By Neil Bennett | on June 19, 2008
Pros: Widest set of manual controls; excellent picture quality.
Cons: Large body; slow autofocus and menus.
Next to the other models we’ve looked at here, the Coolpix P5100 is a bit on the chunky side, but as the camera is actually pitched against higher-end models such as Canon’s PowerShot G9, it’s actually pretty small.
The P5100 offers the widest range of manual controls, a usable optical viewfinder, and there’s a wide range of accessory lenses and even a hot shoe for a flash.
Of all of the cameras in this test, the P5100 feels most like a ‘proper’ camera. A handgrip sticks out of the front at the right (as you hold the body), so you never feel like you’re going to drop it. However, this does mean that when turned off, the P5100 is between half again and twice as thick as its rivals.
On the top of the P5100 is a mode wheel that allows you to select from full-auto, anti-shake, ISO 3200, scene, movie, program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and full manual modes – plus a well-staggered control wheel. On the back are function, display, playback, menu and delete buttons.
The camera has priority modes and manual controls over aperture and shutter speed. In manual mode, you must change between these controls using the EV button, but the scroll wheel makes selecting the correct value quickly a doddle. The latest version of the P5100 allows users to change aperture by fractions of stops, unlike the first firmware release.
The quality of the P5100’s output is excellent – sharp, detailed and the best of any of the models here. Compared to that from the larger, heavier, non-pocket-friendly PowerShot G9, it’s definitely second-best – but for a camera you’d be happy to carry with most of the time, it’s top notch.
The P5100’s core flaw is that it’s slow. Its autofocus is sloth-like and its menu system is like wading through treacle. But if you can put up with this and quality of output is more important to you, the P5100 is an excellent choice.
Lens zoom: 3.5x
Lens (35mm equivalent): 35-123mm f/2.7-5.3
Image Stabilization Type: Lens shift
Effective resolution: 12.1 megapixels
Max image size: 4,000-x-3,000
Autofocus modes: 9-point/centre/spot/manual
Face detection: Yes
ISO Range: ISO 64-3200
ISO 3200 mode max mp: 5mp
Shutter range: 8-1/1,200 second
Exposure modes: Auto, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, manual
Macro mode (minimum focusing distance): 4cm
Continuous shooting speed (at full res): 1fps (max 5 shots)
LCD size and resolution: 2.5-inch, 230,000 pixel
Optical viewfinder: Yes
Storage media: SD, SD-HC
Internal memory: 52MB
Quoted battery life: 240 shots
Colour options: Black
Dimensions (W-x-H-x-D): 98-x-65-x-41mm
Weight (body only): 200g