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Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 5200 Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

High contrast demands a slight underexposure, but good color and high resolution. Slightly higher than average image noise.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Coolpix 5200 produced fairly bright color, but high contrast.

Captured using the 5200's low-contrast option, the shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which did a fairly good job of preserving the strong highlights, albeit at the cost of rather dark midtones. I chose the Auto white balance as the most accurate overall, though it wasn't much different from the Daylight setting. (The Manual setting resulted in a pronounced green cast.)

Overall color is a slightly cool, with excess magenta in the skin tones. The blue flowers are almost rendered quite well though, with about the right amount of purple in them. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, often making it too dark and purplish. The 5200 does better than most with them.) Color looks good throughout the rest of the frame, with appropriate saturation. Resolution is interesting: There's a load of fine detail here, although there's a bit of a softness to the image overall, and image noise is a bit higher than normal. It looks like Nikon deliberately went very light on the anti-noise processing, with the result that the Coolpix 5200 does a very good job of preserving fine detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in Marti's hair. At the same time, they went easy on the in-camera sharpening. The net result is a slightly soft-looking image that nonetheless has a great deal of detail in it, and that takes sharpening on the computer very well. As noted, image noise is a bit higher than I'd like to see, but probably about on par with other five-megapixel cameras these days.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +1.3 EV, see files CP52OUTAM1.HTM through CP52OUTAP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

Saturation Series:
The Coolpix 5200's saturation adjustment works well, providing fairly subtle variations in color saturation. I'd like to see a greater number of steps of this same size, but overall, my strong preference is for saturation controls to be subtle, rather than blatant. (This makes them much more useful as actual photographic tools, rather than special-effects gadgets.) The saturation adjustment does seem to have some impact on image contrast though, an undesirable side effect.
Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High

Contrast Series:
The Coolpix 5200's contrast adjustment works exactly as it should, affecting the highlights and shadows of the image about equally, and leaving the color saturation more or less unaffected. I'd like to see the camera's overall contrast a little lower, but the contrast adjustment control does a fairly good job of dealing with the deliberately harsh lighting of this shot.

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High



 

Closer Portrait:

High resolution, slightly soft look, but exceptional fine detail.

Exposure is slightly better in this close-up shot than in the wider shot above, and the 5200's 3x optical zoom lens helps prevent any distortion of Marti's features up close like this. Contrast is again somewhat high, but the exposure is a bit better balanced in this shot. The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, and the highlights are blown out on the white shirt, but Marti's skin tones are quite good, albeit slightly ruddy. As before, a very conservative use of in-camera sharpening results in a slightly soft-looking image, but equally conservative noise-suppression processing results in an image with exceptional fine detail that comes out very nicely under strong, small-radius unsharp masking. (Try 250% at an 0.4 pixel radius.) A very good performance.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +1.0 EV, see files CP52FACM1.HTM through CP52FACP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
Default Exposure
Slow-Sync Flash
Default Exposure

Great intensity and coverage with the built-in flash, even at the default exposure.

The 5200's built-in flash illuminated the subject very well at its default exposure setting, with excellent coverage and intensity. Overall color is slightly orange from the strong background incandescent lighting, but results are still pretty good. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced similar results, and also looked best at the default exposure.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV in the normal flash mode, see files CP52INFP0.HTM through CP52INFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

To see the same series in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files CP52INFSP0.HTM through CP52INFSP3.HTM, also on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Acceptable color with all three white balance settings (best with the Manual option though), and a good exposure. Slightly high noise at the higher ISOs, with a strong grain pattern.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The 5200's Manual white balance did the best job here, with an accurate white value on Marti's shirt and pleasing overall color. The Incandescent setting produced pretty good results, but with a warm cast (though some may prefer the warmer color balance, feeling that it does a better job of matching the color of the original lighting). The Auto white balance setting produced a stronger yellow cast, warmer than I'd like, but still just within what I'd consider "acceptable." Skin tones are slightly pinkish, but still good, and the blue flowers are dark and purplish (probably to be expected, given the light source). The best exposure was obtained with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is about average for this shot.
ISO Series:
I was surprised by how low the noise levels were on this shot, as the need for heavy white balance compensation by the camera imposed by the incandescent lighting usually results in very high noise levels in the blue channel. At ISO 64, the noise is for all intents and purposes non-existent, and very low at ISO 100 as well. It increases gradually from there, becoming fairly strong at ISO 400. Overall, a pretty good performance though.

ISO Series
ISO 64
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

High resolution with good detail, nearly accurate color with the Auto white balance.

Though just a hint warm, the 5200's Auto white balance setting produced the best overall color here. The Manual setting resulted in a more accurate white value, but the overall color balance was a bit cool for my taste. (The Daylight setting resulted in a much warmer color balance, though results were still good.) Resolution is high, with quite a bit of detail in the tree limbs above the roof, as well as in the shrubbery and brick pattern. As before, images straight from the camera are fairly soft, but take sharpening well on the computer. There's a little additional softness in the corners, but less than average, except for the upper left corner.



 

Far-Field Test

Excellent fine detail, somewhat hidden by conservative sharpening, higher than average image noise, excellent dynamic range.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the 5200 performs pretty well. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show strong detail, with good definition in the leaf patterns. The image is again a bit soft overall, but the actual level of detail is exceptional, as revealed by sharpening in an imaging program, post-exposure. Overall color and exposure are very good. The table below shows a quality series at maximum resolution, followed by ISO and sharpness series. (The sun was very fickle on the day of this shoot, so I couldn't fit in a full size/quality series.)

JPEG Quality Series:

  "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,592 x 1,944
CP52FAR2592F
CP52FAR2592N
CP52FAR2592E


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 64
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400

Sharpness Series:
The Coolpix 5200's in-camera sharpening is very conservative, even at the "high" setting. I'd recommend most users simply set the sharpness to High and forget about it, as the resulting images are still none too sharp, and show virtually no sharpening-related artifacts.

Sharpness Series
Auto Sharpness
No Sharpening
Low Sharpness
Normal Sharpness
High Sharpness



 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The 5200's lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a modest wide angle to a decent telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
Digital Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Pretty good color with the Daylight white balance setting, and high resolution.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. Both the 5200's Auto and Manual white balance settings produced slightly cool color balances, while the Daylight setting produced more pleasing results (though just a hint magenta). The blue robe looks about right, with only faint purplish tints in the deep shadows, and skin tones are good, but reddish. Resolution is high, with good detail in the embroidery of the blue robe and red vest.



 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro Shot with Flash

Typically excellent "Nikon" macro performance. Flash is blocked by the lens, however.

As I've come to expect from Nikon digicams, the Coolpix 5200 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.21 x 0.91 inches (31 x 23 millimeters). Resolution is high, with a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill. However, the coins and brooch are soft due to the very short shooting distance. (An optical fact of life, not the camera's fault.) As with many digicam ultra-macro modes though, there's a lot of softness in the corners of the image. The 5200's flash is partially blocked by the lens, resulting in a dark lower right corner and an overexposed upper left corner. - Plan on using external illumination for your closest macro shots with the 5200.



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good color, saturation, and exposure, though contrast is high.

The 5200's Manual white balance setting did the best job here, as the Auto and Daylight settings were a bit warm. Exposure is good, though contrast a bit high, and the camera has no trouble with the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. The large color blocks show good hue accuracy and saturation, though the additive primary colors (red, green, and blue) are brighter than the rest. Highlight detail is good, but the darkest shadow areas are plugged up, and the camera can't distinguish between the two darkest steps on the large grayscale. A good performance overall though.

The results below are more or less the same as we saw in similar series with other test subjects, so I won't bother repeating my earlier comments. (I nonetheless include these images because they provide more analytically-minded readers the means to study image characteristics with well-known target objects.)

ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 64
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400

Saturation Series:

Saturation Series
Low
Normal
High

Contrast Series:

Contrast Series
Low
Normal
High



 

Low-Light Tests

Slightly limited low-light shooting capabilities, but very usable for average city street lighting at night. Excellent low-light focusing capability.

The Coolpix 5200 produced clear, bright, usable images only down to the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level at the 64 and 100 ISO settings. Performance improved with the 200 and 400 ISO settings, with bright images as low as the 1/2 and 1/4 foot-candle light levels (5.5 and 2.7 lux) respectively. The Night Landscape mode adjusts the ISO automatically up to a maximum 200, but allows exposure times as long as 2 seconds, delivering usable exposures at light levels as low as 1/8 foot-candle. The camera tends to underexpose slightly under very dim lighting, even when the light levels are within a range matching its available exposure times. Exposure compensation seems to have only a slight effect, particularly in Night Landscape mode. This may be deliberate, an attempt to keep the camera from blowing out bright parts of night scenes too badly. Autofocus performance is very good under low-light conditions, as the camera focused well in my tests down to 1/16 foot-candle, even without its autofocus-assist illuminator, and will focus on nearby subjects in total darkness when the assist illuminator is turned on. Given that average city street lighting at night equates to a light level of roughly 1 foot-candle though, the Coolpix 5200 should do fine for most night shots in "civilized" areas. Color balance was slightly warm, with increased warmth at the lower exposures. Noise is low, and only moderate even at ISO 400. The 5200's Noise Reduction setting does a good job of controlling it however, as noise is much stronger without it. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
64
Click to see CP52LL06403.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL06404.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL06405.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL06406.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL06407.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL06407XNR.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
Click to see CP52LL10003.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL10004.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL10005.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL10006.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL10007.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL10007XNR.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
Click to see CP52LL20003.JPG
1/3 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL20004.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL20005.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL20006.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL20007.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL20007XNR.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see CP52LL40003.JPG
1/7 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL40004.JPG
1/4 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL40005.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL40006.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL40007.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CP52LL40007XNR.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Night
Landscape
Mode
Click to see CP52LLNL03.JPG
1/2 sec
f2.8
ISO 125
Click to see CP52LLNL04.JPG
1/1 sec
f2.8
ISO 200
Click to see CP52LLNL05.JPG
1.09 sec
f2.8
ISO 200
Click to see CP52LLNL06.JPG
1.88 sec
f2.8
ISO 200
Click to see CP52LLNL07.JPG
2 sec
f2.8
ISO 200
(n/a)



 

Flash Range Test

A powerful flash, without very little falloff throughout the test range.

In my testing, the 5200's flash illuminated the test target quite well all the way out to 14 feet, with very little decrease in image brightness. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see CP52FL08.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see CP52FL09.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see CP52FL10.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see CP52FL11.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see CP52FL12.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see CP52FL13.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100
Click to see CP52FL14.JPG
1/32 sec
f4.9
ISO 100



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very high resolution, 1,300 lines of "strong detail." Very high barrel distortion at the wide angle lens setting.

The 5200 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,300 lines vertically, and slightly more horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,600 - 1,700 lines. (Some reviewers will doubtless assign higher resolution numbers to the Coolpix 5200, but I hold to a more conservative approach in judging resolution, feeling that one shouldn't claim "resolution" beyond the point at which the artifacts swamp the subject details. Hence my judgement of 1,300 lines for the 5200's resolution, even though at least some vestige of the target lines can be seen at 1,400 lines or higher.)

Geometric distortion on the 5200 is quite a bit higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.2 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only 0.03 percent barrel distortion (about one pixel) there. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only very faint 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.) There is some softness in the corners and along the right edge of the frame, particularly in the telephoto res target shot.

Resolution Series, ~50mm equivalent focal length
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,592 x 1,944
CP52RES2592F
CP52RES2592N
CP52RES2592E
2,048 x 1,536
CP52RES2048
-
-
1,600 x 1,200
CP52RES1600
-
-
1,024 x 768
CP52RES1024
-
-
640 x 480
CP52RES0640
-
-


Resolution Test, Focal Length Series
2,592 x 1,944
(Fine, Wide Angle)
CP52RES_W
2,592 x 1,944
(Fine, Tele)
CP52RES_T


Sharpness Series
Sharpness Series
Auto Sharpening
No Sharpening
Low Sharpening
Normal Sharpening
High Sharpening



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

An accurate LCD monitor, but very tight optical viewfinder.

The 5200's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing only about 72 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 76 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing about 97 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 99 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 5200's LCD monitor does a good job here, but the optical viewfinder's performance is very poor indeed. Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just a little falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.



5200 Review
5200 Test Images
5200 Specifications
5200 "Picky Details"
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