Four 5-Megapixel Cameras In Review

Nikon Coolpix 5000

The latest in the pack, the Coolpix 5000, plays the role of the pure compact to compete with the E-20 and Dimage 7 SLR types, as well as with the twin-bodied Sony DSC-F707. Another thing is that it has the smallest zoom range. However, it compensates with its wide angle: 28mm, as opposed to 35 mm for most of its rivals. Once you've got it in your hands, it provides some surprises, but you'll be soon conquered by its compact design and wide range of functions.

The Comfort Of A Compact

Nikon owes part of its digital success to the Coolpix series - 950, 990 and 995. So it was a bit surprising in September to see that the design of the Coolpix 5000, the brand's future up-market camera, was based on the manufacturer's recent cheaper models, such as the 775 and the 880. This gives it a size advantage. Next to an E-20, or even a DSC-F707, the 5000 looks minute and featherweight and indicates a direction towards unobtrusiveness. With this camera, taking 5 megapixel photos in the subway is doable, whereas it is a bit like Mission Impossible with the E-20, which is far too conspicuous and attracts the envious gaze of all those in your vicinity. On the other hand, you lose out in zoom (only 3x), the optical viewfinder has too great a parallax, stability compares unfavorably with the E-20P, and ergonomics are less than ideal. Less space on the body means the buttons are closer together.

The camera is made up of curved black metal and is very easy to hold. The buttons are convenient to operate with your hand, too convenient in fact - the zoom controlled by the right thumb is a bit too easily triggered when on pause. Another point in this respect is that there are too many buttons, and they are too close together, which is also a shame. It takes time to learn how to control them properly, so expect some fits and starts. But there is one good thing: the LCD monitors are at the back, so you can check the settings at a glance - without having to move your head or the camera.

When the viewfinder monitor is closed, it is protected by a plastic back. It opens and is activated when it is flipped to the left. It can turn 180° and be pushed flat at the back of the camera. As usual (regrettably), it is not very big, just 1.8 inches. But it is, at least, the clearest of all four tested.

The images are very sharp and bright, and you can adjust their luminosity, if necessary.

Just above this are the optical viewfinder and its diopter adjustment jog-dial. The trouble is, they are very badly positioned! If you focus with the right eye, your nose is squashed against the monitor and your eye is too far from the viewfinder. You have two solutions: either you twist your head to focus, or use your left eye. If you add to this a rather high parallax error, you will understand that it is often preferable to use the very good TFT monitor instead.

For the power supply, you have the same lithium-ion EN-EL1 battery of the earlier Coolpix models. This means it will require manual recharging.