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!|
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.
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:
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
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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
Resolution Test, Focal Length Series
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 Test Images
5200 "Picky Details"
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