If you're a digital-photo enthusiast, you've probably had your eye on Nikon's 5.24-megapixel Coolpix 5000 since long before it hit the shelves. But if you're a casual snapshooter, you'd do best to look elsewhere. This is a sophisticated camera made for shutterbugs who want as many features as they can get in one device and who are willing to put up with some quirks to have them. If you're a digital-photo enthusiast, you've probably had your eye on Nikon's 5.24-megapixel Coolpix 5000 since long before it hit the shelves. But if you're a casual snapshooter, you'd do best to look elsewhere. This is a sophisticated camera made for shutterbugs who want as many features as they can get in one device and who are willing to put up with some quirks to have them.
Compact and comfortable Coolpix
Nikon has succeeded in combining the shooting flexibility of its older Coolpix 900-series cameras with the smooth ergonomics of the more recent Coolpix 775 and 885 by putting a 1.8-inch, fold-out-and-swivel LCD on a compact body with a comfortable rubberized grip. Weighing just a little more than 15 ounces with the battery and CompactFlash memory card installed, the Coolpix 5000 has the kind of design that will appeal to dedicated shutterbugs who want a camera that they can carry easily at all times. However, while a compact design is one of this camera's strengths, its limited surface space leads to some shortcomings. The flash sensor is so close to the shutter-release button that it's easy to block it with your fingers if you're not careful. Nikon has added a small ridge to the right-hand grip to indicate where your fingers should rest in order not to block the sensor, but we'd prefer a design that didn't lend itself to this problem in the first place.
Our greatest complaint about the design is the lack of space for more physical controls. Nikon does a good job of using the space available--you can change most basic camera controls by pushing a button and turning the command dial. There's also a convenient Shooting/Playback mode switch, as well as a Quick Review button. Still, some important controls are absent. We especially missed having quick access to continuous-shooting modes, automatic bracketing, white-balance settings, and Nikon's useful Best Shot Selection mode, which takes a series of shots in tricky lighting situations and records the one with the most image detail. Nikon gives you the option of programming the Coolpix 5000's Func. button to access focus, flash, white balance, metering, and custom camera program settings. But wait--there are already flash and focus setting buttons on the camera. Do we really need two buttons for these functions? On a camera that's so well designed for spontaneous shooting, we'd rather have the controls that we need most for capturing action at our fingertips.
The bottom line when it comes to operating the Coolpix 5000 is that it's a menu-driven camera. The first thing you'll need to do when you take it out of the box is go into the Shooting-mode menu and select either User Set A (for auto) or one of three numbered User Sets. When the camera is on User Set A, only the fully automatic mode is available, and advanced camera settings are inaccessible. Switch to a numbered User Set, and you'll be able to use the Mode button and control dial to select Programmed Automatic, Manual, Aperture-priority, and Shutter-priority modes.
To use advanced camera settings, you must go into one of the numbered User Set menus and make selections. Each numbered User Set is saved separately so that it functions as a custom camera program. This is a system of debatable merit, which is sure to appeal to some photographers and seem needlessly complicated to others. If you want to be able to quickly activate a whole range of settings that you've programmed in advance, you'll love the Coolpix 5000. However, if you're the kind of photographer who prefers to have easy access to each camera function without it being tied to other controls, you should think hard about whether this is the right camera for you.