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Nikon Coolpix P5100 Discussion
Read our review of the Nikon Coolpix P5100 digital camera!..

Comments (9)

Hi I am imran sajid from pakistan.i am student of geology.i want to perchase a camera for geological snapshot purposes.please uggest me for camera.is it model p5100 suitable for me.and what is the price of it's camera...

Comment #1

Don't touch the P5100 - it is incapable of focussing properly and will drive you nuts especially if you try to do closeups. The problem does not seem to be unique to the P5100 (many of the latest models of several manufacturers share the P5100's idiotic focussing which is such that it will even override a manually selected focus area in order to focus on the background instead of the subject...presumably because the picture then better fulfils the focussing algorithm's desire to maximise contrast in the picture as a whole instaed of within the selected focus area). I suggest waiting until the major manufactureres realise that there is a problem and fix it before buying any camera at all...but I have been trying to get Nikon to take notice for 2 months now without success... Attached two pics, one taken with an old Coolpix 5200, the other with the new Coolpix P5100...the old model focusses perfectly on the pencil, the new one prefers the background...strangely, I prefer the subject to be in focus... Attachments:.

DSCN3426.JPG..

Comment #2

Sorry...one pic didn't get attached to my previous message...here it is Attachments:.

DSCN0353.JPG..

Comment #3

Yeah, could be a problem with narrow subjects like pencils close in the foreground. I just tried a similar test with a Canon A720IS, Panasonic TZ3 and Sony P150, and they all did the same (focused on the background), even when selecting center focus area and Macro mode. The only ones that could autofocus on it was the Canon and Panasonic, after I switched their AF frame size to small which covered just the pencil. The P150 doesn't have a spot focus option, but newer Sonys do. I could have also manually focused with the Canon though...

Comment #4

Thanks for the info on those models, maxx - I also realised a while ago that the problem is not unique to Nikon compacts, though the P5100 is one of the worst I've encountered... As far as I can see almost the entire new generation of compacts (2007-2008 season) has this problem, so while you have found the Canon A720IS to display the same error, I tested it's predecessor - the A710IS - this morning and it behaved perfectly...an A650IS bombs out (I'm willing to bet either the A630 or A640 behaves perfectly). Fuji Finepix S5700 has the same problem too, while the Sony cybershot DSC-H3 focuses perfectly, as does the Canon G9. It's important to note that it is not only small/narrow subjects like the pencil that I used as an example that give problems - even if the subject way more than covers the AF frame, the P5100 will not focus on it if it doesn't have enough contrast...and plenty for a Coolpix 5200 isn't nearly enough for the P5100, so while my 5200 can focus on my finger, this isn't contrasty enough for the P5100 - try it! A perfect example of this is in fact given in the P5100 review on this site, where the reviewer describes finding "some hard-to-fathom failures to find focus" - the inability of the P5100 to focus on the Logitech mouse is almost certainly because there wasn't enough contrast on the curved surface. The problems, with the P5100 at least, extend way beyond these - so in "normal" (non-macro)photoghaphs, if you focus on a group of objects with the camera set on auto, instead of focussing on the object closest to the camera (as it is supposed to), it will select a portion of the frame to focus on apparently at random. I think that it isn't really random, but is the focal plane that gives the chip the highest peak in contrast for the whole picture...and it is the desire to maximise this that causes that camera to override even manually selected focus areas and focus elsewhere in the frame instead. I am going to get a refund from Nikon for my P5100 and will be off to buy a G9 before Canon decides to bring out a G10 with the same useless chip!..

Comment #5

I wouldn't call it an error in the case of the A720IS. When I selected the appropriate AF area size, it worked perfectly. The focus algorithm is probably designed to pick the higher-contrast subject when it has a choice, perhaps to accommodate people shooting through car windows, rain, fences, etc. Considering they sell millions of these every year, I am sure manufacturers are constantly tweaking them to reduce the number of support calls. (Such as "Why did my camera focus on the dirt on my car window?") It could also be a way to minimize autofocus lag. What's odd is the G9 uses the same processor (Digic III) and CCD (1/1.7" 12.4MP) as the A650IS, so I'm surprised it's acting differently.

Perhaps it's just dumb luck (some lenses may be slightly sharper than others in the focus area or at that particular distance). We'd have to test multiple samples of the same camera to rule that out. At least the Canons we've mentioned give you spot AF and true manual focus to work around the cases where the camera doesn't focus on what you want. I'm surprised the P5100 doesn't have that, especially since it's an enthusiast's model...

Comment #6

Mmm...the Canons are sounding better & better - I didn't realise you had options not only for a smaller AF area (even this the Nikon doesn't have) but also spot AF and manual focus, both of which could be really useful for me as I often have something really small - say an ant - centred in the AF area and surrounded by grass stems and the P5100 invariably focusses on the background (though funnily enough my old Coolpix 5200 focusses on the ant despite neither smaller AF area nor spot AF being an option!). The P5100 doesn't have manual focus either, so if you can't get it to focus automatically, you're stuffed...the limitations become even more surprising now that you've mentioned the options available on the Canon models that the P5100 is clearly aimed at competing with. I must confess my tests on Canon models have been fairly limited (so for e.g. the A650IS I tried only briefly in a store) so it may be that it was conditions rather than the camera that made the focussing problems appear similar to the P5100. Thanks for your input - definitely helping to push me to breaking 26 years of Nikon loyalty and heading for Canon country.....

Comment #7

The A720IS has AiAF (multi-area), Face Recognition, Center and FexiZone modes (Flexizone has > 400 positions covering maybe 80% of the frame). There is a separate menu for the AF area size (Normal and Small). Small is what I call spot, as it's quite a small area. The manual focus has many steps (>100?) and automatically zooms the center for critical focus judgment. It works really well. I'm a Nikon fan when it comes to their SLRs (I own 3 Nikon 35mm SLR bodies and 1 Nikon DSLR), but I haven't been impressed with their compacts lately.

I bought the A720IS as a small backup to my DSLR, since it has almost as much control. There are even firmware hacks to get a live RGB histogram and raw files out of most of the A-series Canons. Would have been nice if it had a flash hotshoe and a command dial like the P5100 though, and the build quality isn't the greatest. But for $180, I'm not complaining!..

Comment #8

Thanks again - you've just answered the question I was about to ask...whether the Canon's have flexible AF area positioning, which is a feature of the Coolpix's I have (both 5200 and P5100)that I really like for closeups. Without it having to adjust the framing of a shot after focussing would often result in losing the sharp focus on the subject. The Nikons are also about 1/2 the speed of the Canon's when it comes to focussing & shooting...and it sounds like the A720IS is about 1/2 the cost of the P5100! I think it's pretty obvious I need to go for Canon for the compact, though as I still have an old film Nikon FM with a set of really nice lenses (including both 55mm and 200mm micro), I may stick to Nikon when I go for a digital SLR (BUT Canon have been progressing far more seriously into close-up lenses than Nikon recently, so even here I might want to change)..

Comment #9

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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