Nikon Coolpix S510

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

      An affordable, well-built, pocketable digicam that offers a useful set of features for snapshooters.Nikon’s Coolpix S510 features an 8.1-megapixel CCD image sensor and 3x optical zoom lens plus a 2.5-inch, high-resolution LCD monitor with anti-reflection coating. Targeted at point-and-shoot photographers this model supports Nikon’s Face-priority AF, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and D-Lighting functions. It’s one of the first digicams to use a similar EXPEED image processor to Nikon’s latest DSLR cameras, which claims fast response times and lower noise at high sensitivity settings. . . [more]

      Full review


      Nikon’s Coolpix S510 features an 8.1-megapixel CCD image sensor and 3x optical zoom lens plus a 2.5-inch, high-resolution LCD monitor with anti-reflection coating. Targeted at point-and-shoot photographers this model supports Nikon’s Face-priority AF, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and D-Lighting functions. It’s one of the first digicams to use a similar EXPEED image processor to Nikon’s latest DSLR cameras, which claims fast response times and lower noise at high sensitivity settings.

      Available locally in silver or ‘Urban Black’ (which resembles gunmetal grey), the S510 has a glossy, stainless steel body with a tuck-away lens. A pink version is manufactured but not sold within Australia. ‘Sparse and clean’ describes the design of the S510. Aside from the lens, the only items on the front panel are an ultra-slim built-in flash, an AF assist/self-timer lamp and three tiny holes for the built-in microphone.


      The top panel carries the shutter button, on/off switch and three tiny holes for the speaker grille.


      Three quarters of the rear panel is covered by the LCD screen, which has a resolution of 230,000 dots and claims a viewing angle of 160 degrees. It boasts an anti-reflection coating and new acrylic panel for preventing scratches and fingerprints (although this was not entirely effective in our tests). Ranged down the right side of the monitor are a zoom rocker, indicator lamp, mode and quick review buttons, a ‘rotary multi-selector dial’ with a central OK button and menu and delete buttons.


      On the base of the camera are the battery/card slot and a tripod socket, which is located just over 1 cm in from the opposite side of the base plate. In the main, the S510 is solidly built, although the flaps covering the lens are rather flimsy and the dial replacing the arrow pad is too easy to nudge inadvertently. Except for the shutter release, all button controls ““ including the zoom rocker ““ are very petite and would be difficult for users with large hands or limited dexterity to operate.

      Covering a focal length range equivalent to 35-105mm in 35mm format, the S510’s lens includes Vibration Reduction (VR) lens-shift image stabilisation. Three VR modes are selectable in the setup menu: On, Response priority and Off. The default On setting maintains stabilisation as long as the camera is switched on, while Response priority engages it as soon as the shutter button is pressed (thereby conserving battery power). Nikon claims capture lag is ‘kept to a minimum’ when the latter mode is selected but we found it delayed shutter release by roughly 0.2 seconds on average.

      Like many recent digicams, the Coolpix S510 has an extended sensitivity range, with a top ISO setting of 2000. However, the camera’s Auto ISO control limits the top sensitivity setting to ISO 1000 and the High-Sensitivity mode tops out at ISO 1600 so ISO 2000 must be selected intentionally. This is a good feature as the top ISO setting is very noise-affected and image quality is reduced (see Performance section below).

      We’ve covered Face-priority AF, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and D-Lighting in previous reviews of Nikon digicams. All are straightforward to use and provide benefits for point-and-shoot photographers. Five colour options are provided in the latest digicams. The default Standard setting is designed to record natural-looking colours, while the Vivid settings boosts saturation to produce a ‘photoprint’ effect. B&W, Sepia and Cyanotype (which records monochrome blue pictures) settings are also provided. The effects of each option can be previewed on the LCD monitor.

      The designers of the latest Coolpix cameras have also made it easier to adjust date and time settings when you’re travelling. A graphic user interface shows time zones on a map and supports multiple locations. You can log in your home zone and the destination zone and the camera will automatically calculate the date and time for your destination. Daylight saving adjustments are provided.

      Image files are saved as JPEGs, with seven sizes provided with two compression levels at the highest resolution but only one thereafter. Interestingly, the 16:9 setting, which is designed for display on widescreen monitors and TV sets, is higher than the standard 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution of HDTV (and also Blu-ray and HD-DVD players) and produces shots that can be printed to near A3 size.

      This ““ and the omission of a widescreen movie mode ““ suggests Nikon is not targeting owners of widescreen TV sets with this camera. That’s not to say you can’t display shots from the S510 on an HDTV set; they just won’t look any better than shots taken at 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Image Resolution


      File Size


      High (3264*)

      3264 x 2448



      Normal (3264)

      3264 x 2448



      Normal (2592)

      2592 x 1944



      Normal (2048)

      2048 x 1536



      PC screen (1024)

      1024 x 768



      TV screen (640)

      640 x 480




      3200 x 1800


      Although widescreen recording is not supported in Movie mode, plenty of other options are available. You can record VGA or QVGA clips at 30 frames/second or QVGA or QQVGA clips at 15 fames/second. Two time-lapse settings are also provided, the first capturing shots at intervals between 30 seconds and 60 minutes and the second allowing users to take a number of still pictures at no specified interval then play them back as a stop-action movie.

      In both time-lapse and stop-action modes, resolution is set at VGA (640 x 480 pixels). Time-lapse movies can only be played back at 30 frames/second, whereas users can choose from five, 10 or 15 frames/second when playing back stop-action movies. As sound is not recorded in either mode, playback is silent. Typical clip lengths and frame limits for the various movie modes are shown in the table below.

      Movie setting

      Image size & frame rate

      Maximum recording

      (1GB memory card)

      TV movie 640

      640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps

      14 min. 40 sec.

      Small size 320

      320 x 240 pixels at 30 fps

      29 min. 20 sec.

      Small size 320

      320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps

      57 min. 20 sec.

      Smaller size 160

      160 x 120 pixels at 15 fps

      189 min. 40 sec.

      Time-lapse movie

      640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps

      1800 frames per movie*

      Stop-action movie

      640 x 480 pixels at 5, 10 or 15 fps

      1800 frames per movie*

      * – regardless of memory card capacity

      The playback menu includes settings for D-Lighting adjustment, print tagging, slideshow playback, delete, protect, ‘Small pic.’ and copy. The ‘Small pic.’ function, which lets you make a reduced-size copy of a selected shot, has been a feature of Nikon digicams for several years. Three size options are provided in the S510: 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels. The small copies are stored as separate JPEG files with a compression ratio of 1:16 so they are quick to email.

      General screen readability was good in indoor lighting and average outdoors, where the wide viewing angle provided little real advantage. Good menu design, with a clear, legible typeface, made the LCD usable for changing camera settings in bright outdoor conditions. Playback quality was good enough to confirm exposure accuracy in indoor lighting ““ but not good enough in bright conditions.

      The built-in image stabiliser proved effective in our tests, particularly for close-ups where we estimate it provided up to two stops of exposure advantage. Video quality was good ““ but not outstanding ““ at the highest resolution and frame rate but unexceptional with lower quality settings.

      Still pictures taken with the test camera had average sharpness and slightly above-average contrast, although shadow detail was reasonably well recorded. Blown-out highlights were found in shots with an extended subject brightness range. Saturation levels were slightly elevated, a common feature in point-and-shoot digicams. Shots suffered from slight edge softening but digital zoom shots had relatively low levels of compression and interpolation artefacts.

      Imatest showed resolution to be slightly lower than expectations but uniform between ISO 64 and ISO 400, after which it declined, reaching a very low level at ISO 2000. Our Imatest evaluations revealed small colour shifts in almost all hues, including skin tones. These would not impair overall picture quality for target users. Saturation levels were modest for a digicam and lateral chromatic aberration was low. We found little evidence of coloured fringing in outdoor shots.


      Edge softening is visible in the above crop from a test shot but coloured fringing, though visible, is relatively minor.

      Because the lens cannot focus closer than 15 cm, close-up shooting is limited with this camera. However, test shots were accurately exposed and reasonably sharp. Flash output was relatively low and the flash was only capable of illuminating am average-sized room at ISO 400 and above. Flash exposures were evenly balanced from ISO 400 to ISO 2000.

      Image noise became visible at ISO 800 and obvious at ISO 1600. Shots taken at ISO 800 looked a little soft but at higher sensitivity settings, image noise produced more interference with apparent sharpness. At the ISO 1600 setting, contrast began to decline and by ISO 2000 shots were flat and blotchy and colour accuracy was poor. We advise buyers of this camera to avoid this setting unless it’s the only way to get a shot. Images should not be printed larger than snapshot-size.

      The auto white balance setting produced close-to-neutral color rendition with fluorescent lighting but failed to remove the orange cast of incandescent lights. The fluorescent pre-set over-corrected but the incandescent pre-set and the manual measurement produced neutral colour rendition with both types of lighting.

      The camera powered-up and shut down in less than two seconds and we measured an average capture lag of 0.8 seconds, which reduced to near-instantaneous capture with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot times averaged just under two seconds without flash and approximately six seconds with. The standard continuous shooting mode recorded shots at one second intervals, while the Multi-shot 16 mode recorded 16 images in 9.1 seconds and combined them into a single frame. It took approximately seven seconds to process and save a burst of 10 standard shots and 6.8 seconds to process a Multi-shot 16 burst.


      Resolution at low ISO settings.


      Resolution at ISO 2000.




      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Close-ups with small subject are limited by the focusing range of the lens.


      Better results are possible with larger subjects.


      Digital zoom.


      ISO 64


      ISO 2000




      Image sensor: 5.76 x 4.29 mm CCD with 8.29 million photosites (8.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 5.7-17.1mm f/2.8~4.7 zoom (35-105mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 3x optical, up to 4x digital
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies ““ AVI/WAV
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, 1024ø—768, 640 x 480, 3200 x 1800 (16:9); Movies ““ VGA/QVGA at 30 fps, QVGA/QQVGA at 15 fps plus time-lapse and stop-action (VGA resolution)
      Shutter speed range: 4-1/1500 second
      Image Stabilisation: Optical lens shift VR
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
      Focus system/range: Contrast-detect AF with AF-assist illuminator and Face-priority AF; range ““ 50 cm to infinity; macro to 15 cm
      Exposure metering/control: 256-segment matrix, centre-weighted and spot metering; Program AE plus 16 scene pre-sets
      ISO range: Auto (ISO 64-1000), ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 2000
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, WB Preset (manual)
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Red-eye reduction, Flash cancel, Anytime flash, Slow sync.
      Sequence shooting: one frame/second to memory capacity
      Storage Media: Approx. 52MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: n.a.
      LCD monitor: 2.5-inch, 230,000-dot wide viewing angle TFT LCD with and anti-reflection coating
      Power supply: EN-EL10 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (C.I.P.A. rated for 170 shots/charge)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 88 x 51 x 22 mm
      Weight: Approx. 125 grams (without battery and card)





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