Nikon Coolpix P50 Digital Camera review . . . continued

Color accuracy, always a Nikon focus, is as good as you'll find in this class of camera. Blue skies were strong (but not purplish). Color fringing, properly called Chromatic Aberration (purple fringes along object edges in high contrast photos), is well controlled. Auto focus is quick enough for everything except sports. Face-priority auto focus works quite well too and has an uncanny ability to recognize all sorts of people and animal faces, bringing them automatically into sharp focus. Low light performance is acceptable for this class of camera, but if you're going to use it indoors at get-togethers, parties and family events, turn on a few extra lights to keep ISO settings (and noise) within reason and to give the auto focus a chance to work well.

The Nikon Coolpix P50 offers a number of image editing features that you may find quite handy. Normally we don't recommend doing any sort of editing on a 2.4" LCD screen, but sometimes it has to be done in situations where you've just made a nice photo of someone and they want a copy immediately. In-Camera Red-Eye Fix is a feature that point & shoot cameras have offered for quite a few years. Using it is simple enough (in playback mode, move a little square reticule using the control wheel to highlight a red eye, then press the OK button on the wheel), and it takes a only a few seconds for the camera to do the processing. The Nikon P50 does the work at about the same speed as competing models from other makers.


Of greater interest is Nikon's D-Lighting control. It's a function that you turn on in the camera menu. It tracks each photo you take. If you playback a photo and find that it needs shadow and highlight adjustment, you can start the D-Lighting routine. It will display your original shot next to an adjusted shot with (usually) better shadow and highlight balance. If you like the adjusted shot better than your original, press the OK button on the control wheel and the camera will make the adjustment. Depending on the complexity of the photo, it can take half a minute to complete the task, but the results are often quite good. You may be better off using ACDSee Pro Photo or Photoshop Elements for this sort of thing, but if someone wants a photo on the spot, D-Lighting can sometimes save the day.

Nikon's electronic Vibration Reduction takes camera movement data from an internal angular velocity sensor and applies in-camera image processing to clear up what would otherwise be blurred images. That all boils down to being able to take sharp photos in poor lighting or from slightly unsteady positions and so on. Vibration reduction can be switched on or off in the Settings menu. The new Nikon EXPEED processor seems to manage velocity data quite well and we manged to get a high percentage of sharp, richly and accurately colored photos during the review period.

I tossed the Nikon Coolpix P50 into my trusty shoulder bag and hauled it around for a week of business prowling around various properties in Toronto. I used the camera to take photos of everything from potholes in the roads, to pigeons in the parks, ice fog along the lakeshore and the glass and steel reflections in urban office building canyons. The P50 performed quite well. I found that using faster SDHC memory cards improved shot-to-shot times and that even under heavy load, battery life was acceptable. I was able to squeeze the rated 140 photos out of a pair of Energizer 2500 mAH NiMH batteries and then managed another 30 photos before having to recharge. Not great, but also not bad at all. Carry spare rechargeables.

Cons: The molded rubber grip insert works extremely well, but it's not the exact size of the recess in the body which leaves a small gap than can collect dirt and grime. The Help system in the menus is not particularly useful because it doesn't offer any detailed explanations. Set the Auto Focus Area Mode to Manual (which means you can use the control wheel to move a focus reticule on the LCD to the object/subject of choice before shooting) then take a picture or change modes—the reticule disappears. You have to press the OK button on the control wheel to re-display the reticule—not intuitive. ISO 2000 capability is largely useless, but may salvage the occasional shot. Nikon and its competitors make valiant attempts at trying to turn point & shoot cameras into wide-ranging powerhouses, but the fact remains that small cameras such as the P50 operate best in average or better lighting conditions which allow ISOs to stay below 400.

Pros: The Nikon Coolpix P50 provides above average auto White Balance and a wide variety of scene modes which makes the majority of snap shooting easy. Uses AA batteries which we think are ideal for small cameras. Uses regular SD memory cards or the newer SDHC memory cards. The new EXPEED image processing engine is terrific, helping to make good pictures out of shooting environments which only a short while ago would have been a complete write-off. Nikon's electronic VR works well in the P50 and offers lots of opportunities to take sharper pictures in low light and at slow shutter settings. Image quality is good to very good, depending on subject matter and light, and offers strong competition for that other well-known camera company. Well chosen zoom range coupled with a good quality small lens amounts to a versatile camera. Amateurs, enthusiasts, hobbyists and pros might want to consider the Nikon P50 for use as a handy snapshooter during casual situations in which hauling out the big gear is just too much bother or simply inappropriate. For everyone else, the P50 works perfectly and could become the only camera you'll ever need for events, family outings, business and travel. Good construction, with a solid, grippy feel, makes taking pictures more enjoyable. Very good value. Highly recommended.


KSN Product Rating:



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