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Nikon Coolpix P5000 review: Nikon Coolpix P5000

A few performance issues with the Nikon Coolpix P5000's diminish the appeal of an otherwise nice compact camera for amateurs.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
4 min read
Nikon Coolpix P5000


Nikon Coolpix P5000

The Good

The Nikon Coolpix P5000 has optical image stabilization and excellent exposure, color, and sharpness.

The Bad

Slow; LCD unusable in bright sunlight; highly inconsistent color across different ISO sensitivity levels; unusually strong barrel distortion at widest angle despite relatively narrow 36mm-equivalent angle of view.

The Bottom Line

A few performance issues with the Nikon Coolpix P5000 diminish the appeal of an otherwise nice compact camera for amateurs.
You've got to squint a little when looking for a camera equipped with a full set of amateur-friendly exposure controls that's small enough to fit into a jacket pocket; there simply aren't that many available, since most manufacturers' time and energy in the enthusiast segment these days go toward budget dSLRs. Nikon, which seemingly abandoned those amateur photographers for a few years, has reappeared with the 10-megapixel Coolpix P5000, a compact competitor for the snapshooter-with-room-to-grow audience currently dominated by the Canon PowerShot A710 IS.

With cutting-edge capabilities like face-priority autofocus, optical image stabilization, and full-resolution sensitivity settings as high as ISO 2000 to augment its manual and semimanual exposure options, the P5000 fits some mighty attractive features into its 8.1-ounce, 3.9x2.5x1.6 inches (WHD) frame. Though only the front of the chassis uses magnesium alloy in its design, the camera feels quite sturdy. Its smallish, rubberized grip and thumb rest make the P5000 quite comfortable for one-handed shooting.

The scored ring surrounding the f/2.7-to-f/5.3, 36mm-to-126mm-equivalent lens comes off so you can screw on optional wide-angle (24mm-to-84mm-equivalent) and telephoto (108mm-to-378mm-equivalent) conversion lenses via an adapter. A Nikon i-TTL-compatible hot shoe allows for external flashes as well.

A few of the P5000's shooting controls--flash, self-timer, exposure compensation, and macro/distance limit focus--use dedicated buttons for quick access. You can assign another--ISO sensitivity, image quality, image size, white balance, or vibration reduction (VR)--to the single-function Fn button. The others, plus some important additions such as metering and continuous-shooting, require the always-fun trip into the two-level menus. Furthermore, though I don't mind putting a few set-them-and-forget-them features in a separate Setup mode, I don't think VR, LCD brightness, or format card really fall into that category; that's the kind of stuff that belongs in the menu system. Nikon provides 15 program scene modes, plus panorama-assist, interval shooting, and a high-ISO program shift mode that automatically chooses from higher sensitivity settings than the standard program exposure. During photo playback you can apply D-Lighting exposure adjustment and add voice memos.

The P5000's shooting speed falls at the bottom of its small pack. The 2-second wake-up-to-first-shot time doesn't hurt, but the 0.9-second shutter lag under optimal conditions coupled with a 3-second shot-to-shot time makes it unsuitable for shooting animals and children, along with many other things that move. At least adding flash doesn't increase that time at all. In dim, low-contrast environments lag jumps to 2.2 seconds. And continuous shooting clocked an anemic 0.9 frames per second on CNET Labs' tests.

My field tests bore out those findings. You can autofocus as close as about 1.5 inches with the P5000, but I felt a perceptible pause while waiting for the camera to achieve a lock, regardless of the focus mode. It also seems to take the face-detection algorithms just a bit too long to operate. Once locked, it tracks small movements pretty well. But if the person's head is tilted or rotated slightly sideways, or the person moves to the edge of the frame, detection rarely works. That wait for the autofocus does let you catch up on your mirror time. Despite an antireflective coating and bumped up brightness, the P5000's otherwise sharp, bright, 2.5-inch LCD turns into a mirror on cloud-free days. The optical viewfinder is quite good for what it is, but as with all direct-view cameras you can't use it for macro photography.

Though the P5000 performed poorly on several levels, you can't blame much of it on the lens. VR works extremely well, and in practice bought me close to three stops beyond what reciprocal math dictates; at best, I obtained a sharp shot at 1/4 second that would typically require 1/30 second. Additionally, the lens maintains very good edge-to-edge sharpness and shows minimal chromatic aberration (fringing). Keep in mind, however, that it trades off zoom range; it's much easier to produce a better optical system if you keep the range of focal lengths limited, as Nikon does with its 3.5x zoom. The lens does show a surprising amount of barrel distortion at the wide end given its rather narrow 36mm-minimum focal length.

Sample photos from the Nikon Coolpix P5000

When it comes to image noise, the P5000 fares well in some respects and abysmally in others. It can shoot some usable photos up to ISO 2000, depending upon subject matter, though to play it safe for sharpness and artifacts I suggest staying below ISO 800. But across the various ISO settings, color consistency flies out the window. Check out the sample images to see what I mean.

That's too bad, because otherwise the P5000 produces very good photos, with excellent exposure, neutral white balance (though the preset renders a little pinkish under tungsten lights), appropriate saturation, and properly selected flash output levels. Though I've seen better, its 640x480, 30fps movie capture will also serve to preserve those embarrassing moments on YouTube forever. It supports only digital zoom in movie capture mode, however.

Poor performance really drags down the Nikon Coolpix P5000, and unless you absolutely need a hot shoe for an external flash, it's hard to recommend when compared to the less expensive, zippier Canon PowerShot A710 IS, with its faster and longer 6x zoom lens.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z1050
Canon PowerShot A710 IS
Nikon Coolpix P5000

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
In frames per second  


Nikon Coolpix P5000

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 5Image quality 8