Looking very much like its predecessor, the well-liked Coolpix 5000, the new 5.1-megapixel Coolpix 5400 from Nikon features an improved 4x Nikkor zoom lens and other updated refinements.
Like the earlier model, the Coolpix 5400 is a compact (108 x 73 x 69mm), well made camera, built from a combination of high grade plastic and magnesium alloy. It feels sturdy enough (at 380g) to cope with whatever life throws at it.
The F2.8 – F4.6, 4x zoom lens is new and features a focal range of 5.8 – 24mm (equivalent to a 28 – 116mm lens on a 35mm camera). Despite an increase in zoom range over the Coolpix 5000′s lens, the focal range of the new lens is less than the older camera’s, (which was 7.1 – 21.4mm). This is due to the different CCD arrays used by the cameras; the Coolpix 5000 used an 8.8 x 6.6mm unit, while the Coolpix 5400 uses a newer, smaller, 7.2 x 5.3mm sensor.
Retained from the Coolpix 5000 is the rotating LCD, and although it’s been reduced in size from 1.8-inches to 1.5-inches, its resolution has increased from 110,000 pixels up to 134,000 pixels.
Nikon has improved the ergonomics of the Coolpix 5400 to make it easy to use, even though it has a huge range of options. The light sensor has been moved to the upper part of the camera between the flash and optical viewfinder, so it’s no longer possible to block it with your hand.
The control layout will offer no problems to the professional SLR camera user, although those who are used to more trendy, compact cameras may find the layout a tad cluttered. Nikon has given the Coolpix 5400 an four-way controller that navigates through the menu settings, record, playback and setup modes.
It has an ‘OK’ button in the centre to confirm adjustments. The mode dial offers a bewildering range of options, including a Scene mode that provides access to sixteen preset settings for shooting in common and challenging lighting conditions.
One disappointing aspect of the Coolpix 5400 is still the lack of an AF illuminator, something that many of its rivals have. Nor does it have RAW picture data mode; this is promised as a firmware upgrade by Nikon but not until some time in the first quarter of 2004. Also missing is the status LCD of the Coolpix 5000.
In contrast to the overall build quality of the camera, the door covering the Type II CompactFlash slot (which also handles IBM Microdrives) feels very flimsy. Nikon supplies what it calls a ‘starter’ memory card with the camera, and as this card is a mere 16MB, the name is very apt; in reality, 64MB is a good starting point and 128MB is a must for serious users.
At the base of the camera, the door covering the battery compartment is much better made. The camera is powered by a 680mAh, rechargeable, Lithium-Ion battery.
And the image quality? It’s very good. Just as there’s ‘no substitute for cubic inches’, so there’s no substitute for pixels, and five million of them make for highly detailed photos, helped by the camera’s good colour balancing firmware and low noise CCD array.
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