Compact cameras earned their name by being smaller than SLRs. Given the streamlined proportions of ultrathins, though, standard models are really the midsize sedans of digital photography. They aren't so big that you don't want to take them along for the ride, but aren't so small that they cramp your shooting style. They are equipped with a generous array of standard features, and their controls are often easier to use than those of their skinny counterparts. Most important, they offer substantial imaging power at a reasonable price. (Note: The Image Stabilization item in the spec list only applies to optical and mechanical systems, not digital image stabilization.)
Nikon clearly wanted the P5000 to bear a family resemblance to the company's current generation of digital SLRs, and not just in having a 10-megapixel sensor. Along with an optical viewfinder, the back of this small camera hosts a control layout not all that different from that of Nikon's D80 and D40x D-SLRS, with a 2.5-inch LCD monitor flanked by a line of buttons and a four-way jog dial. A top-deck command dial permits speedier camera settings than the typical compact's menu muddle. Manual exposure control is particularly quick for a compact.
The P5000's dedicated flash hotshoe accepts the same i-TTL Speedlights used by Nikon D-SLRs, namely the SB-800, SB-600, and SB-400. At about three times the size of the P5000 body, the SB-800 makes for rather an odd pairing, but the rig isn't difficult to use if you hold it by the flash rather than the camera. The petite SB-400 is a better choice for traveling light.
The Coolpix P5000's SLR-ness is also evident under the hood. The 3.5X zoom (comparable to 36-126mm in 35mm) is equipped with Vibration Reduction, Nikon's effective image stabilization system. Typically, VR allows steady handheld shooting at shutter speeds up to three stops slower than you'd otherwise need for sharp results. And outnumbering most D-SLRs, the camera's autofocus and spotmetering can be done at any of 99 points across the viewfinder frame.
You can select and fine-tune various image parameters, including color, contrast, and sharpness, in an Optimize Image menu that's a junior version of the ones found in Nikon D-SLRs. You can even shoot black and white with different "filters," for traditional-style tonal control. After the shot you can subdue unwanted contrast in-camera with the D-Lighting control, which improves shadow detail. The Coolpix P5000 adopts the latest fad in photo technology, face recognition, which works very well. Frankly we're more impressed with its panorama mode, which superimposes a precise template on your shots, so that they line up well for later stitching.