Nikon Coolpix S02 Review

October 30, 2013 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


Springing out of the Style range of cameras is the slight Nikon Coolpix S02. This tiny camera features a 13 megapixel CMOS sensor, Full HD video, 2.7 inch touch-screen and digital effects. It looks sublime, but is it as good on the inside as it is on the outside? Our full review will give the answer. Priced at around £109, the Nikon Coolpix S02 is available in pink, blue, white and chrome.

Ease of Use

Leaning back slightly as it sits in front of us on the desk, the Nikon Coolpix S02 could quite easily hide behind a credit card. It's that small. It's a cute little box, our test model being the chrome version, so light glinted off every corner. The small 3x optical zoom lens (barely even heard of these days) sits slightly off-centre to the body with the slim flash hovering over it. The tiny AF emitter sits next to the flash and there are also two little holes either side of the flash for the microphone when recording video.

The top plate has the usual suspects of the power button – which is sunk into the body to avoid being pressed by mistake – sat next to the shutter release. That in turn has the zoom switch wrapped around it. Interestingly, the Playback button has been placed on the top left shoulder and this is to keep it away from the back where the camera has been kept extremely minimalistic. in fact, it resembles a smart phone with a screen and only a Home button to access the menu systems.

Carrying on the similarity between the Nikon Coolpix S02 and a smart phone, and in particular the Apple iPhone, the camera is completely sealed. That is to say that the memory and battery are all internal and can't be removed. To that end, the S02 comes with 7.4Gb internal memory. Downloading pictures is done via linking the camera up to the computer with the provided USB cable. You can also use the mains plug provided which splits into a European two pin plug or you can attach the three pin option for use in the UK. Accompanying those accessories in the box, there's a wrist strap and folded up Quick Start guides. The box is also small, just like what you'd get a smart phone in.

Nikon Coolpix S02 Nikon Coolpix S02
Front Rear

The Home button at the bottom left corner of the camera opens up a simple menu system that allows you to select what mode you'd like to start. There are four to choose from: Shooting, Playback, Movie and the Set-up menu.  You can scroll down and choose more selective options from the eight other options, such as resolution, special effects menu, self-timer or flash modes. Whichever of these you choose, with the exception of the playback and set-up options, it will then enter into that mode and a small box will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen. 

Tapping this will go back to the options within that menu and if you want to go back to the start, press the small box that says “My” on it. The good news is that you can stack effects and modes. For example, you can go into the flash options, select fill-in flash, come out of that menu, go into self-timer and select that, then come out of it and select the Monochrome option. Then if you take a picture, the camera will take a black & white with flash on the self-timer. It's a bit long winded, but a price to pay for having large, easy to understand graphics of the options available.

Nikon Coolpix S02 Nikon Coolpix S02
Front Top

The Nikon Coolpix S02's Set-up menu opens up the core area of the camera. It allows you to make changes such as changing the HOME display, altering the time & date, the video mode and whether you want to charge from a computer. You can also reset everything back to factory settings, format the memory and update the firmware. If you're unsure of the latter, there's usually something that the camera can be improved upon at a later date. It's not derogatory to the camera, even the most expensive professional cameras worth thousands will get firmware updates. It can do stuff such as improve focusing, add no features to the menu, speed up processes alter fonts or anything else that requires computer coding to operate. To do this, you will need to download the updates from the Nikon website then load them onto the camera via the USB cable.

The sensor fitted in to the Nikon Coolpix S02 is a 13 megapixel CMOS type. CMOS stands for Complimentary Metal-Oxide Semi-conductor and is generally considered the most fuel efficient between that and a CCD (Charge Coupled Device). CMOS have some downsides, such as having several transistors located next to each pixel. These block a certain amount of light and make the CMOS less susceptible to light. CMOS sensors also tend to suffer from noise at earlier stages. CCD are sharper than CMOS when recording images. As we mentioned earlier, CMOS are more fuel efficient and can use up to 100x less fuel than a similar CCD. That will make the internal battery go a long way, which is – arguably – why Nikon used that type of sensor.

Nikon Coolpix S02 Nikon Coolpix S02
Side Front

Start up time from cold is very fast. In our tests, we managed to get the camera switched on, focused and taking a picture in 1.8sec. The average is 2.5sec so there's a marked improvement. That's great for if you've got children as it means you're more likely to get a photo of them doing something comical. The bad news is that there's no burst mode. No burst mode and no continuous shooting either. So if the kids are doing anything fast, you're less likely to get that crucial moment.

Playback can be operated via the button on top of the Nikon Coolpix S02. It will switch the camera into playback mode regardless of whether the camera is powered on or not. If the camera is off, you'll have to hold the button down for a few seconds to tell the camera that it's not just been knocked. The most recent image taken will pop onto the screen first and there's two buttons to scroll left or right, but you can also swipe through like a smart phone. Below the image are three boxes. These filter the pictures out so you can find specific images you've taken. You can choose between all the pictures, favourites or by date. The date and time the picture was taken, along with the resolution, are also displayed on the screen.

Using the zoom switch will alter the way you can view images. Zooming out will display them as thumbnails with more being displayed the more you zoom out. If you zoom in, you can examine the picture to make sure it's sharp.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 13 megapixel High JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.


Testing the Nikon Coolpix S02 in certain areas had their own dilemmas. For the noise test, we had particular trouble because the camera doesn't have an option for adjusting the ISO in the menu. Therefore, we had to adjust the available light instead. Therefore, some of the samples are darker than others to try and force the ISO up.

We were expecting a poor performance from the S02 as it seems to be a camera that favours style over performance. However, the low ISO images are very nice. They're crisp, well exposed and noise free. Saying that, in certain areas it can be seen that noise reduction is in play, so it's not all good news. But if you're looking at this camera to use, it's likely that it won't be noticeable or you won't mind that much.

As we move through the ISO stages, we couldn't get an ISO 200 setting but at ISO 400, while the images still look good overall, there is a hint of image degradation going on. Darker areas are starting to lose detail that they had before and primary colours are starting to fade.

Ideally, you don't really want to go higher than ISO 400 because the image quality starts to decay rapidly. At ISO 800, there's little or no detail in darker parts of the picture and sharp edges are non-existant. We managed to get an ISO 1600 image by turning the lights off which will have contributed to the cast on the sample test shot. However, it is covered in a purple cast, detail is next to zero and coloured blobs of noise infect the lighter areas of the picture.



iso125.jpg iso400.jpg



iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S02 only has a 3x optical zoom – rarely heard of these days of compact zoom systems – and it starts at a mediocre 30mm, spanning to 90mm at full zoom. These measurements are in 35mm terms. On occasion at full wide-angle, we noticed some occurrences of barrel distortion.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


We didn't see a great deal of difference with adding any sharpening to the Nikon Coolpix S02's pictures. The photos straight from camera appear to be sharp enough. In fact, the lens quality seems very good. It could be to do with the lack of a wide-angle setting and narrower focal range. The camera has less of a chance to create lens distortions.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

Similarly to the quality of the lens at extreme focal lengths, chromatic aberrations are better than we expected. We had to really hunt for them which suggests a good glass on the front of the camera. We noticed it mostly in very high contrast areas.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 4 (100% Crop)

chromatic3.jpg chromatic4.jpg


The close focusing of the Nikon Coolpix S02 is 5cm at wide-angle. Images are very sharp in the centre and remain sharp towards the edges until you get to the very edge.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The S02 doesn't suffer from vignetting at wide-angle or full zoom. Arguably, that's down to the narrower field of view. Adding flash simply stabilises the available light and still doesn't add any vignetting.

Off - Wide Angle (29mm)

On - Wide Angle (29mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Off - Telephoto (87mm)

On - Telephoto (87mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

There's no red-eye reduction options on the S02, so we couldn't compare it. However, the camera does shoot a pre-flash as standard, despite the close proximity to the lens.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

flash_redeye_off.jpg flash_redeye_on.jpg


The Nikon Coolpix S02 has a hand-held night scene mode and will boost the ISO to compensate for the lack of a tripod. Bear in mind that there's no tripod bush on the camera, so getting steady shots is going to be tricky. Of course we managed it and the night scene mode selected a higher ISO to freeze the action.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)

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Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene_crop.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S02 camera, which were all taken using the 13.2 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 29 second movie is 34.8Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S02

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S02 / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S02

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S02 / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S02

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S02 / Home Screen

Nikon Coolpix S02

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S02 / Set up Menu

Nikon Coolpix S02

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S02 / Customize Menu Screen


Nikon Coolpix S02

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S02

Nikon Coolpix S02

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S02


Nikon have taken an interesting slant with the Coolpix S02. They've released a camera that competes with a smart phone in terms of UI but also made sure that the image quality beats it. Of course, it's still a picture taking machine and ideally that should be the main priority, but because of the smart phone threat, cameras have been suffering and it would be easy to make an all in one machine and lose focus on the real issue.

Nikon seem to have kept their eye on the ball, though. The lens quality is very good with sharp images and little or no chromatic aberration. Noise seems to only be an issue at mid to high ISO, which is what we'd expect. Recent Nikon cameras have suffered with noise even at low settings, so it's good to see that the S02 isn't one of them. That could be the most surprising thing about this camera; it looks like it's been released to attract the customer that simply wants a pretty camera and not worry too much about the image quality. After all, anything can be an improvement on many smart phone offerings.

The Nikon Coolpix S02 is built well and we actually like the idea of having the memory and battery internal. It does have its problems, such as if one fails, but for just over £100, it's not too expensive that it cripples your bank balance in the unlikely event of having to replace it.

The Nikon Coolpix S02 is a great little camera for slipping in a bag or pocket and taking out for nights on the town or away on holiday. It's a camera for the happy snapper and does a lot of things that a typical point and shooter requires a camera to do, ie; everything. It doesn't allow you to take over and tell it what to do, there's no ISO settings or white-balance or even a tripod bush for long exposures. As a downside, the S02 takes any area of creativity away from taking pictures. Essentially it's there to document your travels or event, not paint with light. But that's what photography means. Literally. As lovely as this camera is, we can't help feel that it's taking something away from photography. It's taking away the chance of someone getting interested because there's no way they can stumble on a new feature and fire their curiosity. That's a shame.

Still, we can't fault most of the technical sides of it, so if you really don't have any interest in discovering photography – and some people don't, but you want a sexy little silver box in your bag, then the Nikon Coolpix S02 will be ideal.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix S02.

Canon PowerShot A495

As camera manufacturers increasingly add more bells, whistles and megapixels to their compacts in order to outdo the competition, it's easy to overlook the cheaper yet still very capable end of the market. This is where cameras like the new Canon Powershot A495 aim to provide the core functionality and image quality of their more expensive brethren in a more accessible and of course cheaper package. Read our in-depth 10-page Canon PowerShot A495 review to find out if this budget shooter hits the mark.

Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR

The Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR is a brand new, ultra-fashionable compact camera, sporting a massive 3.5 inch touchscreen LCD, 16 megapixel EXR sensor and a 5x optical zoom lens. Read our expert Fujifilm FinePix Z900EXR review to find out if it's the perfect fusion of style and substance.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS45

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS45 is a budget compact camera with a fast f/2.5, 5x zoom lens. Costing just £119 the FS45 / FH45 is aimed at the beginner end of the market, yet still offers 16 megapixels, image stabilisation, 720p HD movies and Panasonic's reliable intelligent Auto mode. Read our expert Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS45 review now.

Pentax Optio S1

The Optio S1 is the first model in a stylish new range of compact cameras from Pentax. In addition to its dashing good looks, the Pentax S1 also offers 14 megapixels, a 5x zoom lens, 2.7 inch screen and 720p movies. Available for just £119.99 / $199.95, check out our Pentax Optio S1 review to find out if it's all style and no substance...

Samsung DV150F

The Samsung DV150F compact camera features a 2.7-inch LCD on the front, useful for composing self-portraits, and a wide range of wi-fi connectivity options. The 16 megapixel Samsung DV150F also features a 25mm wide-angle 5x zoom lens, 720p HD video, and a multitude of special effects modes, all for just £99.99 / $149.99. Read our in-depth Samsung DV150F review now...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is a new 16.1 megapixel compact camera with a built-in USB connector for easier image transfer and battery recharging. The stylish Sony J10 also has 4Gb of built-in memory, a 4x zoom lens, and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. Read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 review to find out if this is the right point-and-shoot camera for you.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S02 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coolpix S02 was announced in August 2013 and is an update to the S01. It is an ultra-compact camera with 3x optical zoom, full 1080p HD video recording and a 13 megapixel sensor. It's available in silver, white, blue and pink for £106.
Read the full review »


Product name COOLPIX S02
Type Compact digital camera
Number of effective pixels 13.2 million
Image sensor 1/3.1-in. type CMOS; total pixels: approx. 14.17 million
Lens 3x optical zoom, NIKKOR lens
Focal length 4.1-12.3 mm (angle of view equivalent to 30-90 mm lens in 35 mm [135] format)
f/-number f/3.3-5.9
Construction 6 elements in 5 groups
Digital zoom magnification Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to approx. 360 mm lens in 35 mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Electronic VR (movies)
Motion blur reduction Motion detection (still pictures)
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range (measured from center of front surface of lens) [W]: Approx. 30 cm (1 ft) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity. Approx. 5 cm (2 in.) - (W) or approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) - (T) in macro close-up mode
Focus-area selection Center, face priority, manual (tap to select)
Monitor 6.7 cm (2.7-in.), approx. 230k-dot touch screen TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating
Frame coverage (shooting) Approx. 96% vertical and horizontal
Frame coverage (playback) Approx. 100% vertical and horizontal
Storage - Medium Internal memory (approx. 7.3 GB)
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, DPOF-compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG. Movies: MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC with LPCM stereo sound)
Image size (pixels) 13 M [4160 x 3120]; 4 M [2272 x 1704]; 2 M [1600 x 1200]
Shooting Modes Scene selection (Scene auto selector, Hand-held night scene, Backlit scene HDR), Special effects
Movie frame size (pixels) 1080/30p (default setting): 1920 x 1080/16:9, 720/30p: 1280 x 720/16:9, iFrame 540/30p: 960 x 540/16:9, HS 720/2x: 1280 x 720/16:9, HS 1080/0.5x: 1920 x 1080/16:9
ISO sensitivity (standard output sensitivity) ISO 125-1600
Exposure - Metering mode Matrix, center-weighted (at under 2x digital zoom), spot (at 2x digital zoom and up)
Exposure control Programmed auto with exposure compensation (±2 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Shutter - Speed 1/2000-1 s
Aperture Electronically-selected neutral density (ND) filter (-2 AV)
Range 2 positions (f/3.3 and f/6.6 [W])
Self-timer Approx. 10 seconds
Built-in flash - Range (approx.; auto ISO) [W]: 0.3-1.4 m (1 ft - 4 ft 7 in.); [T]: 0.5-0.8 m (1 ft 8 in. - 2 ft 7 in.)
Flash control TTL auto with monitor preflashes
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Data transfer protocol MTP, PTP
Video output NTSC, PAL
I/O terminal Audio video output/digital I/O (USB); HDMI micro connector (Type D) (HDMI output)
Supported languages Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Power sources Built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery
Charging time Approx. 2 h 50 min (using Charging AC Adapter EH-70P; battery fully discharged)
Battery life¹ - Still pictures Approx. 210 (with built-in battery)
Movie recording (actual battery life for recording)² Approx. 1 h 15 min (with built-in battery)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 77.1 x 51.3 x 17.5 mm (3.1 x 2.1 x 0.7 in.), excluding projections
Weight Approx. 100 g (3.6 oz)
Operating environment - Temperature 0 °C - 40 °C (32 °F - 104 °F)
Operating environment - Humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera strap, Charging AC Adapter EH-70P, USB Cable UC-E16
Optional accessories Audio/video cable EG-CP16, Stylus TP-1, Case CS-CP4-1 (with strap)

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