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Basic image quality seems to have improved from the Nikon Coolpix S4300, and for the most part the Nikon Coolpix S5200 performs well in a variety of situations, producing bright, well represented colours and crisp, focused detail shots, particularly when the macro feature is enabled.
The majority of the digital filters are useful and add an interesting look to the photos, although the painting and soft filters don't really seem to do what they're suggesting, looking more washed out than anything else. Of course using filters is a personal preference, making them worthy of experimentation.
We were impressed by the Nikon Coolpix S5200's image stabilisation. It captured moving subjects well, making it a great camera for capturing off the cuff moments as well as posed and set up shots.
The LCD screen coped admirably in sunlight, only becoming difficult to use in the brightest light, and when not using the camera too heavily (perhaps a couple of hours a day) the battery power lasted for a few days of shooting and filming before needing to be recharged - making it a good choice for the casual holiday / family photographer.
Some of the photos taken in bright light suffered slightly from lens flare. In terms of fringing there was very little. When zoomed in at 100% there is a little smudging in some areas, but they're not visible at normal printing and web sizes.
During testing we found that metering sometimes struggled in high contrast scenes. To get the best results, a reading needed to be taken from one part of the scene (by half-pressing the shutter to focus) and recomposing to get the desired scene. Overall, though, it does a good job in providing well-balanced exposures.
The HD video output is impressive, providing sharp, crisp video, although noise from high winds is too much for the wind noise reduction to cope with. You can also shoot video while in the Special Effects modes, which is a nice touch.
The autofocus speed of the Nikon Coolpix S5200 is good and the action slick. The shot-to-shot time when shooting in continuous mode is also relatively brief, making it easy to capture moving objects.
Images taken at the far end of the 6x optical zoom are impressively sharp, and while the digital zoom does lose some definition, it still performs well, with vibration reduction helping to keep photos sharp.
One area in which the Nikon Coolpix S5200 is letdown is its performance in low light on auto mode. Its automatic sensitivity settings in low light shooting conditions tend to err towards higher levels, such as ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. However, using the fixed range auto mode should help to combat this, because it offers a choice between ISO 125-400 and ISO 125-800.
While reasonable when viewed at smaller sizes, shooting at the higher end of the sensitivity range creates very noisy images with flat colours, and is best avoided if possible.