Nikon Coolpix S30 Review
The Nikon Coolpix S30 is an all weather digital compact camera geared towards family life and holidays. It sports full waterproofing to a depth of 3m, is dustproof and shockproof. Easy buttons make it accessible for all the family and creative filters aim to make picture taking fun. However, with a 10 megapixel resolution, 2.7 inch screen and 3x optical zoom, will the average family be able to see past the numbers? The Nikon Coolpix S30 retails for $119.95 / £99.99 / €118.00.
Ease of Use
The Nikon Coolpix S30 joins the swelling ranks of waterproof cameras on the market today. The S30 is a mixture of the bulky “obvious” aquatic cameras such as Pentax and Canon release, and the smooth “discreet” aquatic cameras from Olympus.
The smooth and shiny gloss front of the Nikon Coolpix S30 looks like any other camera but look closer and you'll see that the lens is hidden behind a thick piece of glass. The depth from the lens to the protective covering houses the modest 3x optical zoom. A small flash sits in the middle of the camera instead of the side. This is a good idea that's seen on many submarine cameras because underwater, you'll use it two handed. That runs the risk of covering the flash, which just wouldn't do.
The top of the camera gives an indication to the aims of the designers when creating the S30. Three ultra large buttons sit on the top plate spaced comfortably apart. The left button is for video recording without having to enter a mode. In the middle is the power button while the shutter release sits on the right.
The back of the Nikon Coolpix S30 has had a redesign from the standard compact camera layout. Instead of having all the buttons down the right side, there are now some on the left. There's no icons to indicate what they do because it's all on screen. To the right of the screen, the navigation pad is small but chunky. Big enough to rest a thumb on while you're using it.
There's a couple of oddities about the Coolpix S30: Nikon have kept the resolution low. It's a 10 megapixel CCD and although we realise that image quality should be just as good – if not better – than a camera with a higher resolution, we wonder why the decision was made to do this. The zoom is only 3x optical. The housing envelopes the whole zoom operation so space is a problem, but there are cameras out there that are thinner with bigger zooms. There are options such as moving lens elements or periscope mirrors. The screen is also only 2.7 inches. The back has to house bigger buttons and it's been rearranged so we can see why, but will a customer?
Aimed as an all-rounder that a family can take anywhere, the Nikon Coolpix S30 is waterproof to 3m. That's just under 10ft which is ample for snorkelling, light scuba or simply mucking around in the pool. Interestingly, the shockproofing is only to 0.8m. Comparably, other shockproof cameras have a maximum height of 1.5m which is around chest height of an average adult. That covers most kids and the majority of adults. 0.8m is more like waist height.
The gloss finish looks lovely but coupled with the bulky design, it makes the Nikon Coolpix S30 look a little cartoonish. On the bottom, the camera has a plastic tripod bush. The battery door has a lock on it to prevent accidental opening. It's interesting to see that the rubber seals have been put on the compartment and not on the battery door. A plastic catch holds the batteries in place which are AA type. This also sounds a little archaic but Nikon have opted for these because they're so readily available when you're abroad. Pretty much any shop will sell AA batteries. The memory card also goes in the same compartment as the batteries. It's good to see some new technology in there at least. The S30 takes up to SDXC cards for much higher capacity.
Switching the Nikon Coolpix S30 on and it's plainly obvious to see that this is a camera designed for the family. The four buttons on the left of the body have four coloured icons sat next to them on the screen. Pressing any will take you into what looks like a sub-menu but is actually the main menu. The options are extended and reached by scrolling down. The full list of options isn't very long. The four primary options accessible from the main screen are: Change colours, Decorate, Choose a style and Change sounds. The other options lower down are: Flash mode, Self-timer, Choose a size, Movie AF and Set up. To access any of these options press the corresponding button that the mode is in line with. Change colours allows you to adjust exposure compensation, colour and hue. Decorate has five frames that can be positioned around the picture. Choose a style is a renamed scene menu and Change sounds is a fun area that has multiple options of sounds that can be applied to the camera. At the bottom of the screen are two illustrations of the front and back of the camera. You can assign a sound to the operation buttons as well as a different sound to the shutter button.
Initially, the menu seems to be a nightmare because it's so different to what anyone is normally used to. It's laid out differently on purpose to be easier to use and have more of a flow for younger people to understand the controls. The options on the menu are colourful, bright icons and when the page is scrolled through, to select a function or mode, you have to press the corresponding button to the left of the screen. There's no OK button on the S30.
Other buttons that have been moved around are for the zoom. They're now on the back of the camera on the navigation pad. Press up for zoom in and down for zoom out.
From starting up to taking a picture takes just under 3 seconds which isn't a bad performance. Shutter lag sits at around 0.05sec which is admirable although there is some give for reflexes. It still shows as faster than previous generation cameras. There's a continuous shooting mode which is accessed through the Scene menu. We managed to get eight frames in a 10 second period. We got two pictures in the first second and after two seconds it slowed down to a plodding frame every 1.5 to two seconds.
|Memory Card Slot
In playback, there are four more menu options accessed in the same way as when you're shooting. The first one is titled: Have fun with your pictures. There are multiple options available such as Changing colours, Highlighting colours, Decorating the picture with frames, Soften, add Starbursts to highlights, add a Fish eye effect or add a Diorama effect. The latter is the effect that makes streets look like toy towns when taken from a higher viewpoint. Changing colours is a simple effect of changing the picture to black & white, sepia or cyan. Highlighting colours will send the picture to black & white while retaining the colour you've selected.
The second option is called View and allows you to select Favourite pictures, arrange Photo albums, create a Slide show, Organise by date, Rotate, Resize, Copy them or determine the order that they'll print. All of these normally have more jargon like names which have been simplified. For example, Resize is now called Small picture.
The third option is interesting. It allows you to Record an audio message, leave a Reply to an existing one, Play all recordings or Erase all the recordings to that picture. Finally, the Erase option has only two options for erasing the picture you're on or erasing all of them.
The Nikon Coolpix S30 takes 2x AA batteries so it only comes with two disposable ones in the box. Rechargeables will last longer. Also in the box, there's a small brush to remove dust and debris, a wrist strap, USB lead, View NX2 software, User manual on another CD and a quick user guide to get you started.
All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.
The Nikon Coolpix S30 causes a challenging test because it controls everything to do with camera operations. This truly is a camera for the happy snapper family. The sample pictures we got were hit and miss. We found that even using flash on occasion got some camera shake. Colours are recorded nicely but in an effort to maintain a decent shutter speed, it ramps up the ISO and creates a lot of noise in the process. When taken properly, pictures are sharp enough but it takes time sitting there and making sure the conditions are right.
Because the Nikon Coolpix S30 controls everything, we couldn't adjust the ISO manually, so had to improvise by adjusting the available light then moving it further away. We managed to record from ISO 160 to ISO 400. Not a massive range and we're certain that it's more expansive than that but we couldn't get the camera to go any higher in our circumstances. Because of the lack of control of white-balance, we had to also adjust the colour temperature in Adobe Photoshop.
Even ISO 160 has noise showing through. Edge definition is good, however but there's no denying that coloured noise is present although not in high key areas. It does flood in by the ISO 250 mark though. Edges are broken and the whole picture quality starts to fall apart at this stage. Noise reduction is working overtime to keep it together but in the right (or wrong) conditions, it could get overwhelmed at this stage.
ISO 400 has big blobs of colour attacking the darker and mid-tone areas. Salt and pepper noise is ruining the lighter areas and the contrasty edges of the pictures at this setting.
ISO 80 (160% Crop)
ISO 250 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
The focal length of the Nikon Coolpix S30 is 4.1-12.3mm or 29-87mm in 35mm terms.
We found that the majority of pictures from the Nikon Coolpix S30 are sharp enough for general use but if you wanted to run them through some basic sharpening, it certainly tightens it up as you can see in our sample images.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
Although we managed to find instances of chromatic aberration, it was really difficult and it only appears at the edges of the frame where the lens isn't at it's best (no lens is). It appears as soft purple or orange lines that blends in quite well with the background so that it's not as noticeable.
Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 4 (100% Crop)
As we mentioned earlier, when the pictures are taken properly, it shows. Take the flash image: Despite the large amount of noise still present, it's sharp and tight with good edge definition. Admittedly, we had some issues hitting the point of focus. The camera would confirm focus and each time we edged in closer. Once the camera couldn't confirm, we edged out to the previous point but then the camera wouldn't focus there any more. Nor would it focus again until we'd moved the camera out past the original start point. It's as though it got stuck because once it started focusing again, we managed to move in and get our macro test image.
Macro (100% Crop)
There are only two flash options on the Nikon Coolpix S30; Auto and Off. Red-eye reduction is all done automatically. The camera does record a little colouration in the eye but it can't be helped with the position of the flash. That positioning is to help with underwater photography. It allows a more shadowless shot of marine life and doesn't get covered when being held by two hands underwater. It has a good spread, our wall test is nice and even with no vignetting. We couldn't get a systematic test such as other cameras get because we can't control the flash on the Coolpix S30.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)
We found that the Nikon Coolpix S30 does suffer from red-eye and adding the red-eye reduction did reduce it, but only slightly.
Red Eye Reduction
Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)
When it comes to shooting at night, we'd like to see a mixture of the Auto and Night scene modes. The exposure of the Night scene is perfect but is riddled with noise. On the other hand, the Auto mode is far too dark but has a better noise response making a sharper, clearer image.
Night Auto (100% Crop)
Night Scene (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S30 camera, which were all taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Top of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
While the Nikon DSLRs appear to be getting more and more advanced, it seems that the compact camera market is being dumbed down somewhat. Initially, the Nikon Coolpix S30's menu seems to be a nightmare because it's so different to what anyone is normally used to. But this is for a family new to photography and they may want to use something that does everything for them.
The specification of the Nikon Coolpix S30 is a little low but that could be attributed to the fact that it's an underwater camera. Certainly the screen will need packing in to ensure it's waterproof which explains the lack of size and the lower resolution isn't a bad thing. After all, the 10 megapixel sensor will still make nice sized photographs. If it wasn't for the regularly dicey photo quality, that is. We do wonder how the figures will look to the layman. 10 megapixels, 3x optical zoom and a 2.7 inch screen does seem a bit yesterday.
When looking at the Nikon Coolpix S30 from a cost perspective, though, it does all start to make sense. This is a sub £100 camera and for that you're getting something for the kids to play around with on holiday. They can take it in the pool, hunting for crabs in rock pools or on the beach without you having to worry that it's going to get broken. Should it break – however unlikely - you have the peace of mind that it didn't cost too much. The SDXC card compatibility will allow for massive storage sizes so the kids can snap to their heart's content.
If you can keep the ISO low and take your time taking the picture then you'll find that the Nikon Coolpix S30 can produce nice pictures. It has some fun features that the kids will enjoy playing with too. Go too high and the sensor makes such a mess of things, the noise reduction simply can't cope with the pressure. If you're about to jet off and need a happy snappy camera for the kids to potter around on the beach with then this isn't a bad option.
|Ratings (out of 5)
|Value for money
Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S30 from around the web.
The Nikon Coolpix S30 is designed as the ideal family camera that anyone in the family can use, from kids to adults, with a large screen, large buttons and waterproof and shock proof body it should survive a little rough treatment, as well as survive trips to the beach or swimming pool.
Read the full review »
There's already a selection of cheap, waterproof compacts designed for kids on the market right now, but when Nikon outs an underwater kiddie snapper, people tend to sit up and take a little more notice. The Coolpix S30 has a 3x optical zoom and a symmetrical design that makes it easy for kids to grab and grip.
Read the full review »
*Unless otherwise stated, all figures are for a camera with a fully-charged Rechargeable Li-ion Battery operated at an ambient temperature of 25°C (77°F).
**Compliant with MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock.
|Compact digital camera
|1/3-in. type CCD; approx. 10.44 million total pixels
|3x optical zoom, NIKKOR lens
|4.1-12.3mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 29.1-87.3 mm lens in 35mm  format)
|6 elements in 5 groups
|Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 349 mm lens in 35mm  format)
|Electronic VR (still pictures)
|Focus range (from the protective glass)
|: [W]: Approx. 30 cm (1 ft) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity Shoot close-ups: Approx. 5 cm (2 in.) (wide-angle position) to infinity
|Center, face detection
|6.7-cm (2.7-in.), approx. 230k-dot, TFT LCD with 5-level brightness adjustment
|Frame coverage (shooting mode)
|Approx. 98% horizontal and 98% vertical
|Frame coverage (playback mode)
|Approx. 100% horizontal and 100% vertical
|Internal memory (approx. 47 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
|DCF, Exif 2.3, and DPOF compliant
|Still pictures: JPEG Messages: WAV Movies: AVI (Motion-JPEG compliant)
|Image mode (image types)
|10M [3648 x 2736] 4M [2272 x 1704] 2M [1600 x 1200]
|Auto, Choose a Style (Point and shoot, Shoot close-ups, Shoot under water, Take a series of pictures, Shoot at intervals, Photograph food, Highlight colors, Take soft pictures, Create a diorama effect, Photograph fireworks)
|Take a series of pictures
|Up to about 4 pictures at about 1.5 fps
|Large (720p) (default setting): 1280 x 720/approx. 30 fps, Small (640): 640 x 480/approx. 30 fps
|ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity)
|Auto (auto gain from ISO 80 to 1600)
|256-segment matrix, center-weighted (digital zoom less than 2x, spot (digital zoom 2x or more)
|Programmed auto exposure with motion detection and exposure compensation (-2.0 to +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
|Mechanical and charge-coupled electronic shutter
|1/2000 -1 s (4 s if style is set to Photograph fireworks)
|Electronically-controlled ND filter (-3 AV) selection
|2 steps (f/3.3 and f/9.3 [W])
|Approx. 10 s, smile timer
|Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto)
|[W]: 0.3 to 3.5 m (1 ft to 11 ft) [T]: 0.5 to 2.0 m (1 ft 8 in. to 6 ft 7 in.)
|TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
|Data Transfer Protocol
|Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
|Audio/video (A/V) output; digital I/O(USB)
|Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
|two LR6/L40 (AA-size) alkaline batteries, two FR6/L91 (AA-size) lithium batteries, two EN-MH2 rechargeable Ni-MH batteries (available separately)
|Still pictures*: Approx. 240 shots when using alkaline batteries Approx. 700 shots when using lithium batteries Approx. 410 shots when using EN-MH2 batteries Movies: Approx. 50 min when using alkaline batteries (Large (720p)) Approx. 3 h 45 min when using lithium batteries (Large (720p)) Approx. 2 h 25 min when using EN-MH2 batteries (Large (720p)) The maximum file size for a single movie is 4 GB and the maximum movie length for a single movie is 29 minutes, even when there is sufficient free space on the memory card for longer recording.
|1/4 (ISO 1222)
|Dimensions (W x H x D)
|Approx. 101.9 x 64.8 x 39.4 mm (4.1 x 2.6 x 1.6 in.) (excluding projections)
|Approx. 214 g (7.6 oz) (including battery and SD memory card)
|0°C to 40°C (32°F to 104°F)
|Less than 85% (no condensation)
|JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) equivalent (under our testing conditions) Capacity to shoot pictures underwater up to a depth of 3 m (9.8 ft) and for 60 minutes
|JIS/IEC protection class 6 (IP6X) equivalent (under our testing conditions)
|Cleared our testing conditions**
|Camera Strap, LR6/L40 (AA-size) alkaline batteries (x2), USB Cable UC-E16, Brush, ViewNX 2 Installer CD, Reference Manual CD
|Rechargeable Ni-MH batteries EN-MH2-B2 (set of two EN-MH2 batteries), Rechargeable Ni-MH batteries EN-MH2-B4 (set of four EN-MH2 batteries), Battery Charger MH-72 (includes two slots to recharge Ni-MH batteries EN-MH2) and Battery Charger MH-73 (includes four slots to recharge Ni-MH batteries EN-MH2), Audio Video Cable EG-CP14