Nikon Coolpix S5100 review
A brilliant little camera whose few minor flaws are compensated for by excellent value
Review Date: 22 Sep 2010
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: £118 (£139 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
At less than £150 at launch, the 12.2-megapixel Coolpix S5100 is a very tempting bit of kit. With little more than a fully automatic point-and-shoot mode, though, it has a long way to go to convince us that it deserves a place on the A List.
Build quality feels convincing, although we're left with doubts over the flimsy-feeling battery door; not the first time we've levelled that complaint at a mid-range Nikon compact. The shell is plastic, and the buttons on the back feel a little cheap. However, the S5100 is about as small as any compact can practically be. At 97mm wide and weighing a shade over 130g, it's ideal for dropping into a pocket. The 2.7in, 230,000-pixel screen is another tick in the box: it's bright and reasonably crisp.
The features list is otherwise sparse. There's a face-priority face-detection mode, which gives focus priority to human faces and works well, and there's a similar self-timer feature. Select the Smart Portrait mode and level the camera at someone's visage, and it will wait until they crack a smile to fire the shutter. It's an impressive party piece, and works reliably, although a group timer mode might have been useful as well.
Otherwise, manual modes are thin on the ground: white balance and two stops of exposure compensation are all you get. While the S5100 may not be a great choice for stills purists, the inclusion of a decent HD 720p, 30fps movie mode is a definite plus, particularly at this price.
The lens' focal length is a modest 28mm-140mm in 35mm terms, but while that doesn't offer spectacular length, it's more than usable for general point-and-shoot photography, and the lens shift image stabiliser is very effective. More importantly, it's extremely sharp. With low ISO settings and careful focusing, the S5100 produced some beautifully crisp images in our tests.
Adjustments on this front run from ISO 100 to a decidedly ambitious ISO 3200. ISOs 100-400 are all but indistinguishable from each other: sharp edges and virtually no noise meant our test shots all looked excellent. ISO 800 began to produce more noise, although not enough to discourage printing at large sizes. Even images taken at ISO 1600 were good enough for printing, if not cropping and enlarging.
Only the top-most setting of ISO 3200 produced seriously flawed images. There's the option to fix the ISO settings to top out at either ISO 400 or 800, should you wish to leave the S5100 to choose its own ISO without visiting the upper reaches of its capabilities.
Of more concern is the S5100's performance when it came to chromatic aberrations, which made unwelcome appearances in almost every test image that had areas of extreme contrast. Spindly tree branches against an overcast sky brought it out especially badly, but it was present elsewhere as well. It's the S5100's only major optical failing, and the single factor that keeps it off the A List.
That the S5100 is available for less than £150 is an undeniably good thing: it generally takes excellent images, purple fringing notwithstanding, and is particularly sharp at lower and middling ISO settings. The 720p movie mode is also a good reason to consider this instead of the Canon Ixus 105, which records video only at VGA resolution. We're not mad about the all-plastic construction or purple-fringing issues, but we like almost everything else.
Author: Dave Stevenson
Good to see Nikon compacts nearer the top of the pile again
It's only been 10 years or so...
By the_bunker on 23 Sep 2010
It's excellent little camera. I think battery door is quite good but USB flap is ultimately poor. Only back of camera is made of plastic; front is metal (alu). Compared to my Lumix lx-2 this coolpix has excellent metering and white balance. Noise is very pleasing due to luminance nature - not chromatic. Histogram with exposure compensation is also very nice feature.
By Andrea on 10 Jan 2011
- Swatch Touch smartwatch in development
- Did iCloud flaw lead to celeb photo hack?
- Microsoft refuses to hand over customer emails
- Apple signs up credit-card companies for NFC payments
- Apple bans developers from selling your health data
- Intel unveils eight-core Haswell-E CPU
- Forget robot butlers: meet Fuji Xerox's robot printer
- Wing it: Google's drone delivery revealed
- Facebook testing keyword searching in old posts
- It's on: Apple announces 9 September event for the iPad, iWatch and iPhone 6... maybe
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- How to turn off Google Location Tracking
- 20 years of PC Pro: our greatest review mistakes
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Best of IFA 2014: what smartphones, tablets, smartwatches are expected to launch at IFA this year?
- How to uninstall a program on Windows: remove unwanted apps from your PC
- How to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows
- What’s the best 4G network in the UK?
- How to set up a wireless hotspot for your business: give customers free or paid for internet access
- How to download YouTube videos: save YouTube videos to your iPhone, iPad, laptop or Android device
- How to access iCloud on a PC
- Nexus 5 vs Moto G 4G (2014 model)
- Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Apple TV: what's the best TV streaming device?
- The 8 best small tablets of 2014: what's the best compact tablet?
- How to sell more ebooks on Amazon
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office