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The CoolPix P5000 is a significant camera for Nikon. For the past couple of years the company has been concentrating its efforts on its successful and growing range of digital SLRs, and its ever-changing line-up of consumer-level pocket compacts. As a result it’s been a while since Nikon has produced anything else, dumping super-zoom cameras from its range entirely, and leaving the market for medium-zoom high-end compacts to its main rivals Canon. The last time Nikon produced a compact camera aimed at enthusiasts it was the CoolPix 8400, launched in 2004 and long since discontinued.
With the launch of the CoolPix P5000 in February this year, Nikon has returned to that market, and at first glance at least it looks like it means business. The P5000 is a rugged and practical-looking medium-sized 10-megapixel compact with a 3.5x zoom, f/2.7–5.3 lens (equivalent to 36-126mm), optical image stabilisation, a full range of manual exposure and metering options, an optical viewfinder and a hot shoe for an external flash. For the gadget fans there are an optional wide-angle adaptor and a 3x teleconverter available. In design and specification it is clearly intended for more serious photographers than its typical compacts.
The most obvious comparison for the P5000 is Canon’s impressive PowerShot G7. They are both expensive high-end cameras aimed at enthusiasts, but at around £240 the P5000 is significantly cheaper than the G7, which currently costs about £290. However the G7 also has a 6x zoom lens, and is quite a bit larger and heavier. Perhaps a more valid comparison would be the 4x zoom Canon PowerShot A640 (£219) although that camera lacks a flash hot-shoe.
Unlike the other two cameras in the premium P-series, the P3 and P4, the design of the P5000 is very functional, with a rectilinear body made mostly of magnesium alloy, a large rubberised handgrip and a row of buttons beside the 2.5-in, 230k monitor that are clearly intended to resemble those on the back of an SLR. Another SLR-like feature is the command dial on the top plate, used for altering shutter speed and aperture in manual exposure mode, and well as for some menu functions. Considering the relatively large number of external controls on a fairly small camera, the control layout is surprisingly uncluttered, leaving room for a large, secure rubberised thumbgrip.