A slim, high-resolution digicam with an advanced suite of manual controls.The S710 is the flagship model in Nikon's S (for Stylish) range of Coolpix cameras. Featuring a 14.5-megapixel CCD sensor and 3.6x optical zoom lens with VR lens-shift stabilisation, it provides a useful range of user-adjustable controls in a compact, solidly-built body. Image processing is based on Nikon's EXPEED chip, which promises fast response times and adds some potentially useful automated functions. . . [more]
The S710 is the flagship model in Nikon's S (for Stylish) range of Coolpix cameras. Featuring a 14.5-megapixel CCD sensor and 3.6x optical zoom lens with VR lens-shift stabilisation, it provides a useful range of user-adjustable controls in a compact, solidly-built body. Image processing is based on Nikon's EXPEED chip, which promises fast response times and adds some potentially useful automated functions.
Photo Review remains unconvinced of the need for resolution higher than 10 megapixels in small-sensor digicams and, while some potential buyers may be impressed with the S710's specifications, in many respects the S710 is pretty ordinary. For starters, while many other manufacturers are offering high definition in their digicams, the S710 can only record video with standard definition. It also supports only analog video output.
Design-wise the camera, which comes in silver or black, is fairly unexciting. The front panel is dominated by the lens, which retracts into the camera body behind a fairly solid four-piece hatch and expands almost three centimeters when power is switched on. Other items on the front panel include a slim flash tube, self-timer LED and three-hole microphone grille.
Front view of the black versions of the Coolpix S710 with the lens extended.
Three quarters of the rear panel is covered by the LCD screen, which has average resolution (230,000 pixels). No viewfinder is provided. Right of the LCD is the main control panel. At the top of this panel is the zoom rocker, which consists of two small buttons. Below it are buttons for accessing the shooting and playback mode settings. Between these two sets of buttons, the camera body has two lines of dimples to provide a rudimentary thumb rest and the camera body is slightly contoured along the control panel.
Rear view of the silver verison of the Coolpix S710 showing the large LCD and main button cotnrols.
Below the mode and playback buttons is the rotating multi-selector, which combines a scroll wheel with an arrow pad that offers quick access to the flash, self-timer, exposure compensation and macro settings. Below the multi-selector lie the Menu and Delete buttons. All buttons are small and, although they sit slightly proud of the camera body, their labels are small and difficult to read.
Top view of the silver version of the S710 showing the on/off and shutter buttons plus the LED indicator that shows when the camera is switched on. The retractabel zoom lens is extended.
The top panel carries only the power on/off button and the shutter button. A tiny LED left of the power button glows green when the power is on. The S710 has approximately 42MB of internal memory plus an SD/SDHC expansion slot. The rechargeable battery and memory card share a compartment in the base of the camera, alongside a plastic-lined tripod socket and combined USB/AV cable connector (which has a lift-up cover).
The lens on the S710 carries the 'Nikkor' tag, which suggests it's manufactured by Nikon. Consisting of seven elements in six groups, it makes no claims about exotic glass elements or multi-coatings. However, most users will appreciate the relatively wide (28mm equivalent) angle of view provided, although the tele focal length (101mm equivalent) is a tad short for photographing children in motion, wildlife or sports action. (It's useful for portraiture, though.)
Nikon's VR (vibration Reduction) stabilisation moves an optical element in the lens to counteract camera shake. The slim flash promises to cover a range of 0.5 to 8.5 metres at the wide lens setting. Flash output is non-adjustable and you can't combine the flash with the continuous shooting modes.
Pressing the Mode button calls up a mode wheel on the LCD screen containing all the available mode settings. These include the standard Auto, Program AE, Shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE and Manual modes that are found in all Advanced cameras. Also provided are a Smile mode, High-speed continuous, Scene mode, Scene auto selector mode, Voice recording mode, Movie mode and Set-up mode. In playback mode, the wheel has only three modes: playback, list-by-date and setup.
The on-screen mode dial is a workable option in a slim digicam but not quite as efficient as a physical dial on the camera itself.
The only modes that offer a reasonable degree of control are the Program AE, Shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE and Manual modes, where you can adjust exposure settings, white balance, ISO and flash. In the other modes, the only adjustments you can make are to image size and quality.
In aperture-priority AE mode, lens aperture settings are changed by rotating the multi-selector.
The shooting menu in aperture-priority AE mode showing some of the available adjustments.
Image sizes are adjustable in most shooting modes.
The Scene mode sub-menu contains 16 pre-sets including a close-up mode that can focus down to 10 cm with the wide-angle setting. (Using the Macro control on the arrow pad achieves the same objective.) Other modes are provided for photographing food, shooting in situations where flash is prohibited, taking shots of fireworks, copying text or drawings and shooting panorama sequences. An additional Scene auto selector setting selects the most appropriate mode automatically, according to detected shooting situations.
If Face-priority AF is engaged, the camera can identify up to 12 human faces in a frame. The Smile mode relies on the face recognition system. If the camera identifies a front-on face in the frame, it will surround it with a green frame and the focus will be locked. If several people are in the frame, focus will be on the face nearest to the centre of the frame but up to two additional faces will be identified.
A shot is only taken when a smiling face is detected. The self-timer lamp will blink when a face is identified and the blinking will increase just after the shot is taken. If the camera is set to Smile mode and doesn't find any faces in the frame - or if the faces aren't smiling - it will switch off.
In the P, A, S and M modes, you can choose between centre-weighted average and matrix (multi-pattern) metering and select one of four AF area modes (Face priority, auto, manual and centre). In manual mode you can move the AF point around in the frame with the control wheel. Five white balance pre-sets are provided, along with a manual measurement mode and ISO settings range from 100 to an impressive ISO 12800, although at ISO 6400 and above, resolution is reduced to 2048 x 1535 pixels (or lower if the resolution was set at 1920 x 1080).
The white balance menu.
Shutter speeds range from 8 seconds to 1/2000 second in the normal shooting modes, with an increase to 1/4000 second in the high-speed continuous mode, albeit at lower resolution. In A mode, seven lens aperture settings are available when the lens is at the wide position and four at the tele position. The smallest aperture at wide angle is f/6.7, while at the tele position it's f/7.3.
Four functions are provided to help users reduce image blur: Lens-shift VR (Vibration Reduction), high sensitivity range up to ISO 12800, Motion detection, and BSS (Best Shot Selector). The Best Shot Selector (which shoots up to 10 photos while the shutter button is held down and automatically saves the sharpest picture) is tucked away in the Continuous shooting menu. The three automatic functions aren't totally foolproof, particularly in variable lighting conditions and with moving subjects.
In manual focus mode you can move the AF point around in the frame with the arrow pad. However, this prevents you from using controls such as eexposure compensation, flash, macro and self-timer - unless yuo lock settings in before changing the focus point.
This menu also contains settings for single-shot, continuous and multi-shot 16 continuous shooting modes. The latter captures 16 frames at approximately 0.8 frames/second and presents them as a single 4352 x 3264 pixel image with Normal compression. Colour options include standard colour, vivid colour, black and white, sepia and cyanotype (blue toned) but no adjustments are provided for contrast, sharpening or saturation. Flash modes are standard for a small-sensor digicam.
Flash mode settings.
Images can only be recorded as JPEGs and nine settings are provided. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
4352 × 3264
4352 × 3264
3264 x 2448
2592 x 1944
2048 x 1536
1024 x 768
640 x 480
4352 x 2448
1920 x 1080
In Movie mode, you can choose between four settings covering VGA and QVGA resolution with frame rates of 15 and 30 frames/second. The maximum file size for movies is 2GB, even with higher-capacity memory cards. Typical clip lengths for a 1GB card are shown in the table below.
Maximum length on 1GB card
TV Movie 640
Approx 8 minutes
TV Movie 640
Approx. 16 minutes and 20 seconds
Small size 320
Approx. 33 minutes
Small size 320
Approx. 64 minutes
The playback button lets you toggle between image playback and the last shooting mode selected. Playback options are pretty standard and include single and index playback, the latter offering nine, 16 or 25 thumbnails at a time. You can zoom in on individual shots and magnify them up to 10x and, if the shot was taken in Face Priority AF mode, the face on which the camera was focused becomes the centre point for enlargement.
In-camera editing controls that can be applied in playback mode include D-Lighting adjustment (full-frame playback only), cropping and Small Pic (creation of a reduced-size copy for emailing). You can copy files between the internal memory and a memory card, display a slideshow of shots on either memory, delete, protect or rotate individual shots or a selection of tagged images.
Voice memos up to 20 seconds long can be attached to still images by holding the OK button down. (The W/T buttons are used to control the volume.) You can also tag pictures for automated printing and input the number of copies you want of each shot.
Nikon's Coolpix Software Suite disk contains the following applications: Nikon Transfer for uploading images to a computer, ArcSoft Panorama Maker, Apple QuickTime 7 and my Picturetown Utility. The last two applications are only compatible with Windows XP and Vista. Microsoft DirectX 9 is also provided for Windows users.
my Picturetown is an internet-based service for storing and sharing digital photos. It allows photos from the camera to be uploaded to a server over home or public wireless networks. Nikon camera owners get 2 GB of space free-of-charge to store pictures and you can purchase up to 20GB of storage for a fee.
Pictures can be uploaded to my Picturetown without resizing and the utility allows batches of images to be uploaded at the same time and allocated to albums. Photos can also be played back as slideshows with background music. Stored images can be downloaded at full resolution for printing. E-mails can be sent directly from my Picturetown to notify others of shared albums.
Focusing was generally fast and reasonably accurate although, when the AF area mode was set to Face Priority or Auto the focus point was frequently on the wrong part of the subject. Swapping to manual AF point selection lets you choose where the camera focuses without adding unacceptable delays to taking shots. We found little evidence of hunting in low light levels and the inherent large depth-of-field (due to the small sensor and lens) allowed much of the subject to be rendered fairly sharp. This is a disadvantage with close-ups and portraits when you want blurred backgrounds.
Pictures taken with the test camera showed a better-than-average dynamic range, although the brightest highlights tended to be over-exposed and shadowed areas were slightly noise-affected. A sample shot is reproduced below.
Colours were generally natural looking and saturation was well contained. Even traditionally difficult colours, such as rich purple, were very close to the natural colours in the subject. Night shots showed a slight green bias but were otherwise close to natural hues. Digital zoom shots were slightly artefact-affected.
These subjective assessments were confirmed by Imatest testing, which showed overall colour accuracy to be very good, with only minor hue drifts in skin hues plus a few other colours. Imatest showed resolution to be slightly below expectations for a 14-megapixel camera and lateral chromatic aberration was around the border between low and moderate. Coloured fringes were seen when shots were enlarged to 100%.
Resolution declined steadily as ISO sensitivity was increased, remaining acceptable up to ISO 400 with a sharp fall at ISO 6400 coinciding with the lower resolution settings applied at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800. Slight edge softening was detected by Imatest but not really obvious in test shots. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
The test camera's auto white balance system turned in an above-average performance, although it failed to completely remove the orange cast of incandescent lighting. The manual settings tended to slightly over-compensate but the 'pre-set' manual measurement delivered a neutral colour balance. Slight barrel distortion was apparent at the widest focal length setting but it had been corrected by mid-way along the focal length range.
In our tests involving long exposures at night, the test camera produced relatively clean and noise-free image files at ISO settings up to (and including) ISO 400. Noise became progressively more visible thereafter and quite obvious at ISO 1600, where noise-reduction processing (which operates by default and can't be switched off) produced considerable softening and blotchiness. Shots taken at ISO 6400 were only just printable at 15 x 10 cm size. We consider the ISO 12800 setting effectively unusable.
Flash performance was somewhat better than other Coolpix models we've reviewed recently. The test camera only had difficulties illuminating an average-sized room at ISO 100. Thereafter, exposures were adequate and evenly balanced from ISO 200 to ISO 12800, although the influence of ambient lighting increased progressively as ISO sensitivity increased. Image softening was noticeable at ISO 1600 and above. Video quality was acceptable - but not outstanding.
Camera response times were on the slow side, although the test camera powered-up for shooting in just over a second. We measured an average capture lag of 0.5 seconds, which reduced to 0.3 seconds with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot times averaged 4.6 seconds without flash and approximately six seconds with. It took an average of 2.2 seconds to process and store each high-resolution JPEG file.
The normal continuous shooting mode recorded 12 high-resolution JPEGs in 9.7 seconds. In the normal burst mode, processing appears to take place on-the-fly as it took just under three seconds to process and store this burst. With the Continuous H setting, shots were recorded with reduced resolution (2048 x 1536 pixels). We recorded a burst of 30 shots in 2.2 seconds. It took just over 4 seconds to process this burst. The Multi-shot 16 setting performed to specifications, recording a burst of thumbnails in just over one second. The processing time was the same as for single shots.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up: 6mm focal length, 1/320 second at f/4.8, ISO 100.
Night exposure: ISO 200, 8 seconds at f/3.2.
Night exposure: ISO 1600, 8 seconds at f/6.7.
Night exposure: ISO 12800, 2 seconds at f/6.7.
Flash exposure: ISO 100, 1/50 second at f/4.6.
Flash exposure: ISO 12800, 1/50 second at f/4.6. (Note the influence of the ambient incandscent lighting.)
21.6mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/6.5, ISO 100
21.6mm focal length, 1/400 second at f/5.6, ISO 100; Aperture-priority AE mode.
21.6mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/5.6, ISO 100
16.3mm focal length, 1/100 second at f/4.9, ISO 100
21.6mm focal length, 1/160 second at f/5.6, ISO 100
Image sensor: 7.5 x 5.6 mm CCD with 15 million photosites (14.5 megapixel effective)
|Lens: 6.0-21.6mm f/2.8-5.6 zoom (28-101mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 3.6x optical, up to 4x digital
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies – AVI/WAV
Image Sizes: Stills - 4352 × 3264, 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480; Widescreen: 4352 x 2448, 1920 x 1080; Movies – VGA and QVGA at 30 and 15 fps
Shutter speed range: 8 to 1/2000 second (1/15 to 1/4000 second in High-speed continuous mode)
Image Stabilisation: Lens-shift VR
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV increments
Focus system/range: Single AF, Full-Time AF (in Macro mode), Face-priority AF; range: 50 cm to infinity; macro to 10 cm
Exposure metering: 96-segment matrix and centre weighted metering
Shooting modes: Auto mode, Scene modes, BSS (Best Shot Selector), Color options, Date imprint, Scene auto selector, Smile mode, P,S,A, and M exposure modes, Voice recording, Movie, High-speed continuous mode
ISO range: Auto (auto gain ISO 100-1600), Manual selection: ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400 (pixel addition), 12800 (pixel addition)
White balance: Auto, Preset manual, Day light, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Off, Fill flash, Slow sync; range: 0.5 to 8.5 metres
Sequence shooting: Continuous (approx. 1.4 fps); Continuous H (approx .12 fps); Continuous M (approx. 6 fps); Continuous L (approx. 4 fps)
Storage Media: 42MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC card expansion slot
LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT LCD with wide viewing angle, anti-reflection coating and 230,000 dot resolution
Power supply: Rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL12; CIPA rated for approx. 250 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 92.5 x 57.5 x 24 mm
Weight: Approx. 155 g (without battery and card)
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