Nikon Coolpix S31 Review

September 27, 2013 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S31 is a simple, easy to use digital compact camera featuring a waterproof casing that's also shockproof. Inside resides a 10 megapixel CCD sensor, 3x optical zoom, digital effect filters and 720p video recording. Available in five zany colours such as Beatles Submarine yellow, blue, brown, pink and white, the Nikon Coolpix S31 costs around £89.

Ease of Use

The target audience of the Nikon Coolpix S31 is an interesting one. It's aimed at an entire family; from child to grandparent, as opposed to just parents. There are a number of features that help it along to being a more universal camera. The designers have approached the camera with the aim of making it as simplistic as possible.  The button count is left to a minimum and are larger than  normal  to accommodate large hands and children's fingers.

On the top of the camera, the shutter release button sits on the right shoulder next to the power button. The only one that's not big or easy to get to. And that's a good idea, because it minimises the chance of shutting the camera down during picture taking time. On the left shoulder, the direct video record button is located. It's picked out easily by the red spot in it's centre. On the back, the running theme of simplicity is less of a “running” theme and more of a riot. There's only four buttons to action absolutely every menu option while shooting and they're located on the left side of the screen. They have a purpose being in the position they're in and we'll come to that in a moment. On the opposite side of the 2.7 inch screen is a  small navigation pad which doubles as a zoom button and below that is the playback.

Nikon have cleverly placed the buttons to the side of the screen so that they don't have to put any lettering on the buttons directly. This means less clutter to confuse the end user and it makes the camera look nicer. When you need to use a menu, the options will come up on the screen next to the button you have to press in order to use it. There's very little use of the navigation pad. Nikon have tried their best to keep to just using the buttons to the left. The only time you may have to use them is in the Main menu or the Setup menu. Otherwise it's used as the zoom button.

Nikon Coolpix S31 Nikon Coolpix S31
Front Rear

The reason behind many of the design ideas with the Nikon Coolpix S31 is down to its sturdiness. The camera is waterproof to 5m and shock-proof up to a distance of 1.2m. That's about waist height that it can get dropped from, which should cover the majority of people handling it. That will be great for everyday use as well as going on holiday. Young kids in a family will be able to record their adventures as they snorkel along or go rock-pooling and the bright colour will make it easy to see if it's dropped in a murky pool. The waterproofing also means that the camera is dust-proof.

Nikon seem to have opted for a smaller resolution on the S31. It's a mere 10 megapixels. However, let's not forget that less pixels generally means less noise. There may be a lack of fine detail compared to higher resolution cameras, but given the target audience, that's less likely to be an issue. It will do family portraits, beach scenes and interesting lizards, so that should be good enough.

For those of you wanting a bit more from your pictures, there's a number of filters to use. They're located in with the Scenes that can be chosen for specific types of photography, such as macro (flowers), sports and food. There's also the option to shoot interval photography, mirror effects, soft focus and diorama. The latter effect is when you shoot from a high viewpoint, looking down on a street and the effect makes it look like a toy town.

Nikon Coolpix S31 Nikon Coolpix S31
Front Top

The Nikon Coolpix S31 isn't a camera that can be used in times of urgency. From a cold start, we took a picture in a little over three seconds. The average on compacts that we test is about 2.5 seconds. It's possible to turn off the welcome screen and that does shave off a lot of time. We managed to get it down to around 2.8 seconds. In the burst test, we managed to record eight images in a ten second period, giving an average of 0.8fps (frames per second). The first three frames run at about 1.5fps but then it slows down. Processing the pictures to the memory card is quite fast as the camera was ready to shoot again in three seconds.

The menu system has been arranged differently from other digital compact cameras in the Nikon range. Generally, once you've chosen the application you'd like to use, instead of pressing a general OK button somewhere, the instructions are all on-screen for confirming. You still use the same buttons. It's worth taking your time, because it will jump from button to button. While this can be annoying, if you used the same button to select something before confirming, if you made a mistake and didn't want to confirm, you'd have to start again which would be even more annoying. It's worth spending the little extra time to get it right.

Nikon Coolpix S31 Nikon Coolpix S31
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Pictures taken on the Nikon Coolpix S31 can be reviewed with the camera switched on or off. Should you desire to use it while off, holding the playback button down for a few seconds will let the camera know it needs to start up and isn't just an accidental bump. The navigation pad is used to scroll through the images and there are four options to the left on the menu buttons. You can edit, make albums, add messages or tag as a favourite. You can also create a slide-show of your pictures if you want to. If you want to zoom in on the picture, you can do by using the normal zoom function. However, the S31 hasn't been programmed to be able to move around the picture. So, if you focus and recompose to get an off centre shot, you won't be able to check that it's sharp, which is baffling in this day and age.

In the box the User Manual is in a booklet. This is unusual for cameras these days. They generally put a brief start guide in a book and put the full manual on the CD. However, because the S31 is so simple, it doesn't need much to say about it and it can fit in a relatively slim booklet. The CD then has  just ViewNX 2 on it. This is Nikon's editing and tagging suite. The S31 takes a lithium ion battery which is included along with the charger and lead. A USB cable and wrist strap are also included in the box.

Image Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S31's file size depends on a number of factors. It sways wildly from as little as 4Mb to as much as 5.7Mb. We used the full resolution on the Coolpix S31 which is 10 megapixels, but there's no option to adjust the compression. In fact, there's only three resolution options. You can choose between 10, 4 or 2 megapixels.


There's no manual over-ride for the ISO settings on the Nikon Coolpix S31, so we had to do a bit of jiggery pokery with the lights. At ISO 80, there's a little discolouration in the darker areas and some noise can be seen at 100% magnification. However, the edge definition is sharp enough and the problems are only really noticeable at full magnification. It's unlikely they'll be viewed in that way.

The first three settings we recorded are all pretty much within a stop of each other, so the noise development isn't that noticeable. The ISO 100 image looks much the same as the previous ISO 80 shot and the ISO 125 looks the same as the ISO 100 shot, albeit with more salt & pepper noise and sharpened pixels. It's obvious that noise reduction is at work – which is a shame at such low settings – but it's doing a decent job and it's unlikely the target audience will mind.

The final setting we managed to record was ISO 400 (the camera does go higher than that). Noise reduction is in overdrive. Colours are subdued in order to eliminate colour noise although it's worth noting that it's worked mainly on the noise colour. The colours of the pocket watch are only mildly changed, which is great.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso400.jpg

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S31 has a 3x optical zoom which is a 29-87mm in 35mm terms. The low zoom range means that there's little change in image quality. The lens isn't ultra-wide so barrel distortion is at a minimum. The only people who will suffer will be the lethargic because they'll have to walk nearer to the subject.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Because of the amount of noise on the pictures, sharpening simply exacerbates the problem. Adding sharpening to the pictures from the Nikon Coolpix S31 doesn't do anything to help and should be avoided.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

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

Chromatic Aberrations

We detected chroma on high contrast sharp edge lines such as silhouetted trees against a bright sky. It's easy to mistake that kind of phenomenon for lens flare and that did show up on the occasional shot, but lens flare has a thicker line of colour. We also found it on images that didn't have sunlight on them, such as the macro test shot.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


Close focusing on the Nikon Coolpix S31 is 5cm, which isn't bad, but not the best. The advantage of not focusing as close is that image degradation (which always happens towards the edges of the frame) doesn't affect the picture as bad. Barrel distortion is also not as bad.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


There's a little bit of vignetting at wide-angle but this disappears as the zoom is operated. Using flash doesn't get rid of it, only maintains the available light. While this seems unnecessary, it means that in darker situations, the flash will simulate natural light which you'll prefer over those bleached night-time pictures from the past.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (29mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (29mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (87mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (87mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The red-eye reduction on the Nikon Coolpix S31 is automatic. It can't be switched off but aside from slowing the picture taking process slightly, it doesn't really matter and it takes an extra worry away from you.

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


We took two night scene images, one using the Auto setting and the other using the Fireworks mode. This was the closest setting we could find to a night scene. It selected a four second exposure at ISO 80. The latter is great for low noise images, but the shutter speed wasn't long enough and we got an under exposed shot. Now if there was a firework exploding, we think that would be perfectly exposed, but it means that the camera doesn't have a dedicated night mode, which is unusual.

Still, flicking the camera in Auto (which is done by pressing the camera icon, so very easy) and we got an ISO 400 shot with a faster shutter speed of 1/2 second. Still slow enough to need a tripod, but with the higher ISO, a much better exposure. It's just a shame about the breakdown of detail because of the noise that's present.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)

night_auto.jpg night_auto1.jpg

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene1.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S31 camera, which were all taken using the 10 megapixel 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 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 26 second movie is 95.2Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S31

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S31

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S31

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S31

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Nikon Coolpix S31

Rear of the Camera / Brightness

Nikon Coolpix S31

Rear of the Camera / Scene Modes


Nikon Coolpix S31

Top of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Bottom of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S31
Front of the Camera
Nikon Coolpix S31
Memory Card Slot
Nikon Coolpix S31
Battery Compartment


We need to look at the Nikon Coolpix S31 for what it is - a cheap and cheerful waterproof camera that's designed for everyone in a household to use, from young children to grandparents. With that in mind, the S31 is very well thought out. The build quality will deal with pretty much anything that the kids can throw at it. Or throw it at. On the flipside, the controls are easy enough for a technophobic adult to be able to use easily. Kids will use the decorative borders on their pictures of the dog in a tutu while adults will enjoy the digital effects such as the Diorama.

In everyday use, the image quality from the Nikon Coolpix S31 isn't too bad. As the pictures get blown up, the lack of quality and detail begins to be an issue, so if you're the kind of family that likes to have big pictures on the wall, take a look at the sample images in detail first. However, with back lighting, the pictures are colourful and contrasty. As the light gets in front of the lens, colours start to pale and contrast gets more neutral.

The Nikon Coolpix S31 costs around £89 and because of that, if it gets broken somehow, or lost at the bottom of the sea then it's replaceable. In the latter example, you'll lose your card as well, so it's best to try and avoid that one in particular. But that's good news for a family that will be taking the camera on holiday. Most swimming pools aren't 5m deep – that's 16ft - so it'll be ok getting dropped in by accident or having fun with underwater shots. Just don't open the battery door while underwater as that will destroy the camera.

The Nikon Coolpix S31 is a great little camera for anyone that hasn't got the slightest clue about what photographic terms such as ISO means, or even cares about what it means. This is a camera that will work for you. It will determine the best shot and all you have to do is point it at something. You can zoom as well if you want to. The zoom is restricted to the size of the tube that the lens resides in. It's a shame they couldn't use similar technology to Olympus who have an internal zoom with no external moving parts. If Nikon can sort that and fit a better sensor for the same money, they'll be onto a winner.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 5
Image quality 3
Value for money 4.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix S31.

Canon PowerShot A1300

The PowerShot A1300 is one of the cheapest compact cameras from Canon. Offering a 16 megapixel sensor, 5x zoom lens and a very attractive price tag of less than £120 / $120, the A1300 even features a proper optical viewfinder. Read our Canon PowerShot A1300 review to find out if it's worthy of a second glance...

Canon PowerShot D20

The Canon PowerShot D20 is an all-action compact camera that's water, dust, freeze and shock proof. The new Canon D20 is a distinctively designed 12 megapixel camera with a 5x zoom, 1080p HD video, built-in GPS and a 3-inch screen. Read our detailed Canon PowerShot D20 review now...

Fujifilm FinePix JZ500

The Fujifilm FinePix JZ500 is a brand new 10x travel-zoom camera that won't break the bank. Offering a 14 megapixel sensor, 28-280mm focal range and 720p HD movie recording, the JZ500 can be yours for less than £175 / $250. Read our Fujifilm FinePix JZ500 review to find out if it's worth a look.

Nikon Coolpix L28

The Nikon Coolpix L28 compact camera has a 20 megapixel CCD sensor, 5x wide-angle zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen and 720p movies, yet costs just £109.99 / $119.95. Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix L28 review to find out if this is the right point-and-shoot camera for you...

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 I-10

Is it a DSLR? Is it a compact? The new Pentax I-10 combines the styling of the former with the simplicity of the latter, complete with a 5x zoom, 12 megapixels and 2.7 inch screen for under £199.99 / $249.95. Gavin Stoker finds out if the Pentax I-10 is 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-WX60

Entry level cameras don't have to be big and ugly, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX60 is a case in point. This stylish compact packs an 8x zoom lens, 16 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch screen and a wealth of beginner-friendly features into its svelte frame. Priced at around £150, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX60 review to find out if its performance matches its good looks...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S31 from around the web. »

Nikon's website describes the S31 as a camera for all the family. We'd say it's more accurately described as a camera for children. Its toy-like appearance isn't likely to appeal to mums and dads, but the sub-£100 price will.
Read the full review » »

Aimed at the budget end of the family market, Nikon's Coolpix S31 is the successor to its 2012 Coolpix S30 compact camera. The sensor is still the same size, at 10.1 megapixels, and the 3x optical zoom hasn't been updated, but the Nikon S31 now comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery versus the Nikon S30's AA batteries, which is a welcome upgrade.
Read the full review » »

Not all of us are looking for a camera with which to make competition standard prints; sometimes all we want to do is point and shoot and end up with an attractive result that doesn't require much, if any, image editing. And if we can get that for a reasonable price, all the better. Ticking those boxes is the new Coolpix S3100, which offers an effective resolution of 14 megapixels and a 5x zoom lens.
Read the full review » »

The Nikon Coolpix S31 is a family friendly waterproof camera, an update of the S30. This new model is even more shockproof and uses a rechargeable Li-Ion battery instead of AA batteries. The S31 is available in blue, pink, white and yellow for £84.99.
Read the full review »


Product name COOLPIX S31
Type Compact digital camera
Number of effective pixels 10.1 million
Image sensor 1/2.9-in. type CCD; approx. 10.34 million total pixels
Lens NIKKOR lens with 3x optical zoom
Focal length 4.1-12.3 mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 29-87 mm lens in 35mm [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 that of approx. 348 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Motion blur reduction Electronic VR (still pictures), motion detection (still pictures)
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range [W]: Approx. 30 cm (1 ft) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity Shoot close-ups, Photograph food, Shoot under water, Mirror, Take soft pictures, Create a diorama effect, Highlight colors: Approx. 5 cm (2 in.) (wide-angle position) to infinity (All distances measured from center of front surface of the protective glass)
Focus-area selection Center, face detection
Monitor 6.7 cm (2.7-in.), approx. 230k-dot, TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating and 5-level brightness adjustment
Frame coverage (shooting mode) Approx. 97% horizontal and 97% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Frame coverage (playback mode) Approx. 100% horizontal and 100% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Storage - Media Internal memory (approx. 26 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, and DPOF compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG Voice messages: WAV Movies: AVI (Motion-JPEG compliant)
Image size (photo size) 10 megapixels [3648 x 2736] 4 megapixels [2272 x 1704] 2 megapixels [1600 x 1200]
Shooting Modes Point and Shoot, Choose a Style (Shoot close-ups, Photograph food, Shoot at intervals, Shoot under water, Take a series of pictures, Photograph fireworks, Mirror, Take soft pictures, Create a diorama effect)
Take a series of pictures Four images at a rate of about 1.5fps
Movie Large (720p) (default setting): 1280 x 720/16:9/approx. 30 fps, Small (640): 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 30 fps
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 80-1600
Exposure - Metering mode Matrix, center-weighted (digital zoom less than 2x), spot (digital zoom 2x or more)
Exposure control Programmed auto exposure and exposure compensation (-2.0 - +2.0 EV in steps of 1 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and charge-coupled electronic shutter
Speed 1/2000-1 s 4 s (Choose a style is set to Photograph fireworks)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-3 AV) selection
Range 2 steps (f/3.3 and f/9.3 [W])
Self-timer Approx. 10 s, smile timer
Flash - Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5-3.5 m (1 ft 8 in.-11 ft) [T]: 0.5-2.0 m (1 ft 8 in.-6 ft 6 in.)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Data Transfer Protocol MTP, PTP
Video output Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
I/O terminal Audio/video (A/V) output; digital I/O (USB)
Supported languages Arabic, Bengali, 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, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Power sources One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (included) AC Adapter EH-62F (available separately)
Battery life *1 - Still pictures Approx. 260 shots when using EN-EL12
Movies (actual battery life for recording) *2 Approx. 2 h when using EN-EL12
Tripod socket 1/4 in. (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 105.4 x 64.8 x 41.5 mm (4.2 x 2.6 x 1.7 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 185 g (6.6 oz) (including battery and SD memory card)
Operating environment - Temperature -10°C - +40°C (14°F-104°F) (for land use) 0°C-40°C (32°F-104°F) (for underwater use)
Humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (with terminal cover), Battery Charger MH-65 (with power cable), USB Cable UC-E16, Brush, ViewNX 2 CD, Reference Manual CD
Optional accessories AC Adapter EH-62F, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14
Waterproof JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) equivalent (under our testing conditions) Capacity to shoot pictures underwater up to a depth of 5 m (16.4 ft) and for 60 minutes
Dustproof JIS/IEC protection class 6 (IP6X) equivalent (under our testing conditions)
Shockproof Cleared our testing conditions *3 compliant with MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock

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