Nikon is better known for its impressive digital SLR cameras rather than its range of compact snappers. But because the P5100 is larger than most compacts it suggests Nikon has had the opportunity to squeeze in some of its SLR smarts.

That has certainly happened to the megapixel count, with the P5100 joining an elite group of 12MP compacts. However, unlike traditional 'bridge' cameras, that span the divide between SLR and compacts, there's no amazing zoom lens on offer here, although the 3.5x optical figure is slightly more than you get on many.

Solid as a rock

Build quality is also better than on most compacts, as is the ergonomic design. The black magnesium body is solid and reassuringly weighty, with just the rights nooks and crannies to hold the camera firmly in place and still have easy access to the controls on the top and dotted around the 2.5in LCD.

The top of the P5100 features a mode selection dial, a very responsive shutter release and a function control button, which is a nice touch and really puts you in mind of the brand's consumer SLR cameras.

There's also a hot shoe for bulking up the camera's own flash – it all feels very professional. In fact, the only thing that the enthusiast could complain about in these areas is the lack of a RAW mode.


Top-class image quality

Still, JPEG image quality is about the best we've come across in a 12MP compact, with very little to complain about. The colours and detail levels are first rate, and the new EXPEED image processing engine does a great job of providing you with the best results possible, and includes neat tricks such as getting rid of the compact bugbear that is barrel distortion.

The ISO on this cameras go up to a nose-bleed inducing 3200, but unless you are taking pictures of a burglar looking in your back window we'd avoid anything above about 800, as digital noise levels are very high after this point – and certainly too high for our prestigious photo album.


Stuff says... 

Nikon P5100 review

An ideal companion for a DSLR, this is a compact for the photography enthusiast rather than the happy snapper