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Nikon CoolPix 5200, Traveling with a Side-kick

The dictionary defines side-kick this way: A companion or close friend. In the days of the Old West, a side-kick was a cowboy's traveling companion, perhaps his best friend. They looked out for each other, watched each other's back, and when the chips were down, you could always rely on your side-kick to be there for you. In the movies, it was Tonto who could always be counted on to be there when the Lone Ranger ran out of silver bullets.

As a professional photographer, I've come to understand the value of having a side-kick. Now, while this side-kick doesn't eat, sleep, or hand you silver bullets, it comes pretty darn close. On my photo tours, you'll often see folks with back-up camera bodies just in case there is some sort of mechanical breakdown. Lately, though, I've been amazed by the number of people who are carrying these very small, very light, yet high-quality compact digital cameras with them.

While it isn't always convenient to pack and carry all my big SLR equipment with me, the CoolPix 5200 can go with me anywhere. You know, kind of like a side-kick (and you thought I couldn't tie this all together). Having a riding side-kick along with you isn't something I have a patent on, just check out Joe's article and see what he used to photograph the Fiat.

Without getting too involved with every feature (I'll include Nikon's own specs at the end of this article for you), let me just say that when you handle as many different cameras as I do, it doesn't take long to recognize the really good ones. For example, while the 5200 is very compact, thanks to its metal body it has a very solid feel. It has a 3X zoom which is fine for a camera this size.

The LCD is large and bright enough to read and see in most outdoor situations. The dial on top allows you to easily switch shooting modes from programmed auto to sports, portrait, landscape and movie clips, as well as accessing different programmed scene settings.

The most commonly used features such as flash, self-timer, exposure compensation and the close-up features are available right on the thumb pad, eliminating the need to go into the camera's easy-to-read menu, quite as often. Once you are in the menu, you have a variety of options available allowing you to customize settings to your personal needs. To use my son Jesse's terminology: "Sweet!"

Of course, the Nikon CoolPix 5200 is not meant to replace my D100, but I have found many instances where the 5200 was much easier to use, less obvious, and the right camera for the moment. Because it is a 5.1 mega-pixel digital camera, the quality has been outstanding. A lot of thought has gone into this camera and quite frankly, it has been the envy of many of my friends. 

Compact Ideas: You would think that the most obvious use for this type of camera would be for family snapshots, and to take with you on vacation. Here are some of the other uses I've found for this camera.

1. On my photo tours, I use the 5200 for group shots around the dinner table. 

2. I take individual shots of folks photographing during the tour. 

3. I take shots of various subjects to give the group some compositional ideas that they might want to try. 

4. When I scout for new shooting locations, I'll use the 5200 to show the tour group what a certain location looks like, what the potential is, so that when the light is right, they will have a pretty good idea what to expect. 

5. My children and I like to hike (Jesse is 11, Johanna 9) (photos 6+7). It doesn't make sense to drag all my equipment with me in this instance, because even though they are pretty patient when Dad's trying to do serious photography, I know they just want to explore and have fun. A compact camera like this is great, it fits easily into a shirt or pants pocket and is ready to capture the fun of doing things like this with your kids. 

6. I have a tandem kayak (a Twin Otter 2-seater from Old Town) that I use for taking wildlife photographs from the water (see Mitch's article this month). My kids and I love to use it for recreation, and the CoolPix has been great to use when paddling the back-waters of our favorite Maine lakes.

These are just a few of the reasons that I take the CoolPix 5200 with me just about everywhere. If I didn't honestly believe that this great little camera was up to the job of taking great photographs, I wouldn't say so. Did I mention that I liked it so much, I bought the camera?

The Nikon CoolPix 5200 is one great little side-kick!

Nikon CoolPix 5200 Key Features:

1. Great Lens & Powerful CCD: Features a 3x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens with a 5.1 Effective Megapixel CCD, which lets the user capture spectacular images at resolutions up to 2592 x 1944 (15MB file) and prints at sizes up to 16" x 20". 

2. Scene Modes & Scene Assist: Selecting a Scene Mode automatically sets the camera for the optimum performance in most popular picture-taking situations. 

3. Scene Assist further aids with composition, exposure and focus. 

4. Internal Memory: Store approximately 10 high-resolution images on the camera's 12MB of internal memory. The Nikon Coolpix 5200 is compatible with all sizes of SD memory cards, which can be used to store more pictures. 

5. In-Camera Red-Eye Fix(TM): Nikon's exclusive hands-free solution for red-eye; this powerful software analyzes image data and corrects typical instances of red-eye in less than 3 seconds! The In-Camera Red-Eye Fix(TM) turns on automatically when the red-eye reduction flash mode is selected. 

6. Movie Mode: Capture the action while it happens with a digital video movie, complete with audio. Movie is saved as a QuickTime(TM) file, which can be emailed to friends and family. 

7. One-Touch Upload(TM): With the camera connected to the computer via the included USB cable, pressing the Transfer button moves your photos to the web or your computer. Share, store and organize images safely and easily 

8. MSRP: $499.95.


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