Nikon Coolpix S10 Review
Nikon's Coolpix S10 is the latest "S" series model for 2007, and features the same swivel lens design that started with the Coolpix 900 and continued through to the Coolpix 4500 and then was retired for a while. It was brought back in 2005 with the Coolpix S4 and the S10 is the "new and improved" model with all Nikon's latest technology plus Vibration Reduction (VR) image stabilization. The S10 is a simple to use "high zoom" point-n-shoot that offers the high-tech features that users have come to expect from Nikon; the Best Shot Selector, the Help Guide, in-camera Red-Eye Fix and D-Lighting. While the S10 shares many features of the S4 (6-megapixels of resolution, 10x internal optical zoom lens, large 2.5-inch LCD, and 5-point Autofocus system), it adds (VR) technology, 16MB of internal memory (S4 had 13.5MB), SDHC memory card compatibility and a high quality 30fps VGA sized QuickTime movie mode.
The S10 is well designed, the controls are located for easy access and the menu is logically organized, allowing for quick changes to the settings. Like the S4, I was a bit disappointed with the small 4-way "joystick" controller. On several occasions I would try to make a selection by pressing it inwards and it would move up or down instead. This caused the camera to choose settings other than those that I had selected. The swiveling design of this model offers a great deal of versatility over typical digicams, allowing you to frame your self- portraits or capture images over a crowd. Although this is not an "ultra-compact" model, I found its size is quite small for a "super-zoom" and it can be tucked away in a purse or a large sweatshirt or coat pocket. The 2.5-inch LCD worked very well outdoors in bright sunlight, and I was glad to see that the display now gains up when shooting in marginal lighting conditions. Past models did not do this, which made it difficult to frame your subject in these conditions. I did notice the picture does get a bit grainy, however, the usefulness of this feature compensates for the degrade in quality.
The internal 10x optical zoom lens covers a 35mm equivalent range of 38 - 380mm, offering great versatility for composing your photos; no more zooming with your feet. The moderate 38mm wide angle extreme offers a sufficient field of view for pleasing landscapes and group portraits, while the 380mm telephoto end of the zoom range will help bring your distant subjects up close and personal. Barrel distortion was moderate at full wide angle with almost no pincushioning present at the telephoto end. CA (chromatic aberration, also known as "purple fringing") was very well controlled, however, we did still see traces of it around subjects with high contrast. This is a very common issue with super-zoom models, and it is unlikely you will see anything in your typical 4x6-inch or even larger, 8x10-inch prints.
Shooting performance was much better than we've seen with many of Nikon's other models lately. Power up to first image captured measured approx 2.0 seconds. The all important shutter lag, the time from depressing the shutter release to capturing an image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 5/10 of a second including autofocus. In single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 1.6 seconds without the flash and between 1.8 - 3 seconds using the flash, depending on subject distance, zoom position and battery life. The S10 offers two "burst" capture modes (Continuous, Multi-shot 16.) Shooting with Continuous mode allowed me to capture 8 shots in about 4.1 seconds. The Multi-Shot 16 mode records 16 frames in 6.8 seconds, then saves them as a single 6M/Normal image. Our tests were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 2GB SD card, 6M Fine mode, flash off, preview off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The S10 captured pleasing images when using the 6M Fine mode. Our outdoor samples were sharp with good color balance. The exposure system also did well outdoors, producing beautiful sky detail. Noise levels were typical for a consumer model, becoming more noticeable as the sensitivity (ISO value) is increased. I found ISO 400 and below are very usable, however 800 shows much more noise and will be visible in your prints. Nikon's D-lighting feature proved to be very useful both indoors and out. While saturation, contrast, and noise become much more noticeable, I found the usefulness of this feature outweighs this downfall. The S10 includes Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology, which helps reduce the effects of camera shake and subject blur. It does this by compensating for various levels of camera movement by shifting the CCD imager. With such a broad zoom range, this is a welcomed addition to this model.
In marginal lighting, like your living room at night, you will have to work with the short range of the built-in flash, approx. 10 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto.) I found it worked well when shooting close-up portraits, or as a fill-in flash outdoors. When doing so, exposure was good and skin tones were pleasing. However, as with most all compact consumer models, I did find a slight problem illuminating subjects well in large open rooms. Even when shooting within the limits, the background of your photos will be dark. Red-eye in our people photos wasn't much of a problem, thanks, in part, to the red-eye reduction flash mode and the position of the flash.
Like many of Nikon's models, the S10 is excellent at close-up (macro) photography. The dedicated Macro focus mode will allow you to focus on subjects as close as 1.6 inches from the lens. I found the camera controlled the flash well, and we especially liked how Nikon models indicate the optimum focal range to use. You can tell this by looking at either the Macro flower icon or the lens position indicator, which will turn green when you are in the "sweet spot" of the macro focal length.
Our movie mode results were Ok. The S10 allows you to capture QuickTime video at VGA resolution (640x480) with a "real-time" frame rate of 30fps. Vibration Reduction can also be enabled (default), which allows you to capture steady hand-held movies. Our video samples showed average amounts of compression noise, especially indoors, and for some unknown reason, the audio portion of the video is cut off for the last second of recording, in every single sample we took.
Power is supplied by a 3.7v 1100mAh EN-EL5 rechargeable lithium battery pack. Which Nikon claims will power the camera for up to 300 shots (per CIPA standard testing). Because the battery is charged out of camera in the included compact MH-61 charger, we highly recommend you purchase a second pack and keep it charged and ready. Battery life was good, I was able to capture about 80 shots and several 10 second movie clips as well as conclude many other tests with power to spare. Just remember, the more you use the flash or review your images, the less photos you will be able to capture.
Bottom line - While it seems that Nikon has not made many changes to this model when compared to the S4, (same resolution, lens, AF system, etc.), with its better image quality and performance the S10 is a much more capable camera. That said, with a price of US$349 or less, it offers a good value for a compact, 6-megapixel, super-zoom model, and is sure to please those in the market for a camera in this class. If you liked the S10's features, but don't need a 10x zoom and want something pocketable then check out our review of the "ultra- compact" Coolpix S9.
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