Nikon Coolpix 5400
In our output judging, the 5400 scored near the top of our rankings. All shots looked very sharp, and colors looked perfect. The camera illuminated a still-life shot superbly, bringing out shadows without obliterating highlights. The only flaw was some minor color interference in several parallel-bar patterns.
Credit the larger-than-usual 64MB internal buffer for improved continuous shooting modes. In one mode, you can take seven full-resolution shots in succession at 3 frames per second; in another, the camera will take shots as long as you hold down the shutter button, saving only the last five after you release it. The latter mode lets you keep firing until you're confident you've got the shot you want. A time-lapse mode enables you to set the camera to take shots at predefined intervals (as long as the battery holds out).
For a sophisticated 5-megapixel camera, the Coolpix 5400 is relatively small and light, and the pronounced right-hand grip makes holding it with one hand easy.
The 1.5-inch LCD display is much too small, especially on an expensive camera designed to appeal to serious photographers; in contrast, the Coolpix 5000 had a 1.8-inch display. At least the display swivels outward from the body for self-portraits or shooting with the camera overhead.
The rechargeable lithium ion battery held out for 338 shots (about 2 hours) in our tests. That's near the average for cameras priced at $500 or more. The camera comes with a small external battery charger that requires you use a 6-foot-long cord; it's great if you need to reach a distant power outlet, but unwieldy when you take it on trips.