Nikon Coolpix S4300 Review
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The Nikon Coolpix S4300 is a point and shoot digital compact camera. It has a 16 megapixel sensor, 6x optical zoom, 720p movies and a 3 inch LCD touch-screen. Designed for the happy snappers, the S4300 has easy to use functionality and comes in a variety of attractive colours. Priced at £99.99 / $169.95, the Nikon Coolpix S4300 is available in red, black, silver and white.
Ease of Use
Slotting nicely in to the line-up of new digital compact cameras from Nikon is the Coolpix S4300. It's a slim, colour coded, easy to use model that looks like it will appeal to the happy snapping generation as well as families looking for something cheerful to keep the kids looking at the camera when on holiday.
The front of the Nikon Coolpix S4300 features a 6x optical zoom lens that starts at 26mm and stops at 156mm. At either side of the lens barrel is the slim flash and AF emitter. To the uninitiated, the AF emitter is that red light that shines just before a picture is taken. It will only do it when the light conditions are dark because the camera's focusing system needs to see contrast to focus on. The light provides it without affecting your sight too much. The Nikon Coolpix S4300's body is only 20.8mm thick which is great for slipping into a pocket for quick point and shooting.
On the top, the camera has two buttons. The small power button is sunk into the body and has a small ring of light around it so you don't accidentally use that and turn the camera off instead. The larger shutter release button has a small coloured circle on top to add to the colour-coding and the zoom rocker wrapped around.
Thanks to the touch-screen that features prominently on the back of the Nikon Coolpix S430, it has made other buttons redundant. Therefore, there's only three available for direct video recording, switching to playback and switching back to shooting. In all fairness, all three buttons could be put onto the screen as well to allow either a bigger camera or a smaller body. Although the playback button will lead directly to reviewing images even with the camera powered down. That wouldn't be possible if the button was on the screen.
The touch screen is laid out with a common sense approach. The bottom of the screen features four buttons that can be tapped to drill into further features. If the screen is left alone for a short while, the buttons will disappear and a small display button will appear. It's a bit like going into standby mode. Tapping the display button will bring the buttons and shoot info back on the screen and it all reverts to normal. Leaving it further will turn the screen off before the Nikon Coolpix S4300 assumes you forgot to switch it off and powers itself down.
Along the bottom are the flash options, self-timer, macro and exposure compensation. In the middle is a drop down tab button for the main menu. This allows for further manipulation of the camera's functions. Resolution, ISO, White-balance and drive modes are all here alongside video options, sound controls and a touch-screen menu. The yellow spanner sits alone in a green menu as a beacon that it does something more. It goes into the Set-up menu which is the core area of the camera's controls. In here you can change and edit simple procedures such as the welcome screen all the way to more in-depth options such as motion detection or firmware updates.
Pressing the green camera button next to the screen will do two things: In playback it will take you back to the shooting screen and in shooting mode it will open up the creative menu. In here you get to choose the mode that the camera will shoot in. There's Auto, Scenes, Special Effects or Smart Portrait to choose from. None of these features are anything that we haven't seen on a compact camera before. The Special Effects tab has features such as Soft, Sepia, High or Low contrast and Selective Colour. The latter allows you to choose a colour that you wish to keep in the picture while the camera drains the rest away.
The build quality of the Nikon Coolpix S430 is what you'd expect from a camera at this price point. It's ok but don't expect technological advances. Or even that much metal. The back section of the camera is plastic, as is the tripod bush. The battery door is a simple flip out and spring open type. There's no lock on it but as with any camera that holds its own battery, it has an internal lock to retain the battery when the door is opened.
The memory card bay sits next to the battery and the S4300 will accept SD cards up to and including SDXC. There's also an internal memory which will hold around 8 pictures at the highest quality. The lens is a standard Nikon lens. There are no special elements to reduce flare, ghosting or chromatic aberration. The test results will be interesting to see how the camera copes with that.
Nikon have attempted to make the menu system as easy to use as possible and it's a fair go. Aside from the Scene button which isn't part of the touch-screen UI and the main shooting options on the main screen, all the menu options are crammed into the main button at the bottom. The problem you may have is if you're new to either photography or Nikon as a company. They use icons to determine what each button does and they're not always labelled to make them obvious. It's important because of the market position of the camera being aimed at is beginners or novices. There are some that are simply common sense but options such as the Skin Softening is a smiley face in a square head with stars in two of the corners. The level of softening is displayed underneath instead of the name of the mode which would help more.
The power button could be unresponsive so that you don't accidentally turn the Nikon Coolpix S4300 off when taking a picture. We just found it annoying. What makes us think that it's not on a delay is that the playback button does the same thing. It could be for the same reason but it's an uncomfortably long time that you have to wait. Still, from start up to taking a picture, the camera manages it in 2.6 seconds. In continuous mode, the camera took 10 pictures in the ten second time frame averaging 1fps (frame per second). The first three images start off fast but as the buffer fills, the camera slows down.
You can see the pictures you've already taken by pressing the Playback button under the shooting button next to the screen. It's recognised by the blue arrow in a square which has been the universal playback icon for decades. Pictures can be reviewed without switching the camera on by holding down the Playback button until it comes to life. This avoids the lens being out and getting scratched while it's not in use. You can edit your pictures in camera if you're not too adept at Photoshop or you don't own a computer.
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In the menu screen while in Playback, press the button that has a picture of a square with a brush on it and you will open up the Retouch menu. There are eight options including Quick Retouch (does a general overall retouch of the picture), D-Lighting (boosts light in shadows and caps burn out in the highlights to give a more balanced exposure. The screen will split to show a before and after effect), Stretch, Perspective control (to compensate for perspective distortion. It tries to correct it as much as possible), Filter Effects (Colour options, Soft focus; similar to a sweet spot, Selective Colour, Cross Screen, Fish Eye, Miniature Effect and Painting), Glamour Retouch for portraits, Small Picture (resizing) and Rotate.
On top of the Playback screen is a drop down tab that has a star on it. This is a rating menu so you can rate each picture in terms of importance or favourites. You can then search for pictures with a certain rating.
Accompanying the Nikon Coolpix S4300 in the box is a Quick Start Guide, CD which has the full manual. Notably, there doesn't appear to be a picture viewer included on the software. Normally Nikon will include ViewNX. It's interesting that they've left it out on the S4300. The charger comes away from the cable which is a USB. This means you can charge the camera from the computer if you want to. This option can be turned off in the Main Menu although we can't think of a reason why you would want to. It's useful for travelling photographers who won't have to take the charging unit around with them, just plug the camera into a computer at an internet cafe, upload your pictures and charge the camera while you do.