Secrets of Digital Photography
5 Megapixel Review! 10 20 02
C A M E R A R E V I E W
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Note: Most of this Review was written with a CP5000 equipped with firmware V1.6.
The 5-Megapixel Coolpix!
The Coolpix 5000 is supposed to be the answer to a lot of things. Bigger chip, bigger optics, bigger ideas.
The sensor array of 2560 x 1920 is about 2.5 times the resolution of the biggest HDTV camera. 35mm cameras are about 2.5 times the surface area of 35mm Academy projection aperture.
Huh. How about that.
I don't want to talk about the feature list and buttons, point by point, that's not the point. Besides, I have an eBook to sell that includes all that stuff in the 5000's chapter.
I want to talk about this camera's place in the process of taking pictures of many kinds. How it fits into the casual photographer's needs and the professional's needs.
I am always looking for the stand-out. The field is getting more crowded as manufacturers compete for your attention and seek to turn a series of desires into a good reason for you to let go of your dollars. This is Nikon's take on that idea, and it gives out things others either didn't consider, or discarded.
The Lens Angle
The wide zoom thing, for instance. When I started playing with it, I realized a New Thing was happening. I was getting closer to my subject. It pulls you forward. The 28-85mm (equivalent) lens works well, doesn't have a lot of "issues" and is backed by Nikon's most Sci Fi camera yet. Photojournalists and architectural photographers are going to LOVE the zoom range.
If you want a more telephoto camera, there's a nice Sony F707 with a 5:1 zoom you should check into, and the newest CP5700 has a stunning 8:1 zoom lens on a 5000-like body, but nobody has carved out the wide zoom territory like this one does.
A Gripping Experience
It feels completely unlike the 9xx cameras and shares little with the 8xx or 7xx cameras, too. You have to learn a brand new Grip to hold it, and after a while your fingers will find that there are several novel ways of grasping parts of the body to wrangle it.
A sheet comes in the box showing how to --and how not to-- hold the camera, so it isn't completely intuitive. Nikon designed this camera to work with your hand in a specific way, so it's worth going through the learning curve that delivers the best ergonomics.
It feels right in the hand. It's solid and light. The articulating monitor is a pleasure to open, move and position.
The optical viewfinder is best used with the right eye when the monitor is closed. With the monitor open to the left, you can use your left eye, but you will have to retract your thumb to avoid nasal collisions. Left-handed, left-eyed (the most frequent combo for lefties) people will benefit from the ability to move the monitor away from their nose. This can be a big, smudgy problem for other camera designs...
The optical viewfinder of the first camera I had in my hands was centered correctly for distant subjects where the parallax of nearby objects was not a framing factor. That camera died with the fatal lens-cap disease and was swapped out for another camera whose serial number is 3 units later. (xx89 to xx91)
The current camera's viewfinder is not well centered. It is biased downward and slightly to the right. Subject details seen along the bottom of the viewed scene are at the exact bottom of the captured image, but a rather large extra slice of image shows up at the top of the shot and a smaller amount is added to the left. These are referenced to a horizontal original images and the offset is consistent throughout the zoom range.
I've seen this phenomenon in previous cameras. My 990 is offset and my 995 has perfectly centered framing. I would have thought that Nikon would be more careful with the alignment of this important system.
The flash is quite versatile. I tried shooting with an old Vivitar unit in the hot shoe. Flash wags camera. Obviously a smaller, lighter flash is more appropriate.
The flash has a lot of tricks. A lot more than I've seen in other cameras.
Here's a cute one: you can have the camera flash put out a micro-blast to confirm that a shot was taken! I think you'd need a long remote control cord on your DigiSnap to really take advantage of the feature, but there it is. The micro flash doesn't show up in the shot, just announces that it's over. Good for those ambient light situations where a confirming blink will help your subject understand a picture was taken.
The anti-red eye flash is cool. Three low-level flashes ...blast, blast, blast...POW! In three flashes, the camera teaches the eyes of your subject how to react, then sneaks in the big flash. Only the big flash triggers any added flash unit.
(This is the original
the revision by clicking here.)
When using a Nikon flash in the hot-shoe, the camera becomes aware of the unit and extinguishes the camera flash but gets into a mode that is unusual. A small wink of a flash precedes the external flash trigger so there is a double blink of sorts.
There is, apparently, no way to disable this "pre-flash." If none of the internal flash modes require a pre-flash to "ensure correct exposure," then why would it be needed for use with an external flash unit?
Can anybody at Nikon explain in technically exact, unambiguous terms, what that small pre-flash is actually accomplishing to "ensure correct exposure?" The camera doesn't need it for either exposure or white balance, so why does it leak out? It confounds any studio setup that uses slave flash units. Tsk, tsk.
The moral to this story is that if you are shooting with a slave unit, you will need to use the iNova IR flash transmitter technique, and not use any flash units directly connected to the camera. This rather defeats the SB-50DX flash unit's own IR transmitter filter feature, doesn't it?
Quick story. Flash sensor: Bad position. Right where your fingertip wants to be. Right where your fingertip will catch a lot of photons from the recessed flash tube. Right where the flash sensor is peering at the subject, too. Put them all together and your natural ergonomic grip will cause the flash system to shut down prematurely when that finger of yours gets lit. Which is about 89.637% of the time. Tsk, tsk.
That SB-50DX flash is clever. It can read the brief duration of the camera flash and join it in a wireless coordinated slave flash relationship, when used right.
The 50DX needs to "see" the camera flash directly, but when in slave mode, magic happens:
The only thing that makes this sequence possible is the ultra-fast action of the SB-50DX's slave trigger. It has to respond to the micro second in order to effectively parallel the timing of the camera flash, which itself is being controlled by the camera flash sensor. The duration of the camera flash changes with every shot, so Nikon figured out how to make the 50DX keep up with it by extinguishing its own flash tube extra quickly.
The 50DX can be used directly or as a bounce flash this way. As long as it has an unambiguous view of the camera flash tube, it will stay in synch with it.
Okay, there is another trick you could use: Cover the camera flash when using a Nikon Speedlight in the hot shoe.
I made this cover out of some thick aluminum from a disposable pie plate and snugged it into place with gaffer tape. The Frisbee Fix, I call it.
No residue from that gaffer tape. And of course, you clean the pie off the tin plate before use. Digging old blueberries out of the sensor recess later can be tedious.
The entire thing bulges out from the surface of the flash unit to allow the 170 quadrillion photons (estimated) of the pre-flash to bounce around without heating things up.
The pulse of energy from a flash like this shouldn't be confined to the interior of the flash chamber, and anything taped to the flash window will tend to crisp while bathed in the heat pulses of repeated flashings, including any adhesive and the window's plastic in contact with it. That's why gaffer tape and a non-contacting cover are recommended.
Strap Me Out
I'm not a huge fan of neck straps. Small cameras feel best to me with wrist straps. The 5000 has two neck strap fixtures. I tied the lens cap to the right one and let it snake between my index and middle finger. The fixture is in a place that makes you grasp around it with one finger on each side.
In an amusing twist of fate, the instruction manual says this about the neck strap:
not place strap around neck
To their credit, they always refer to the strap as a "camera strap." Now let's see. Where could we use that thing to hang it? Shoulder? Naa. It always falls off. Where else might we put it... ?
A better carry may be on your belt. I tried this for a few days and realized that the camera is heavy enough to potentially reveal undies. Belt droop should be avoided. Unless you are still dressing with the grunge look.
A shoulder carry may be the best compromise, using the strap to place the camera at your left or right hip where it can be brought up to working position and still remain attached to you.
Still, that means a lot of hand/object wrangling and supervision. I wonder if the camera stores sell "neck straps?" Too bad the one that comes with the camera isn't suitable...
Here's a new twist. Use a one-inch diameter key ring (split ring type) on the right side strap loop as a "finger strap". It works and is easy to engage with your index or middle finger, depending on the size of your hand. I've been using it for over a month now, and it works for me.
Unlike the picture here, I have settled on having the lens cap anchor to the right side (as seen from behind the camera) fixture. The cord is tough, the camera is light and you could use the lens cap cord as a strap around fingers or wrist, just as a safety feature.
About the lens cap thing. Extending lenses need caps. If the optics aren't self-capping (I like that a lot on the 775) then the cap can prevent lens deployment. The CP5000 shows a warning if the camera starts to deploy with the lens cap on.
All CP5000 cameras with firmware Version 1.5 should upgrade the firmware to Version 1.6 or later to avoid the "lens cap" fatal software bug that can lock up the camera. (See below)
I've learned that this cap can easily be skimmed off its footing with a flick to either one of its "ears". Any slight pressure on either one of them trims the cap away from the lens instantly.
It takes a while to get happy with the controls on the back of the camera. Not because they're in the wrong place, but because they're in a new place. If you never used any of the earlier cameras, the controls here won't involve any un-learning, the way it does for me.
The three buttons on the monitor palette are along the bottom when everything is tucked in, and along the top, when everything is tucked out. The screen carries their labels and knows to keep it straight, based on position. Surprisingly, when one turns the monitor graphics OFF, the label text stays ON. "Um, excuse me, Mr. Nikon, you forgot a detail."
Oddly, the center of the three buttons is always the Menu button but has no marking on it directly. Instead, valuable monitor image space is used to mark the label for this function.
The monitor is COATED! Yeah! A deep blue anti-reflection coating keeps the glare out. Note to people who want to put some "protection" skins on the monitor: Don't. You will only be adding reflection and glare. Fold the monitor in for protection.
I like the new flip-out monitor a lot. It solves something that used to involve the whole camera and it gives even more versatility than the split body design. Now you can view from the left and right as well as the top and bottom, for instance.
Unfortunately, the recessed face of the monitor surface makes cleaning its extreme corners something of a problem, especially if you clean the screen with a LensPen. Use only fresh Q-Tips, not recycled ones...
Nikon is known for having the best macro function on the block. And the 5000 delivers this in an improved way. At full tele, macro mode will get you UNDER 3 inches (75mm) back from your subject, and that's worst-case. Zoom slightly from full tele and the macro range gets closer very quickly with each wider increment.
It's interesting to note that even at the longest zoom setting, you are shooting inside the image of a CF card when focused closest.
That's a Good Thing. Being able to fill the frame with something as small as the CF card means never having to say you're sorry you couldn't shoot macro.
The "sweet spot" brings you the yellow flower icon and focuses into the 0.06 ft. range. That's just under 3/4-inch, or around 18mm. Since it is a wide zoom, the field of view is about 35mm at full wide. At mid zoom, right where the macro flower is about to change to white, the field of view is UNDER one inch (25mm) wide.
The field of focus is quite flat and barrel distortion appears to be quite small, but for the ultimate close focus, flat field and tiny field of view, the 995 is still king. (Or is it the newer 4500? Stay tuned.)
Four Cameras in One
The ergonomic layout of the controls is undeniable. One new idea that makes a whole lot of sense is that Auto Rec is now regarded as one of the User Mode options.
User Setting is now the FIRST thing you encounter when turning the menu system on in camera mode. And the Func. button atop the camera scrolls through the different settings with the command dial. Now the idea of having 3 programmable and one auto camera at your fingertips is extremely convenient.
You can instantly switch from a low-contrast, B&W, wide-adapter ready, fast motor camera that uses Program exposure to a color-punched, Manual exposure, BSS, single shot camera to a full auto camera to a manual camera of your own immediate manipulation as fast as you can type the last word in this sentence. Bringing this notion forward gets thumbs AND toes up from this reviewer.
Unclear on the Concept
Nikon has a new image gathering idea called Clear Image. It's part of the Noise Reduction menu since it gathers more than one image the way long exposure NR shots do.
Clear Image takes three shots, two images and a dark frame, and combines them internally. It only works for SXGA, XGA and VGA images but it has a problem: it doesn't improve anything.
In fact, it destroys some of the pixel-perfect detail of a normal SXGA image. I would call the left image about as completely perfect as a digital photo could wish be, and at 1/4 the area, these SXGA images right out of the camera are bigger than almost every computer display screen. Keep in mind that the 100% scale crop above is from the middle of a nominally 17-inch wide image at this resolution.
This Clear Image "issue" is not a Major Idea, since SXGA images are so perfect to begin with, but as a feature, it's not there at all. Yet. Firmware 1.6?? Nope. Firmware 1.6 has become available and the problem with this is still not improved. Firmware 1.7? Do NOT hold your breath.
In fact, Firmware 1.7 has come and gone, and no perfection of Clear Image has appeared. What's next? Waiting for Firmware 1.8? This is getting old.
The picture here was shot on a tripod using the MC-EU1 remote to avoid causing any camera movement between shots. I thought at first I might have introduced some movement into the shot since the effect is a vertical displacement of the two images over each other. Nope. Shots made under scrupulous steadiness and various zoom settings all showed the same vertical smear. And compared to normal SXGA images, the Clear Image version had no greater shadow or highlight detail.
Let's hope that this doesn't turn out to be one of those "features" that never gets repaired like the Auto White Balance of the CP995. Nikon took almost a full 9 months to get the firmware of the 950 into its final configuration, but we are heading past the seven month zone (210 days) with the AWB995 issue and counting.
Oops. Wait a minute. Nikon HAS issued a Firmware Update for the 995 and it DOES address the incandescent "issue." Good for them.
There is NO way to put any sort of filter on the camera lens as delivered. It might have been a nice idea to include a filter-holder similar to the UR-E-series barrels that permit attach points for the converter optics, and if one has the UR-E5 that facilitates attaching the WC-E68 wide converter, that would be a good starting point. The UR-E5 takes 46mm threaded accessories, so a step-up ring adapting more common 49mm or 52mm UV filters would likely follow.
But no filter holding ability comes with the camera. You need to buy these as options. A lens hood called the HN-E5000 is an option.
Sigh, no protection for the front element is EVER possible, either, without changing the fundamental shape of the camera with a fully extended around-the-lens barrel forming an attach point for it.
Protection for the camera lens will require the UR-E5 plus a 46mm UV filter. If you have legacy filters for older Nikon cameras, many of them used 52mm filters, so a 46-52mm step-up ring may be in your future, too.
The image chip in the CP5000 kills. It is better, per pixel, compared to the 990 per-pixel results.
The following example image is revealing. It shows 990/995/5000 slices with zero intervention other than cutting a piece from each of three camera frames. These are all straight crops. 990 on the left, 5000 on the right.
Each camera was zoomed optically to yield the same-size results shown here, no re-sizing was done in Photoshop. Small differences in exposure are unavoidable since the 1/250 @f/7.6 of the 5000's image was not exactly reproducible on the other cameras at the appropriate zoom.
This is noteworthy improvement. The amount of detail, per-pixel is not as great as was observed in a first test, but there is better texture, small scale contrast and colorimetry in the 5000's image. One could bring either of the two 9xx cameras to the 5000's per-pixel results with small tweaks in Photoshop's Unsharp Mask tool, but then, you could apply the same improvement to the 5000's image, too.
My initial test showed a "30%" improvement over the first 995 comparison image, and I'd have to reduce that to 15% based on this. The 5000 image is perhaps 7-10% over the 990's per-pixel image when appraising detail and colorimetry together.
If you made a print with the screen resolution of this 100% crop, you would have a picture that covered your desk! Photoshop tells me that the native picture is just over 35 x 26 inches big. Poster size.
Nobody expects a print that large to be razor sharp unless it hangs in a theater lobby, but even the detail seen at this scale would be compelling. Of course, Photoshop is assuming a 72 ppi image, very low to begin with.
where do you stand to drink in a 35.6-inch wide print?
In short, as the size of the print goes up, the need for perfect pixels goes down because the eye of the beholder goes back to a more comfortable viewing distance.
A small Unsharp Mask tweak in Photoshop delivers images comparable to the 990. Try 60% @ 0.3 pixel radius. Or just use the High Sharpening option and let the camera do it. Nikon's in-camera sharpening is among the best there is, effective without being overly aggressive.
Now shrink this down in your mind (or computer) to 50% size--just to get an estimate of what your 13"-wide Epson is going to start kicking out per square inch. Five-megapixel cameras are going to cause a RUN on big printers.
I'll have to revise my estimate of detail. These images are showing me noticeable improvement over the first test, it's less in comparison with the 990. You numbers may vary, but what this means for big prints is that you will go farther not just because of the pixel count, but because of the pixel quality as well. All thumbs and toes up on this, too.
There is no other reason* to make a 2560-pixel wide image than to make prints or to put the shot in a magazine, on a poster, or blow it up big.
Do NOT buy this camera simply for your 4X6 inch prints. At least, don't shoot for the little prints with full size images unless you've inherited a box full of CF cards. Notice that the SXGA image is as perfect, per-pixel, as you are likely to find. And these SXGA images deliver over 200 pixels per inch into that 4X6 print.
The small prints won't look bad --in fact they'll look great-- that's not the point. This camera is way-overkill for little shots like these, and when you ask your printer to digest 2560 x 1920 pixels--no matter what the final image size will be--it won't do it as gracefully as it would from a 1280 x 960 pixel file one quarter the size.
* Well, here is one. Now that big image earns a new buzzword: Cropability. Here's an image so big and sharp you can afford to crop and recompose later, still getting images worthy of page size prints.
The 2- and 3-megapixel cameras have already shown that in the experienced hands of enlightened photographers, they can be the covers of magazines, the illustrations on posters and the large-scale graphics for major display use.
The CP995 has 2048 pixels in the long dimension of the shot. The CP5000 has 2560. 512 more, but the story is just beginning.
If your pixel is 15% better looking, and there are 25% more of them, the image you get is 1.25 X 1.15 = 143.8% of the previous compared image. If it were 10% better per-pixel, the equivalent improvement would be 137.5% of the previous image.
This is subjective to a marked degree, but it shows how far this camera has come. Effectively. In pictorial terms. In observable details per running inch, and stuff like that. In short, the difference is quite a lot.
Color and Tone
Notice from the example that the good, reliable Nikon colorimetry and image control is fully implemented in this camera, too. These exposures were made in Manual Exposure mode and Daylight white balance. Nikon calls that "Fine" just to confuse you with the compression level called "Fine". (Fine, Nikon, you can call it what you wish.)
Tonal range inherits the improvements first noted with the 995. Color flows into the shadows accurately. Dynamic range seems to be about the same as that camera's as well and perhaps better.
Images shot at elevated ISO seem quite low in noise. The same lower noise floor of the 995 is maintained here. This 100% crop is from an ISO 400 image and displays a portion of the shot where grain is most noticeable.
This is going to be a feature of all 5-megapixel images, however. When a grain structure like this is reduced to an 8x10 print, each gritty detail becomes 0.28X this size.
When grain is small and prints are small, grain won't show nearly as much as it does here.
Still, there is grain, all right, and for images that get positively gritty, here's a free iNovaFX Photoshop Action Filter to cut the sandy look down to size.
Major New Features and One Big Hairy Confuser.
Just when you thought there would be NO future firmware updates for the super-wide CP5000, Nikon pulled an completely unannounced surprise release of Firmware 1.7 today and this is the most exciting firmware update they've ever offered.
Well, that's what I wrote last night, but in the cold light of day, it turns out to be somewhat less than what was A) Advertised and B) Expected and C) Needed.
What's new? Let's start with the Hairy Confuser.
Pre-Flash Clarity, for one. It has joined the ranks of a bona fide Confusion Machine.
A new menu item has been added. Camera Menu > Setup Page > Speedlight Opt. > Speedlight Cntrl > Int Flash Off is explained by Nikon using these words in their downloadable PDF Addenda:
That's what was needed, and expected, and advertised.
Nikon's copy writers seem to have missed a point or three.
Why? The pre-flash still fires. No, it doesn't show up in the image, since it fires JUST BEFORE the shutter begins gathering light. But it DOES spoil every single slave flash setup you are likely to arrange. That hardly fits the words, "...allows you to turn the built-in Speedlight off entirely."
What is missing from this description is the idea that the switched-off camera Speedlight still fires its thoroughly useless (and often distracting and slave-unit interfering) "pre-flash" when a Nikon external Speedlight sits in the hot shoe. As if the Nikon Speedlights somehow needed this burp of photons to do their job. Well, do they?
If you put a simpler, center-pin hot-shoe flash unit atop the camera, the camera Speedlight really DOES NOT FIRE.
Meaning: If you want to use the famous iNova IR transmitter technique to pop slave units across the room (or landscape) without involving the camera-mounted flash in the lighting, all you would need to do is get a relatively cheap (would $30 be too much?) hot-shoe flash and wrap its tube in black, processed slide film.
Nikon continues to think --at some level-- that the CP5000 somehow NEEDS this "pre-flash" but no other cameras that can be fitted to the same Nikon Speedlights seem to require emitting it.
And flash images shot with and without the pre-flash visible to the subject are exactly identical in every measurable way, according to my experiments.
One could wish for Firmware 1.8 I suppose. But I'm still hyperventilating from holding my breath for firmware 1.7...
RAW image capture has been added to the CP5000 straight out of the blue. It was never promised with the original purchase, and when the CP5700 came out with RAW (A.K.A. NEF mode in Nikon jargon) a number of people lamented, "It's a shame they didn't have this when the CP5K was designed..." Well, there you go. A major bonus feature that promises to enliven the 5K's usefulness for pro and advanced enthusiast photographers all over the place.
Raw images can be converted in Photoshop into 16-bit RGB files which take all sorts of manipulation in stride. For the highest quality work, RAW beats TIFF and takes up only about 8/14ths as much storage space.
Shutter reaction improvement. Now one can go into the Menu > Setup Page > Monitor Options > Shutter Release Speed > Normal / Quick Response. Quick Response??? Yeah, Now the rest of the press down on the Shutter Button causes a bit faster exposure. This is probably measurable in hundredths of a second, but it does feel a tiny bit quicker. No, it doesn't speed up a stab that has not pre-focused, but it's something and you can freeze subjects in the frame faster with this feature than with any SLR.
Minor updates are included.
Now PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol) is an option under Menu > Setup Page > Interface > USB > PTP or Mass Storage. PTP is used by Windows XP and Mac OS X.
EXIF 2.2 is now supported. More data for a hungry world. At the same time PIM (Epson's Print Image Matching) has disappeared. Well, there was an idea whose time is gone. So Epson has released a PIM II plug-in for Photoshop. But that's another story.
LCD display of images in dark situations is now brighter, and the monitor itself is a "Tad" brighter overall.
Focus in dark surroundings has been given a little boost, too.
And a small bug in the reporting of Bulb mode actual shutter times has been corrected.
Not addressed: Clear Image. This special SXGA image was to be the product of two closely spaced exposures that was supposed to end up forming an SXGA image with major amounts of detail, tonality and colorimetry perfection. But it actually continues to be quite a lot INFERIOR to a normal SXGA image made without the feature switched on. Sigh.
Bottom Line #1.7:
I wanted to publish a glowing bravo to Nikon at the end of this essay, but with the continuing confusion concerning the "internal speedlight off" situation, I can not. They fixed some things, ignored others, implemented a Major New Feature (RAW) and, in the same breath, re-iterated a large-scale confusion (pre-flash) with no published remedy.
Well, I guess that's why third-party sites like this one should exist. To rip the fetid lid off the seamy cauldron of clunky communication and try to supplant dumbth with clearth.
For more clearth, go to Nikon's European site. They seem more inclined to spread clarity and useful hints.
Big Volt finally arrives!
One of the last to appear (we hope) accessories for the CP5000 is the MB-E5000 Battery Pack. The WC-E68 lenses arrived in quantity long before the absolutely vital UR-E5 adaptors that attach them to the camera appeared. Ouch!! And 195 days after I put in my order for an MB-E5000 in December, 2001, the store called me to say "It's heeeeere!"
Battery pack, right? Don't stop with that idea, the MB-E5000 is more than a battery pack. Call it a "Professionalizer" or "Mass Enhancer" at the obvious level, because it gives the camera an undeniable heft and serious look. Especially with the slightly more than astounding WC-E68 wide converter. The heft helps with slow shutter speeds and is enough to take your personal best down from, say, 1/8 sec to perhaps 1/5 sec, but that's a guess.
The rig as shown brings out clucks and woos from all sorts of people. "Cool. A Nikon, eh?" can be expected to be heard as you sling it around. It's heavy enough to help stabilize and light enough not to tear at your finger if you use my middle-finger ring safety trick to avoid camera drops.
The MB-E5000 houses 6 AA cells in an interesting arrangement. Four of them drop in as a two layer group the way most AA cells fit into things, but two of them poke in end-first in a vertical holder that itself pokes into the camera body right where the former EN-EL1 battery was housed before the MB-E5000 was attached. The end of this protrusion has electrical contacts exactly where the EN-EL1 did.
Under the CP5000 a small plastic lid sits next to the battery door. You may never have noticed it, but with the battery door open, it slides out over the battery well, disconnecting from the camera. Under it are five gold electrical connections destined for use with the MB-E5000. They're there because the battery pack is more than just power.
In the MB-E5000 itself, a small bay is designed to retain this plastic cover sequestered away from prying fingers between camera and battery pack. I've heard of people losing this small plastic part when mating the battery pack. It isn't needed for camera function in either configuration, but I hope Nikon has laid in a supply of them for the fumble fingered among us. I managed to drop mine...
The camera's own battery door drops into its own well next to the protruding power contact extension. Mating the camera and power pack is literal.
The MB-E5000 is finished in the same textured black as the magnesium body of the camera, but the material is plastic, giving it a warm feeling to the touch. It mates so well, that the configuration looks like it was manufactured as a single unit. The knurled disk that screws the two pieces together through the camera's tripod socket unifies the components solidly. Once mated, the camera body feels as solid as one would wish.
Notice the button on the right side (in the shot up above). The right side of a camera being the side your right hand touches when using it. That's another shutter button, and it has its own slightly deceptive On/Off switch around it. Or is it? Nope. Not an On/Off switch at all. Just a LOCK to remove the button from accidentally engaging the shutter. The rotating switch won't power up the camera, but it will keep that button from activating with your palm. Makes sense.
This new shutter release is positioned in exactly the right ergonomic spot for your right hand when shooting verticals. Nikon has positioned a similar "portrait mode" extra shutter release on the base of their SLRs for years, so now that very useful feature comes to digital photography.
Just behind the new shutter button, on the back of the unit, a fully-functioning zoom toggle meets your thumb when you hold the camera vertical. It's positioned where you would never connect with it when shooting horizontals and right where you would want it when shooting verticals. Its function does NOT disconnect with the Lock switch, so it is always active.
Another deceptive feature can be seen in the above image if you know where to look. Notice that the WC-E68 is attached. Mean anything to you? I does to me. It means that the MB-E5000's footprint is big enough to hold the camera upright with all that extra weight out in front, but only under certain conditions. It will stand like this on surfaces with some "give" to them, but only just barely and only just barely.
This time the deception is on my part. The paper under my camera absorbed the balance of the rig enough to take the shot this way, but with the internal camera lens extended, or a lens cap in place, the whole thing is nose-heavy and makes a three-point landing. It's so close to balanced that a small strip of lead inside the battery case would have done the job. So near and yet, so what?
The promise of the MB-E5000 is to provide more power for a longer time. Early reports peg this at about twice the on-station power of an EN-EL1, and it should be longer. A single EN-EL1 has 7.4v @ 650 mAh, meaning a total of 4.81 watts for an hour. Six AA cells typically house 1600 mAh @ 9v. That's a total of 14.4 watt hours, or almost exactly three times as much electrical push. In practice, it just feels like a lot longer before changing batteries.
At over $150 it might be considered a tad on the expensive side. Especially since it arrives on the heels of a price reduction on the CP5000 itself. I would think that every portrait photographer in the world would want one, and I know of photographers who leave the WC-E68 on the camera most of the time for the "Ooo, Aah" value to certain non-photographic clients, so this will go far in a customer-relations sense, but it IS a lot to pay. You could get many more EN-EL1s for the price, but you wouldn't have the extra controls for vertical shots.
I like the MB-E5000. It will stay on my camera most of the time, unless I'm traveling ultra-light (which is not as rare as I make it sound). I have tons of rechargeable AA cells left over from the early days with the CP950 and CP990, so batteries are not an issue with me.
What's the "MB" stand for? "Massive Base?," or could it be... "More Batteries?"
Conclusions (preliminary) +/- (updated 10-1-02 with firmware 1.7)
+ The pluses:
Small, light, versatile, wide, sharp, great color, four cameras in one, versatile monitor, takes existing optics, delivers poster-size files...
- The minuses:
SXGA Clear Image trick didn't work, flash stays on with older units, lens cap fuss, viewfinder inaccuracy, pre-flash even with external Nikon flash units interfering with slave unit photography, strap holder reach-around, finger placement with flash sensor...
What do you think? Compare the negatives to the positives. If they fix the Clear Image mode, that's a bonus, not a requirement. The viewfinder can be worked around if your camera shows it--and it may not. The pre-flash is unfortunate but can be dealt with. And you will have to teach your fingers how to play this thing.
I give the camera a B. Some things are flat-out terrific. The wide zoom, small size, great flexibility and accessories are major winners. Other features are implemented far below Nikon's usual standard of excellence. Low enough to be harmful to their digital reputation.
Obviously they were late with the camera by about a month, and the Firmware V 1.5 but is baaaaad, so if you still have it, upgrade to the update now.
Now it's here. And its small size and high quality image make it a desirable camera, especially to those who are used to the range of control offered in Coolpix cameras.
Work-around features detract from the camera's earning an A. The continuing completely useless "pre-flash" has become an issue of credibility. Nikon presents it as a "feature" of sorts and it really is a "mistake" of sorts. It gets in the way of very useful studio techniques and Firmware 1.7 claims to have installed "an Int Flash Off option that allows you to turn the built-in Speedlight off entirely." But the internal flash does NOT turn off entirely because it leaks the pre-flash that spoils use of external slave units.
If you don't need to use this camera with external slave units, then this "feature" won't affect you. But it has affected me for the better part of a year, and with their recent Firmware 1.7 upgrade claiming to have fixed it without doing so, the CP5K system lost its B+ rating.
Conclusions (from deeper experience over two months) 2-13-02
I know that everybody wants any given camera to be all things, for all purposes, to every shot, but that isn't in the cards yet. Every camera model out there does some things better than others and doesn't do certain things as well as others.
Paralleling this, the people with the least proficiency in photography tend to raise the most questions and objections to a specific model's set of features or design decisions. Tiz only human, in a way, to want a digital camera that could read the photographer's mind and deliver whatever can be imagined.
I say this, because the CP5000 has taken its share of heat from people who wanted a longer lens (I didn't, but that would be a different camera, now, wouldn't it?) or alternative characteristics to the image, flash, speed of operation, etc. The Grumble List can be written to every camera out there and the more capable the photographer, the less important the line items on that GL are to them.
After encountering limits to the on-camera speedlight (the pre-flash), the menu system (flash options are WHERE?), the unavailability of support accessories (my UR-E6 wide angle lens adapter and battery extension modules have been back ordered since the dawn of time) and still un-useful Clear Image mode (it's an un-functioning feature), one might think I was down on the 5K. But that is not the case.
With two months and several thousand exposures, the value of this little gem becomes clearer and more solid.
It also calls the least attention to itself in a crowd, because it has a low-obtrusiveness factor to the design. I wanted a slightly more "tuxedo" look to it, but nobody in the real world has grumbled about its silver-accented design except me.
For decisive moment and candid imagery, it gains points because it blends into the crowd without screaming "Photographer here: put a silly smirk on your face!" and the wide angle lens lets you shoot a whole new kind of digital image: The wide and super wide shots.
As noted before, the SXGA image is virtually perfect in every dimension and that Clear Image feature will only be a bonus, not a requirement.
Why is this picture here????: It was taken with a Nikon Coolpix 5000.
And so were these two: All of the images of the Sony Camera were performed under mixed light. The top image under a Tungsten Halogen desk lamp, the other two with the SB-50DX speedlight bouncing off the ceiling along with other small slave units chiming in. To prevent the camera pre-flash from pre-triggering the slave units, I simply held my left index finger over the camera's flash port. Didn't hurt a bit.
Of particular note is the clarity of each image including the high-key, bleached highlights that are so smoothly rolled into (a good thing that maintains highlight contrast with snap) and fine-grained texture of the subject's satin metal finish.
...proving once again that for every job out there, a right tool exists. In this case, the CP5000 has done a great job as a studio camera shooting its competition.
With two months of practical experience under my belt, I'd give the CP5K a more complex report card (A=Great, B=Nice, C=Average, D=Poor, F=Failed):
Along the way, a number of InfoBites have been gathered. Nearly a hundred! Things like:
Sweat not the TC-E3's lens converter menu setting. Don't even use it. --The setting, not the lens. The lens is fine. And it works just fine with very little vignetting simply screwed onto the camera with the zoom lens at full tele. The corners of the shot don't need that 1.2X digital zoom at all. Just go tele and shoot! Trim it later in editing, or simply switch to 3:2 mode to get rid of the dark corners of the shot. You will get more picture detail without using the 3X Lens Setting menu item.
And eighty some-odd more.
Fatal Flaw in Firmware One Point Five: The camera this instant (12 16 01) is prone to recall and/or instant fatal failure requiring a factory repair. Isn't that a kick in the head?
Original Hiccup Report!
Nikon has found a bug! Not a little one, either. This one can lock the camera up in the open position without a chance of immediate recovery. How do I know? Funny you should ask...
They've issued a directive that has recalled the 5000s in dealer stock on 12-14-01. Egad. Read all about it here:
It turns out that an operating system bug may disable the camera if it is started up with the lens cap in place under certain conditions.
This only affects cameras with Firmware V1.5. If your camera has V1.6 or higher, no problem. Step away from this notice. Move along. There's nothing to see here. Fugeddaboudit.
Normally the camera tries to extend the lens, finds the cap hasn't been removed and displays a terse note that says:
...thus requiring you to take the cap off and recycle the on/off switch. According to the directive, it is possible to have the camera lose its mind at that point and fail to function forevermore, instead of simply delivering the warning. EGAD!
The firmware update that prevents the problem is expected on December 21.
Oh, %$#@! This bug is nasty. It can open the camera and lock
it in the fully deployed position and NEVER retract.
But there's still hope:
Check out Alec Wood's note.
able to revive his "DOA" 5000 with a simple fix. Perhaps
yours will come back to life, too.
I was not so lucky. Even after 36 hours of just sitting there with no battery inside, and the power switch turned on (to allow any internal electrons to drain, if possible), the camera did not revive. Fortunately, I purchased it at a local camera store and they swapped it for a working one. You would NEVER get service like this through an Internet purchase, would you? (Kimura Photomart, Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. Tell them I sent you.)
If you have a 5000 with firmware V1.5, ALWAYS open the camera AFTER the cap is off. Nikon promises the downloadable firmware fix on December 21.
HELP FOR FIRMWARE 1.5
If you are using the previous Firmware 1.5, you MUST follow these steps in opening and powering up the camera:
1. Switch the camera to Play when the camera is off. This will prevent any power up from trying to deploy the lens. The lens stays in when Play mode is turned on.
2. Power the camera up after removing the lens cap. Step #1 will save you from forgetting to do this.
3. Observe the playback image of your last shot on the screen before switching to Rec (camera) mode. Remind yourself why you are doing this and if you have forgotten to remove the cap, do it before switching over to REC.
HELP FOR FIRMWARE 1.6 + Macintosh.
On December 21, 2001, Nikon made available the Windows version of the Firmware Update here.
By February 2, 2002 --six full weeks later-- the Mac version had not yet appeared and people have recently responded that their camera still has the fatal firmware inside, and that they can't upgrade it with their Macs. This appears to be unprecedented in all of the firmware upgrading procedures Nikon has ever issued.
April 5, 2002 --over 100 days since the firmware updater was delivered for Windows-- the Mac version has still not appeared. My prediction about "late spring" (below--written in January) may come true after all. Occasionally a firmware 1.5 camera passes by near enough to me to intercept and update, so there are still cameras out there that can lock up. Sigh.
April 25, 2002 --Japan's official Nikon site has posted a Macintosh firmware update. The Nikon USA site should follow, offering it to people who need it.
June 1, 2002 --Nikon USA still not offering the Mac update. Their continuing, "Macintosh Users: An updater will be available soon, please continue to check this page." note mocks me. You may have to download it from the Japanese site.
June 16, 2002 --Nikon USA FINALLY (and quietly) posts the Macintosh firmware upgrade.
Alternatively, you can still follow the enclosed instructions:
Here's how... (from December, 2001)
...Mac owners can load the firmware into your camera without waiting for the Macintosh firmware updater version which may not appear until sometime in late spring...
1. Download the Windows software to your Mac desktop and UnStuff-It. Two files will appear. A file ending in ".exe" and one ending in ".bin". That last one, "firmware.bin," is the actual update data, and even though it came from the Windows download, it's the code that goes into the camera and is really in Nikon format, not Windows format.
2. Disable all Nikon Extensions for Nikon View software that may be in your Extensions folder (OS 8 thru 9). Extensions Manager can do this. You will need to reboot to actually disable them. Now the CF card is no longer locked.
3. Format a CF card in the camera and put the card into your computer with either the camera/USB cable, a PCMCIA CF card carrier or a CF card reader. The card image will show up as another drive on the desktop called "untitled," and most Macs will see it as a PC formatted source with an icon similar to this.
4. Open this new "drive" and note that a single folder called "DCIM" shows up. Make a new folder next to the DCIM folder, and call it "Firmware". (Step 2 may not be needed for doing this with OSX.)
5. Put the "firmware.bin" file into the "Firmware" folder on the CF card. It should copy there quickly.
the card out of your Mac, and put it into the CP5000. Set
the camera to Playback, and turn the camera on. You will see
a screen that shows the old firmware 1.5 and the new, version
In about one minute the camera will be finished updating. Re-format the CF card in the camera before using it.
You can see the camera's current Firmware by powering the camera off and holding down the Menu button (middle monitor button) while you power it back up in either Rec or Play modes. A graphic screen will appear on the monitor and it will show the current Firmware Version number as 1.6.
That's all there is to it. Easy as cake. Simple as pie.
7. Now you can re-instate the Nikon Extensions with your Mac's Extensions Manager control panel utility.
Thanks to the readers who helped make these instructions available.
In-Depth Reviews (click):
It's pretty much the same conclusion all around. Nikon has produced a very interesting tool, and their deep concern with giving the photographer lots of control over the imaging process still shines, but some things need attention, revision or re-thinking.
As it is, the 5000 is a specialty camera with a number of flexibilities. It's the widest digital camera available, has a reasonable zoom range, adapts to legacy optics, uses the same battery as the 995/775 and is small enough to travel lightly.
In a field that Nikon's compact digital cameras dominated when Time Magazine pointed to the 990 as the Machine of the Year (2000), the CP5000 is now less of an "of course" purchase.
Its unique qualities of wide zoom, BSS, Image Adjustment range and optical versatility through tele, fisheye and 19mm converters (WC-E68) will distinguish it from the other cameras. It certainly packs a lot into a small volume.
But those other 5-megapixel cameras from Minolta (Dimage D-7), Olympus (E-20) and especially Sony (DSC-F707) have very interesting features of their own. If wide zoom is not your favorite meal, then there are other places to look for sustenance. But when you need that stunning super-wide vista, there is nothing out there that can touch it.
Interior of St. Peter's Cathedral, Vatican City. Nikon CP5000 with WC-E68 super wide converter. Hand held at 1/10 sec using Nikon's exclusive BSS. Ultra-straight perspective achieved with iNovaFX Photoshop Action Filter iBC5KWC68 which is available starting with the eBook V4 CD.
More will be here as the REVIEW is added to. Check back soon.
PS: Thanks to all those who were kind enough to write with tips and suggestions.
Here's an interesting site, Yahoo's CP5000 discussion page:
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