|Secrets of Digital Photography
Nikon CP5700 Report! Updated 10/02/2002
The big brother to the CP5000 Wide Angle Coolpix is the new Coolpix 5700. Its 8:1* zoom covers a 35mm to 280mm focal length range on a 35mm camera. Its 8.8 x 6.6 mm image chip gives near-35mm film performance, and for such a large optical range, its size and weight is very small, very tidy, with a huge amount of digital camera in a compact space.
Does this camera seem like you've seen it somewhere before? Like a Minolta Dimage or the Fuji S602 that came out a while back? Sort of, but under the hood, this camera has its own special character that reflects the long experience of Nikon design.
Some folks are eager to slam Nikon, as if buyers were only buying a "name" and not a design philosophy embodied in an instrument. Nikon DOES trade on its name for products like the small 2500, 2000 and recently announced 4300.
Those cameras are a sub-set of the ones I think of as MAJOR products like the CP5700 and CP4500. Nikon makes its reputation with the top of the line cameras, just as Ferrari makes headlines at places like Sebring and Le Manns with machines that are far and away ahead of their street 'rods.
No doubt about it, this camera represents the current thinking Nikon is pouring at the "Prosumer" market, a clever corruption of Professional and Consumer, but one that nods to each. I've never met someone who introduced themselves to me as a prosumer, but I'm tempted to tell people that when they ask what I do.
The Big Picture
Yes, you can shoot big pictures with this camera. Prints flowing out of my Epson 2200 (2100 in Europe, for some reason or other) at 13" x 19" (330 x 483 mm) tend to look like prints from a fine 35mm scan more than they appear to be from a digital compact camera.
An 8 x 10 will fool all the people all the time, giving new meaning to Lincoln's old admonition, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time."
Well, now you can "...fool all the people all the time..." And the reason is, "...because you have enough pixels" which is something Mr. Lincoln had not considered.
It's not surprising that large-chip, long-zoom cameras tend to look like this, just look at all the cameras that don't swivel. The body plan is usually similar. But the C5700's folding 8:1 zoom lens keeps the package small enough to tote conveniently.
The huge zoom range is deliciously long and pretty much answers the questions that the CP5000 brought up. Wide zoom on the 5700 slips a few millimeters to 35mm from the general trend of 38mm widest settings on many brands including most Coolpixies. That's just 25% longer than the 28mm wide setting on the CP5000.
When you pick it up, the message to your hands is that this camera seems quite solid. Controls are spread out across its surfaces in ways that don't appear in the predecessor CP5000 and the flip out external monitor is notably smaller than the one on the 5000, but curiously, it seems just as detailed.
Most of the body is cast magnesium, but the flip out screen and back panel are plastic. No worries. It's as solid as can be.
The big news is in the internal viewing screen. It's an EVF, not optical, and it makes the CP5700 into an electronic SLR. A very handy button next to the viewfinder window alternates the video feed from EVF to exterior monitor. Or is it that handy after all?
You can set the camera to awaken in either mode to your preference. That can snag you. Let's say you were just shooting with the external monitor and went into Play mode to review a shot. No problem there, you flip out the monitor so you can play the image to friends and neighbors, but when you switch back to camera mode, the external monitor will go dark if your preference is to wake up in EVF mode.
Of course. You just forgot to punch the internal/external button... No mode exists to let the camera awaken in "Whatever you used last" configuration. The best strategy is to have it awaken in Monitor mode and simply close the monitor when you wish to use the EVF. It switches to the internal screen instantly when the external monitor is closed. End of "issue."
The EVF is fast. There will always be a small time delay (about 1/15 sec, usually) for monitor viewing and that can throw you when you try to grab a critical moment. But you get used to it. The 5700's delay seems shorter than most. Perhaps 1/20 ~ 1/30 sec?
Okay, that's not the biggest news. But you will have to be a real digital photography aficionado to appreciate Nikon's RAW (.NEF) mode. Nikon Electronic File format is new with the 5700.
It's a RAW mode that can lead to superlative images. It eats up less memory space than the TIFF mode (Transferable Image File Format) that used to be Nikon's best image quality mode, but like all RAW modes, it has greater bit depth and keeps a map of the image chip's sensors in lieu of holding on to a processed RGB file. TIFF and JPEG images are still supported, so the new format is a nice new addition. And for top-quality work, this is the mode that puts the "Pro" in "Prosumer".
Raw, in the 5700, saves data in 12-bits. Eight bits gives you 256 tones to work with and twelve gives you 4096 tones to wrestle around. Per pixel, whether it be red, green or blue.
The sensor doesn't get a color temperature adjustment filter to tell it how to respond to different types of light (such as incandescent and daylight) the sort that a film camera would need to adjust a given emulsion to other lighting, so it does it all by manipulating the data in the camera's internal supercomputer.
Think I'm exaggerating? Fudging, perhaps, since the chip set is optimized for supercomputer image processing. But the computers in digital cameras, as a group, are on the bleeding edge of technology.
The RAW file takes up just over half of what a TIFF file consumes, but the TIFF file keeps an 8-bit record of every pixel and every color as well. The RAW file keeps pre-processed 12-bit information on every pixel but not as RGB files. Those full color layers get generated as the RAW image is processed inside your computer with NikonView 5 (it comes in the box).
The CP5700 is pretty much a CP5000 on steroids. It's bigger in zoom range, runs a bit faster, has fabulous macro capability, pops its flash up on an as-needed basis, clusters the controls a bit differently and contains the full range of Nikon image-handling special controls that have set their cameras apart from the crowd of other digital cameras.
Think of the 5700 as the tele camera where the 5000 is the wide camera.
AND: It doesn't emit spurious "pre-flash" pulses from the built-in flash unit.
Things to appreciate:
The Selector Dial and Multi-Selector button swiftly zip you among the many menu choices. It will take an afternoon's practice to get the map of controls into your neural pathways, but once you appreciate the control layout at a visceral level, the camera is logical in its layout.
Working with it on a tripod in the dark becomes an exercise in remembering where the buttons were, but after ten minutes of fumbling, your fingers will start slapping each other while shouting, "NO! The ISO button is over here, you idiot index..."
Well, mine were. Nothing like making mistakes to teach your fingers where the mistakes are NOT.
None of the legacy converter optics work on this camera. Not a one. No fisheye is possible. This is Big Zoom, not convert-a-cam. That said, the TC-E15ED and WC-E80 converters are up to Nikon's usual exemplary standard. The TC bumps the image closer by 50% and the WC shrinks the camera's previous wide view down to 80% adding a band of wider view that increases the view by 25%.
A lot of people have trouble with this math. But think, now, if the original scene shrinks to 80% of the width it was, and new info fills out to the edges of the frame to the original size, 100% point, that new info is 20% above the previous coverage or 20/80ths, or 25% new stuff. In terms of visible area covered, it sees just over 56% MORE than the camera without it. Or, in other words, it now covers what the CP5000 covers without a converter. Almost exactly.
Both zoom unrestrictedly. At the full tele zoom position while using the WC-E80, you will notice softness, but for most of the range, the image hangs together quite well. Certainly better than other third-party converter optics.
And HEAVY? The WC-E80 is a huge chunk of glass. It weighs more than the camera! The TC-E15ED is a featherweight in comparison.
Home In On The Range
So let's do the math. With both of these converter lenses, your coverage is from (in 35mm camera equivalent terms) 28mm at the widest to 420mm at the longest. YEE CATS! That's a full 15:1 range!
And when you think of having a 5-megapixel system of cameras in your kit, the 19mm wide coverage of the CP5000 extends your range to over 22:1.
Assault on Batteries
Not long after the 5700 appeared, Nikon released the MB-5700 which is a battery holder / portrait grip that fits under the CP5700. It houses 6 AA cells and provides long life power, stability and mass to the camera. Some people think of extra mass as extra weight, and while that is technically correct, the practical effect of that extra mass is extra stability.
A few carry-overs from the 5000 are still confusing to me. The Multi-16 mode has been improved greatly over the version that was inside the CP5000. Perhaps this indicates that there is hope for the CP5K's feature via a firmware upgrade? (Yes. On September 30, 2002, Nikon released Firmware 1.7 for that camera.)
"Clear Image" mode, part of the choices in the NR menu item, still isn't clear. It's a tad better than it was in the CP5K, but not as clear as a straight SXGA image by itself. Could we have the design team rethink this one, again?
Images from the 5700 seem to have all the earmarks of current Nikon compact camera setup. Great colorimetry, good shadow detail, crisp contrast and about the same per-pixel detail of the CP5000. The glass seems more capable, less barrel distorted and lower in chromatic aberration overall.
The only disappointment I'm trying to (still) come to grips with is that the roll-off of brightness at the top of the highlights seems to abruptly bonk its head against the ceiling of pure white, instead of gently approaching brightness saturation the way other cameras do.
Putting the image on Contrast Minus in the Image Quality menu item and raising the EV+0.3 helps, but a work around like this is only a partial solution. Bright enough highlights still crash, and it has been this way since the 995. Fortunately this only affects images with spectral or extra bright areas.
RAW mode potentially solves this "issue," but only time and experience with that exotic mode will write the final chapter. Suffice to say that the competition has been dealing with this digital camera attribute in creative ways where Nikon has yet to tread.
In this key imaging feature for instance, the Sony 707/717 walks away with the tall trophies.
Half-press focuses well in bright light. In operation, the focus on the 5700 seems less sure of itself in the dark than other brands. Until you stabilize the camera, that is. There is no focus light and flash units that have a focus assist light don't get this feature activated through the intelligent 5-contact hot shoe atop the camera. How come? Dunno.
Movement kills the ability of the image chip to acquire and confirm contrast detail. On a tripod, I could shoot reliably in sub-1-foot candle lighting without any problem at all. I think that hand-holding the camera won't give enough stability for the autofocus to latch onto its target in low light. Especially at tele settings.
Interestingly, Nikon's new Firmware 1.7 for the CP5000 achieved better low-light focus for that camera months after the camera first came to market. There may be a low-light focus enhancement software/Firmware opportunity for the 5700 in the future. Stay tuned.
1. The biggest improvement to my mind comes from an odd direction. White Balance. On all previous Coolpix cameras, you could assign White Balance to a Func button, but usually at the expense of that button becoming no longer the EV+/- button. And once it had become the White Balance button, all it did was to select between the various White Balance settings such as Incandescent, Sunny, etc. You could select Manual White Balance's last setting, but you couldn't PERFORM a manual white balance.
That was then, this is now.
Now when you assign White Balance to the Func button and dial up the Manual WB, it will PERFORM the White Balance as quickly as it can with a single press of the Func. Just like a video camera. Yip pee!!!!
2. On all previous external monitors a Monitor Switch selected between Monitor + Graphics, Monitor Clear, and Monitor Off in a rotation of three steps. But that last step was a killer. What we really wanted was what the 5700 delivers, a simple monitor graphics on/off switch. Monitor off could have been handled with a 1.5 second press of the previous camera's control and restored with a press of any button, but Nikon didn't think the option through to this level until now.
3. Power up is fast. Faster than the 4500, faster than the 5000, and it clocks in at about 3 seconds in spite of the fact that this is a folding lens camera. The most common speed for lens deployment among other cameras is about 6 seconds.
4. Much better integration with the SB-50DX flash unit. You can, for instance, mount the flash on the hot shoe with the white diffuser--that pivoting tummy white thing on the 50DX that has been heretofore useless with digital cameras (heck, I thought it was just a bit of Orca-like styling at first)-- and darned if it doesn't just fold down to exactly fit over the flash tube on the camera's own flash without covering the flash sensor.
In Force-Flash setting (the solid lightning bolt), the camera's flash fires along with the 50DX but only if it's charged up fully and the flash menu has been set to Speedlight Opt. > Speedlight Cntrl > Int & Ext Active.
Other flash notes include the 5700's unique anti-red eye light. A focused white LED built into the front of the forward grip and shines in the eyes of nearby subjects, theoretically forcing irises more closed--enough to avoid the phenomenon.
The camera flash presents its blast window a full two inches above optical center, and that alone should squash about 88% of typical red-eye effects. I wonder why the white LED was not a candidate for a dark condition focus assist light?
Nothing major, and most of this is old: Nikon's Department of Ergonomic Digital Photography needs a wake-up call. They've perpetuated some old chestnuts for a long time without coming to grips with these minor gripes.
1. Nikon has a special dedicated button with the sole purpose of messing with your mind. It sits next to the EVF eyepiece and it selects between the internal and external screens. (Notice that when I'm in negative mode, things I once thought were clever now become fodder for the axe?) Nothing wrong with that, on the face of it, but what real good is this button? When you fold the external monitor shut, it transfers the image to the internal EVF. But if you select the internal EVF with this button and then review some shots, the next camera operation will switch to the internal screen. But psychologically, you are outside the EVF at that point and the most logical use for framing is now the external screen.
2. The dedicated Quick Review button does what? It switches you to review mode first with a 1/4 screen thumbnail image, then with a full screen image with a second button press. Half-pressing the shutter release dismisses the view. Now tell me again how that 1/4 screen thumbnail is useful? All it does for me is turn the function into a Not So Quick Review.
Other brands don't perform this intermediate small image and I think it's time for the useless small thumbnail to leave the operating system of future Nikons.
Is there anybody out there who NEEDS that 1/4 screen view?
The Coolpix 5700 is Nikon's answer to all those folks who wanted a super zoom lens in the CP5000. It differentiates the 5000 as the Wide Cam and becomes the Tele Cam itself.
The lens delivers. Decent wide angle to powerful zoom. The tele converter extends the zoom ratio to 12:1 (35 to 420mm equivalent --or is it 383mm) but of course, the tele only covers the last 25% of the zoom without vignetting.
Unlike prior Coolpix cameras, my top valued accessory is this TC-E15ED tele converter and the UR-E8 adapter that fits it to the camera. Why they don't simply pack the two together is still beyond me. I really think they should just weld a UR-E8 to each converter lens to begin with.
The WC-E80 wide converter turns the 5700 into a very heavy CP5000 with a longer zoom. It's impressive, but holy cow, what a monster piece of glass!
Some features have improved over the 5000. Multi-Shot 16 is now rich with clarity and very fast. And the one-press manual white balance option is just what the doctor ordered.
The 5700 has the full range of image manipulations Nikon's are known for with BSS, NR, Contrast +/-, Brightness +/-, Saturation +/-, Speedlight +/- and even factory White Balance setting +/- adjustments. Real handy for turning cloudy days into eternal Golden Hour. Just set Cloudy to -3 and warm up everything.
The three-position User setups continues to be a nice complexity-resolving feature. You set up three different behavior "personalities" for the User Settings and your camera easily transforms between a low-contrast B&W Continuous Frame machine and a Color ++ BSS grabber and a movie scene low-chroma vidi-cam. 1, 2, 3. I think this would become even better if there were, say, ten User Set options. But how many people really take advantage of the sheer Picture Power this option delivers today?
Too bad you must give this feature up from being attached to the Func button in order to have that one-press manual white balance. But I would rather get the color right than quick-change into a different camera. It's the first Menu choice anyhow, so it's always easy to get to.
Nikon Coolpix 5700: A
-iNova, September 7, 2002 (Updated over time)
*US school grading system uses A as its top score although some teachers give A+ and the extremely rare A++ grades for exceptionally outstanding work. C = Average. B = Better than Average, but not top scoring. D=Not as good as Average. F=Failing. What happened to E? There is no such grade.
Don't just take my word for it!
Read the reviews and previews from the digital camera testers:
Reprinting except for newsworthy mention and brief quotes are by permission only.