The Nikon Coolpix 5700, was seen as the replacement of the Coolpix 5000 in 2002. But with the introduction of newer models either side, the 5400 below and the 8700 above, does the silver medal winner deserve to stand in the middle ground of this range?



The three models all look fairly similar. The 5400 and the 5700 have been given the non-pro grey inside grip flashing while the 8700, to mark either its pedigree or possibly its later arrival, had been blessed with the red ‘go-faster’ stripe. The 5700 and the 8700 are more similarly shaped though, both sporting the longer, captive-zoom, barrels and the pop-up flash units mounted in front of the hot-shoes. The evolution between the 5400 and the 5700 seems to have been the enhancement of the optical zoom. The 5400 actually has a slightly higher resolution, at 5.0 million effective pixels, compared to the 5700’s 4.9million effective pixels, but the difference in zooms is impressive. The 2 ELD (Extra-low dispersion) elements that go into making up the 5700’s 8x Nikkor lens, generates the 35mm equivalent of a 35m - 280mm optical zoom. And for those who want even more, there is the addition of a 4x digital zoom as well.

The frame is made of light-weight die-cast Magnesium, and all the fixtures and fitting feel firm and sturdy. The overall size of the body is a little snug and I suspect photographers with larger hands, or those forced to wear glove due to shooting conditions, might find the body a little restrictive. Fortunately both the 8700 and the 5700 can have extendable packs attached to the bases (MB-E5700), this not only boosts up the power, with 6AA batteries, but also acts as an extended grip. The standard rechargeable battery claims to give 90 minutes’ worth of continuous power, although I found the functions got a little sluggish after the full charge has only slightly dissipated. The operations and features buttons are all reliable and easy to depress and the cover for the USB, DC and AV-out is tight-fitting rubber to prevent the elements from penetrating.

The viewing screen on the back has been reduced slightly from the 1.8” of the original 5000 model to a compact 1.5”. The twist n’ swivel feature remains though, so that the screen can be moved into numerous positions to aid viewing and composition, for shots taken from unconventional angles. The viewfinder has also gone from being optical on the 5000 and 5400 to being an anti-glare 180,000-dot polysilicon TFT LCD viewfinder on the 5700. The SEL button can be used to toddle between the two as needs, and battery consumption, desire. The inclusion of a dioptric corrector means that spectacle wearers can dispense with their glasses to get their eye close into finder.

Much like a number of competitors’ models, in the compact prosumer market, the body has been strewn with buttons that act as quick controls for the more common features such as image resolution, shooting mode and ISO. Interestingly there seems to be a difference between the way that some of these buttons function and others. In some cases, such as the Mode and the exposure compensation the function button has to be depressed and the top-mounted jog wheel rotated to locate to select the feature. In other case such as the flash modes and the image resolution the button is simply repeatedly depressed until the correct setting appears in the LCD command display on the camera’s top. This takes some getting used to.

The camera’s main menu functions are broken down into shooting and playback, with the setting being toggled via a master switch on the back. The core menu option will change, naturally, depending on what mode you are in. In ‘shooting’, you can set up 3 separate ‘profiles’, so lengthy customisation of the numerous features can be massed under one profile and then easily activated. The 5700 has a top shutter speed of 1/4000 in any mode. Numerous rapid shot options are available including a 16 shot (VGA 640x480 pixel images) rapid sequential burst, you’re also able to take 3fps full sizes images (2,560 x 1,920-pixel) on the Continuous high speed. For the real shutterbugs there is ‘Ultra high-speed continuous mode’, shooting 100, 320x240pixel images. A video option is also available that shoots 60 seconds of footage with sound. Note with this the buffer effect can take ages to save them to the compact flash card, especially if the batteries are on the wane.

In the playback menu, the bulk image delete is a handy feature; especially if you have choked the memory card up with 100 images, by accident (see above). The colour separation on the selection process could be stronger, as the images you are about to select to delete are not always obvious. For better image management the 5700 also lets a number of folders be created on the CF card keep the images segregated to avoid accidental overwrite. The LCD screen seems to be overly bright on the model I looked at. A lot of the photos taken, especially indoors with the flash, appeared to be dramatically overexposed, but when these were downloaded, they were fine. The speed of auto focus is also another matter for concern. When the battery is functioning at anything less than maximum-charge, and the light is anything less than strong and natural, I found the auto focus has great difficulties in locking onto the subject. Unlike the Canon and Sony models, there is no active-matrix laser of light based focus-assist and this seems to let the camera down in anything outside optimum shooting conditions.

Verdict

Overall, the Coolpix 5700 is an acceptable camera. The age of the technology that powers it is beginning to show. The menus have been greatly clarified in the 2004 Nikons and I suspect the failures of the auto-focus and LCD screen were more down to a worn demo model than integral faults in design. The 5700 would make a good semi-pro first outfit, as you can add both lenses and flashes and battery packs to it, but it does creek in some areas of performance, highlighting the fact that its 2nd anniversary has already passed.