen numeric distance readouts on cameras from a variety of other manufacturers, so it's technically possible.

For those situations when you can actually point at your subject long enough to set the focus visually, a "Focus Confirmation" option (available as a menu selection in Record mode) applies a strong "sharpening" operator to the LCD display. The result is that the LCD image very clearly "snaps" into focus when proper focus is achieved, making the LCD display much more useful that it ordinarily would be for manual focusing. Focus Confirmation can be set to be on all the time, off all the time, or only on when the camera is being manually focused. - This is another Nikon trick that I'd like to see more camera manufacturers adopt.

The Coolpix 5700's digital telephoto feature is enabled through the Zoom option under the Setup menu, and enlarges images as much as 4x. An indicator on the LCD monitor displays the current level of digital zoom at each step (from 1.1x to 4.0x). Keep in mind though that digital telephoto only enlarges the center of the image, reducing resolution in direct proportion to the amount of digital zoom used. The 5700 appears to automatically switch to center-weighted metering and a center autofocus target when digital zoom is active. Also under the Zoom menu option, you can set the zoom speed and activate the Fixed Aperture function, which keeps the aperture fixed as the lens zooms. (This last being a very handy option when working with studio strobes or other strobes with fixed output levels and no exposure feedback from the camera.) In my own use of the camera, I couldn't see much difference in zoom speed between the "fast" and "slow" options, a difference of 0.25 seconds in the time it took to run the zoom across its full range. (2.15 seconds at the "fast" zoom setting, 2.4 seconds at the "slow" one.) It seemed that the "slow" setting made it a bit easier to adjust the zoom setting in small increments, but the difference between fast and slow was again pretty subtle.

There's a set of body threads around the base of the lens barrel, presumably for attaching an adaptor barrel for accessory lenses. I don't know how useful these threads will be though, given the significant distance the front element of the 5700's lens travels when it zooms, extending much further in the telephoto than the wide angle position. I guess you could have a lens adapter for use with a teleconverter that would position the adapter lens beyond the furthest travel of the 5700's lens. You couldn't use that same adapter for a wide angle accessory lens though, as it produce severe vignetting. - And if you attached a wide angle lens close enough to work properly when the camera lens was set to its wide angle position, it would be easy to damage the lens mechanism if the camera tried to rack the lens out to the telephoto setting when it was turned on.

Autofocus performance under low light on the 5700 seems similar to that on prior Coolpix models, but suffers relative to some of the competition due to the lack of an AF-assist illuminator. In my informal testing, the AF system could focus on sharply-defined, high-contrast objects at light levels as low as 1/4 foot-candle. (About 2.6 lux.) In actual use with typical subjects though, you shouldn't expect reliable AF performance at levels less than twice that, since contrast-detect AF is very dependent on the contrast of the subject, and responds much better if the subject has sharply-defined edges in it. With less contrasty or less sharply-defined cameras, you'll need more light for accurate focusing.

There's good news for macro fans with the 5700 too: Like the rest of the Coolpix line, it's an excellent macro performer: Minimum macro coverage area is a tiny 1.16 x 0.87 inches (29.6 x 22.2 mm), by my actual measurements.

Confused by Apertures and Depth of Field? - Do you know how to use "Front Focus" or "Back Focus" to get *all* your subject in focus? Visit our free Photo Lessons area and click on the lessons "Focusing Up Close" and "Selective Focusing Outside!"

 


Exposure

Confused by White Balance? Visit our free Photo Lessons area and click on the lessons "White Balance Indoors" and "White Balance Outdoors!"

Nikon digital cameras have consistently provided extensive exposure controls, and the Coolpix 5700 is no different. The camera offers a choice of Program AE, Flexible Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, accessed by pressing the Mode button and turning the Command dial. Available shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to eight seconds. (Although the 1/4,000 shutter time is only available when the lens is set to its smallest aperture. The fastest shutter time is 1/2,000 otherwise.) A Bulb mode allows longer exposures up to one or five minutes. (The maximum bulb exposure time defaults to one minute, but can be increased to five minutes via a menu option.) Like other recent Coolpix models, the 5700 uses a noise reduction technology that's based on a form of "dark frame subtraction," whereby a second exposure is snapped immediately after the first, but with the shutter closed. The pattern of noise in this "dark frame" is then subtracted from the image itself, resulting in a drastic reduction in apparent noise levels. (I suspect that the actual algorithm is more complex than simple subtraction though, involving data substitution to prevent black pixels where the noise current saturated the CCD photosite.) This Noise Reduction can be enabled via a menu option, and is applied to any exposure longer than 1/4 second.

Adding to the usefulness of the fully-automatic Program AE mode, the Flexible Program AE option lets you select from a range of exposure settings by turning the Command dial. (Simply turn the Command dial on its own while in Program mode, and an asterisk appears next to the "P" in the LCD display. Further rotation of the Command dial cycles through the available combinations of shutter speed and aperture that correspond to the exposure level the camera has selected.) Flexible Program AE lets you choose from several equivalent exposures, allowing you to decide between a faster shutter speed or a smaller lens aperture. Personally, I find this more useful than the more common aperture- or shutter-priority metering options, as it gives the camera more latitude to get the shot you want, while letting you express a "preference" for larger or smaller aperture settings.

The Coolpix 5700 uses the 256-Segment Matrix system by default, but also offers Center-Weighted, Spot, and AF Spot metering options. The 256-Segment Matrix setting meters the exposure based on several areas in the frame, averaging the values together to determine the best overall exposure. Center-Weighted metering measures light from the entire frame but places the greatest emphasis on a circular area in the center. Spot metering is pretty self-explanatory, taking a reading from the dead center of the image (best when using the AE Lock function). With AF Spot, the spot metering actually centers on the specific focus area selected, giving you the option for off-center spot metering. (See the previous Optics section of this review for a discussion of the 5700's AF Area focusing mode.)

An ISO adjustment option offers a range of values, including Auto, 100, 200, 400, and 800 ISO equivalents. The ISO 800 option produces a lot of image noise, so the camera warns you when it's selected by highlighting the ISO numbers on the LCD screen in red. White balance choices include Auto, Fine (daylight), Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Speedlight, or Preset (which lets you manually adjust the white value by using a white card or object as a reference point). All white balance settings except Preset can be adjusted from -3 to +3 units on an arbitrary scale. There's also a White Balance Bracketing mode, which captures three images at slightly different white balance adjustments, so you can pick the best image when you get them all back on your computer. I think both of these options are very useful, as I often find myself wanting to tweak one of a camera's preprogrammed white balance values to my liking. White balance "tweak" adjustments like this are becoming more common, but I wish even more manufacturers would adopt them.

Exposure compensation on the Coolpix 5700 is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments, in all exposure modes. The Auto Bracketing feature takes three or five shots of the same subject with varying exposure values determined either by the photographer in Manual mode or by the camera in all other modes. Exposure settings for bracketing can vary from -2 to +2 EV (values are added to the already chosen exposure compensation value), with step sizes of one-third, one-half, or one EV unit, and the bracketing biased toward either underexposure, overexposure, or centered around the main exposure value.

Another signature Nikon feature is the Image Adjustment menu. This menu offers options to increase or decrease contrast, as well as lighten or darken the entire image. An interesting feature about these tonal adjustments is that the 5700's "lighten" and "darken" options adjust the midtone values of the image without affecting the white and black values. (That is, "lighten" will brighten the middle brightness values in the image, without blowing-out white areas, or lightening black ones.) Like other recent Coolpix digicams, the 5700 also provides a range of color saturation options, including Maximum, Normal, Moderate, Minimum, and Black & White. Additionally, a Sharpness adjustment controls the amount of in-camera sharpening applied to the image.

One of the really unique Nikon digicam features, the Best Shot Selector (BSS) captures several images in rapid succession, and lets the camera choose only the sharpest (least blurred) to be saved. Best Shot Select makes it feasible to handhold the camera for surprisingly long exposures - I've routinely handheld 1/2 second exposures and gotten good results with Coolpix cameras. You can also check your own work immediately as the camera gives you a quick preview of the captured image and gives you an option to delete or save the image. I've really enjoyed the available-light and low-light photos BSS has let me bring home those times when I've taken a Nikon digicam with me on a trip or outing. Since it chooses the sharpest image from among several that it shoots though, it's at its best when you have a fairly static subject. When shooting people-pictures, it tends to miss fleeting expressions. Still, it's a remarkably useful photographic tool, one I'd be happy to see on cameras from other manufacturers. (I seem to be saying that a lot when talking about unique Nikon features.)

The Coolpix 5700 lets you save up to three sets of user settings for focus, exposure, and other camera options, for rapid recall via the setup menu. This is a real time saver in rapidly switching between widely different sets of shooting conditions. My one complaint about the implementation of the User Settings on the Coolpix 5700 is the same that I had on the 5000 model: You have to select one of them, or you can't access any of the camera's powerful special features. The default "A" user setting corresponds to the camera's full auto mode. This isn't a big deal, just confusing on first exposure to it. (I had trouble with this on the 5000 model, and had to actually read the manual to find out how to enable the camera's advanced capabilities. In my opinion, if I have to read the manual to figure something out about a camera, it's way too obscure for "normal" users.) I doubt this will actually prevent anyone from enjoying their Coolpix 5700, but do think the distinction between "auto" and "advanced" modes should be made a lot more clear in the user interface.

Finally, a Self-Timer mode provides a short countdown between a full press of the Shutter button and the actual exposure. The Coolpix 5700 lets you select either a three- or 10-second delay. The shorter delay is great for those times when you're talking a long exposure on a tripod, and want to use the self-timer to trip the shutter so you won't jiggle the camera. Coupled with the Noise Reduction option mentioned above, the Coolpix 5700 also offers a Clear Image Mode, something we first saw on the 5000 model. Intended to reduce image noise and improve color and tonal gradation in images of SXGA resolution (1,280 x 960) and smaller, the mode snaps three exposures for each image, two with the shutter open, and one with it closed. The camera then compares these and averages the results to reduce the noise in the image. I didn't find this terribly useful on the 5000, and frankly don't find it much more so on the 5700. I guess no reason not to have it, but I don't see anyone buying the camera purely because of it.


Flash
The Coolpix 5700 features a built-in, pop-up flash with five modes available, including Auto, Flash Cancel, Anytime Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync. The Slow-Sync option is useful when shooting subjects with darker or dimly-lit backgrounds (such as night scenes) because the camera leaves the shutter open longer, firing the flash before the shutter closes. This allows more ambient light into the image, avoiding the starkly-lit appearance of standard nighttime flash shots. It can also provide a nice motion blur effect. Red-Eye Reduction mode fires a pre-flash before the main exposure, to reduce the reflection from the subject's pupils.

The top-mounted hot shoe accommodates a more powerful external flash, either a Nikon dedicated unit, or a generic third-party one. The shoe connects to Nikon Speedlight models SB-80DX, 50 DX, 28DX, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, and 22, although I was again surprised to see that the shoe mount didn't make use of the zoom head on an SB-80DX speedlight I had here. The higher-end Nikon speedlights can focus their flash heads, to match the angular coverage of the lens you're shooting with. Thus, when shooting with a telephoto lens, the illumination from the speedlight is focused into a relative narrow beam, concentrating its power and providing greatly increased flash range. While you can always manually zoom the head, it's obviously much more convenient if the camera does it for you automatically. It's hard to understand why Nikon didn't implement this functionality on the Coolpix 5700. By not taking advantage of the advanced features of their own speedlights, it seems to me that Nikon is figuratively tying one hand behind its back in the area of flash performance.

The other obvious "missing feature" relative to Nikon speedlights is autofocus assist illumination. Several of Nikon's higher-end speedlights incorporate infrared autofocus assist illuminators, which likewise aren't utilized by the Coolpix 5700. Given the nature of these features, there's little or no hope of them being added to the 5700 via a firmware upgrade, but let's hope the Nikon engineers read this review and consider adding them in future models. (Actually, the IR AF assist light may have fundamental issues, given that the 5700's AF is based on the signal coming from the CCD, and the CCD has an IR filter over it to improve color rendition. Some of Nikon's strobes (like the SB-80DX) do have a normal incandescent AF illuminator though. I really don't see any excuse for leaving out control of the SB-80's and 50's zoom heads regardless of any other considerations.)

Continuous Shooting Modes
The Coolpix 5700 offers a number "motor drive" rapid-exposure modes for capturing quick sequences of images. Four modes (Continuous L, Continuous H, Ultra High Speed Continuous, and Multi-Shot 16) are selectable under the Continuous option of the settings menu. Continuous L mode captures as many as three frames, at three frames per second. Continuous H mode captures as many as four frames, at three frames per second. In Ultra High Speed Continuous mode, the Coolpix 5700 captures as many as 100 frames at 30 frames per second, in the QVGA resolution size. Multi-Shot 16 mode subdivides the image area into 16 sections and captures a "mini-movie" of small images (400 x 300 resolution), which fills-in a 4x4 array within a single high-resolution image as the shooting progresses. Frame rates in Multi-Shot 16 are as fast as five frames per second.

Movie Mode
The Coolpix 5700 also records moving images with sound. In Movie mode, the camera captures movies for a maximum of 60 seconds, at approximately 15 frames per second. Movies are recorded at QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) resolution.  

 

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I now routinely measure it with a special electronic test setup I constructed for the purpose. Here's the full set of timing numbers I measured for the Coolpix 5700:

 

Nikon Coolpix 5700 Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Normal Card
Notes
Power On -> First shot
 5.38
A little slow but faster than the 5000: Takes quite a while for the lens to telescope out and the camera to get ready to shoot.
Shutdown
 2.96/whatever
It takes 2.96 seconds for the lens to retract if the camera is otherwise unoccupied, but could take a hundred seconds or more if you've just filled the buffer memory with a large batch of files. - The lens doesn't retract until the camera has finished saving data to the memory card.
Play to Record, first shot
1.78/2.59
About average for a high-end prosumer camera. First time is from Quick Review, second is from actual playback mode.
Record to play
1.4/10.5
Pretty quick to display images, using the "quick review" button, but camera makes you wait if it's writing to the card.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.90 - 1.03
This is about average for high-end consumer cameras, but a tad faster than the 5000. (But still too slow IMHO - shutter lag is the number one parameter needing attention by the digicam mfrs, as far as I'm concerned.) The first number is for wide angle focal lengths, the second is for telephoto.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.66
These numbers are rather slow - the average delay in manual focus mode for high-end consumer models is about 0.5 seconds. (Again, even 0.5 seconds is too slow, IMHO.)
Shutter lag, "Quick Response"   The 5700 has an option for "Quick shutter response." This only works when preview display is enabled (explaining why it's on the "monitor" options setup menu). When enabled, if you hit the shutter button while the previous shot is still being previewed on the display, the camera will snap the shot with the same exposure/focus settings as the shot before it. This produces pretty fast shutter response, handy for multiple shots of rapidly moving subjects.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.094
Faster than average, albeit not quite up to Nikon's claimed 0.07 seconds. NOTE that I got highly variable times here: The 0.09 second figure is the average of the best times I got. A few shots showed lag times as high as 0.2 seconds. The fastest lag time I saw was 0.079. (One shot only.) I don't think the variation is due to my timing setup, because I can measure very consistent, very short lag times on cameras like the pro SLRs by Nikon and other manufacturers.
Cycle time, large/fine files
2.24/5.5
Pretty fast. Shorter time is for first 8 shots, then need to wait for the buffer to "drain" before next shot. The full-buffer cycle time of 5.5 seconds (with a fast memory card) is better than average.
Cycle time, small/basic files
2.09
Pretty quick. LOTS of shots before the buffer filled.
Cycle time, TIFF files
19 - 21
TIFF mode files are huge, take longer to write to write. Surprisingly little variation between fast and slow memory cards when writing TIFFs, only about 2 seconds in my measurements. NOTE though, that the buffer memory plays no role when you're writing TIFFs - You have to wait this long before you can take the next shot.
Cycle time, TIFF files
17 - 62 (?!)
This was really bizarre. I'd think that NEF files would take less time to write than TIFFs, since they're smaller. And they did (a little) on a fast card (a Lexar 12x). On another fairly fast card though (a SimpleTech 320 MB), the time stetched to 58 seconds(!), only a little slower than the 62 seconds a really slow Kingston card took. This is really strange: Why should writing a NEF file take vastly longer on some cards than others, and much longer than writing a TIFF?
Continuous mode (High Speed), large files
0.37
2.68 frames per second for 3 frames, then a wait of 20 seconds or more before it will snap the next set of 3 frames. (Nikon's spec is 3 fps, I'm not sure why my test showed slower. I repeated several times with two different units, with the same results.)
Continuous mode (Low Speed), large files
0.77/67.5
Snaps up to 10 frames at the roughly 1.15 frame/second rate. (Nikon's spec is 1.5 fps.)
Multi-Shot 16
0.32
Divides full-sized frame into a 4x4 matrix of sub-pictures. 0.32 seconds between shots (3.17 frames/second) for 16 low-res images
Ultra High Speed
0.033
WOW, this is fast! Great for time/motion studies (golf/tennis swings?), but there's a fair amount of "jitter" between frames (the inter-frame interval varies between 28 and 39 milliseconds, so you can't use it for scientific applications). Captures up to 100 images at 320x240 resolution, "normal" JPEG quality. Shot to shot interval is only 0.033 seconds, or 29.9 frames/second. - This is actually faster than the 5700's movie mode, but you can only capture about 3 seconds of action, and the action is in individual files.
Movie Mode
~15 frames/second, with sound.
Movie mode will record up to 60 seconds of 320x240 "QVGA" resolution action with sound.

 

Overall, the 5700 is a fairly fast camera, with good shot to shot cycle times. (Thanks in part to a roomy 9-frame buffer memory.) The prototype I first saw showed rather slow shutter response, but the production model happily did much better. Cycle times and buffer clearing times were virtually identical from prototype to production. Overall, the 5700's shutter lag with full autofocus is about average among high-end consumer digicams, but at least no worse than that, and prefocus lag time is quite a bit faster than average, albeit not quite as fast as Nikon claims. (At least not in my measurements of it.) For repeated shots of rapidly moving subjects, the "Quick Release" shutter mode improves lag time to better than average levels, about 0.35 seconds. Quick Release works by using the same exposure and focus settings for each shot as for the one before it. NOTE though, that the Quick Release mode requires that you run the camera in "preview" mode, and only produces the fast lag times for shots snapped while the previous shot is still being displayed on the monitor. It thus won't work well for subjects that you need to track continously in the viewfinder. Its various "high speed" modes provide a useful range of options, trading off various parameters against speed in different ways. Its Continuous (High Speed) mode captures bursts of up to three frames, at a rate of 2.7 frames per second, while the Continuous (Low Speed) mode captures up to 10 frames at 1.15 frames per second. (Note that these figures are based on my own measurements: Nikon claims 3 and 1.5 frames per second respectively for these modes.) Being the "measurement nut" that I am, I found the "Ultra High Speed" mode the most interesting. - It lets you capture up to 100 frames at 320x240 resolution, at an incredible 30 frames per second. - This would be great for things like analyzing golf or tennis swings, or possibly monitoring industrial processes, etc. Do note though, that I found quite a bit of "jitter" in the inter-frame interval in this mode, which would limit its usefulness in scientific applications. Still great for golf swings though!


Operation and User Interface
The Coolpix 5700's user interface has similar controls to the previous 5000 model, but with a rather different layout. The LCD menu system is available for novices, and for less commonly used controls, but experienced users will find they can make virtually all of the necessary adjustments for routine shooting without resorting to the LCD screen. Once you learn where the functions are, operation is quick and intuitive, thanks to the multiple control buttons and the excellent use Nikon makes of the black & white LCD data readout and the Command dial. The inclusion of a programmable Function key adds flexibility, letting you customize the camera to your specific shooting needs by assigning frequently-used settings to the top-panel Function button. Exposure compensation, exposure mode, ISO value, image quality and size, as well as focus controls (manual focus setting, macro, and infinity focus) and flash mode can all be adjusted without the LCD. The top-panel monochrome status display provides clear feedback for all these settings as well. When you do have to delve into the LCD menu system, navigation via the Four-Way arrow rocker button is intuitive and quick. In Record mode, the menu system is split into three pages of options, with a tabbed interface, by which you can jump between pages with only a few clicks of the rocker button (rather than scrolling through every option on each screen). In normal operation, most of the camera's functions are controlled by a combination of hitting a button and turning the Command dial, which makes it very fast and efficient to change settings. Control layout is also very logical, allowing one-handed operation for commonly changed functions, requiring a two-handed approach only for manual focus setting, ISO, flash mode, and size/quality adjustment.


Control Enumeration


Shutter Button
: Located on top of the camera (slightly sloping down in front) and encircled by the Power switch, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power Switch
: Surrounding the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this dial turns the camera on or off.


Mode Button
: Just behind the Power switch on the top panel, this button selects the exposure mode (Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual) when held down while turning the Command dial. In Manual exposure mode (meaning manual control over both aperture and shutter speed settings), a quick press of this button alternates between the aperture or shutter speed settings, letting you change either by turning the Command dial. A second press selects the other exposure parameter for Command dial control.


Exposure Compensation Button
: Directly to the right of the Mode button, this button adjusts the amount of exposure compensation (from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments) when held down while turning the Command dial.


Function Button
: Just behind the Exposure Compensation button, this button switches between any of four preprogrammed camera setups. You can set up the camera for three completely different shooting scenarios (or leave it in "auto" mode), and then switch quickly between them by pressing this button and rotating the Command dial. Menu items programmable via the user setups include white balance, metering pattern, continuous-shooting modes, Best Shot Selector, image adjustment (brightness/contrast), color saturation control, and adapter lens setting. Also memorized within each user mode are non-menu items such as exposure mode settings, flash mode settings, and exposure compensation adjustments. NOTE: As I mentioned earlier, none of the advanced features of the 5700 are available until you take the camera out of Auto mode via this button (or the menu system). The function controlled by the Func. button can be changed by a LCD menu option, to include user mode, focus setting, flash mode, white balance, or metering pattern.


Illuminate Button
: To the left of the Function button, this button activates a green backlight behind the status display panel, so you can read the display in dark conditions.


Command Dial
: Located at the rear, righthand corner of the top of the camera, this rotary control is used in conjunction with many of the other buttons on the camera to change camera settings. Pressing the appropriate button and rotating the dial one way or the other steps through the options available for the setting in question. In programmed exposure mode, rotating the dial at any time (e.g., with no button pressed) varies the exposure program, biasing it toward larger or smaller aperture settings. (A very handy way to control depth of field in your photos, without having to bother with the aperture priority exposure mode.)


Diopter Adjustment Dial
: Hidden on the left side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this small, black dial adjusts the viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers.


Monitor Select Button
: On the right side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this button toggles the viewfinder display back and forth between the EVF and LCD monitor. Since there's no optical viewfinder, there's no "off" setting to disable the electronic viewfinders entirely.


Zoom Control
: Located in the upper right corner of the back panel, this rocker control operates the optical zoom in all capture modes. Likewise, when digital telephoto is enabled, this button controls the amount of digital zoom (from 1.1x to 4.0x).

In single-image playback mode, pressing the "T" button repeatedly zooms in on the image, while pressing the "W" side of the control cancels zoomed playback. Pressing the "W" side again switches to four-image thumbnail view, and another press switches to nine-image thumbnail view. Pressing the "T" side of the control steps back through the sequence in the other direction.


Menu Button
: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button brings up the settings menu in all capture modes as well as in Playback mode. Pressing it a second time cancels the menu display.


Quick Review Button
: Beneath the Menu button, this button calls up a thumbnail sized display of the most recently captured image while in either record mode, appearing in the upper left-hand corner. The left and right arrow keys scroll through the remaining captured images on the memory card. Pressed a second time, it expands the thumbnail view to a full-screen display of the captured images on the card, complete with an image information overlay. The Quick Review mode is canceled by pressing the button a third time, or by pressing the Shutter button.


Erase Button
: Just below the Quick Review button, this button calls up the Erase menu in Playback mode, which lets you delete the displayed image. There is an option to cancel. If the instant image review function is enabled, you can press this button to delete the captured image and cancel recording to the memory card.


Display Button
: Directly below the Erase button, this button controls the information overlay in Playback and any record mode. Pressing it once turns off the information display, while a second press recalls it.


Play/Record Switch
: Just under the Zoom Rocker control, this switch slides between Playback and Record modes. (You can also enter playback mode by hitting the Quick Review button twice.)


Four-Way Arrow Rocker
: Situated on the far right of the rear panel, this control features four arrows that allow the user to navigate through the LCD menu system and make selections in Record and Playback modes. Different menu items are selected via the up/down arrows. Pressing the right arrow selects the item, generally taking you into a sub-menu. Pressing the left arrow takes you back out again. Once in a sub-menu, the up/down arrows again step between items, while a right-arrow selects. This process continues until you arrive at the final point of selection, upon which another right-arrow actuation makes that selection and returns you to the main menu.

In Playback mode, the left and right arrows scroll through captured images. If an image has been enlarged, all four arrows pan around within the view.


Flash / ISO
: The first button in a series of four on the left side of the camera, this button controls both flash mode and the ISO setting. Pressing this button sequentially in Record mode steps you through the various flash modes available (Auto, Flash Cancel, Anytime Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync). Pressing and holding this button while rotating the Command dial selects the ISO from among the five available options (Auto, 100, 200, 400, and 800).


Quality/Size Button
: Directly to the right of the Flash / ISO button, this button cycles between image quality options (Basic, Normal, Fine, Hi, and RAW) in all record modes. In any record mode, holding this button down while rotating the Command dial cycles through the image size settings. Choices are 2,560 x 1,920; (UXGA)1,600 x 1,200; (SXGA) 1,280 x 960; (XGA) 1,024 x 768; (VGA) 640 x 480; and (3:2) 2,560 x 1,704 pixels.


AE / AF Lock Button
: Below the Flash / ISO button, this button locks exposure and/or focus when pressed. A setting in the Record menu assigns either AE only, AF only, or both to the button.


Focus Mode Button
: Directly below the Quality / Size button, this button controls the focus setting and accesses the self-timer. Pressed sequentially, the button cycles through Infinity focus, Macro focus, and Self-Timer modes. Pressed while holding down the Command dial, this accesses and adjusts manual focus.


Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: The rear-panel Mode switch selects between Record and Playback modes, but the common "auto" and "manual" options in Record mode are selected via a "User Setting" option, rather than an external knob setting, as in the 995 and other Nikon cameras. (Last year's 5000 used this same arrangement though.) This is a little less straightforward, and I confess initially left me confused as to how to access all the exposure controls and sophisticated options the 5700 offers. Within Record mode, four main exposure modes are available: Program AE (with Flexible Program), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual. Pressing the Menu button in Record mode calls up the following menu screens:

Screen One


Screen Two


Setup Screen


Playback Mode: Accessed by flipping the rear-panel mode switch to the "Play" position (or by hitting the Quick Review button twice in rapid succession), this mode lets you view captured images and movies. The right and left arrow buttons scroll through images while the zoom control magnifies the image, or lets you view an "index" display of four or nine images at a time. The Delete button enables quick image deletion. Pressing the Menu button in this mode calls up the Playback settings menu:

Screen One


Setup Screen


Image Storage and Interface
The Coolpix 5700 uses standard CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, and a 16MB "starter" card is included with the camera. Given the size of the images though (not to mention the current low prices of memory cards), I strongly recommend buying a (much) larger card. Captured images can be individually write-protected through the Playback menu, but write protected files are only immune to accidental deletion, not card reformatting. File formats include several levels of compressed JPEG files as well as an uncompressed TIFF mode (Hi quality setting) and NEF (RAW) mode. (Both TIFF and RAW settings are only available at maximum resolution.) Available image sizes are 2,560 x 1,920, 3:2 Ratio (2,560 x 1,700), 1,600 x 1,200 (UXGA), 1,280 x 960 (SXGA), 1,024 x 768 (XGA), and 640 x 480 (VGA) pixels. The table below details the Coolpix 5700's approximate file sizes and compression ratios in all its various image size/quality combinations, for a 16MB card.


 

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
16MB Memory Card
RAW
Hi
Fine
Normal
Basic
Full
Resolution
2560x1920
Images
(Avg size)
2 1
14.7 MB
6
2.6 MB
13
1.3 MB
26
0.6 MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 1:1 6:1
12:1
24:1
UXGA
Resolution
1600x1200
Images
(Avg size)
- - 16
1.00 MB
31
0.52 MB
59
0.27 MB
Approx.
Compression
- - 6:1
11:1
21:1
SXGA
Resolution
1280x960
Images
(Avg size)
-
-
25
0.65 MB
48
0.34 MB
87
0.19 MB
Approx.
Compression
-
-
6:1
11:1
20:1
XGA
Resolution
1024x768
Images
(Avg size)
-
-
38
0.43 MB
70
0.23 MB
123
0.13 MB
Approx.
Compression
-
-
6:1
10:1
18:1
VGA
Resolution
640x480
Images
(Avg size)
-
-
87
0.15 MB
146
0.11 MB
232
0.07 MB
Approx.
Compression
-
-
6:1
8:1
13:1
(3:2)
2560x1704
Images
(Avg size)
- - 7
1.5 MB
14
1.1 MB
28
0.6 MB
Approx.
Compression
- - 9:1
12:1
22:1

 

 Nikon has officially certified the IBM MicroDrives for use in the Coolpix 5700, although only the more recent 512MB and 1GB models. (The camera may not start up properly with the original 170/340 megabyte models.)

The Coolpix 5700 uses a USB interface to connect to a host computer for image downloading. Like many higher-end cameras these days, it's a "storage class" device, which means that Mac users on OS 8.6 or greater, or Windows Me, 2000, or XP users can just plug the camera into their computers and have it appear as a removable hard drive. Data transfer is pretty speedy, as I clocked it at 577 KBytes/second on my G4 Mac. (Not quite the fastest I've seen, but easily in the upper echelon.)  

Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 


Video Out

US and Japanese versions of the Coolpix 5700 include an NTSC video cable for connecting to a television set. European models will doubtless support PAL timing and connections, given the Video Mode option in the settings menu. All images that would normally appear on the LCD are routed to the external video display so that the television screen becomes an enlarged version of the LCD monitor and can be used both for image playback and composition.


Power

The Coolpix 5700 runs on a rechargeable EN-EL1 lithium-ion battery pack, housed inside the hand grip, or an external AC adapter which plugs into the front of the camera (available as a separate accessory). The camera can also utilize one 6V 2CR5/DL245 lithium battery, or six AA batteries via an external Power Pack (also available as a separate accessory).

The table below summarizes my power measurements on the Coolpix 5700. Here's a table with the power-consumption numbers I measured:

Operating Mode
Power Drain
(@ 8.4 v)
Estimated Minutes
(650mAh, 7.4v
EN-EL1)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
400 mA
86
Capture Mode, w/EVF
372 mA
92
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
399 mA
86
Half-pressed w/EVF
394 mA
87
Memory Write (transient)
(not measured)
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
938 mA
n/a
Image Playback, LCD
237 mA
145
Image Playback, EVF
231 mA
149

Overall, the Coolpix 5700 is a little more power-hungry than the Coolpix 5000, and as a result, its battery life leaves a bit to be desired. This is aggravated by the fact that the EVF saves negligible power relative to the rear-panel LCD. Any serious shooter will definitely want to purchase an extra battery or two with their 5700, buy the optional handgrip/battery pack accessory, or look into a third-party external power pack to use on longer excursions.

I mentioned Nikon's external power pack above. Another consequence of the LiIon battery technology used in the 5700's power pack is that the camera requires a higher voltage on its external power jack to operate. This isn't an issue for studio use, but it does mean that most of the NiMH-based external power packs out there won't power the 5700 in the field. Fortunately, Maha Energy makes a LiIon external "PowerBank" (shown above plugged into the Coolpix 5000, which has similar power requirements), sold under the "PowerEx" brand that will power the 5700 just fine. For about $60, this (very nicely packaged) unit will power the 5700 for a total of about 5 hours in capture mode with the LCD operating, when used in conjunction with the internal battery. (!) This is a really excellent run time, just what you'd need for all-day intensive shooting. One note - Maha makes both NiMH and LiIon versions of the PowerBank, make sure you get the LiIon model for the 5700. (Model number MH-DPB140LI.) You can order these online from Here's a link where you can find them online for a good price. Highly recommended! (For more information, read my review of the PowerBank packs.)

Although I didn't get to play with one, and so don't have a product photo of it, Nikon apparently will also offer an accessory power grip for the Coolpix 5700, similar to the one they developed for the Coolpix 5000. This unit will incorporate 6 AA cells into its body. With 1700 mAh cells, this would provide about 2.5x the power of the standard EN-EL1 LiIon pack, a very welcome boost for serious shooters.


Included Software

The software they didn't include...
(But that you should)
Few people realize just how *much* you can improve your digicam images through clever processing in Photoshop. Greatly (!) increased sharpness, reduced noise, and even ultra-wide dynamic range (light-to-dark range) by combining multiple exposures. Fred Miranda and uber-Photoshop expert Fred Miranda has packaged some of his Photoshop magic in a collection of powerful and affordably priced "actions." Check out his site, the results are pretty amazing!
Camera manuals are (sometimes) fine for knowing which button does what, but where do you go to learn how and when to use the various features? Dennis Curtin's "Shortcourses" books and CDs are the answer. (Cheap for what you get, too.) Order the Shortcourses manual for the camera reviewed in this article.

The 5700 ships in the US with a fairly robust collection of software titles, including Nikon View 5 (downloading and image management), Arcsoft's PhotoStudio (image editing), VideoImpression (movie editing), PanoramaMaker (a "stitching" application for assembling large panoramic images from several individual shots), and PhotoBase for PDAs (a program for downloading and viewing image files on your PDA). PhotoStudio is a capable enough program for consumer use, but serious users will likely want either Adobe Elements or Photoshop.


In the Box

The following items ship with the Coolpix 5700 :


Test Results

Shoot really compelling product photos for eBay or the web! Visit our free Photo Lessons area and lessons on taking great product shots.
Like the look of this guitar? Get free photo lessons here!

As always, I strongly urge readers to study my sample pictures page for the 5700, which has far more detail on the results of my tests than you'll find here in this condensed treatment.

Overall, the Coolpix 5700 delivered excellent image quality, with plenty of resolution and excellent color throughout my testing. Colors were natural and accurate, with appropriate saturation levels. (Strong yellows end up slightly undersaturated, but the effect isn't too evident with normally colored subjects.) The camera's automatic white balance setting produces good results under a wide variety of lighting conditions. Like most cameras I test, the auto white balance had a very hard time with the very yellowish light provided by household incandescent lighting (a very common light source for amateurs to shoot under), but the 5700's manual white balance option performed superbly under that shooting condition.

My main criticism of the 5700 is that images shot with it under harsh lighting conditions (eg, full noonday sun) came out rather contrasty, with a tendency to lose highlight detail when the midtones anywhere near bright enough. The "low contrast" option on the 5700's shooting menu didn't help much either, only seeming to affect overall brightness, darkening the image, without really decreasing the contrast any. This one quibble about the contrast aside, the 5700 delivered very pleasing images. Under more normal lighting, its tonal range was quite acceptable, and its color rendition was very good as well. I also liked the control offered by the camera's color saturation adjustment, which provided a useful range of variation.

Image noise on the 5700 is pretty decent, average to somewhat better than average under normal shooting conditions, and excellent in low light shooting. - In fact, long exposures are an area where the 5700 really shone, with low random noise levels, and a very effective noise-reduction system for removing "hot pixel" noise. The camera can time exposures out to 8 seconds, but bulb exposures as long as 5 minutes(!) are possible. Low light focusing is another matter though, as the 5700's autofocus system only worked at light levels of 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux) or above in my tests. (This is a factor of two darker than typical city night scenes, so the camera will work fine for typical outdoor night scenes under good illumination, but the camera can acquire bright well-exposed photos in conditions much darker than it can focus in. - And the lack of any distance readout in manual focusing mode further hampers its low light aspirations.)

The Coolpix 5700 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. (The ISO 12233 target.) It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 900 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally, but I found "strong detail" out to 1,300 lines (you could make an argument for 1350), and "extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,500 lines. An excellent job!

Optical distortion on the Coolpix 5700 is a bit higher than average at the wide-angle end of the zoom range, where I measured an 0.9 percent barrel distortion. (0.8 percent barrel distortion is fairly typical, but still much too high, in my opinion.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured a 0.2 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is fairly low, showing about one or two pixels of 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 Coolpix 5700's electronic optical viewfinder and LCD monitor were very accurate at wide angle, showing approximately 98 percent frame accuracy. At telephoto, my standard lines of measurement were just barely out of frame, so the accuracy was very close to 100 percent. I generally prefer viewfinders to be as accurate as possible, so the Coolpix 5700 performs very well in this regard.

The real limitation of electronic viewfinders comes when shooting under low light conditions, where the need for relatively rapid refresh of the viewfinder restricts the CCD's ability to collect light. The result is that cameras with EVFs can almost always capture good shots at light levels far darker than those at which you can still see through the viewfinder. This is true of the 5700 too, but I was very pleased to see that I could use the viewfinder for framing at light levels as dark as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux).

Like the rest of Nikon's Coolpix line, the Coolpix 5700 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of just just 1.16 x 0.87 inches (29.4 x 22.1 millimeters), among the better macro areas I've seen. Resolution was excellent in the details of the dollar bill, and the printing details were very sharp. I noticed some softness in all four corners of the images, but details are fairly sharp in the center of the frame. (Soft corners are unfortunately a nearly universal problem with digicam macro options.) The Coolpix 5700's flash isn't usable this close, as the large lens barrel casts a shadow over most of the image area. (Check out Nikon's optional macro lighting accessory, which uses white LEDs to make a "ring" light for macro shots.) Despite the flash limitation, a very impressive performance.

Overall, I liked the Coolpix 5700 quite a bit, most particularly its very natural, "filmlike" color rendition. I really think Nikon got the color management on the Coolpix 5000 just right, and they carried this forward to the 5700 very well. In the areas of its greatest strength, 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.(!) I'm still no fan of electronic viewfinders (EVFs), due to their limited low light capability, but they're unfortunately a necessary evil in cameras with long zoom ratios. All in all, the 5700 is very deserving of its place atop Nikon's current consumer digicam lineup.


Conclusion
The Coolpix 5700 looks like a pretty dramatic upgrade of the Coolpix 5000, with big story obviously being its 8x zoom lens. It carries forward all the features of the 5000, with the exception of the 5000's optical viewfinder. The switch to an electronic viewfinder is unfortunately necessary with such a long-ratio zoom lens, and does carry with it the advantage of improved framing accuracy. The downsides though are that the camera is less usable in really dark conditions, and has no low-power capture mode available. In terms of functional design though, the 5700 is an excellent update to the 5000 model, with a better control layout and somewhat smaller vertical cross-section. In terms of image quality, the 5700 carries forward the characteristics of the 5000 very well, particularly in the area of accurate, natural-looking color.

<<CoolPix 5700 Test Images | Additional Resources and Other Links>>

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this product? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about the Nikon CoolPix 5700, or add comments of your own!



Site Map | About Us | | Advertising | Privacy Policy | Usage Policy | Home

Imaging Resource © 1998 - 2014. Material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or otherwise used without the prior written consent of .