Secrets of Digital Photography
5 Megapixel Nikon! UPDATED 11 13 01
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Nikon has revealed
Plenty of features here. Lots of performance, too.
It has many good points: 2560 x 1920 pixel image with 4,912,500 pixels (hey, close enough). Articulating monitor similar to the design of the twist-around monitor of the Canon G1 and G2. Like those, the Nikon version flips to a fully protected position with the monitor surface completely tucked away.
It has a 3:1 zoom lens (7.15-21.4mm f/2.8-f/4.8) that covers a wide-zoom, 28-85mm equivalent on a 35mm camera (Brilliant!*), a hot shoe for external speedlights, a new 19mm wide angle converter (the regular Coolpix 28mm converters are still an option), and a Clear Image Mode feature that provides wider dynamic range (!) and smoother, pixel-perfect images at SXGA (1280 x 960) and smaller.
The CP5000 is smaller by far than the CP995. About the same height and 66% as wide.
All the normal Nikon features are here, too, and more.
Movies now have audio! Not surprising, since everybody seems to have wanted that since the 990. You can review the movie and sound on the camera's monitor and built-in speaker. Motion images for the web are in the 15fps QuickTime format with 320 X 240 pixel frames.
A faster motion format gathers similar QVGA frames at 30 fps for a full 100 frames. You know, for that full-motion 3.3 sec shot. Fast enough (combined with high shutter speeds) and long enough to actually GET that golf swing. You will still have to dump it into a computer to see it in motion, though. On the camera you can step through the frames quickly to do instant motion analysis.
A dedicated Auto Exposure Lock / Auto Focus Lock button sits on the front next to the lens. The switch from Rec to Play on the back is separated from the On/Off switch (around the sutter release) on top, and now operates instantly.
Wide Angle Mangle
A new 19mm (35mm equivalent) super wide angle lens converter fits over the front element creating the widest non-fisheye lens for a digital camera and transforming the CP5000 into a 19-57mm (35mm equivalent) zoom camera. Holy Cow! Every architect in the world will buy one of these!
WC-E19? Nope. It's the WC-E68! Not to be confused with the WC-E63 which is for the 9xx and 8xx cameras only. But it will be confused with the WC-E63 if for no other reason than a 3 and an 8 are so similar when being scanned by a reader who has heard of the '63 and doesn't expect the '68.
Not that they'll miss the number, but they'll stand a good chance of thinking they had been saying "63" when it should have been "68" all along. At least Nikon made a differentiation between the WC-E24 and the WC-E63. But that's another story.
To use the new WC-E68, you will need the UR-E4 accessory adapter. But your adventures in Adapter Land are just beginning...
By using a reduction ring adapter, the UR-E6, the previous fisheye and telephoto converters can also be used, preserving your investment in previous Coolpix converter optics. And with a UR-E7 adapter, you can fit the new WC-E68 lens to your 9xx camera. But it won't give you quite as much wide angle as the WC-E63.
A single Func button sits on top of the camera allowing you to assign quick ideas like White Balance and Auto Bracket modes without encountering the full depth of the menu system.
The hot shoe is intimate with Nikon's own intelligent Speedlight SB-50DX/28DX/28/27/26/25/24/23/22s, another bonus. It also is ISO 518 compliant for your legacy flash unit.
When will it be out? November. Or, according to our Oracle of Delivery, ten minutes to Christmas. In other words, just in time to eat out your entire stockpile of Holiday gift money.
RAW format, daylight monitor, built-in GPS and not much else. Here's a camera with everything including the kitchen sink. Minus the garbage disposal.
Sorry. Bad analogy. Of course it has a garbage disposal. Hmm. Okay, try this: ...minus the soap dispenser. Did that work?
I confidently predict that 97.3% of all who buy the CP5000 will try the movie mode a few times and then relegate it to the pile of ignored features along with Color Balance Bracketing, 16-Shot Mode and Auto Focus Zone + Spot meter.
What Secrets Lie Beneath the Hood?
Will It Get Its Own Chapter in the Next Version of the eBook?
What Do You Really Think?
I think it will be a very good digital camera. The large surface of pixels is the major draw along with the extra wide zoom and optic converter potential.
Those who want a tele 5 megapixel camera may have to settle for the Sony DSC-F707 for the next six months until Nikon packages their 5 megapixel big, honking, mega-zoom model in time for summer fun. (Just a guess.)
* Brilliant! he says. That's because he likes wide angle shooting more often than telephoto shooting. Your Brilliant may vary.
Compression keeps our images down to a reasonable size. So why are we going up and up in pixel count for larger and larger images?
As image size goes up, the need for pixel-perfect goes down. Consider an imaging chip of, say, 3 x 4 billion pixels. How much compression could you apply to that and still get an acceptable 8 x 10?
Suffice to say, that even 10,000:1 compression wouldn't hurt the image quality at that size.
Sure, that's an extreme, but I use it to point the way toward something people seem to forget: The more pixels, the tinier the artifacts.
We don't want artifacts all over our shots, but when they become vanishingly small, they don't get in our face on a print. There is a rule of thumb running rampant in the world that claims anything under 300 dpi has not lived up to some "photographic standard". Pfft.
Contrary to this edict, images with 200 or so pixels per running inch of print continue to look quite photographic, even in the eyes of the folks putting out the "standard" rumor. National Geographic's prints are carried to your eye through a 180 dpi line screen, and although that's another story, it hints at the bottom line.
Compression artifacts are designed to be self-resolving. They often look checker-boarded as single pixels alternating their values. In a way, they mask themselves from being noticed, much in the way the checker-board of dots in a dot-screened reproduction does. From enough distance back, they tend to blend into each other leaving only the impression of the original photographic detail intact.
Reducing a full-frame image to half-size with an editing program completely eliminates the harshest compression artifacts that Nikon's Basic level could ever create, even on a worst-case, high-contrast subject. It's no secret that you can shoot with a 995 in Basic Compression and make fabulous looking small prints. Even 5 x 7's show no easily-detected artifacting.
So when you head out into the hills looking for snails and adventure with your CP 5000 tucked under your arm, remember that 2560 pixels of Basic Compression eats less room on your CF card by a factor of 2 over the Normal compression setting, while printing out 8 x 10s with virtually invisible artifacts. And at that size, you will be placing 256 camera pixels on each running inch of printed surface. Sharpness of image will abound.
And when you want to stretch things right up to the wall, a Fine or even Normal compression setting will allow you to get really superior results at 160 ppi creating a print that is 12 x 16 inches (30 x 40 cm) big.
Styling the 5000: an Editorial
My first reaction was: Nikon, how COULD you?
In a design move that ejects the unique styling and attendant pride of ownership the previous 9xx cameras capitalized on, the Coolpix 5000 presents itself with eye-distracting accents on its 4 x 3.2 inch boxy facade. Did they think these gave it a more professional, quality appearance?
Perhaps they simply rushed it into existence? Nope! This one had been on the drawing board for over a year and as of last late autumn had been targeted for summer delivery. These styling points have probably been through more approval stages than you can imagine. And still nobody spoke out? I find that hard to believe. But then, we live in a world with the Pontiac Aztek...
What held the original schedule up? Probably the lack of imaging chips in quantity or the need to give the CP995 more marketing room. ...Just guesses...
Of course, Nikon doesn't clear these things with me, but, given the shape of this camera--even with all it's molded design elements intact--they could have done better.
And should before delivery, but probably won't.
I took their own image of the camera into Photoshop and in ten minutes came up with a more aesthetic variation. (see the original, below right)
That grip insert could be any color, but in my variation, I chose blue to denote a new cooler direction, and to distinguish the camera from its predecessors. I toned down the "look at me" bright accents that surround the shutter button, flash and optical viewfinder port, thus giving the camera a more solid, less toy-like presence.
But the shape of this camera follows the "enlarged 775/885" design direction Nikon has been developing since the 880. Too bad. The features and performance promise of this camera deserves a physical presence that speaks of its bold Coolpix heritage.
Perhaps it was not possible to achieve all the things Nikon wished to include in a 5 megapixel camera and still retain the swivel body design. I think we could sense that coming in other camera designs.
Certainly Canon taught Nikon the lesson of the swing/flip monitor that avoids the need for an articulated frame, and almost everybody has their lenses motoring out from the body to shooting position these days, but it would seem that Nikon has given up being unique and joined the body plan of the majority of designers in an attempt to fit in.
The back of the camera is delicious. High tech and ergonomic, it minimizes the button count while keeping your right thumb from going to sleep. Check Phil Askey's views of it.
Out of the infinity of designs this new camera's face could have received, this one seems to be low on the list. The triple-gash of bright accents and colorless gray grip bring the camera down to a more pedestrian appearance level right away. Let's hope their designers awaken with easy-to-implement changes before it debuts in November.
That's my opinion. Nikon will, no doubt, have other ideas on the subject.
Other Sources of Info:
Steve's Digicams Preview
Imaging Resources Preview
Digital Photography Now Introduction
Berman Graphics Preview
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