Nikon Coolpix S3300 Review
The Nikon Coolpix S3300 is a slimline compact camera featuring a 6x optical zoom, 16 megapixel sensor, 720p HD video, Smartportrait system and Eye-Fi compatibility. Aimed at the user about town who wants a camera that can slip easily into the pocket but pack a funky punch when it's out, the Nikon S3300 is available in more colours than a rainbow including aqua, pink, purple, gold, red, black, silver and blue. It's priced at a comfortable £129.99 / $139.99.
Ease of Use
Cameras are used for many different end purposes. Some use them as workhorse tools, some for serious documentation. Others just want to have fun as they take pictures and that's where a camera such as the Coolpix S3300 comes in. It's a svelte, fun loving camera with a simple point and shoot principle and bright colours to make you stand out from the crowd. The pink version we were sent to test certainly made us stand out.
The front of the Nikon Coolpix S3300 plays host to the 6x optical zoom lens. The lens ranges from 26-156mm in 35mm terms. Because of the restraints put on the zoom length, the full lens can sit inside the body making it flush. The camera has two buttons on the top plate. The power button is flush with the body and has a small green light around it so you know when it's on. The LCD screen on the back is slightly smaller than its bigger brother the S4300. However, at 2.7inches it's still big enough for every day shooting. The typical layout of buttons has been used on the right of the screen: Four buttons surrounding a central navigation pad.
The Scene button allows you to choose the mode you'd like the camera to shoot in. There are four to choose from: Auto, Scenes, Picture Styles or Smart Portrait. The latter is useful for you in everyday situations taking pictures of friends and family. It incorporates four different features of the camera to ensure that you get the best picture. The camera isn't so intelligent that it can frame and shoot for you though. Well, that's not entirely accurate. A few years ago, Sony developed Smile Shutter. It's a system that will detect a smile of a certain strength then take a picture as soon as the subject reaches that level. You still have to aim it though. The S3300 also uses this technology along with Blink proofing. This system will analyse each photo you take and look for blinks. If it sees one, it alerts you with an on-screen message. As you take the picture the camera will decide if you need to use flash or not. Nikon flash systems are generally very good and will illuminate the subject to a degree it doesn't look as though it's been used. Once all the picture taking has been done, the camera will run the picture through a skin softening program as it saves to the memory card.
For the photographer on the go, the S3300 is Eye-Fi X2 compatible. The Eye-Fi cards are memory cards that have wifi built into them. In the menu system of the camera you can allocate which pictures you'd like to upload. When the camera hits a wifi spot that it can use legally, it will upload your pictures to a website of your choice.
The older brother of the S3300 - that we mentioned before - has a touch-screen which this camera is lacking. However, the cost is proportionately lower. Because of this, some buttons have a dual purpose. The buttons that navigate you around the menu systems are also used for flash options, self timer, exposure compensation and macro.
There are a number of ways to check the build quality of a digital camera such as the materials used on the outer casing. The front of the S3300 is metal while the back is plastic. Another way is to wiggle the lens when the camera is powered up at wide-angle. The S3300 has some play in it but not lots and it doesn't move simply by shaking the camera to simulate walking. The third way we tell the build quality is to look at the tripod bush. Plastic is standard, while metal means you've moved up into a different class of camera. If you're currently pretty keen on the S3300, don't let the plastic tripod bush put you off. You see it's not that black & white. After all, think about the amount of time you'll spend using the tripod. It needs to be metal if it's a high volume device which is unlikely on a camera of this specification. The buttons are firm and responsive enough and the screen is bright. It suffers from a little motion blur and there's purple banding when the lens hits a bright light.
The menu system has been simplified as much as possible. Pressing the menu button on the back of the Nikon Coolpix S3300 takes you into the main area. There's only three tabs available for shooting options, video and set-up. The S3300 doesn't have a quick access menu so all functions are found in the main menu. In the shooting section you can change modes such as ISO, resolution, white-balance and AF modes. In the video tab, you can change the resolution that the video records in, the focus mode and whether you want wind noise reduction on or not. If there's no wind, it's best to switch it off. The final tab has more concrete settings in it. These settings can change more in-depth features such as the date & time, the monitor (screen) settings, language and video mode (PAL or NTSC). There's also provision to format the card.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
From a cold start, we managed to get the Nikon Coolpix S3300 switched on and taking a focused photograph in just over two seconds. An admirable time for a point and shooter. The standard time is around 2.5 seconds, so to beat that is great. It means you're less likely to miss that crucial candid shot where the kids do something funny or a friend embarrasses themselves on a night out. The continuous shooting mode took nine shots in a 10 second period. That's just under a picture per second which isn't too bad for a camera of this calibre. It did take up to 23 seconds to fully download and be ready for another shot though. That's not so hot.
In playback mode, the Nikon Coolpix S3300 will show you what you've already taken. In this mode, double tapping the OK button will open up a favourites box which you can then assign pictures to. If you press the menu button, the Main menu has changed and is dedicated to options for the Playback screen such as Quick retouch, D-Lighting, Filter effects, Print order, Protect and Rotate among others. The Set-up menu is still available if you decide to format or you want to read the menu in Cantonese. The screen will show you the time & date, image number resolution, and position on the memory card. This information will disappear after a few seconds. Zooming out on the zoom rocker will show more pictures on the screen as thumbnails. With each flick, you'll get four thumbnails, six, 16 and finally a calendar. Going the other way will reverse the previous actions before zooming into the picture.
In the box, the Nikon Coolpix S3300 comes with a lithium ion battery, wrist strap, USB cable and charger pack (the cable and pack link up to create a charging unit), video cable, a quick start guide and warranty card. The full manual is on a CD which is enclosed. If you don't have a decent editing suite to view the pictures on when browsing on the computer, the camera comes with Nikon's ViewNX2.