Nikon Coolpix P5000
Nikon Coolpix P5000 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color, if slightly dark in some cases. Slight oversaturation of strong reds and blues, but very good results overall.
Saturation. The Nikon Coolpix P5000 does push the strong red and blue tones a little, though overall results are still quite pleasing. Most other colors are quite close to their technically correct saturation levels.
Skin tones. Here, the Nikon P5000 did render skin tones slightly pink and on the warm side in most cases, but many consumers find slightly warm skin tones more pleasing than cooler ones.
Hue. Here, the P5000 again performed well, although it did push some reds very slightly toward orange, and some yellows towards green slightly. Still, very good results overall, much better than average color accuracy.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, though a hint pink. Average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto WB +1.0 EV||Incandescent WB +1.0 EV||Manual WB +1.0 EV|
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was somewhat reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and quite warm and yellowish with the Incandescent setting. With the Manual option, results are very close to neutral, a very pleasing "look", with just a hint of the warmth of the original light source. The Nikon P5000 required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.0 EV. Despite the slight pink cast, overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers in the bouquet do have a bit of a purple tint. (Many digital cameras have trouble here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Slightly tendency to underexpose when presented with strong highlights, though still fairly accurate. High contrast under harsh outdoor lighting, about average exposure performance.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors under harsh sunlight, the Nikon Coolpix P5000 did produce somewhat high contrast, with some highlight clipping and limited detail in the shadows. Noise suppression also contributes to the loss of shadow detail here. Exposure-wise, the Coolpix P5000 performed about average, requiring a typical amount of positive exposure compensation on the outdoor portrait shot. Overall color is a bit dark, but still fairly accurate.
Very high resolution, 1,600 ~ 1,700 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,700 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height horizontally, and also about 1,600 lines vertically, with extinction not occurring until well past 2,000. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images overall, though slight edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.
Sharpness: The Nikon Coolpix P5000 captures pretty sharp images with good detail definition, though some edge enhancement artifacts are visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Noise Suppression: The crop above right shows some loss of detail in the darker parts of Marti's hair. In this shot, the Nikon P5000 falls roughly into the middle of the range of cameras we've seen, in terms of loss of shadow detail at low ISO settings. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the higher settings.
(sorry, subject motion blur)
(slight blur due to subject motion)
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
|ISO 2,000||ISO 3,200|
Noise levels are low to moderate at the Nikon P5000's lower sensitivity settings, with much higher noise at ISO 400 and higher (as you'd expect for this class of camera). At ISO 800 to 2,000, noise pixels are bright, which throws off the color balance, and the grain pattern eliminates some of the finer details. (But Nikon thankfully avoids smudging the detail just to lower noise.) The five megapixel ISO 3,200 shot, while clean and with better overall color, is very blotchy, lacking in any fine detail due to heavy noise reduction. Still, overall results are not bad for a tiny 1/1.8" 10MP sensor, retaining a surprising amount of detail up to ISO 800.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but slightly high contrast and limited shadow detail. Excellent low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.
|+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV||+1.3 EV|
Sunlight: The Nikon Coolpix P5000 produced high contrast with deep shadows under the harsh lighting of the test above. Detail is limited in the shadows, partly from the visible noise suppression. Though some areas look a little dark at +1.0 EV, I felt the highlights at +1.3 EV were much too bright and washed out. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)
Note: Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 does pretty well at low light shooting, but its 8 second minimum shutter speed limits performance at the very lowest ISO settings. The camera was able to capture bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night), but only at ISO values of 400 and higher, where noise is much more visible. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just below the 1/4 foot-candle light level without the AF assist light, so you'll need to make sure it's enabled for darker conditions. - All that said though, you should find the P5000 up to most after-dark shooting situations: The brightest light level we test at corresponds to typical city street lighting at night, and the P5000 can handle conditions almost 4 times darker than that, even at its lowest ISO setting.
Do keep in mind though, that the very long shutter times necessary here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
A fairly powerful flash with excellent range. Slightly dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required less-than-average exposure compensation for flash exposures.
|36mm equivalent||126mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash +0.7 EV||Slow-Sync Flash +0.7 EV|
Flash coverage was just slightly uneven at wide angle (much better than average though), and very even at telephoto. An excellent performance. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Nikon P5000's flash underexposed our subject a little at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. That's less than the +1.0 EV most cameras require on this shot though. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode also required +0.7 EV exposure compensation, and results an a noticeable but typical orange cast.
At wide angle, shots at ISO 100 are bright out all the way out to 16 feet, the limit of our test. At full telephoto and ISO 100, even the 6-foot shot is a little dim, but the brightness doesn't fall off until about 9 or 10 feet.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 98
Auto ISO 282
Manufacturer-Specified Flash Test. In the left shot above, the P5000 underexposed when shooting with Nikon's spec at wide angle, producing a somewhat dim target at 26 feet. This probably isn't the camera's fault though, because it's exposure system was probably thrown off by the white doors and wall at the entrance to our test lab. (We only have about 16 feet of range to the target before we have to open the doors of the lab.) At telephoto, the P5000 seems to perform exactly as Nikon says it will, producing good exposure at the rated distance of 13 feet with its ISO set to Auto, although it did boost ISO to 282. Note: Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, great color, good-looking 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 images are a little noisy but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots OK at 8x10, good at 5x7. ISO 3200 images are very soft, even at 4x6 inches.
The Nikon Coolpix P5000 had plenty of resolution to make good-looking 13x19 inch prints. ISO 400 images are a little noisy, but quite acceptable at 8x10 inch print sizes, better than many cameras manage. ISO 800 shots are softer and noisier at 8x10 (but probably acceptable for wall display), and look great at 5x7. Color saturation suffers as you continue to increase the ISO setting, with shots at 1600 and 2000 somewhat flat looking, although noise levels are such that 5x7 inch prints are OK, and 4x6 inch snapshot prints look great. At ISO 3200, the whole game changes though, with both good and bad results. Here, Nikon has chosen to go with considerably less resolution, but with the very positive result of dramatically improved color saturation. While the P5000 produces 5 megapixel image files at ISO 3200, it's clear that they're actually being resampled up from much lower-resolution source images. The result is that ISO 3200 shots are only marginally usable for 4x6 inch prints, appearing very soft and fuzzy even at snapshot size.
Color-wise, the Nikon P5000 was a treat. Blues and some reds are quite bright, but other colors are very close to their technically accurate saturation levels. Skin tones in particular are accurately saturated, lacking artificially ruddy appearance found with many digicams. Some users may find the P5000's color a little tame compared with the over-amped color produced by most consumer digicams, but those tired of too-bright color should find it a pleasant respite. (Apart from its somewhat enthusiastic rendering of some blues.)
Note: Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro 9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See our Canon Pro 9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix P5000 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot 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 digital camera 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...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon Coolpix P5000 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.