Nikon Coolpix S50 Review

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Steve's Conclusion


Nikon's Coolpix S50 is yet another "ultra-compact" model to add the their 2007 line up of "S" series models, and offers many of the same features found on the Coolpix S500, like 7- megapixels, a Nikkor 3x optical zoom lens, Nikon's Optical VR (Vibration Reduction) technology, 640x480 30fps movie mode, etc. It offers an exposure mode for everyone in your household, from 16 scene modes that will help beginners capture great photos in a variety of shooting situations, to the Auto mode with also allows novice users to control white balance, ISO, etc.

While the S50 is very small, I found it fit well in large hands, and the metal body ensures durability for an active users lifestyle. The only issue I had was the position of the lens. Located at the top corner of the camera, I found left index and middle fingers in the frame quite often. Using the "pinch" technique seems to remedy this situation. The various controls are well placed and functional, and like we saw on the S500, I especially liked the versatility of the 4-wayselector/jog dial. It allows you to quickly scroll through the menus, and is used to select the desired camera mode via the virtual mode dial. The S50's 3.0-inch LCD occupies over 2/3 of the back of the camera, and is used for framing, reviewing images and navigating the onscreen menu. This is a high-quality display that works well outdoors in the bright sun thanks to the anti- reflective coating. When shooting in marginal conditions, the display "gains up" nicely to help aid is shot composition in these conditions. offers a bit more resolution than the S200's, at 230,000 pixels (compared to 153,000.) This is a high-quality display that uses an anti-reflection coating to help with shot composition outdoors in bright sunlight conditions; something that was very difficult with 35mm film cameras.

Shooting performance was a bit sluggish for a camera in this category. Power up to first image captured measured up to 5 seconds! Shutter lag measured 1/10 second when pre-focused and 4/10 second including autofocus time. The shot to shot delay averaged about 3.1 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and 3 - 4 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. When using red eye reduction flash mode, the LCD blanks during the pre-flash, a critical period of about one second.

There are three Sequential shooting modes to choose from; Continuous, Multi-shot 16, and Interval Timer. Continuous mode was responsive, capturing 10 images in 6.6 seconds, without filling the buffer. Multi-shot mode captures 16 frames in 9.5 seconds and combines them into a single 7M/Normal image. Interval Timer mode allows you to choose the interval between shots (30 sec. - 60 min.) and once started, will continue to record until the sequence is stopped by pressing the shutter release or the memory is filled. The LCD viewfinder briefly displays the last image captured in all Continuous modes, making it somewhat difficult to follow moving subjects. All tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, 7M/Fine size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The S50's image quality results were ok for a 7-megapixel consumer model. Both the 7M normal and 7M* (Fine) modes capture nice images that were sharp, showed very little edge softness, and good color balance. The exposure and white balance systems also did well, however as you can see from our "ambient light" M&M man photo, it tends to produced images that are a bit warm in mixed lighting. The Nikkor 3x optical zoom covers a typical 35mm equivalent range of 38 - 114mm. This is typical range for an ultra-compact model, with the 38mm wide angle offering a sufficient field of view for landscape or group photos, while the 114mm telephoto end is good for individual portraits or macro photography. However don't expect this lens to bring distant subjects up close. The lens exhibits moderate amounts of barrel distortion and pincushioning at the wide angle and telephoto extremes, respectively.

Indoors, the camera also performs well, as long as you are within the limits of the tiny flash unit.Nikon claims it can cover up to 19.8 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto.) While I do not feel it can properly illuminate a subject at that range, I did achieve good results when shooting close-up portraits from about 5 - 6 feet away. Using the dedicated "One-touch" portrait mode, which features Face Priority AF technology to detect human faces in the frame, I was able to capture images with nice flash exposure, sharp facial features, and natural skin tones. Like I have seen on many of Nikon's current compact models, while their Face Priority AF technology helps produce sharp facial detail, I found it to be a bit slow at times. There were several instances where I would have to wait as long as 2 - 3 seconds for the AF "square" to come up and lock on to my subjects face, which as you can imagine was quite frustrating.

You can record QuickTime (.MOV format) video at resolutions of 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120 as well as capture PictMotion, Time-lapse or Stop-motion video. The length of these clips is limited only by the amount of available memory. The S50 includes a microphone and movies are always recorded with sound; as a result, the optical zoom can be used to compose movies before recording starts, but not during recording. Our movie results were good, however like many of the Nikon models we have seen recently, the last second of our clips contain no audio.

Power is supplied by a tiny EN-EL8 3.7v 730mAh Lion battery that is charged in the included MH-62 battery charger. Nikon claims you can record up to 130 shots on a fully charged battery. We found battery life was good, capturing about 80 sample images and several movie clips as well as concluding many our other tests with some power to spare. As always, we suggest you purchase a spare and keep it charged and ready at all times.

Bottom line - While the Nikon Coolpix S50 offers some very appealing features, I was a bit disappointed with its shooting performance results. It does have the ability to capture some very nice photos, however trying to shoot a fast moving child while running through the house can be challenging. That said, with an MSRP of US$299 or less, I feel there are better 7-megapixel "ultra-compact" models out there in this price range. If you love Nikon and the features of this model, but want better performance, be sure to check out our review of the Coolpix S500.





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