The Nikon Coolpix 5900 turned in mostly unimpressive performance figures and a few that were downright awful. Despite the built-in focus-assist lamp, this camera's autofocus system stumbled under low-contrast lighting, producing shutter-lag times of almost 2 seconds. If you shoot mostly under higher-contrast lighting conditions, you'll be more pleased with this Coolpix's 0.6-second response.
It took 4.48 seconds to awaken the camera from its slumber and take a shot. Thereafter, shot-to-shot times were a reasonable 2.04 seconds (4.2 seconds with flash). In continuous-shooting mode, we captured 9 full-resolution photos in 5.18 seconds and were able to snap low-resolution shots until our finger tired. We got 108 640x480-pixel photos in 60 seconds.
Our biggest criticism of the viewing system was the tiny optical viewfinder, which made framing images difficult and, with our eyesight, could have benefited from dioptre correction. It showed only 75 per cent of the frame and suffered from serious parallax errors when shooting close up. The LCD viewfinder, though coarse, is probably a better choice for composing images, as it provides a 100 per cent view. It gained up nicely in dim light and was viewable outdoors under all but the brightest conditions.
We had few complaints about sharpness with the Nikon Coolpix 5900. It produced generally crisp images, unmarred by excessive JPEG artefacts. Exposures looked good, too, although we noticed a pronounced tendency to clip highlights. Saturation appeared slightly too rich for our taste, but otherwise we found colours quite accurate. However, flesh tones sometimes had a slight magenta cast. Visual noise remained fairly low at the minimum ISO 64 light-sensitivity setting and caused problems at only the ISO 400 top end.
The electronic flash provided good, even coverage -- not surprising, given the camera's limited 38mm (35mm-camera equivalent) wide-angle perspective. We were pleased to get good exposures even beyond the rated 4.5m distance, and we found the camera's red-eye prevention effective.
Edited by Aimee Baldridge
Additional editing by Nick Hide