For much of the past fifteen years serious photographers have puzzled over exactly what digital photography was going to be when it grew up. The answer to that question is very complicated, but the past can provide some clues. Every so often a camera comes along that offers an iconic convergence of design, performance, and usability – like the Exacta VX, the Nikon F, the Pentax K1000, the Kodak DCS-100, the Nikon D1, the Olympus C3030, Sony F717, or the Canon EOS 300D. The new Nikon Coolpix P5100 isn’t worthy of place on that list, but it offers an important clue as to where this new technology is going.
The P5100 is an update of the popular Coolpix P5000 and the new flagship of Nikon’s compact camera line. The P5100 features 12 megapixel resolution, a 2.5 inch LCD, an optical viewfinder, a full range of automatic and manual exposure options, face detection AF, distortion correction, the ability to crop and edit images in-camera, and a hot shoe for i-TTL Nikon Speedlights. Nikon has been famous for optics since 1917 and the P5100 doesn’t disappoint in the optical arena – it features an excellent 3.5X (35mm-123mm equivalent) VR (Vibration Reduction) Nikkor zoom.
Images (up to ISO 400) show impressive sharpness and nicely rendered shadow/highlight detail with bright, hue accurate, and slightly over-saturated colors. The super compact P5100 is just right for informal and environmental portraits, macro/close-up and intimate landscape shots, travel photography, and candid/street shots.
The P5100’s snappy performance, tough as nails magnesium alloy body, nifty rubber clad hand-grip, logical control array, and superb ergonomics make this camera an outstanding choice for photography enthusiasts. The P5100 responds directly to photographers - the sort of camera that a passionate photographer might design for his own use. If all that isn’t enough, the P5100 is one of those rare cameras that really offers a lot of bang for the bucks.