Nikon Coolpix S700 Review
Review Date: May 15th 2007
Author: Gavin Stoker
Nikon's 'S' (for 'style') series is the equivalent of Canon's IXUS or Olympus' Mju range, which means that fashion most definitely comes first. From the outside at least the silver-grey brushed metal, aluminum-bodied 12 megapixel Nikon Coolpix S700 looks every inch the ultimate pocket camera, feeling both svelte yet powerful in the palm, and boasts enough weight – with lithium ion cell and optional SD card inserted – to reassure you that if you accidentally dropped it, it wouldn't shatter into a thousand pieces. So for those who care as much about style as substance, the Nikon Coolpix S700 would seem to fit the bill on initial inspection. But is it just another case of style over substance? Gavin Stoker put the Nikon Coolpix S700 through its paces to find out.
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Ease of Use
Not just a pretty fascia, the Nikon Coolpix S700's innards boast low light sensitivity up to a manually selectable ISO 3200 (an auto Hi ISO mode stops at ISO 1600) – considerably better (in theory) than most in its class – plus true sensor-shift VR (Vibration Reduction), which proves a real bonus given the camera's slim dimensions. The clean contemporary design extends to that of its controls; there's no mode dial up top, just a labeled on/off button and the main shutter release button – both inset in a tapering metal strip that's the digital camera equivalent of a go faster racing stripe.
Fittingly perhaps, you get a new 'Expeed' image processor under the Nikon Coolpix S700's bonnet, allowing Nikon to claim a blink-and-you'll miss it start up time of just under a second – though it's two to three seconds before you can physically take a shot – and a shutter lag of 0.005 seconds, described in more general terms as imperceptible. In truth this is the norm these days, and as it should be anyway.
The front of the camera is similarly clean and smooth to the touch, dominated of course by the S700's 3x zoom Nikkor lens – automatically covered and stored flush to the body when not in use. Top right of the optic is a self timer/AF assist lamp, while above and to the left of the lens is a narrow strip housing the built-in flash, adjacent to which is a built-in microphone for either verbally annotating stills or capturing sound in conjunction with video clips.
|Rear Controls||Top Controls|
Flip the well-constructed camera around – Nikon claims it's the smallest compact to boast over 10MP, though you wouldn't really notice – and the Coolpix S700's back continues the minimalist theme, dominated by the dark pool of the 2.7-inch LCD that in this framework actually appears larger. Although, in the absence of an optical viewfinder, this provides adequate visibility indoors – albeit in low light the displayed image is particularly noisy – in sunlight you'll be reduced to cupping your hands around the screen in order to achieve clarity of vision, which, despite its claimed anti reflective coating and 230k pixel resolution, feels like a backwards step. Still, as with the rest of the Coolpix range, the on-screen menus are logically laid out and so easily navigated.
Top right of the monitor screen is an easily overlooked flash indicator lamp, and, to the right of the LCD, some more familiar controls. These include a thumbnail-thin rocker switch for utilising the zoom – very quick to respond, though sound-tracked by an audible buzz – and, a third of the way from the bottom of the camera back, a rotating multi selector that I personally found more fiddly than the standard four-way controller – as, when used in conjunction with the on-screen menu/s, it's easy to slip from a setting you actually wanted to one you didn't.
Still, used in conjunction with the mode button, one of only four intuitive buttons in total – two ranged above the multi selector, two below – you can tab around a virtual mode dial on screen that in shooting mode allows you to select from auto capture, a dedicated high ISO setting (as on Nikon's P50), a collection of scene modes, voice recording, movie, or set up mode. A press of the 'OK' button at the centre of the selector effects any setting changes.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Adjacent to the mode button and top right of the multi selector is the second button, marked out by the familiar play symbol for the reviewing of images when in capture mode – or the calling up on screen of a second and different virtual mode wheel that affords access to playback functions. Below the multi selector we find a dedicated menu button alongside another dedicated control for quickly and easily deleting duff shots on the fly. Finally, dotted at the four compass points around the rotating multi selector are – moving anti-clockwise – a means of summoning up the options for flash, self timer, macro and exposure compensation.
So far, so easy – and perhaps that's the problem: to be picky, nothing about the Nikon Coolpix S700 surprises. Having used the likes of Panasonic's FX33 and FX55 compacts – almost as stylish as this Nikon, retailing at a similar price and with the added bonus of that very user friendly intelligent auto mode that automatically switches to say, macro mode, when you point the camera at a flower – operationally the S700 feels adequate but somehow uninspired.
The right side of the Nikon Coolpix S700 features nothing but a loop for attaching the provided wrist strap, while the left hand flank features only a six-pinhole speaker. On the bottom there's a sliding compartment for the rechargeable battery and sliding in an optional SD card (SDHC compatibility also offered). Next to this is a screw thread for a tripod and, as with the rest of the Coolpix range, a multi connector slot for utilising the provided dual purpose AV/USB connection lead.
So what of the images themselves, can they summon up the superlatives and deliver the dynamism that somehow here feels missing? Take a look at the image quality page next.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Nikon Coolpix S700 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.