Back in May last year I reviewed the 10-megapixel Nikon CoolPix P5000, which at the time was the flagship of a new series of high-spec compacts from Nikon, aimed at more advanced photographers. Since then the P series has expanded and now includes six models, five compacts and the P80 super-zoom bridge camera. Nikon has just launched the 13.5-megapixe P6000 which I’m hoping to review soon, but before then I want to take a look at the P5100, a 12.1-megapixel upgrade of the original P5000 that was launched late last year.
Since the price of entry-level digital SLRs has fallen to the point where almost any keen photographer can afford one, there aren’t nearly as many high-end compacts around as their used to be. Most compact cameras these days are simple point-and-shoot models designed as much for style and fashion as for ease of use and performance, but the P5100 is not entirely without competition. It’s tempting of course to compare the P5100 with Canon’s flagship compact the PowerShot G9, but it’s not really a fair comparison. The G9 currently sells for £328, which is over £100 more expensive than the P5100, and in fact more expensive than some DSLRs. A more valid comparison would be the recent PowerShot A1000 IS (£150) although that model has a smaller sensor and a larger lens.
The P5100 certainly looks the part. It shares the same ruggedly functional body as the P5000, with a tough plastic shell over a metal chassis, but where the P5000 has some silver details such as the lens barrel and the controls, the P5100 is all textured matt black, making it look even more macho than before. The design is a bit industrial, but it is a comfortable camera to hold and use. It has a large rubberised handgrip with a nice thumbgrip area on the back which also has a rubber pad, making it very secure to grip.
The controls are only a little more complex than the average compact, and are sensibly laid out for the most part, although the vertical row of buttons to the left of the monitor are so positioned to make the camera look more like a digital SLR rather than for ease of use. It would have made more sense to move the monitor to the left a bit and have all the buttons on the right-hand side for easy one-handed operation.