Review: Nikon CoolPix S10

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The propaganda

The CoolPix S10 is Nikon’s top end swivel design digital camera. Although the rotating lens might look a bit outlandish – probably more like a camcorder than a digital still camera – it incorporates a 10x optical zoom lens while still retaining some resemblance of compactness. Nevertheless, it is still a little on the hefty side at 112.5 x 74.5 x 40.5mm and 220g weight, but it should still squeeze into larger pockets and bags, and is definitely more portable than the compact SLR design common to other ultra zooms.

The swivelling lens also allows you to adapt your picture taking to much more unusual positions than traditional cameras, including rear facing, which makes it a lot easier to line up shots where you want yourself in the frame. You can even point the lens straight downwards while looking straight at the LCD; I have no idea when you’d use that, but I guess it’s nice to have the option.

The S10 has a 2.5″ LCD and takes 6.0 megapixel photos, plus it has an Advanced Vibration Reduction feature (that’s image stabilisation to you and me) and sensitivity up to ISO 800.

The good

I had never used a swivel action camera until the CoolPix S10, but I really got on well with it. Admittedly, with the lens pointing forwards it’s a bit too off-balance to be comfortable taking shots with one handed, but I found that keeping the lens pointing at an angle perpendicular to the LCD – so that you’re basically holding it like a handheld console – was actually a pretty comfortable way to take shots. The swivel mechanism even felt surprisingly sturdy and never as though there was any chance of it snapping apart by accident.

The quality of pictures taken by the S10 was very acceptable – large scenic areas work particularly well where you can use the large zoom to its best effect. Colours came out well, if perhaps not quite as vividly defined as in another 10x zoom camera I tested recently (the Olympus SP-510UZ) but there aren’t any real complaints to be made. And even when using the ISO setting to their fullest (ISO 800), the amount of digital noise acceptable low, which is quite an impressive feat for an ultra zoom.

The bad

Needless to say, the CoolPix S10 has the standard line-up of scene modes to help you get the best shot. However, these are somewhat more advanced than you get on most other cameras and many offer sub-options to really help you get exactly the right type of shot. On the down side this comes at the cost of manual options, which are pretty limited – there’s no option for manual exposure for example – and that is going to be a turn off to more serious photographers looking for compact backup to their SLRs.

The AutoFocus is a slight weakness for this camera. Although it has a pretty advanced facial recognition system that does a great job of picking out faces to focus on, it can sure take its sweet time in doing so. At other times, the camera will take a snap so quickly, you’ll think you did something wrong. Most of the longer waits came in particularly low light settings and though I have no complaints about the results, when you have to wait up to five seconds for the shot to take, you’re going to lose some of that natural spontaneity in your subjects.

Geek Sheet

6.0 megapixel resolution

10x Zoom-Nikkor lens (35mm equivalent), 38 – 380mm focal length

Advanced Vibration Reduction (VR)

High sensitivity up to ISO800

2.5″ LCD monitor

Swivel body design

One-touch portrait button

15 scene modes, 4 with scene mode assist

Dimensions: 112.5 x 74.5 x 40.5

Weight: 220g

Overview

The Nikon CoolPix S10 clearly falls into the point-and-shoot category as it offers little for skilled photographers to get their teeth into. If you’re not concerned with tweaking all your settings manually then there are at least a wide range of well organised scene modes to help you along, but the long focus times may prevent you from getting some of the most natural poses you’re trying to snap.

The swivel design is also going to be a love hate affair. Personally, I was pleased with how it handled and with the more interesting angles which the rotating lens allows for. However, its visual style doesn’t really appeal to me and it is just a little to bulky to really be comfortably carried about your person for too long. It costs anywhere between £225 and £265, which is competitive but to be honest, the higher end of that bracket seems just a little too pricey.

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