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
- Policing the web: anti-piracy and beyond
- Apple racks up 10 million iPhone 6 sales in three days
- iPhone 6 is toughest Apple handset yet
- OneDrive tempts iPhone 6 buyers with 30GB storage
- Password scam targeted eBay since February
- Toshiba beats retreat from consumer PC market
- Google to follow Apple with device encryption
- U2 and Apple working on "new music format"
- Ellison steps down: but who's really running Oracle now?
- Audioboo to become Audioboom in app revamp
- How to check your identity hasn’t been sold to the hackers
- Tim Cook: this is how much TV has changed since the 70s
- Westminster wins the .London battle
- 20 years of PC Pro: from deep pan pizza to virtualisation
- Five reasons why the Apple Watch leaves me cold
- Apple Watch, iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: Tim Cook's Apple back with a bang?
- BT Home Hub 5: how to get maximum speed
- 20 years of PC Pro: one-star reviews (including "the worst tablet we've ever seen")
- 20 years of PC Pro: our best covers
- Why we've closed the PC Pro forums
- The 7 best Chromebooks of 2014
- iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5: is the Apple or Samsung flagship smartphone right for you?
- How to install iOS 8 without deleting apps and data
- The best smartwatches of 2014: what's the best smartwatch?
- Nexus 6 (X or Shamu) release date, price and specs rumour roundup
- Best of IDF: top tech and memorable moments from Intel's tech show
- How Apple Pay works and how to use it on your iPhone 6 or Apple Watch
- Tech of the future... and the British boffins building it
- Abuse magnets: the people behind corporate Twitter accounts
- Putting people at the centre of software design
- 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