DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix 5700
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, July 25, 2002
Last Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2002

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Last year, one of the most anticipated digital cameras was the Nikon Coolpix 5000 (see our review). The expectations for the 5000 were tremendously high, and given Nikon's reputation for making top-notch cameras, that's not surprising. When the 5000 arrived, it hit with a thud, rather than a bang. The 5000 wasn't the dream camera everyone was expecting from Nikon.

Six months later, the Coolpix 5700 ($1199) is announced. Featuring a big 8X zoom lens, full manual controls, and improved responsiveness, many people (including yours truly) are thinking the 5700 is what the 5000 should have been.

Is the Coolpix 5700 the camera everyone has been waiting for? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix 5700 has a very good bundle, with one exception. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 5.0 (effective) Mpixel Nikon Coolpix 5700 camera
  • 16MB CompactFlash card
  • EN-EL1 rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • CD-ROM featuring NikonView 5 and other software
  • 179 page manual (printed)

Since I enjoy complaining, let me get the negatives out of the way first. Actually, there's only one: the memory card. The Coolpix 5000 included a 32MB CompactFlash card, but for the 5700, you only get a 16MB card. The card is one of those unmarked Lexar "starter cards" which only mentions the size in small print on the back of the card. A 16MB is way too small for a camera with this kind of resolution, so go out and buy something much larger right away. (Apparently models bought outside the U.S. include a 32MB SanDisk card.)

The now familiar EN-EL1 rechargeable battery (5.0 Wh), also found on the CP5000, is used here. Nikon estimates that the battery will last for about 90 minutes in "average use". If you use an IBM Microdrive, expect higher power consumption.

I'm a bit critic of most proprietary batteries for two reasons: 1) they're expensive and 2) if you're in a bind you can't just buy another at Walgreens. The Coolpix 5700 is somewhat spared, since you can also use a non-rechargeable 2CR5 battery if you are desperate. I know I'm not the only one who would like to see AA batteries return to the Coolpix line.

Some optional power sources for the camera include an AC adapter, as well as the MB-E5700 power pack ($140), which uses 6 AA batteries.


Charger and battery

Nikon includes an external charger for the EN-EL1. They also give you a lens cap and strap to protect the lens.


The CP5700 is a fairly large camera

Just like on other Coolpix models, there are tons of optional accessories available. That includes lenses, flashes, and hoods. You can get wide-angle and telephoto lenses (all require a step-down ring). A wired remote control is available too.

The CP5700 includes version 5.1 of NikonView, which is one way to transfer photos. The software is Mac OS X native but is still sluggish and buggy. The CP5700 is compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP.

The Coolpix's manual is somewhat confusing, but everything you need is inside, if you can find it. It's also nice to see that Nikon is including printed manuals again, instead of making you view a PDF version.

Look and Feel

The Coolpix 5700 has a very nice and sturdy magnesium alloy body. With the exception of a few plastic parts, the 5700 looks to be very professional and ready for anything. The 5700's design resembles the Fuji FinePix S602 -- almost too much. The camera is easy to hold. with enough room for both hands.

The official dimensions of the CP5700 are 4.3 x 3.0 x 4.0 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs 480 grams (17 ounces) empty. The camera is pretty large, so don't expect to be putting it in your pocket.

Let's tour the CP5700 now.

The Coolpix 5700 has a superb F2.8-F4.2, 8X optical zoom lens. The other 5 Megapixel cameras that are comparable to the 5700 all come up short in this department (Minolta DiMAGE 7i, 7X; Sony DSC-F707, 5X; Olympus E-20, 4X).

The lens has a special "ED" (must... resist... Viagra joke) extra-low dispersion coating which helps to eliminate the chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) which often plagues big zoom cameras like this.

The lens has a focal range of 8.9 - 71.2 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 280 mm. The lens mount is threaded, but you'll need a step-down ring to actually do anything with it. One thing missing here compared to the other 5MP cameras is a manual focus ring. The E-20 and D7i also have a real manual zoom as well.

Directly above the lens is the pop-up flash, which opens automatically. The flash has a working range of 0.5 - 4.0 m (wide-angle) and 0.5 - 2.8 m (telephoto). If you need more flash power, you can add an external one. More on that later.

Just to the left of that (below "Coolpix 5700") is the microphone.

Further over to the left, you can see the self-timer/red-eye reduction lamp. When I first saw that, I thought, uh oh, here we go again. Those who remember the CP5000 will know what I'm talking about: Nikon placed the flash sensor right where your fingers go. Thankfully, the flash sensor is now right up by the flash. However, the red-eye reduction lamp can still be blocked by your finger, so watch your hands!

The Coolpix 5700 continues Nikon's tradition of omitting an AF-assist lamp.

Here now is the back of the camera. Like the Coolpix 5000, the 5700 has a flip-out LCD that can rotate in both directions. You can point it toward the subject, and the image will be oriented correctly. You can also put it back in the traditional spot, like on most cameras.

One thing that really bothers me about the LCD is that it's too small! This is a camera that costs a bundle, and it has an LCD normally found on one of those micro-cameras. The image on the LCD is bright and fluid, though I found it hard to see unless you're looking straight at it (not from an angle).

Just above the LCD "bay" is the electronic viewfinder. With the exception of the Olympus E-10/20, all big zoom cameras use EVFs instead of traditional optical viewfinders. An EVF shows you the same thing as the LCD, including all menus, and there is no parallax error like on regular viewfinders. However, it does take up more power than a regular optical viewfinder, and can be hard to see when lighting conditions are extreme. Nikon has kindly put a rubber eyecup around the EVF, so your nose doesn't smudge the LCD. There is also a diopter correction knob to bring things into focus for those of us with less than perfect vision.

The EVF itself is of high quality -- it's got a lot of pixels (180,000), so the screen is pretty sharp. As you point the camera in different directions, the image follows along smoothly. Both the LCD and EVF show 97% of the frame.

The button just to the right of the EVF switches between the LCD and EVF.

The four buttons to the right of the LCD bay include:

  • Menu
  • Quick Review
  • Delete
  • Disp(lay)

The display button toggles information on the LCD and EVF. Pressing Quick Review once will show you the last image taken in a little box in the top-left of the screen. Pressing it again will fully enter playback mode. You can move between images using the four-way switch in either mode.


Quick Review feature

Speaking of the four-way switch, it's just to the right of those four buttons. Above that is the mode switch (record/playback) and the zoom controls.

The zoom controls are very well placed and move the 8X zoom smoothly. It takes two seconds to go from wide-angle to telephoto. Also, the CP5700 is the only digicam I've tested that you choose between two speeds (fast and slow) for the zoom mechanism. If you need to be precise, you may want to try the slow mode.

Now, here's the top of the CP5700. The big thing here is the hot shoe. This will work with most Nikon Speedlights, including the new SB-50DX model and the SB-28DX that I had on the D1X (see our review). For those interested in using an external flash, here's an important quote from the manual: "The CP5700 does not support power zoom, AF-assist illumination, or redeye reduction using the redeye reduction lamp on the external Speedlight." The manual also insists that you only use a Nikon-brand flash.

To the right of the hot shoe is an LCD info display, which is always nice to see. It will show things such as flash setting, aperture and shutter speed, current "mode", battery life, and remaining shots. If you press the little light button next to it, the LCD will be lit up for 8 seconds -- a nice touch.

To the right of the LCD backlight button is the Func(tion) button. By default, this holding this down while rotating the command dial (seen here, lower right) will change the user set (you can have three different groups of settings). You can redefine the button to allow you to easily change things like white balance or metering without a trip to the menus.

Below that button is the command dial, used for changing manual settings.

Up at the top, you'll find buttons for mode and exposure compensation.

The mode button switches between:

  • Program Mode - camera picks best exposure settings

  • Shutter Priority Mode - you choose shutter speed, camera picks appropriate aperture. Shutter speed range is 8 sec - 1/4000 sec. Do note that at 1/4000 sec, your aperture options will be limited to F7.4 at telephoto and F5.0-8.0 at wide-angle.

  • Aperture Priority Mode - you choose aperture, camera picks shutter speed. Aperture range of F2.8 - F8.0 in 1/3 step increments

  • Manual Mode - you choose aperture and shutter speed. This enables bulb mode, which will keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is pressed, for up to 5 minutes (!). This pretty much requires a remote shutter release cable and a tripod.

Exposure compensation is the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments.

Just above those buttons is the shutter release button, with the power switch wrapped around it. One thing that bothered me about the power switch is that it was very easy to bump -- I turned the camera on accidentally on several occasions.

On this side is another design flaw, in my opinion. Nikon has placed four chicklet-sized buttons over here, that are quite easy to bump accidentally (maybe I'm just a klutz?). I'm not sure where else they could go, though.

The buttons have two functions: one if you just press it, and another if you hold it down while turning the command dial. Moving clockwise from the top left, the functions are:

Press Hold and Turn
Flash (Auto, off, auto w/red-eye reduction, fill-flash, slow sync) ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
Quality (see chart later) Size (see chart)
Landscape/Macro/Self-timer Manual Focus
AE/AF Lock -

A few notes about some of those items. When the ISO is set to Auto, the camera will keep it at 100, but may raise it as high as 400. That can add quite a bit of noise to your images, so I suggest keeping the camera locked at ISO 100.


Manual focus mode

Manual focus mode will let you use the command dial to focus. Nikon doesn't give you an exact focus distance; rather, they give you a little bar that shows where you are between macro and infinity. Not as helpful as actual distances, in my opinion.

Finally, the AE/AF lock button. By default, this button locks both the exposure and focus, but you can change that via the setup menu.

Some other items of note on this side of the camera include the I/O ports and the speaker. The I/O ports, found under a rubber cover, are for USB, power, and A/V.

On the other side of the camera you'll find the CompactFlash slot. This is a Type II slot, and the IBM Microdrive is compatible. The door seems a bit flimsy, but it closes tight.

Lastly, here is the bottom of the camera, where you'll find the metal tripod mount and the battery compartment. The battery door is much more sturdy than the CF slot door, in my opinion.

Using the Nikon Coolpix 5700

Record Mode

Despite it's big lens, the Coolpix 5700 starts up and is ready to go in under 3 seconds. The lens starts in the wide-angle position.

When you depress the shutter release button halfway, the camera locks focus in under one second. Pressing the button fully will take the picture instantly -- shutter lag is not a problem. Interestingly enough, the 5700 lets the user choose the shutter response time. There is a quick response mode which speeds things up a bit, at the expense of how the picture looks on the LCD. Strangely, this is buried in the Monitor Options panel in the setup menu.


Only thing missing is a histogram

Shot-to-shot speed is pretty good on the 5700. You'll wait for just under 3 seconds before you can take another shot. The camera has a sizable amount of buffer memory so you can keep shooting at this rate for quite a while. You can also delete a photo while it's being written to the memory card.

The exception to this is when you're taking TIFF or RAW photos. A TIFF photo will lock up the camera for over 20 seconds. A RAW mode photo will lock the camera up for only about 6 seconds, so you can take another picture, but the image will continue being written to the memory card for quite a while.

Speaking of image quality settings, here's a chart of the various image size and quality choices available on the Coolpix:

  # of images on included 16MB card
Image Size RAW HI quality Fine quality Normal quality Basic quality
Full
2560 x 1920
1 1 6 12 25
3:2
2560 x 1710
N/A 1 7 14 27
UXGA
1600 x 1200
N/A N/A 16 31 59
SXGA
1280 x 960
N/A N/A 24 47 86
XGA
1024 x 768
N/A N/A 37 69 121
VGA
640 x 480
N/A N/A 86 144 229

What are those N/A's doing there? RAW files can only be "full size". TIFFs can be full or 3:2 sized. The RAW (NEF) format is new to the CP5700 -- it has been used on Nikon's digital SLRs up until now. A RAW image is as it sounds -- RAW, unprocessed image data from the CCD. You must process it on your computer with NikonView or the optional NikonCapture software in order to save it out into other formats. The 5700 will also let you convert from RAW to HI (TIFF) in the camera itself. RAW files take up about half as much memory as TIFF files.

If you want to find out how many photos a larger memory card will hold, just multiply the numbers above. For example, a 1gb Microdrive will hold 64 times as many photos, so just multiply the numbers in the table by 64. Sounds easy enough, but lots of people do ask me this question, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

Now let's talk Coolpix menus. You can have up to three separate sets of settings, or just put in in auto mode for point-and-shoot photography. While the menus are hierarchical and easy to navigate, items can be buried deep inside and can be hard to find (I already mentioned one earlier). Here's what you'll find in the CP5700 menus:

  • User Setting (Auto, 1, 2, 3) - holds 3 different sets of camera settings or go fully automatic
  • White balance (Auto, preset, fine, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, speedlight) - more info below
  • Metering (Matrix, spot, center-weighted, spot AF area) - in spot AF area metering, the camera samples the light only in the current focus area
  • Continuous Menu
    • Single shot
    • Continuous High - 3 frames/sec, up to 3 frames
    • Continuous Low - 1.5 frames/sec; I was able to take 8 in a row at the fine quality setting
    • Multi-shot 16 - puts 16 consecutive shots into one full size image - like a collage
    • Ultra HS - 30 frames/sec, 320 x 240
    • Movie - more later on this
  • Best Shot Selector (on/off) - takes up to 10 consecutive shots, then chooses the sharpest image
  • Image Adjustment (Auto, normal, more contrast, less contrast, lighten image, darken image)
  • Saturation Control (Maximum, normal, moderate, minimum, black & white) - why B&W is here, I have no idea
  • Lens (Normal, wide adapter, telephoto 1) - use this if you bought a conversion lens
  • Exposure Options
    • AE Lock (on/off/reset) - turning this on will lock the exposure settings after the first shot
    • Maximum Bulb Duration (1 min / 5 min)
  • Focus Options
    • AF Area Mode (Auto, manual, off) - in manual mode, you can use the four-way switch to pick the area to focus on
    • Auto-Focus Mode (Continuous AF, Single AF) - how the camera focuses (always or when the button is pressed halfway)
    • Focus Confirmation (MF, on, off) - shows what areas in the image are in focus
  • Image Sharpening (Auto, high, normal, low, off)
  • Auto Bracketing
    • Exposure Bracketing - 3 or 5 shots in a row with varying EV values
    • WB Bracketing - 3 shots with varying white balance. One normal image, one "bluish" image, one "reddish" image
  • Noise Reduction (on, off, clear image mode) - Noise reduction will reduce the appearance of noise or grain in your images. It is only used at shutter speeds slower than 1/30 sec. Clear Image Mode is for images 1280 x 960 or smaller - it takes two shots with the shutter open, and one with it closed, and reduces the noise. Note that a tripod or very steady hands is recommended for these features.

I wanted to comment on the white balance features. The preset mode allows you to shoot a white or gray card/paper to get the perfect WB setting. On all of the WB modes except Auto and Preset, you can fine tune the setting ±3. You can also use the WB bracketing feature that I mentioned before. In other words, it's hard to have bad white balance on this camera.

In addition to the main menu, there is also a setup menu with even more options. The interesting ones include:

  • Monitor options
    • Start-up display (Monitor on, viewfinder on) - which of these is on by default
    • Review options (Review on, off) - whether picture is shown on LCD after it is taken
    • Shutter Response Time (Normal, quick response) - control over shutter lag. Why is it in this section of the menus though?
    • Brightness
    • Hue
  • Controls
    • Memorize (Flash, focus mode, exposure mode, exposure compensation) - which of these settings are remembered when camera is switched off
    • Func button (User setting, focus mode, flash mode, white balance, metering) - customize what this button does
    • AE/AF lock button (AE-L and AF-L, AE-L, AF-L) - define this button
  • Zoom options
    • Digital tele (on/off) - turns the 4X digital zoom on and off
    • Fixed aperture (on/off) - locks the aperture
    • Zoom speed (high, low) - discussed earlier
  • Speedlight options
    • Pop-up (Auto, manual) - for the built-in flash
    • Variable power (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
    • Speedlight control (Auto, internal & external active) - used when you have an external flash attached
    • Shot confirmation (on/off) - if on, the red-eye reduction lamp fires confirming that a picture was taken
  • info.txt (on/off) - saves a text file with exposure information along with your photos
  • Video mode (NTSC, PAL)
  • USB (PTP, Mass Storage)

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of menus. Let's talk photos now. For this review, I took two night shot photos and two macro photos.

The fog pouring into the city adds an interesting twist to these photos. With full control over the shutter speed and aperture, I was able to pull off some pretty nice shots. One thing I will say is this: turning on the noise reduction feature is a must. It looked like outer space (from all the hot pixels) with noise reduction off. Turning it on produced a much cleaner image. I do think that these could be better -- they're both overexposed a stop or two. Since I have the camera for a long time, I may go back and try these again.

Here's our usual 3" tall figurine, looking quite nice. It's a bit softer than I'd like, but the colors look fine.

And here is our bonus macro shot. You can see incredible amounts of detail on the dollar bill, like the multi-colored threads embedded in the paper. You can also see the tape I used to keep the bill flat. Nikon cameras have a macro mode unmatched by any other company. You can get as close as 3 cm (1.2 inches) from your subject!

And here is our new redeye test. The shot is taken in low light from a distance of about 6 feet. The image above is cropped and then enlarged so you can see the detail. As you can tell, the CP5700 does not have much of a problem with redeye.

I am much more satisfied with the photo quality on the Coolpix 5700 than I was with the 5000. While the 5000 had the tendency to "blow out the highlights" on way too many photos, I saw none of this on the 5700. The 5700 produced very well-exposed images, with impressive color. Chromatic aberrations were not a problem either. Take a look at our standard gallery or our special CP5700/DiMAGE 7i shootout for samples. I think you too will be pleased with what you see. As I mentioned, I have the camera until the end of August, so I may end up adding some more photos.

Movie Mode

The Coolpix 5700 has the same movie mode as the 5000. You can record movies for as long as 60 seconds, at a resolution of 320 x 240. Movies are saved in QuickTime format.

The optical zoom is disabled during filming, but you can use the digital zoom.

Here's a quick sample movie for you. The sound is pretty yucky with all the street noise.


Click to play movie (2.8MB, QuickTime format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The Coolpix 5700 has a complete playback mode that has all the basics plus a few other nice features.

The basic features include 4 or 9 thumbnail mode, slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, and "zoom and scroll".

The zoom and scroll feature allows you to zoom in as much as 6X into your photo, and then scroll around in it.

How about those cool extra features? One of my favorites is the ability to delete a group of photos at once. You just mark the thumbnails you want to delete, hit a button, and they're gone.

Another interesting feature is the Auto Transfer function. You can mark photos as "Auto Transfer" and NikonView will automatically copy them to your Mac or PC when you connect the camera.

As I alluded to earlier, you can convert RAW images into HI (TIFF) images in playback mode. Do note that you need 15MB of space on the memory card in order to do this.

By rotating the command dial, you can find out a lot more information about your photos, as you can see above. A histogram is also available. While that is being shown, the camera will show which areas of the image are overexposed by making them blink.

The 5700 moves through images very quickly. A low resolution version is shown instantly, with the high res version showing up just a moment later.

What's missing in playback mode? I sure wish you could rotate images.

How Does it Compare?

While I recommended the Coolpix 5000, I wasn't very enthusiastic about it. That is not the case with the Coolpix 5700 -- I wholeheartedly recommend it. Featuring a spectacular 8X optical zoom lens, more manual controls that you'll ever need, a hot shoe, and Microdrive support, the CP5700 is one of the nicest cameras that I've used in some time. Oh, and the picture quality is great too. Things aren't totally perfect, though. The controls, most notably the power switch and those buttons on the left side, aren't well-placed. The LCD is way too small for a camera with this price, and the viewing angle is limited too. The camera can be quite confusing as well. But overall, the 5700 is a great choice for someone needing a lot of resolution and a big lens.

In comparison to the other 5 Megapixel cameras, I offer these comments:
Minolta DiMAGE 7i: A very close call. I prefer Minolta's manual lens barrel and focus ring. The D7i requires some tweaking of the settings to get the best photo quality. The 5700 did great right out of the box.

Olympus E-20: I own the original E-10, and was not happy with the E-20. I love the design, but the camera itself is a let down. The CP5700 wins big, in my opinion.
Sony DSC-F707: Another close one. The 5700 has a longer zoom range, but the Sony's laser focusing system and great photo quality make this one a tough choice. The F707's lens is also "faster", with an aperture range of F2.0-F2.4, meaning it collects a lot more light than the Nikon.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the CP5700 and it's competitors before you buy!

What I liked:

  • All the manual controls you'll ever need
  • 8X optical zoom lens
  • Excellent photo quality
  • Superb macro ability
  • CompactFlash Type II slot - Microdrive works fine
  • Handy swiveling LCD
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • RAW and TIFF file formats

What I didn't care for:

  • LCD is too small; limited viewing angle
  • Poorly placed power switch and left-side controls
  • No manual focus ring
  • Proprietary battery costs a lot and doesn't last long, especially with Microdrive
  • Included 16MB memory card way too small
  • Expensive

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the samples in our photo gallery!

Also, check out the Coolpix 5700 vs. Minolta DiMAGE 7i shootout for more photos.

Want a few more opinions?

Required reading: Steve's Digicams, Imaging Resource, and DP Review Coolpix 5700 reviews.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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