Nikon Coolpix S100 Review

October 3, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


Introduced into the world just last month, the Nikon Coolpix S100 is a slim and attractive compact camera with a large and high-resolution 3.5 inch OLED touch-screen complete with multi-touch control system. Inside its slender frame is a 16 megapixel backside illuminated CMOS sensor, 5x optical zoom (28-140mm), Full 1080p HD video recording with stereo sound, and even 3D shooting. There's certainly a lot of technology packed into the Nikon Coolpix S100's body, and our review will find out if it's worth the £249.99 / $299.95 asking price.

Ease of Use

If anything, the Nikon Coolpix S100 is slightly misleading in its design. It gives the appearance of being one of those cheap and cheerful entry-level models that are blindly bought online or from supermarkets. To see what it's capable of, you need to look past the pretty face and unveil the powerful innards.

As part of the snazzy design, the S100's lens has been offset to the top corner of the camera body and the zoom is internal so there's no external moving parts. A metal cover slides over the lens when it's not in use. The movement of the cover is easy enough but it does feel a little flimsy. Saying that, unless you get something caught under it, it's unlikely that it'll get broken.

As we mentioned in our preview, because it's slightly bigger than the other cameras that Nikon released at the same time, the Nikon Coolpix S100 looks huge, but it's actually smaller than an iPhone in height and width.

The S100's sensor is a backside illuminated type. If you're new to this type of technology, the way that the sensor is built has changed. Usually each photosite has circuitry surrounding it and the wires will cover a degree of the pixel. This means that it's not as responsive to light, so on a backside illuminated sensor, the circuitry has been placed on the back so that the full amount of light is captured by the pixels. It resembles a sensor put on backwards, hence the name.

Nikon Coolpix S100 Nikon Coolpix S100
Front Rear

There are 3 types of AF on the Nikon Coolpix S100. The Touch shutter option is defaulted when the camera is first turned on when you take it out of the box. If you change the options, they will remain until you change them again. The Touch shutter will focus on the part of the screen that you touch and immediately take a picture which is relatively fast but it does have a tendency to hunt. Subject tracking will lock onto the point that you touch and track that object you've selected while it remains in the frame.

Finally, Touch AF/AE will focus and meter off the point that you touch, like a selective spot metering and focusing. Pictures are sharp though and the only real problem we had with touch focus was that with small subjects, the camera had trouble locating them and gravitated towards the background.

On the back of the Nikon Coolpix S100 is a large 3.5 inch TFT LCD touch-screen and unlike the usual 3.5 inch touch-screens on some other cameras which cut off the edges (effectively making it 3 inch), the Nikon utilises the full amount of space. Because of this, the only button on the camera is the shutter release. It's an interesting approach and something we've been thinking about for some time. It seems the next logical step forward with touch-screens so it's great to see a camera designed this way. Interestingly, it's possible to take pictures without using the button by simply tapping the place on the screen you'd like to focus on and the S100 will take a picture straight away.

The OLED screen is very responsive and the 819,000 dot (273,000 pixel) resolution provides a bright, colourful display.
The Nikon Coolpix S100 is a camera that's designed to be appealing to two types of customer. There's the happy snapper who wants a pocket-sized point and shooter, and the tech savvy that want the good looks and up to date technology. It seems that the build quality is set for the former of the two who won't be as bothered.

Not that the S100 is badly made, after all it is a Nikon and they don't take build quality lightly. However, as we mentioned previously, the front lens cover feels flimsy and on top of that there's nothing to grip with when sliding it open or shut. It's not the easiest thing to do and we had to find purchase on the sticker or the Nikon emblem. While the body casing is made of metal, we suspect that the lens and battery covers are made of plastic. They're coated in paint that has the texture of metal so it's difficult to tell but the battery cover is certainly bendable. If it wasn't for the metal plate inside holding it to the camera, we think it could break easily.

Nikon Coolpix S100 Nikon Coolpix S100
Front Top

Looking past the slippery sliding cover, the Nikon Coolpix S100 start up time is pretty fast. We managed to slide the cover open, focus and take a shot in just under 2 seconds. Focusing and taking a picture once the S100 is on is extremely fast at around half a second.

The S100 takes a lithium-ion battery which is provided in the box and comes in a nice plastic box. It's a symmetrical shape which means that it can be put into the battery compartment either way, but infuriatingly, it should only go in one way and it's not until you've got it nearly all the in that it won't go any further. Why can't the battery be a nice semi-circle or even an isosceles triangle if it helps?! Anything that will stop us from putting the battery in the wrong way first. Yes, we know the contacts are situated a particular way round but in the dark it's not always easy to see.

The Nikon Coolpix S100's layout has been rearranged with the battery/memory card compartment on the side and the HDMI/USB slots on the bottom. We think that this is to do with the S100 being able to charge from a laptop although it would mean that the screen could get damaged while the camera is laying on its back charging.

So let's take a look at the Nikon Coolpix S100's menu systems. Switching the camera on, 4 main options appear in the lower portion of the screen. They access the flash, self-timer, macro and exposure compensation options. In the centre of these is a menu button which brings up 5 more options for resolution, touch-screen, ISO, drive modes, white-balance and set-up. It's an intriguing decision to make and the division of features means that the screen remains cleaner and less cluttered which is great. Another good idea is that after 5 seconds of not using the menus, they disappear and a small button in the bottom right of the screen replaces them. Pressing this button brings the original options back.

As photographers, we don't like the fact that resolution, ISO and white-balance have been pushed to a secondary menu system, but thinking about the main user of the S100, the decision is perfect. The zoom is situated at the right side of the screen slightly lower than half way while the record/playback option reflects the zoom being at the left side slightly above the half way line.

Nikon Coolpix S100 Nikon Coolpix S100
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

It's a great layout, Nikon have thought hard about where to put stuff and in what order. It certainly works and we're pleased to see a camera with a different outlook on what the menus should look like. Even the set-up menu is different using thumbnail sized boxes instead of lines of text. However, it would be nice to see some movement in where things are laid out. We would love to see the menu options amendable for whoever is using the camera and even maybe a custom set up for different people using it in the same family in case they have varying levels of capability.

The playback area has a similar layout to the recording area. However, the zoom buttons are on the left under the record/playback buttons. A menu button is at the bottom of the screen but there are no direct options flanking it. The menu button brings up 9 options such as deleting, locking, editing and dpof. At the top of the screen is a star rating system so you can prioritise the pictures on the card which aids retrieving them later.

The Nikon Coolpix S100 has 2 main burst modes: high and low. The high setting takes 3 photographs at full resolution in quick succession and manages to do it in under a quarter of a second. Mathematically, this equates to 12 frames per second (fps) although our calculations aren't precise and Nikon state a maximum of 8fps. The low setting has a constant burst rate of around 1.5fps because we got 15 frames in a 10 second test.

There's quite a lot of stuff packed into the box of the Nikon Coolpix S100. There are 2 discs for the reference guide and ViewNX2 software. The quick start guide is a bulky booklet covering 5 languages in just under 100 pages. There's also a mini mains charger for the battery and all the usual leads such as USB and HDMI. If you want to charge the S100 from the USB lead, you have to set the camera up in the main menu.

Image Quality

All pictures were taken at the full resolution unless otherwise stated. A typical file size is around 5Mb but they went as low as 3.5Mb in some cases, depending on the mode you're in.

There's no denying the quality of Nikon DSLRs. It seems that when they use a large sensor, they nail image quality. Recently though, with so many companies improving on their compact image quality, Nikon seemed to be getting left behind.

However, they've certainly got their act together with the new breed of compacts that were launched recently. The new sensor produces low noise in higher ISO settings (which can be attributed at least in part to the new BSI technology).

Image quality on the Coolpix S100 is great for this type of camera. Colours come out lovely and they're pin sharp. We took a variety of subjects to see how the camera performs in most situations and we're really pleased with the colour rendition. Bright colours retain their richness, primaries are realistic while complex colours and subtle hues are treated sympathetically.

While the focusing is sharp, it's relatively slow which is unfortunate. Other areas that the S100 can improve on is the dynamic range. We lost a few pictures because of burn out in highlights despite a dull day. Granted, we were taking pictures with 95% of the image taken up by darker subjects but we were surprised by the lack of detail all the same.


Low ISO performance is great from the Nikon Coolpix S100 and we actually like it through to ISO 1600 where coloured blobs start to appear in the darker areas and there's some loss of edge definition. It's still a great performance and not just in controlled light either.

In fact, judging by the ISO 3200 results, Nikon could've pushed the envelope up to ISO 6400 and we think it shows a great deal of restraint not to pander to what everyone thinks they want. After all, going too high could effectively sully the otherwise excellent results that we've seen from the camera so far.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


We sharpened the S100's pictures in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and despite noticing a sharper image, we didn't feel that it necessarily improved the pictures.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Focal Range

With a 5x optical zoom, the focal rage of the Nikon Coolpix S100 is 28-140mm in 35mm terms.



File Quality

There are two 12 megapixel settings on the Nikon Coolpix S100 digital compact camera. The top one has a star next to it and compresses less meaning a larger file size. In fact a typical image at this setting is 5-6Mb. In our test knocking it down to the 12 megapixel setting without the star produced images of around 3Mb.



Chromatic Aberrations

One area we can find fault with is the quality of the S100's lens. We found chroma colour on contrasting edges quite easily. However, this phenomenon isn't exclusive to the lens, it can also be created or exacerbated by the micro lenses that cover each photo-site on the sensor. With each pixel now being totally uncovered, this could be one of the reasons. However, we believe it's more likely the lens despite it being an ED version.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The macro facility on the S100 is startling for a camera in this class. We managed to get so close it was bordering on ridiculous. However, at full close up, we struggled to get a sharp shot because the lens distorts the image so much. Definition starts to wane quite near the middle of the frame compared to other compacts in the same specification and price range.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


During the flash test, we found that the flash on the Nikon won't affect the overall exposure of the images. There's no more light fall off with the flash than there is without it. However, on the downside it means that the vignetting that the camera suffers from doesn't disappear with the flash.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

When shooting portraits, there's a mild amount of red-eye circling the catchlight in auto flash mode. Switching over to the red-eye reduction reduced it a little.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


Even with a relatively long exposure, the night shot has come out sharp and noise free. We found that the camera offers a better result from the night landscape option in the scene menu because in auto, if you wanted to use a low ISO and a tripod, the camera wouldn't use a long enough exposure so the pictures were dark.  We also had some trouble getting the white balance correct.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S100 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel High 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 highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 24 second movie is 34.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Front of the Camera / Lens Cover Open

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Top of the Camera / Menu Options

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Mode

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Scene Modes

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Quick Menu

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Playback Options

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Playback

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Playback Zoom

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Photo Ratings

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Exposure Compensation

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Self-Timer

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Rear of the Camera / Help Text

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Top of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S2500

Battery Compartment


The new range of compacts from Nikon are certainly shaping up to be some of the most exciting we've seen from them in recent times. Based on looks alone, the S100 should be a pretty basic model with mediocre functions and performance results. But what the S100 has brought is flashy good looks, forward thinking technology and fabulous image results. We're astounded by the image quality. The ISO results are excellent and we can only hope (without the testing at this time) that the other Nikon cameras released at the same time will yield the same results. With the advent of the new Nikon 1 system, this could also spell a turning point in CSC cameras with smaller sensors.

The actual modes and functions are limited and this gives a good indication of the type of person the camera is aimed at. It's designed to be very easy to use and it certainly is. All the extensive menus usually found in digital compact cameras have been stripped away and only the basic stuff remains.

Build wise, the camera is up and down. We have an excellent, bright and responsive touch-screen and a nice outer casing but then there's the plastic tripod bush and we found that over time, the front gets scratched by the sliding lens cover which isn't the best quality build. There's also the issue of the USB and HDMI ports on the underside. While the camera is being charged via the USB, the screen or front with get scratched even more.

What Nikon have done with the S100 is marry a stylish design to state of the art technology. We think that without the new sensor and excellent performance, the camera would need to be priced much lower but it's worth it for what you get. If you're the type of person that wants to get a nice looking camera that's packed with tech and has a reasonably good build quality then the Nikon Coolpix S100 is one to look at.

4.5 stars

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

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S100 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coolpix S100's performance doesn't quite live up to its looks, and, while this compact camera is packed with features, its price is too high for our liking.
Read the full review »


*1 Not compatible with MultiMediaCard (MMC)
*2 Based on CIPA Standards for measuring life of batteries
*3 Based on CIPA Guidelines, DCG-005-2009

Effective pixels 16.0 megapixels
Image sensor 1/2.3 type RGB CMOS sensor
Lens Optical 5x zoom, NIKKOR lens; Focal length:5.0-25.0 mm (35mm [135] format equivalent to 28-140 mm); Aperture: f/3.9-4.8; Lens construction: 10 element in 12 groups (2 ED glass)
Digital zoom Maximum 4x (35mm [135] format equivalent to approx. 560 mm)
Focus range (from lens) Approx. 50 cm (1 ft. 8 in.) to infinity (at wide-angle setting), approx. 1 m (3 ft. 3 in.) to infinity (at telephoto setting), Macro mode: approx. 1 cm (0.4 in.) to infinity (at wide-angle setting)
Vibration Reduction (VR) Lens-shift type + electronic type (for still images), Lens-shift type (for movies)
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (4608 x 3456), Auto (ISO 125 to 800), Fix range auto (ISO 125 to 400, 125 to 800)
Monitor 8.7 cm (3.5-in.), approx. 820k dots, touch panel wide-viewing angle OLED monitor (VGA), clear color panel, anti-reflection coating, brightness adjustment
Storage media Internal memory (approx. 53.7 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card1
Movie Full HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080 (30 fps), HD 720p: 1280 x 720 (30 fps), iFrame 540: 960 x 540 (30 fps), VGA: 640 x 480 (30 fps). HS movie: (15/60/120 fps, no sound)
Interface/Direct print compatibility Hi-Speed USB/PictBridge, mini HDMI
Power sources Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19 (700 mAh), AC Adapter EH-62G (option)
Number of shots per charge2 (battery life) Approx. 150 frames with EN-EL19
Dimensions (width × height × depth) Approx. 99.0 x 65.2 x 18.1 mm/3.9 x 2.6 x 0.8 in. (excluding projections)
Weight3 Approx. 138g / 4.9 oz. (including battery and SD memory card)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap AN-CP19, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19, Charging AC Adapter EH-69P, UC-E6, EG-CP16 and ViewNX 2 CD-ROM
Optional accessories Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, MH-65 and AC Adapter EH-62F

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