Nikon Coolpix P5000 Digital Camera

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, March 2007
Published by: Nikon Canada, Nikon USA
Requires: An interest in photography; For Nikon Picture Project software Windows 2000 through Vista or Mac OS X v10.3.9 or later

MSRP: US$399.95, CAN$499.95

Remember the Nikon Coolpix 990, Coolpix 5700 and Coolpix 8700 digital cameras? They were prosumer models, referred to that way mainly because they offered so many enthusiast and professional features, but in a non-interchangeable zoom lens form factor. Great cameras. Nikon sold a lot of them. I had a Coolpix 5700 and used it enough to actually wear out the shutter. Unfortunately, the prosumer market was crushed out of existence with the appearance of relatively low-cost digital SLR cameras. The problem is, the need for something like a prosumer digital camera never really went away. Lots of casual, hobbyist, enthusiast and amateur photographers want many of the features and functions of advanced cameras, but in a package that's very compact and very automated most of the time. Enter the Nikon Coolpix P5000.

The Nikon Coolpix P5000 is a 10 megapixel point & shoot digital camera featuring fully automatic shooting modes alongside Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Manual (sequential aperture and shutter adjustments) shooting modes to satisfy intermediate, enthusiast and advanced photographers. The protruding grip design provides a prominent, rubberized hand grip and upper rear thumb rest on the right side, a bright 2.5" LCD on the rear, a top right mounted mode selector wheel, a mode adjustment thumb wheel on the top right as well, and a left-center extending zoom lens assembly on the front. The built-in strobe flash is powerful enough for most standard indoor shooting. The camera also features a top left mounted hot shoe designed to support Nikon's i-TTL flash control for external flashes including the Nikon Speedlight SB-400, SB-600 and SB-800. The Nikon P5000 also offers in-camera Vibration Reduction (VR) to steady your shot as you press the shutter, and Nikon's anti-shake technology which combines high ISO sensitivity with the Best Shot Selection (BSS) function. Combine all of the foregoing with the small diameter, high quality lens optics and you end up with a genuinely powerful little package. The Nikon P5000 stores image on Secure Digital (SD) cards and is also fully compatible with the relatively new Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) cards. You can actually shoot temporarily without an SD card in the slot because the P5000 also has 28MB of internal RAM. If you forget to put an SD card back in the camera, you'll never again lose the first few shots. Please don't ask me why I happened to notice this feature. I'm just lucky that Nikon is smart.


The Nikon P5000 is not a casual camera to purchase for work or the occasional shot of the kids. The P5000 will certainly do well at work—engineers, architects, builders and lots of other people will love this one—but the camera is capable of so much more. Buy the P5000 for vacations, general travel, trips to the zoo, to record the kids growing up over the months and years, to satisfy an urge to be creative, to accompany you on hikes, wandering through urban canyons, and generally slaking a thirst for photography.

Nikon's excellent set of VR technologies almost completely eliminates the need for a tripod when shooting in normal light. As Nikon's VR technology evolves (in competition with equivalent technologies from the other major camera makers), it's finding its way into a wide range of cameras. In long afternoon light, when your shutter is set at 1/60th of a second and the aperture is wide open, VR allows you to get a sharp shot without having to break out the tripod—a luxury unheard of up until a couple of years ago.

Attaching an SB-800 flash to the hot shoe, then mounting the whole assembly on a tripod and aiming the camera at a slight down angle made me feel as though the top heavy setup might warp the threaded base at the bottom of the little camera. I did not detect any damage mind you—the magnesium body and metal threaded tripod mount are robust and are certainly designed to handle the weight easily—but one of the comparatively large SB-600 or SB-800 flash units mounted on the diminutive P5000 looks slightly comical. The setup worked well though, indoors and outdoors, so you'll just have to get over the unbalanced look and appreciate the results in their own right.

The SD card interface is extremely fast. Throughout the review period we used a 4GB ATP fast SDHC card. File saving was only limited by the speed of the card. Pulling data from the camera using the supplied USB cable was equally fast. The quality of each photo has to be seen to be appreciated. The 10 megapixel sensor is delightful and the image processor provides smooth, beautifully detailed shots with excellent color balance and contrast. Test prints at 13"x19" from our Epson 2400 were wonderful and there's more than enough resolution in each shot to do even larger prints. Art and poster photography anyone?

The Nikon P5000 isn't perfect. I wasn't particularly pleased with the shutter lag, which is only average for a camera in this class. Power on/off is very quick, but I think the tiny power button is set too close to the shutter button. The outer chapter of the lens mount is threaded to accept Nikon's wide angle adapter and telephoto adapter, but the front lens barrel itself is not threaded to accept filters. In Nikon's defense, none of its competition provides filter threads on these kinds of cameras either. Still, the option to add a screw-on circular polarizer would open new creative vistas for this type of camera. The viewfinder is almost useless, except for situations in which bright sunlight is completely washing out the LCD. Although there is some viewfinder parallax correction, accurate composition using the viewfinder is very difficult with close subjects. The LCD view is near-perfect, with very little display delay, making it clearly superior to the viewfinder in every way. Battery life is good, but not great. I was able to shoot for a day and a half (including 25-30 flash shots) before recharging. We fully drained the battery many times during the review period. Each successive charge seemed to last longer than the previous one until we hit the sweet spot/limit of about 240 shots (combined flash and non-flash) per charge.

The Nikon P5000 is a good looking camera which offers more substance than style. It looks like a busy, working camera with its slightly retro black and sliver color scheme. Nikon has thoughtfully provided chromed metal mounts wide enough to accept full size neck straps, which becomes very important when you slide a heavy external flash into the P5000's hot shoe. Obligatory features in this camera class include a 640x480, 30fps movie mode which works quite well. The movie mode won't replace a dedicated digital video camera, but it will do fine in a pinch. Still shot scene modes are also standard fare and the P5000 has 16 different scene-specific settings which are surprisingly good and often more effective than shooting in one of the priority modes. The P5000 has enough settings, features and functions to please even the most jaded photography enthusiast.

Cons: The built-in 36-125 mm zoom lens offers lovely quality optics, but unfortunately no true wide angle. To do true wide angle shooting you'll have to purchase the Nikon WC-E67 Wide Angle Converter lens. About the only thing missing from the optional accessories list being offered by Nikon is an infrared remote control, something which would really set this camera apart. Nikon's decision to put the zoom ring concentrically around the large shutter button means you have to move your finger off the shutter to use the zoom. Why not use a rocker thumb switch zoom on the upper right back? Enthusiasts and more serious photographers won't be confused, but two of our panel of ten testers thought the anti-shake setting on the mode dial was actually the VR control. Screw on filter accessories (especially a circular polarizer), could really help put the P5000 well ahead of it competition. Even with the relatively small Speedlight SB-400 mounted in the hot shoe, the P5000 felt severely unbalanced and required extra handling care. If you use a large flash unit in the hot shoe, make sure you also add a neck strap to the camera body and use it. Shutter lag is average for a camera in this price range. No NEF/RAW file setting—JPEG only (although they are beautiful JPEGs, no doubt about it). At our tested 240 shot maximum per charge (combined flash and non-flash), it's probably a good idea to purchase a spare Lithium-ion EN-EL5 battery.

Pros: Really good things can come in really small packages. The lightweight and extremely strong magnesium body provides a very solid feel that inspires lots of confidence. The P5000 generally handles like a dream. The ergonomics are excellent for small and medium size hands and only slightly less so for larger hands. The built-in flash has a very sharp mind of it own apparently, and you will have to deliberately mess up your settings in order to ruin any shots with this flash. Load your Nikon Speedlight SB-400, SB-600 or SB-800 on the hot shoe and the P5000 becomes capable of capturing even more amazing shots. Panning to follow a moving object in focus, with an SB-600 set to rear curtain sync, allowed us to get wonderful motion blur backgrounds with sharp subjects mainly because of the P5000's fast optics and slick integration with the advanced flash unit. Dynamic range is excellent for a camera in this class, and I was able to take some landscape pictures with bright overcast skies containing lots of detail without underexposing the darker landscape—scenes almost identical to those which have absolutely hammered most other point & shoot cameras. The refurbished and modernized waterfront in Buffalo, NY is a great place to take pictures at sunrise, through most of the morning during the Spring months, and throughout later afternoon during the Spring as well. I had a blast with P5000 scaring all the gulls, grabbing wonderful sun soaked shots of the city skyline and poking around in LaSalle Park. Best of all, I wasn't lugging my Nikon D200 and a couple of lenses. I'm not trading my D200 any time soon mind you, but using the P5000 throughout the review period was a lot of fun. Shooting in Aperture priority, Shutter priority and manual mode provided almost as much versatility as I used to squeeze out of prosumer enthusiast cameras, and that's certainly one of the things which helps to elevate the P5000. It has some unique and distinctive settings and certainly reacts to your touch and settings changes in predictable ways. Definitely a little camera with a lot of personality that will help you take good pictures. Highly recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



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