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DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix P5000  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: July 16, 2007
Last Updated: March 26, 2008

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The Nikon Coolpix P5000 ($399) is a compact, full-featured 10 Megapixel camera that is reminiscent of the Coolpix 5000 that was popular back in 2001. In addition to its 10 Megapixel CCD, the P5000 also sports a 3.5X optical zoom lens (equivalent to 36 - 126 mm), optical image stabilization, a 2.5" LCD display, manual controls, a hot shoe, and more. All that in a small, magnesium alloy body that can go just about anywhere.

The closest competitor to the P5000 is probably the Canon PowerShot G7 -- though that camera is more expensive, physically larger, and has a more powerful zoom lens.

Is the the Coolpix P5000 the ultimate D-SLR companion? Find out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix P5000 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 10.0 effective Megapixel Coolpix P5000 digital camera
  • EN-EL5 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring Nikon PictureProject
  • Fold-out Quick Start guide + 114 page camera manual (printed)

As it usually the case these days, the Coolpix P5000 has built-in memory instead of having a memory card included in the box. The P5000 has 21MB of memory, which holds just four photos at the highest image quality setting. So, unless you have one laying around somewhere, you'll need to buy a memory card right away. The camera supports SD, SDHC, and MultiMediaCard formats, and I'd recommend a 2GB card as a good starter size. Picking up a high speed card is a good idea.

The P5000 uses the same EN-EL5 lithium-ion battery as several other Coolpix models. This battery packs 4.0 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is just okay. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, LCD on
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot A570 IS * 400 shots 2 x 2500 mAh NiMH
Canon PowerShot G7 * 220 shots NB-2LH
Kodak EasyShare Z1275 320 shots 2 x unknown NiMH
Nikon Coolpix P5000 * 250 shots EN-EL5
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 * 300 shots CGA-S005A
Samsung NV11 ** 220 shots SLB-1137
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 * 300 shots NB-BG1

* Has image stabilization
** Number not obtained using the CIPA standard

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

While the P5000's battery life numbers are a bit better than the PowerShot G7's, in the group as a whole they're slightly below average.

I'm afraid that I must make my usual comments about the proprietary batteries like the one used by the Coolpix P5000. They're expensive (priced from $20), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when your rechargeables die. As you can see though, most of the cameras in this class use proprietary batteries.

When it's time to charge the battery just snap it into the included charger. It takes about two hours to fully charge the EN-EL9. This isn't one of those handy chargers that plugs right into the wall -- you must use a power cable.

There are quite a few accessories available for this compact camera, including:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Wide-angle lens WC-67 $110 Reduces the focal length by 0.67X, giving you a new wide end of 24 mm. Requires conversion lens adapter.
Telephoto lens TC-E3ED From $225 Boosts the focal range by a factor of three, giving the P5000 a new top end of 378 mm. Requires conversion lens adapter.
Conversion lens adapter UR-E20 $30 Required for conversion lenses
External flash


From $99
From $180
From $313
Get more flash power and less chance of redeye with these Speedlights
AC adapter EH-62A From $26 Power your camera without draining the battery
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Not bad, not bad at all. About the only things missing are a remote control and camera case.

Nikon includes version 1.7 of their PictureProject software with the P5000, and it's pretty good. The interface is reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto, and I found the software to be responsive and stable. For those of you with Intel-based Macs, I should mention that PictureProject is not a Universal application, which means that it doesn't run as fast as it could.

Anyhow, above you can see the standard thumbnail view that you'll get when you first start up PP. The size of the thumbnails is adjustable, and there's also a "details view" which displays shooting data next to your photos.

Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll end up on the edit screen. Here you can adjust things like brightness, color, and sharpness. You can also straighten images or use Nikon's D-Lighting feature to brighten up dark areas of your photos. Auto image enhancement and redeye removal features are also available. PP also makes e-mailing and printing your photos a snap.

PictureProject also includes a "Design" feature which lets you create various layouts (such as greeting cards) for printing out your photos. You can also e-mail your photos, share them online (though this feature did not work for me), or burn them to a CD or DVD.

Also included is ArcSoft's PanoramaMaker software. This lets you take photos that you've lined up side-by-side (using the camera's panorama assist feature helps with this) and stitch them together into one giant panorama. While the program's interface is pretty awkward, the results are not:

This was five separate photos combined into one... neat!

The manuals included with the Coolpix P5000 are pretty good. There's a fold-out Quick Start guide to get you started, plus a full manual for when you need more detail (and you will with this complex camera). The manual describes things well, without a lot of fine print. The manual for the included software is included on a CD-ROM.

Look and Feel

The Coolpix P5000 is a compact (but not tiny) camera made almost entirely of metal. The camera is very well put together for the most part, except for the incredibly flimsy plastic door over the memory card / battery compartment. The camera is easy to hold with one hand, and there's a secure, rubberized grip for your right hand. The controls are fairly well placed, though the tiny power button can be hard to find.

Alright, now let's see how the P5000 compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot A570 IS 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.7 in. 14.9 cu in. 175 g
Canon PowerShot G7 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7 in. 20 cu in. 320 g
Kodak EasyShare Z1275 3.5 x 2.5 x 1.2 in. 10.5 cu in. 161 g
Nikon Coolpix P5000 3.9 x 2.5 x 1.6 in. 15.6 cu in. 200 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 4.2 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 9.2 cu in. 187 g
Samsung NV11 4.2 x 2.5 x 0.9 in. 9.5 cu in. 195 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 9.1 cu in. 142 g

As you can see, the P5000 is the second largest and heaviest camera in the group -- only the PowerShot G7 is chunkier. It's not a "back pocket" kind of camera, but it's still small enough for a purse or small camera bag.

I've had enough numbers, let's start our tour of the P5000 now!

While the Coolpix P5000 has a lot going for it, its lens isn't one of them. It's a run-of-the-mill -- and somewhat slow -- 3.5X zoom lens. This F2.7-5.3 (there's the slow part) lens has a focal range of 7.5 - 26.3, which is equivalent to 36 - 126 mm. It would've been nice to have more of a wide-angle component to the lens, which is the same complaint that I had on the PowerShot G7.

If you want to expand the focal range (in either direction) then you can pick up the conversion lenses I mentioned in the previous section. To attach them you first unscrew the metal ring around the lens barrel. You then attach the (optional) conversion lens adapter, and then screw on the wide or tele lens.

Inside the lens is Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) optical image stabilization system. If you've been frustrated with blurry photos, this can help. Sensors inside the camera detect "shake" caused by the tiny movements of your hands which can blur your shots. The camera then shifts a lens element in order to counter this motion. It won't freeze motion, nor will it allow for handheld night scenes like the one later in this review, but it will let you take sharper photos than you could on an unstabilized camera.

Here is the first of two examples:

Image stabilization off

image stabilization off

Both of these photos were taken at a shutter speed of 1/8 sec. As you can see, the VR system did its job, producing a sharp photo. My second example involves a sample movie, where you can see how the VR smoothes out your videos as well. The camera automatically detects panning motion, so if that's the case, it will only stabilize up and down movement.

The camera has a rather strange issue somehow related to the VR system, though. The P5000 is constantly making a "hissing" noise when you're in any of the record modes (it sounds like there's a wheel spinning inside it or something). It appears that some part of the VR system is always running, even when the option is turned off. There are two problems with this: one, it puts an extra strain on the battery. Two, the camera picks up this noise when you record audio, whether with movie or standalone. You can hear the noise this issue ads to your movies and sound clips by listening to this WAV file. Of course, in the real world, this would only be a problem when recording "quiet" situations. Oh, and this isn't an issue with my review camera -- plenty of people on popular camera forums have reported the same thing.

To the upper-right of the lens is the P5000's built-in flash. Despite its small size, the flash is quite powerful, with a working range of 0.3 - 8.0 m at wide-angle and 0.3 - 4.0 m at telephoto (presumably at Auto ISO). If you want more flash power and less chance of redeye, then you'll want to attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a bit.

Directly to the left of the flash is the optical viewfinder. Below that is the AF-assist lamp, which also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp helps the camera focus in low light situations.

Just above the Coolpix logo is the camera's microphone.

On the back of the camera you'll find a large and sharp 2.5" LCD display. With 230,000 pixels at its disposal, the screen is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility was average, while in low light, the screen was still easy to see, as it brightens automatically in those situations. The LCD shows 97% of the frame.

Right above the LCD is the P5000's optical viewfinder. The viewfinder is on the the small side, shows 80% of the frame, and lacks diopter correction -- but I'll take what I can get, since so few cameras have viewfinders these days.

To the left of the LCD are these five buttons:

  • Function - a custom shortcut button (I'll tell you the available options later)
  • Display - toggles LCD on and off
  • Playback mode
  • Menu
  • Delete photo

Jumping now to the other side of the LCD, we find the camera's four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as:

  • Up - Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash off, flash on, slow sync, rear curtain sync)
  • Down - Focus mode (Auto, infinity, focusing limit, macro)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 3 or 10 sec)
  • Right - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)

That focusing limit option "limits" the focal range to 2 m to infinity to reduce focus times. This option is only available in the P/S/A/M modes. There is no manual focus option on the P5000, which is surprising considering that it's supposed to be a camera for enthusiasts.

Believe it or not, that's it for the back of the camera!

The first thing to see on the top of the P5000 is the hot shoe, located on the far left side of the camera. The camera will work best with the SB-400/600/800 flashes, as they integrate with the camera's metering system. If you use a non-Nikon flash, you may have to adjust its settings manually. Nikon does not say what the maximum flash sync speed is on the P5000.

Moving to the right, we find the P5000's mode dial, which is full of options. They include:

Option Function
Movie mode More on this later
Scene mode You choose the situation, and the camera uses the appropriate settings. Choose from face priority AF, portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, night landscape, close-up, museum, fireworks show, copy, back light, panorama assist, voice recording; see below for more
High sensitivity mode Boosts the ISO as high as 1600 in order to get a sharp photo
Anti-shake mode Boosts the ISO, turns on VR (if it's not on already), and uses the Best Shot Selector feature to help you get a sharp photo
Auto mode Point and shoot with some menu options locked up.
Program mode Still automatic, but with access to all menu options. The Flexible Program feature lets you scroll through several shutter speed / aperture combinations by using the command dial.
Shutter priority mode You choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture. Shutter speed range is 8 - 1/2000 sec.
Aperture priority mode You choose aperture, and the camera picks appropriate shutter speed. Choose from a range of F2.7 - F7.6.
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself (same ranges as above).
Setup Enters the setup mode that I'll describe later

As you can see, there are plenty of scene modes for the beginners, plus manual exposure controls for the enthusiasts. I should point out that the shutter speeds move in full stops only, which is disappointing.

Scene menu You can "zoom in" to see a help screen like this

Some of the notable scene modes include face priority AF, panorama assist, and voice recording. The face priority AF is one of the poorer implementations of face detection that I've seen. It's slow, and doesn't recognize very many faces, especially compared to Canon and Fuji's versions of this feature.

The camera found one face... ...and locked focus on it.

I never got the camera to see more than three of the six faces in my face detection test scene. Most of the time it found just one. This feature is only available as a scene mode, which limits its usefulness even more.

The panorama assist scene helps you line up a series of photos side-by-side. Once you've taken your photos, you can stitch them together using the PanoramaMaker software that I described earlier. The P5000's voice recording feature lets you capture up to five continuous hours of audio. Watch out for that "hiss" that I mentioned before, though.

I hesitate to recommend using either the anti-shake or high sensitivity modes, as they can boost the ISO to a point where your photos will be quite noisy. I would stick to manually adjusting the ISO as needed.

To the right of the mode dial is the command dial (used for adjusting manual settings), with the tiny power button next to it.

Continuing upward, we find the shutter release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped around it. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.1 seconds. I counted nine steps in the camera's 3.5X zoom range.

The only thing to see on this side of the Coolpix P5000 is the speaker. The lens is at full wide-angle here.

On the opposite side of the camera you'll find the camera's single I/O port, and it's for USB + A/V out. A rubber cover helps keep out the dust. In another head-scratching omission, the P5000 does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, which means that data transfers to your computer will be quite slow.

Right next to the I/O port is another rubber cover, through which passes the wire from the optional AC adapter to its DC coupler (basically a battery with a power cord).

The lens is at the full telephoto position here.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find a metal tripod mount, as well as the battery/memory card compartment. The door over the compartment is an incredibly flimsy piece of plastic, and a disgrace considering the quality of the rest of the camera. It could use a lock as well, as it's too easy to open accidentally. You won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod, either.

The included EN-EL5 battery can be seen at right.

Using the Nikon Coolpix P5000

Record Mode

It takes the P5000 about 2.1 seconds to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. That's about average.

What? No live histogram?

If I could describe the Coolpix P5000's autofocus performance in one word, it would be "slow". Typical focus times ranged from 0.5 - 1.0 seconds, even in the best conditions. At the telephoto end of the lens, or when your subject doesn't have a lot of contrast, focus times were closer to 2 seconds. Low light focusing was fairly accurate, but very sluggish.

I didn't find shutter lag to be much of a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes pops up.

Shot-to-shot speeds were average, with a delay of about two seconds before you can take another photo (with or without the flash).

After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button on the back of the camera to review and/or delete the shot you just took.

Now, let's take a look at the numerous image size and quality choices available on the P5000:

Resolution Quality # images on 21MB onboard memory # images on 1GB SD card (optional)
3648 x 2736
Fine 4 200
Normal 9 400
Basic 17 780
3648 x 2432
Fine 5 220
Normal 10 440
Basic 19 860
3584 x 2016
Fine 6 260
Normal 12 540
Basic 24 1060
2592 x 1944
Fine 8 475
Normal 17 975
Basic 34 1520
2048 x 1536
Fine 14 620
Normal 27 1220
Basic 51 2300
1600 x 1200
Fine 22 1020
Normal 43 1940
Basic 77 3460
1280 x 960
Fine 35 1560
Normal 63 2820
Basic 116 5200
1024 x 768
Fine 51 2300
Normal 93 4160
Basic 155 6920
640 x 480
Fine 116 5200
Normal 175 7800
Basic 280 12480

That's quite a list! As you can see, buying a larger memory card is a good idea.

The P5000 unfortunately does not support the RAW image format. Like Canon did with the PowerShot G7, it looks like Nikon wants you to buy a D-SLR if you want RAW!

Images are named DSCN####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.

Now, onto the menus!

The Coolpix P5000 has a pretty standard-issue menu system. There are two ways to display the menu items: by text (shown above), or by icon. For each of the menu items you can press the "zoom in" button to get a description of what that item does. Keeping in mind that many of these options are only available in the P/A/S/M shooting modes, here's the full record menu list:

  • Image quality (see chart)
  • Image size (see chart)
  • Optimize image (Normal, softer, vivid, more vivid, portrait, custom, black & white) - see below
  • White balance (Auto, preset, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, flash) - see below
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 2000, 3200) - more on this later
  • Metering (Matrix, center-weighted, spot, spot AF area)
  • Continuous (Single, continuous, continuous flash, interval timer) - see below
  • BSS [Best Shot Selector] (on/off) - see below
  • Auto bracketing (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV) - see below
  • AF area mode (Auto, center, manual) - auto is nine-point; the manual option lets you use the four-way controller to select one of 99 possible focus points
  • Autofocus mode (Single AF, full-time AF) - see below
  • Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
  • Flash control (Auto, internal flash off)
  • Fixed aperture (on/off) - whether aperture varies with zoom position
  • Noise reduction (on/off) - for long exposures
  • Converter (None, wide-angle, telephoto) - when wide-angle is selection, a distortion control option appears

Lots to talk about before we move on, and I'll start with the "optimize image" option. If you select custom you can adjust the following setting contrast, saturation, and image sharpening, with "auto" being the default. One interesting thing is that you can turn off noise reduction entirely. If you choose the black and white option, you can adjust the contrast, sharpening, and add a virtual color filter (yellow, orange, red, green), if you desire.

The P5000's custom white balance option lets you use a white or gray card to get accurate color under mixed or unusual lighting.

The Coolpix P5000's continuous shooting mode isn't worth writing home about. The camera took just five photos at a sluggish 0.8 frames/second before stopping. The continuous flash option takes three flash photos in a row at the same frame rate. The LCD blacks out for a moment between shots, so you may want to track your subject with the optical viewfinder instead.

The interval timer shooting feature lets you do time-lapse photography with your P5000. You can take up to 1800 shots at an interval of your choosing (as long as it's 30 seconds or 5/10/30/60 minutes). You'll want to use the optional AC adapter in this mode. There's also a time-lapse movie feature that I'll describe in a bit.

The Best Shot Selector feature takes up to ten shots in a row and then saves the sharpest one. Strangely enough, this high-end Coolpix lacks the exposure BSS feature found on other recent Nikon cameras.

In auto bracketing mode, the camera will take three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. The interval between each exposure can be ±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, or ±1.0EV. If you have the space on your memory card, this is a good way to ensure proper exposure every time.

There are two autofocus modes on the P5000. The single AF locks focus when you halfway-press the shutter release button. In continuous AF mode, the camera is always trying to focus, which reduces focus times, but shortens battery life.

Now here's what you'll find in the setup menu, which you access via the mode dial:

  • Menus (Icon, text)
  • Quick startup (on/off) - when on, welcome screen and startup sound are disabled
  • Welcome screen (Nikon, animation, select an image) - the "select an image" mode lets you use your own photo
  • Date
    • Date (set)
    • Time zone - choose a home and travel time zone
  • Monitor brightness (1 - 5)
  • Date imprint (Off, date, date & time, date counter) - print the date/time on your photos; the date counter shows the numbers of days before or after
  • Vibration reduction (on/off) - described earlier
  • AF-assist lamp (Off, auto)
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - best to keep this turned off
  • Sound settings
    • Button sound (on/off)
    • Shutter sound (Off, 1-3)
    • Startup sound (Off, normal, loud)
  • Auto off (30 sec, 1, 5, 30 mins)
  • Format memory/card
  • Language
  • Interface
    • USB (PTP, Mass Storage)
    • Video mode (NTSC, PAL)
    • Auto transfer (on/off) - whether photos are automatically transferred to your PC by default
  • Function button (ISO, image quality, image size, white balance, VR) - customize what this shortcut button does
  • Reset all
  • Firmware version

Well that's it for menus, let's continue with the photo tests now.

The P5000 did a very nice job with our macro test. The colors are nice and saturated, and the subject has a "smooth" appearance to it. The camera's custom white balance had no trouble with my studio lamps.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 4 cm, though you'll have to put the lens in the right position in order to get that. You'll know you've found the sweet spot when the "macro flower" turns green.

I wasn't very satisfied with the night shots I got from the Coolpix P5000, and I went out twice to make sure that it wasn't my fault. The above image is soft, and the slow lens combined with the 8 second shutter speed limit didn't bring in enough light for a proper exposure. The camera blew out the US Bank sign on one of the buildings, but so has every other camera that I've brought out to the island since that new sign went up. On a more positive note, there's no noise to speak of, and purple fringing is minimal.

Here is the first of two ISO tests in this review, and it uses the night scene you just saw. I apologize in advance for the inconsistent exposures -- since the shutter speed only moves in full stops, it's hard to be precise.

ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 2000

The first thing to note is that the ISO 100 shot is better-exposed than the ISO 64 one -- that extra sensitivity helped. It's still soft, with some smudged details. Noise and noise reduction artifacts become more obvious at ISO 200 and 400, so this is probably as high as you'll want to go in low light. I think there's too much noise at the higher settings to do anything with the photos. I didn't include the ISO 3200 sample since it's at a lower resolution (and it looks horrible), but if you want to see it, here you go.

We'll see how the P5000 performs at higher sensitivities in better lighting in a bit.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the P5000's 3.5X zoom lens. This phenomenon is best illustrated by shots like this. I didn't find vignetting or corner blurriness to be problems.

The P5000 has a two-stage redeye removal system. First, it does the traditional "preflash" trick to shrink your subject's pupils. If that doesn't work, and the camera detects redeye, a software removal tool will be run. Unfortunately, neither of those got rid of the redeye in our flash test. Your results may vary, of course.

Here's ISO test number two. This one is taken in our studio and the results can be compared to those from other cameras that I've reviewed recently. While the crops below give you a good overview of the noise levels at each ISO setting, I encourage you to look at "the whole picture" to really see the differences.

ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 2000

ISO 3200

The images are noise-free through ISO 200. They're on the soft side, and it may be worth fooling around with the in-camera sharpness settings if you agree. At ISO 400 we get a slight drop in color saturation, as well as a slight increase in noise. Still, a midsize print is not a problem at this setting. ISO 800 is probably as high as I'd go on the Coolpix P5000, as the higher settings are noisy and even flatter in terms of color. I threw the ISO 3200 shot (which is taken at a lower resolution) in there so you could see how bad it is -- I don't know why Nikon even bothered with this... though it makes for a nice sticker on the camera to entice people at Best Buy.

Overall, the Coolpix P5000's photo quality was very good, though I would certainly tweak one of the settings if I owned the camera. The P5000 took well-exposed photos, with pleasing colors and very little noise at the lower ISO settings. Purple fringing popped up a few times, but it wasn't horrible. My main "beef" with the P5000 is that its photo are soft, probably due to excessive noise reduction. This same noise reduction also smudges fine details such as leaves and grass (and hair, by extension), as you can see in this shot.

So what can you do about the softness? Have a look at this comparison:

Auto sharpness (default setting)

Normal sharpness

+1 Sharpness
+2 Sharpness

The first thing that I'd do after taking the P5000 out of the box is change the sharpening setting to "normal" -- at least. If it were my camera I'd be using +1, most likely. This won't affect the noise reduction smudging that I mentioned, but at least your images will be a bit crisper.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing the photos if you'd like. Then and only then can you decide if the P5000's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The Coolpix P5000's otherwise nice movie mode is marred by the same, annoying A/V sync bug that I've been complaining about for almost a year. Before I get into that, here are the good things about the movie mode. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 fps) with sound until you run out of memory. That takes just 19 seconds when you use the built-in memory, but a 1GB SD card can hold about 14 minutes worth.

For longer movies you'll have to lower the frame rate to a choppy 15 frames/second. You can record at 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 at this setting. The 320 x 240 option lets you record in color, black & white, or sepia. A time lapse movie feature is also available. This is just like the still time lapse feature that I described earlier, except that the images end up as a VGA-sized silent movie.

You can choose between single and continuous autofocus while in movie mode. I would probably use single AF as the microphone may pick up the focusing sounds otherwise. And, as I mentioned earlier, the camera will pick up the "hiss" from the VR system if the environment is relatively quiet.

While the optical zoom cannot be used during filming, digital zoom is available. As you'd expect, the image stabilizer can be used in movie mode.

The A/V sync bug has been around since at least the Coolpix S10. In a nutshell, the sound cuts out before the movie is finished playing back. Why this obvious bug has not yet been fixed is beyond me. See the bug for yourself in this sample movie:

Click to play movie (17.2 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view them? Download QuickTime

Playback Mode

The Coolpix P5000 has a fairly standard playback mode. You've got your slideshows (and not the fancy one like on some Nikon cameras), DPOF print marking, image protection, voice captions, thumbnail view (there are several, in fact), and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge a photo by as much as 10X, and then scroll around. You can also crop a photo while you're zoomed in. There is a separate tool for creating a smaller version of your photo.

D-Lighting option

There's also the handy D-Lighting feature, which will brighten up your underexposed photos like so:

Original photo

Photo after D-Lighting

The catch with D-Lighting (and there's always a catch) is that the noise in the photo increases.

As you'd expect, there's a copy function to move photos from the internal memory to a memory card and vice versa. I also like the ability to delete a group of photos at once.

By default, the camera doesn't tell you much about the photos you've taken. Press the Display button, though, and you'll see more, including a histogram.

The Coolpix P5000 isn't going to win any awards for its playback speeds. While a low resolution view of a photo shows up instantly, it takes nearly two seconds for the high res version to arrive.

How Does it Compare?

The Nikon Coolpix P5000 is a good compact camera that had a few too many corners cut, in my opinion. It offers a lot of features for both beginners and enthusiasts, but at the same time it's lacking features that would make it a true D-SLR companion. Throw in a movie mode bug and a totally bizarre noise (and not the photo kind) in record mode and you've got a camera that I'm not jumping up and down about. It's worth a look, but if you're expecting a compact D-SLR, you might want to lower your expectations.

The Coolpix P5000 is a fairly small camera with a design reminiscent of the "classic" Coolpix 5000 and 5400. Almost the entire body is made of metal, giving the P5000 a solid feel in your hands. The one exception to this is the incredibly flimsy plastic door covering the memory card and battery compartment -- it feels ready to break off at any moment. Since he tripod mount is right next door to this compartment, you won't be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod. The P5000 has a pretty unremarkable (and somewhat slow) 3.5X zoom lens, with a focal length of 36 - 126 mm. It does support Nikon's Vibration Reduction image stabilization system though, which lets you get sharp photos at shutter speeds that would be unusable on unstabilized cameras. The VR system brings with it a rather strange issue that I'll describe at the end of this section.The P5000 has a high resolution 2.5" LCD display that's just so-so outdoors, but very good in low light. If you like add-ons then you'll like this camera: it supports both conversion lenses and an external flash (via a hot shoe).

Generally speaking, the Coolpix P5000 has a great selection of automatic and manual features, though there are some strange omissions. For beginners you have an automatic mode, two ISO-boosting high sensitivity modes (neither of which I'd recommend using), and a ton of scene modes. The only place you'll find Nikon's face detection system is in one scene (face priority AF), which seems a bit strange to me. The feature itself isn't nearly as good as those on other cameras, so you're not missing much. One user-friendly feature that I appreciate is the ability to see a "help" screen for most of the camera options. The P5000 offers all the manual controls except for one -- manual focus -- which doesn't make much sense either. And, while there are manual exposure controls available, the shutter speeds move in full-stop increments, which makes it difficult to get a proper exposure. There's no live histogram or support for the RAW image format, either. The camera's movie mode is nice on paper, but unfortunately it suffers from the same bug that I've seen on Nikon cameras since last year: the sound cuts out before the movie is finished.

Performance is undoubtedly the Coolpix P5000's weak spot. It's average at best, but usually worse. The camera starts up in 2.1 seconds, which gives you a good first impression. Once you start taking pictures, though, you'll see just how sluggish it is. Focus times are well below average, usually around a full second, and sometimes twice that (at telephoto or in low light). The camera's continuous shooting mode is another reason why the P5000 isn't suited for action photography. It takes just five high quality JPEGs in a row at a snail-like 0.8 frames/second. Battery life was just a bit below average, and I recommend picking up an extra battery if you buy the P5000. The camera does not support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, another shocker on this "performance" model.

Photo quality is good, though you'll get the best results if you bump up the sharpness a notch or two. The P5000 took well-exposed photos, with pleasing color, and minimal purple fringing. You won't see noise until you get to the middle of the ISO range, and that's due to a decent amount of noise reduction being applied. This noise reduction produces soft photos, with fine details smeared. While there's not much you can do about the latter, increasing the sharpening setting (which is buried in the record menu) can sharpen things up considerably. I wouldn't bother with the highest ISO settings, especially ISO 3200, which is completely useless. While the camera tries to get rid of redeye in two different ways, it still showed up in our flash test.

I'll close with probably the strangest camera issue that I've seen in years. Something inside the Coolpix P5000 (probably related to the VR system) is constantly making a "hissing" noise when you're in any recording mode (whether it's for stills, video, or audio). It doesn't matter if the VR feature is turned off: the camera still makes this noise. The camera's microphone picks up this sound, so if you do a lot of movie or audio recording in quiet environments, you should steer clear of the P5000. I should add that this problem isn't found consistently on all P5000's, but if you read the various Nikon forums out there you'll see that I wasn't alone.

In conclusion, while there's much to like about the Coolpix P5000, it's overall sluggishness left me feeling a bit cold. A firmware upgrade that fixes some bugs and perhaps improves AF performance would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath. It's not a camera for action shooters, and enthusiasts may not care of the lack of RAW, a live histogram, or manual focus, but for casual still-life shooting it's not a bad choice. The P5000 earns my (somewhat hesitant) recommendation, but be sure to take a close look at the competition.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality when sharpness is bumped up
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Generally solid construction (with one big exception)
  • Sharp 2.5" LCD display + optical viewfinder
  • Many manual controls (though see below)
  • Powerful flash
  • Custom button on back of camera
  • Handy features: help menus, D-Lighting, multi-photo delete
  • Support for conversion lenses and external flash
  • Time-lapse photo/movie features

What I didn't care for:

  • Sluggish performance, especially in terms of focusing
  • Soft images at default settings; some details smudged by noise reduction
  • Some redeye, despite two countermeasures
  • Bizarre noise from VR system is picked up by camera's microphone
  • Unimpressive continuous shooting mode
  • No RAW image support, live histogram, or manual focus
  • Shutter speeds only move in full-stop increments
  • Sound cuts out at end of movie clips (a bug that's been around for nearly a year)
  • Face detection feature only available in one shooting mode (and it's not that great anyway)
  • Useless ISO 3200 mode
  • Very flimsy door over memory card/battery compartment; can't swap memory cards while camera is on tripod
  • No USB 2.0 High Speed support

Some other cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot A570 IS and G7, Kodak EasyShare Z1275, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2, Samsung NV11, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W200.

As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the P5000 and its competitors before you buy anything!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

Want another opinion?

You can read more about the P5000 at Digital Photography Review, Imaging Resource, and CNET.