Nikon Coolpix S3000 Review

September 8, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is a super-slim, stylish and affordable digital compact camera aimed at the point-and-shoot user. With an aluminium body that's just 19mm thick, the Nikon S3000 is available in a wide-range of eye-catching colours. The S3000 features a wide-angle 4x zoom lens with electronic stabilisation, 12 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch LCD screen, a scene auto selector with 16 modes, Smile Timer function, face-priority autofocus, a skin softening function, and subject tracking auto-focus. The Nikon Coolpix S3000 comes in black, champagne silver, red, blue, orange, magenta or green and retails for £109.99 / $149.95 / €135.

Ease of Use

The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is the cheaper and simpler sibling of the S4000 model that we reviewed earlier in the year, losing that camera's 3 inch touch-screen LCD and 720p High Definition movie recording capability, but otherwise offering the same design and core features. Weighing in at only 116 grams with battery and memory card inserted, the Nikon Coolpix S3000 is a very compact camera. Thanks to its small size and moderate weight, it easily fits into a shirt pocket. In terms of design, it's a good-looking little snapper that successfully blends traditionalism with style.

The front plate is dominated by the lens, which sits fully retracted into the body when the camera is powered off, but extends about an inch or so upon power-up. Covering a 35mm equivalent focal range of 27-108mm, it has a maximum aperture of f/3.2 at the wide end and f/5.9 at full telephoto. Like most small-sensor digicams, the Nikon Coolpix S3000 lacks an iris diaphragm. In very strong daylight it employs a built-in neutral density filter to avoid overexposure, but this obviously has no effect on depth of field, as the physical size of the aperture does not change.

Notable by its absence is any form of optical / mechanical image stabilisation - this is a glaring omission given that ultra-light cameras like the Coolpix S3000 have little physical inertia and are inherently prone to image blur caused by shaky hands. Instead there's Electronic VR post-processing and a motion detection option which increases the ISO setting to provide a faster shutter speed, both of which ultimately result in poorer image quality.

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Nikon Coolpix S3000
Front Rear

The only other parts visible when viewing the S3000 front on are the flash, the AF assist lamp and the built-in microphone. The flash is a slim little unit that works quite well as a fill light, but obviously won't light up an entire ballroom. The AF-assist light doubles as the self-timer lamp, while the microphone is there to record mono sound with movies as well as voice memos for stills.

The top of the S3000 features a large shutter release surrounded by a zoom lever, and a small power button that sits flush with the camera's surface. The latter - which can be a bit hard to press due to its size and recessed position - incorporates a tiny LED that lights up when the S3000 is powered up.

On the back of the camera we find the 2.7 inch, 230k dot screen, a flash / charge lamp, four buttons - Shooting Mode , Playback, Menu and Delete - and a traditional four-way navigation pad. These controls essentially replace the S4000's touch-screen interface. The navigation pad provides options for setting the flash, exposure compensation, Macro mode and self-timer.

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Nikon Coolpix S3000
Front Front

The full range of flash modes include auto, auto with red-eye reduction, fill flash, slow sync and forced off. Note that the availability of these flash modes varies with the shooting mode and certain other settings. The self-timer options are simpler: 10 seconds, 2 seconds and off. Disappointingly the Macro mode only focuses as close as 8cms to the subject. The OK button in the centre of the four-way controller confirms on-screen menu selections.

The Menu icon brings up the main menu screen whose content varies according to the chosen shooting mode. The shooting modes on offer include Auto, Scene Auto Selector, Smart Portrait, Subject Tracking and Movie. Somewhat confusingly, Auto is the mode that gives you the most control over the shooting process. No, you don't get to set shutter speed or aperture directly - the latter would be impossible given the lack of a diaphragm anyway - but you can set the ISO speed manually, which is something you cannot do in the other modes. Other parameters that can be set by the user in this shooting mode include resolution and file quality, white balance, drive mode, AF area and AF mode. These are all buried in the menu - none of them has a virtual shortcut button of its own. Which is a pity, given that some of these functions - like ISO, WB or white balance - are quite frequently used, and the awkwardness of accessing them can be frustrating at times.

Those who'd rather not fiddle with ISO speeds and white balance settings will likely choose Scene Auto Selector instead of Auto. The Nikon Coolpix S3000 offers 16 scene modes plus a Scene Auto Selector that puts the camera in charge and allows it to choose from the six most commonly used scene modes at its own discretion, based on its assessment of the scene in front of the lens. This is the true auto mode, which requires - and allows - the least amount of user control over the picture taking process. Of course, picking a scene mode by hand is always an option.

Smart Portrait is a shooting mode of its own rather than one of the scene modes. In this mode, the S3000 hunts for smiling faces and snaps a photo whenever it detects one. Also, there's a skin softening option that can be used to remove blemishes and other minor imperfections, giving the skin a smooth look in the process. The intensity of the effect can be set to High, Normal or Low. The function can of course be turned off as well. The Blink Proof option forces the camera to take another image if it detects a person who's blinking in the photo.

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Nikon Coolpix S3000
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Subject Tracking is a new auto-focus option that automatically focuses on the main subject and then follows it around the frame. You simply place the square target over the subject and press the OK button, which then places a yellow rectangle around them. If either the subject or the camera is moved, the focus and exposure remain targeted on the yellow frame. This is especially useful for erratic subjects like children and pets, although the system does sometimes struggle to keep up, forcing you to lock focus again.

In contrast to its big brother, the S4000, the Nikon Coolpix S3000 can only record standard-definition VGA videos. The resolution is 6400×480 pixels, while the frame rate is 30 frames per second. Mono sound is recorded with movies, but the optical zoom cannot be used while filming. Single or full-time AF may be selected for movies - in the first case, focus will be locked at the beginning of each clip, while in the second case, the camera will keep adjusting the focus while filming, which may cause the sound of the focus motor to be picked up by the microphone. Maximum clip length is limited to 29 minutes. Electronic VR can be turned on to help avoid camera shake, although the quality of the video is affected.

Videos and stills may be stored either in the S3000's limited 47Mb on-board memory, or on a separately sold SD or SDHC card (SDXC cards are not supported). The memory card shares its compartment with the supplied EN-EL10 lithium-ion battery. Nikon appears to have made a conscious effort to place the compartment door as far away from the tripod socket as possible, so you might be able to change batteries and memory cards while the camera is mounted on a tripod, but it will also depend on the kind of head and / or quick release plate you are using. The battery can be charged via a computer using the supplied USB cable or via the EH-68P AC adapter, using the same cable. Although the battery is removable, it must be in the camera for charging (much like a cell phone battery). The number of images that can be captured on a single charge is about 220, though the actual figure may vary with the amount of flash and zoom usage.

In use, the S3000 proved to be adequately responsive for its class. Start-up was pretty fast considering the camera has to extend the lens before it can start taking photos. The zoom action can be described as smooth for a power zoom, and the relatively moderate 4x zoom ratio ensures that it doesn't take ages to go from wide angle to maximum telephoto or vice versa. Overall, the design works reasonably well, although I really missed shortcut icons for oft-used functions like ISO speed and white balance.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix S3000 produced images of average quality during the review period. Noise and loss of fine detail becomes obvious at the relatively slow speed of ISO 400 and then progressively worse at the faster settings of 800 and 1600. The fastest setting of 3200 is only to be used as a last resort. Chromatic aberrations were fairly well controlled, with limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 12 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera sharpening level. Macro performance is poor, only allowing you to focus as close as 8cms away from the subject. The built-in flash worked fairly well indoors, with little red-eye and adequate overall exposure,a lthough it did suffer from inconsistent white balance. The maximum shutter speed of 2 seconds isn't long enough to allow the camera to capture enough light for most after-dark situations.


The Nikon Coolpix S3000 has sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 3200 at full resolution.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S3000's 4x zoom lens provides a focal length of 27-108mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




Here are two 100% crops - he right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are slightly soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

At full resolution, there are two JPEG quality settings available including Normal and Fine, with the latter being marked with a star in the menu.

Fine (4.86Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (2.69Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Nikon Coolpix S3000 shows little purple fringing, although you can find examples of it in areas of high contrast as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S3000 allows you to get as close as 8cms to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash card.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


Vignetting is not a major issue with the Nikon Coolpix S3000, irrespective of whether you use the flash or not.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (108mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (108mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Flash exposures produced by the S3000 exhibited white balance inconsistencies as clearly shown below, but red-eye wasn't a major problem.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is hardly the ideal tool for night photography, as the longest shutter speed is 2 seconds and you cannot set it manually. The shot below was captured at a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 80.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S3000 camera, which were all taken using the 12 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 highest quality setting of 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 14 second movie is 19.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Rear of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Top of the Camera


Nikon Coolpix S3000

Bottom of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S3000

Battery Compartment


The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is a stylish but ultimately basic point-and shoot camera aimed primarily at snapshooters. It might lack the clever touchscreen interface or HD video of its bigger brother, the S4000, but it does crucially cost half the price.

The lack of features and frills may put off some potential owners, but we found the S3000's pared-down approach refreshing. It's difficult to find too much fault with a £100 / $150 camera that's very slim, light and made of metal rather than plastic. We would have liked to see an optical image stabilisation system rather than the ineffective electronic one, especially given the feather-weight nature of the S3000, the macro focusing distance is a disappointing 8cm even at the wide-angle setting, and the VGA movies are starting to look dated, but there's little else to complain about given the entry-level price-tag.

As far as image quality is concerned, results are commendably on a par with the S4000 - that is, solid rather than spectacular. A small sensor with a lot of pixels will be inherently noisy, which calls for some pretty heavy-handed noise reduction. This in turn results in a very obvious smearing of fine detail, even at base ISO. Having said that, the photos are still sharp, at least in the image centre. Chromatic aberrations are almost a non-issue, and the colours are very accurate as long as you are using the camera in natural light. Indoors, the auto white balance struggles to compensate for the different colour of the various light sources, but the camera does at least provide an option to set the white balance manually, another pleasant surprise on an otherwise basic model.

The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is a cheap and more than cheerful step-up from a camera-phone or first-ever digicam, offering solid build-quality, a proven interface and acceptable image quality with a dash of style.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S3000 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is designed to be an affordable, stylish and fun camera, so it's hardly fair to expect cutting-edge technology. Even so, its basic specs are very similar to those of countless other compact cameras on the market, and it's such a modest improvement over the outgoing Coolpix S220 that its release really just seems like a routine marketing exercise.
Read the full review » »

Nikon's S-series compact cameras promise the combination of affordability and advanced imaging courtesy of the brand's digital imaging heritage. The S300 resides at the extreme of the affordable end of the market, currently available for around £100, though the specification belies the price tag.
Read the full review » »

The CoolPix S3000 is a type of camera that Nikon has always done well, a simple, easy-to-use point and shoot camera aimed at casual and social photographers. It's a pretty little thing, and is available in a range of seven colours including champagne silver, magenta, green, blue, orange, red and the rather more sober matt black seen here. It is an exceptionally small camera, measuring just 94.3 x 55.9 x 19.0mm, making it slightly longer but a couple of millimetres thinner and less tall than the S570. It is also very light, weighing only 116g including battery and memory card. Nonetheless the build quality is excellent, with an attractive and well-finished all-metal body. The rounded shape and flush-folding lens make it an ideal choice for slipping into a pocket or handbag for a night out.
Read the full review » »

The Nikon COOLPIX S3000 is a 12 Megapixel compact with a 4x optical zoom and 2.7in screen. Launched in February 2010 it supersedes the popular COOLPIX S220, adding 2 Megapixels to the resolution, a bigger screen and extending the zoom mostly at the wide angle end of the range.
Read the full review »


Effective pixels 12.0 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. CCD; total pixels: approx. 12.39 million
Lens 4x zoom NIKKOR; 4.9-19.6mm (35mm [135] format picture angle: 27-108mm); f/3.2-5.9; Digital zoom: up to 4x (35mm [135] format picture angle: 432mm)
Focus range (from lens) 50cm (1 ft. 8 in.) to infinity (∞), Macro close-up mode: 8 cm (3.2 in.) to infinity (∞)
Monitor 2.7-in., approx. 230k-dot, TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating
Storage media Internal memory (approx. 47 MB), SD memory cards*1
Image size (pixels) 4000 x 3000? (12M), 4000 x 3000 (12M), 3264 x 2448 (8M), 2592 x 1944 (5M), 2048 x 1536 (3M), 1024 x 768 (PC:), 640 x 480 (VGA), 3968 x 2232 (16?9)
Vibration Reduction (VR) Electronic VR
ISO sensitivity ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, Auto (auto gain ISO 80-1600), Fixed range auto (ISO 80-400, 80-800)
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Power sources Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL10 (supplied), Charging AC Adapter EH-68P/EH-68P (AR) (supplied), AC Adapter EH-62D (optional), Battery Charger MH-63 (optional)
Battery life*2 Approx. 220 shots with EN-EL10 battery
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 94.3 x 55.9 x 19.0 mm (3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.) excluding projections*3
Weight Approx. 116 g (4.1 oz.) with battery and SD memory card*3
Supplied accessories*4 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL10, Charging AC Adapter EH-68P/EH-68P (AR), USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14, Strap AN-CP19, Software Suite CD-ROM
Optional accessories AC Adapter EH-62D, Battery Charger MH-63

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