Nikon Coolpix S10
A compact, high-zoom digicam with CCD-shift image stabilisation and some handy auto image correction functions.The latest of Nikon’s ‘twist-and-shoot’ cameras, the Coolpix S10 has a 6-megapixel imager and a 10x optical zoom lens. Nikon’s swivelling cameras were among the more versatile models in their digicam range but that has changed with the S10, which has been designed with point-and-shoot photographers in mind. There’s no thread on the lens barrel for filters and other add-ons, the maximum aperture is relatively small at f/3.5 and controls are somewhat restricted for a long-zoom camera. . . [more]
The latest of Nikon’s ‘twist-and-shoot’ cameras, the Coolpix S10 has a 6-megapixel imager and a 10x optical zoom lens. Nikon’s swivelling cameras were among the more versatile models in their digicam range but that has changed with the S10, which has been designed with point-and-shoot photographers in mind. There’s no thread on the lens barrel for filters and other add-ons, the maximum aperture is relatively small at f/3.5 and controls are somewhat restricted for a long-zoom camera.
Build quality is generally good. The lens plus flash module, which swivels through 270 degrees, is solidly attached with click stops at 90-degree intervals. Port covers are solid and securely attached and the battery has a lock to hold it in place when the card is removed. At all positions in the zoom range, the lens remains enclosed in its modular barrel. A snap-on lens cap is provided to protect the front element.
Atop the barrel are two buttons, which access the Vibration Reduction (VR) and one-touch Portrait modes. The former uses CCD-shift technology to minimise the effects of camera shake. The latter sets a wide lens aperture and engages Face-Priority AF, which detects and focuses upon faces present in a scene. Buttons for accessing most settings are crammed into a narrow strip above the 2.5-inc LCD and the regular arrow pad is replaced by a tiny joystick that is awkward to use. The zoom rocker on the top panel is also awkwardly placed and it can be difficult to hold the camera in a position that is comfortable for shooting and at the same time makes key controls readily accessible. No viewfinder is provided.
The four main buttons access Delete, Menu, Mode and shooting/playback functions. The Delete button has the same function in both shooting and playback modes, while the Menu button accesses the standard range of camera controls. The Mode button is used to select between the Auto, Scene, Movie and Voice Recording settings or, in playback mode, to select playback, Pictmotion (see below), voice playback or list by date.
Nikon’s Best Shot Selector (BSS) mode extends to four options in the Coolpix S10. The first is the standard mode that takes up to 10 shots and selects the sharpest of them. The others are grouped together in an Exposure BSS sub-menu and cover Highlight BSS, Shadow BSS, and Histogram BSS. Each setting records five shots when the shutter button is pressed. From those shots, Highlight BSS selects the shot with the least over-exposure, Shadow BSS chooses the one with the least under-exposure and Histogram BSS opts for the best balance of the two.
Other automated functions include Nikon’s standard in-camera red-eye reduction and D-Lighting. Manual controls on the S10 are limited – but not as limited as those on the Coolpix L5. Image sensitivity is adjustable between ISO 50 and 800 and a ‘preset’ (measurement) function is provided in the white balance menu. However, flash output is non-adjustable and you can’t select the metering or AF patterns.
Three continuous shooting modes are provided. The standard setting records shots while the shutter button is held down, stopping when the memory is full. The second (multi-burst) mode records bursts of 16 low-resolution pictures and combines them into a single image, while the third is a time-lapse mode that captures shots at intervals from 30 seconds to 60 minutes. A time-lapse video can be created from up to 1,800 VGA images recorded with this setting – but no soundtrack is recorded.
Video capabilities are slightly more extensive than average. You can record VGA or QVGA clips at 30 fps, QVGA clips or QQVGA clips at 15 fps. Pictmotion is an interesting addition that lets users create QVGA slideshow movies with custom transitions and background music using in-built software. It can only use the last 10 shots captured by the camera and the movies are saved to the camera’s memory card. The supplied PictureProject software allows Pictmotion movies to be transferred to a computer for viewing and copying but it only works with Windows PCs.
The test camera’s performance was generally better than that of the Coolpix L5 but overall colour balance was slightly cool. Outdoor shots at top resolution contained plenty of detail at low ISO settings. Imatest confirmed the S10 was capable of above-average resolution for its sensor type and showed only a slight deterioration is resolution at ISO 400 and above. Image noise was negligible at ISO 50 and only became noticeable at ISO 400. By ISO 800 noise was obvious, particularly in longer exposures.
Imatest showed overall saturation to be slightly high and revealed slight colour shifts in the orange-red and green-blue sectors. However, chromatic aberration was low and we found no evidence of coloured fringing in outdoor shots. Digital zoom shots were slightly sharper than average and close-ups were competently handled.
The S10’s auto white balance setting performed remarkably well, delivering close-to-normal colours under both incandescent and fluorescent lighting. The fluorescent pre-set tended to over-correct, producing a blue colour cast but the manual measurement delivered neutral colours under both types of lighting. The CCD-shift VR system was also less effective than the lens-shift system in the Coolpix L5, although it was genuinely useful for low-light shots with the lens at full tele extension.
Without VR at full zoom extension.
It took 1.7 seconds on average to power-up the S10 and shot-to-shot times averaged just under two seconds without flash or approximately 2.2 seconds with flash. We measured an average capture lag of 0.6 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 second with pre-focusing. In the standard burst mode we recorded high-resolution shots at an average rate of 1.2 fps and it took four seconds to clear the buffer memory.
The swivel body design is something you either love or hate. We’ve never been big fans and we found the Coolpix S10 less comfortable to use than some of the earlier ‘twist-and-shoot’ models. Point-and-shoot photographers will be delighted by the way in which Nikon has integrated automated image correction functions into this camera but enthusiasts will find the lack of control provided rather irritating.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Image sensor: 5.76 x 4.29 mm CCD with 6.18 million photosites (6.0 megapixels effective)
Lens: 6.3-63mm f/3.5 Zoom-Nikkor (38-380mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 10x optical, up to 4x digital
Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies ““ QuickTime/WAV
Image Sizes: 2816 X 2112, 2048 X 1536, 1024 X 768, 640 X 480
Shutter speed range: 2 to 1/1000 second
Image Stabilisation: CCD-shift VR
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Focus system/range: Contrast-detect AF; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 4 cm
Exposure metering/control: 256-segment matrix, centre-weighted and spot plus spot AF area metering; Program AE plus 16 Scene modes (4 with Scene Assist)
ISO range: Auto, ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, 800
White balance: Auto, Preset (manual), Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, red-eye reduction, off, fill flash, slow synch; range 0.3 to 5.4 m
Sequence shooting: 1.6 fps
Storage Media: 16 MB internal memory plus SD/MMC expansion slot
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch, 230,000 dot low-temperature polysilicon TFT with wide viewing angle and 5-level brightness adjustment
Power supply: EN-EL5 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (approx. 300 shots)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 112.5 x 74.5 x 40.5 mm
Weight: Approx. 220 grams (without lens cap, battery and memory card)
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