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(Pocket-lint) - The Nikon Coolpix 5600 is a true point and shoot model with very few manual control to clutter the small, 85x60x35mm, 130g (without its two AA batteries) camera.

It’s very easy to use as a result with the on/off and shutter buttons gracing the tiny top plate and a single mode dial on the back offering the camera’s (fairly standard) shooting options. A great optical viewfinder sits next to the mode dial, as does the camera’s 3x zoom lens control, which drives the optics through their 35-105mm focal range. The lens, however isn’t particularly fast, having a f/2.9 to f/4.9 maximum aperture range. This means that at full zoom, you need to keep the camera very steady as it also has a limited sensitivity range from ISO 50 to 200 controlled automatically.

However, a good shutter speed range of 4-1/3000sec compensates a little as does the camera’s5-point TTL AF set up, which is generally very competent in all but the (excellent) macro mode, where it seems a tad hit and miss. Of my macro shots, only one if four was sharply rendered at the point needed although you can select the AF point to use to gain back some control - which is recommended in macro shooting.

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Other controls are clustered to the right side of the 80,000-pixel, 1.8-inch colour screen offering menu access, playback, deletion, on separate buttons and four-way jog controller for flash, self timer and macro mode selection and scrolling through menus.

Like its higher specified sibling the Coolpix 7900, the 5600 benefits from Nikon’s Advanced In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and the D-Lighting function which can lift shadows in images that may be too dark due to lack of flash light or strong backlighting. As with the 7900, it works very well indeed, although on the down side, noise is lifted in images with the D-Lighting processing applied.

However, overall image quality is very good with detail in macro particularly excellent and metering also generally very good in all but some bright landscapes shots, where it seemed to want to underexpose. Even using the camera’s Landscape scene mode I got some uncharacteristically dark images although you do get +/-2EV exposure compensation to play with so this can be countered.

And like most other Coolpixes, the 5600 is replete with scene modes, which include four on the main mode dial (portrait, landscape, night portrait and sports) but another 12 in the scene mode menus including, snow, beach, party, panorama assist and firework show settings. And all your lovely shots are stored either on the camera’s 14MB internal memory or onto SD/MMC removable storage.

My biggest gripe is saved for last however, and is reserved for the built-in Speedlight flash. Because the 5600 has limited sensitivity and a fairly modest maximum aperture range, the flash comes into play frequently, particularly indoors, but once fired, it takes an age to recharge (even with a fresh set of rechargeable NiMH AA’s in place), also locking the camera up and blanking the screen as it does so. As a snapping-style camera, this makes the 5600 a tad irksome to use as you wait for around three seconds for the files to write to memory and another five seconds for the camera to wake up after the flash has recycled.

To recap

Compact, stylish and easy to use, the Nikon Coolpix 5600 provides enough resolution for big prints up to A3 and has some very neat tricks built into its workings and all for under £200.

Writing by Doug Harman.