Nikon Coolpix S32 Review

September 5, 2014 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S32 continues the sleek, good looking waterproof cameras in the S range. Featuring a fully internal 3x optical zoom and 13 megapixel sensor, the S32 is also shockproof, waterproof and dustproof. It looks the perfect holiday point and shooter, but in the absence of an all-inclusive holiday to Spain, we'll have to settle with our home town to test the image quality. Priced at around £80 the Nikon Coolpix S32 is available in yellow, blue, pink and white.

Ease of Use

The term “Easy-to-use” is bandied around quite a lot these days, but when you're faced with the Nikon Coolpix S32, it's like the phrase has been coined especially for it. In the past, waterproof camera were always made to look like they were waterproof. They would have unnecessary bulk to them for the depth they could go to, they'd have large rivets like on a ship and big buttons to see them underwater. That all changed with the Olympus Tough series, but now, Nikon are bringing the older styling back into fashion with these “S” series cameras.

The smooth body is reminiscent of a submarine with curves instead of edges. The lens bulges out quite a bit at the front to accommodate the internal zoom system. The flash, which seems slightly larger than other flash systems on cameras that are a similar size, sits on the top of the lens. The larger size may be to compensate for underwater use but the location could cause problems with red-eye.

On the top of the camera, the S32 sports the typical power button and shutter release button for taking pictures. These are substantially larger than usual which has multiple benefits of being suitable for a younger member of the family to use, being better for people with larger hands or if you have restrictive hand movements. The direct video record button has been placed on the top plate on the opposite shoulder to the shutter release. It's designated with a red spot which is the universal icon for video recording. A button of this size wouldn't fit on the back of the camera where they're typically found.

Nikon Coolpix S32 Nikon Coolpix S32
Front Rear

On the back of the Coolpix S32, Nikon have used inspiration from the DSLR range by placing operational buttons down the left side of the screen. These aren't to open large menu systems, like their big brother counterparts though. They open very simple menus that have a language that are completely jargon free. For example, if you want to adjust the resolution, instead of the menu saying “resolution”, it asks you to “choose a size”. 

The zoom is operated via the navigation pad on the rear of the Nikon Coolpix S32. Arguably to save space on putting a switch or rocker somewhere and allow for larger buttons. The pad only has minimal use for the zoom and left and right to navigate through the pictures you've taken when in playback.

The S32 doesn't even have a menu button. The menu is in fact in plain sight as tabs down the screen when the camera is in use. If you leave the camera for a few seconds, they disappear.  They're colour-coded for ease of recognition with the green camera for shooting (not a menu, it over-rides scenes you've set and takes the camera back to Auto mode), the blue section is for flash and self-timer options, the pink tab goes into the Scene menu while the final orange tab accesses the camera Set-up menu. It's important to remember that the menu doesn't work the same way as other digital cameras. As we mentioned before, the navigation pad isn't used for getting around any menu systems, you have to use the left keys to do that. If you're used to using the pad, it can take some getting used to, but we fell into the practice easily enough.

Nikon Coolpix S32 Nikon Coolpix S32
Top Side

The S32 is obviously a camera that's designed to take some knocks and be a lot more versatile for use with all the family. Throughout the years, tough cameras have become more advanced and that has increased the depth that they can go to and the height they can be dropped from. The S32 has a depth limit of 10 metres and a drop height of around 1.5m. That's more than enough for a simple scuba or snorkelling session when on holiday, while the shockproofing will easily cover up to waist height on an adult and any height on a clumsy child.

By default, the Nikon Coolpix S32 has a start-up picture when switching it on. This extends the start-up time considerably to around 5sec to turn the camera on, wait for the picture to go, focus and take a shot. The welcome screen can be turned off in the set up menu (orange tab), then going to Camera settings from there. This reduces the start-up time from 5sec to 2.5sec which is still slow by today' standards, but about right for the start up time of a camera around six months ago.

The camera has a burst mode which is found in the Scene menu. The camera takes a frame every 1/200th second to the dot for the first 2.2sec. Then it slows with the next shot taken just after 4sec and then just under 7sec and the final shot in our ten second test taken at just over 9.5sec.
Downloading all the pictures took up to the 50sec mark.

Nikon Coolpix S32 Nikon Coolpix S32
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Playback can be accessed via the button at the bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S32 on the back with the blue arrow on it. The latest picture you shot will be brought up on the screen with the tab buttons on the left offering different options except the orange button at the bottom. Instead you have the top button which allows you to record some sound to the picture you've taken, play around with your pictures such as making albums or adding effects and you can also grade pictures with a crown or rosette. There's also an option to sort pictures by date or create a slide-show and you can also decide how to delete pictures if you're none too keen on them.

In recent times, Nikon have removed the CD that's normally enclosed which holds the full manual and a version of Nikon NX2, which is their editing and tagging software. These can now be downloaded form the Nikon website which means there's less CDs produced, which prevents waste.

What you do get in the camera box is a Quick Start guide in the top section. Below this is the camera, a lithium ion battery and associated charger. The charging unit comes in three sections. The USB cable will plug into a computer allowing you to charge from that. This will take longer, but means if you're travelling you can get some charge in it at an internet café or similar. The other two sections are for plugging into the mains. The main charging section has a European two-pin plug which can slot into the back of the third piece which has a UK three-pin plug on it. There's also a wrist strap and a cleaning brush for removing loose dirt and sand before opening the bottom of the camera.

Image Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S32 has a top resolution of 13 megapixels and produces image sizes of around 6.5Mb in size.


The Nikon Coolpix S32 doesn't have manual over-ride on the ISO settings, so we had to improvise by adjusting the available light and forcing the ISO up. Sadly, it's not an exact science so the settings are only as near as we could get.

ISO 125 images look very sharp and well detailed. Looking at the pictures at normal viewing distance, which highly likely how they'll be viewed, we couldn't see any noise evident. Zoom in to full magnification, though, and colour noise is already noticeable. That's quite disappointing and it only gets worse. By ISO 360, edge quality is starting to deteriorate and while small pockets of colour noise threaten the picture, most of it is kept at bay.

At ISO 800, colour has been suppressed in a bid to reduce colour noise invasion. Black & white noise rules over the darker areas and mid-tones which breaks up sharp edges even more. ISO seems to maintain the results of ISO 800 while being more responsive to low light.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 140 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso140.jpg

ISO 360 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso360.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S32's 3x optical zoom lens has a focal length of 30-90mm in 35mm terms.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Because noise affects the images at such an early stage, any additional sharpening simply exacerbates the issue.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

nikon_coolpix_s32_sharpening_before1.jpg nikon_coolpix_s32_sharpening_after1.jpg
nikon_coolpix_s32_sharpening_before2.jpg nikon_coolpix_s32_sharpening_after2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The images from the Nikon Coolpix S32 are affected by chromatic aberration. We found it on contrasting edges away from the centre of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic_aberrations_1.jpg chromatic_aberrations_2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)



The closest focusing distance of the Nikon Coolpix S32 is 5cm from the subject to the front of the protective glass. Image quality fall off happens quite fast, but isn't too steep.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


We noticed previously that the flash is situated directly over the lens. This is to benefit you when using flash underwater so that it doesn't cast any strong side shadows and gives as evenly spread light as possible. It also works above water with barely any vignette appearing on the plain wall. Once zoomed in, there's no vignette at all.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (30mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (30mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (90mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (90mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Red eye is thankfully non-existent because the Nikon Coolpix S32 doesn't have a red-eye reduction facility. Well, it does, but it's an automatic feature. You can't switch it on or off yourself.

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The Night scene mode is designed to get a photograph of the scene in low light and will raise the ISO in order to get the result. In our test images, it used an ISO 1600 sensitivity rating which allowed it a 1/15sec shutter speed. That's still not slow enough, so we had to rest the camera on something.

Using the Auto mode, the camera dropped the ISO, but only by one setting to ISO 800. It therefore used a slightly slower shutter speed of 1/4sec.

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 S32 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 highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 38 second movie is 90.8Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S32

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S32 / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S32

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S32 / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S32

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S32 / Shooting Mode Menu

Nikon Coolpix S32

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S32 / Main Menu

Nikon Coolpix S32

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S32


Nikon Coolpix S32

Bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S32

Nikon Coolpix S32

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S32
Battery Compartment


The Nikon Coolpix S32 is so easy to use that it's easy to become a little lackadaisical in your attitude to photography while using it. Saying that, it's not really a camera designed for the keen photographer. The S32 is a camera that's intended to be used by a point and shoot family. The happy snappers that wish to go abroad with a camera and not worry if it gets dropped in the pool or if the kids knock it off a table.

Still, it does have limitations, such as the 3x optical zoom. To say that it's modest is an understatement and it's limited because of the housing that needs to protect the moving parts. It begs the question why Nikon can't use an internal zoom like so many other manufacturers do. Maybe it has something to do with cost. After all, this is a camera that costs £80 and you can take it scuba diving. The build is completely sufficient for this and you'll have no end of fun taking pictures underwater. The battery door has rubber seals that protect it from water and dust leaking in. One thing we did find is that the memory card slot doesn't like MicroSD adapters. Typically, the overwrite protection switch on the side of the memory card is more loose on an adapter and it kept getting pushed into the protect position when inserting the card during our test.

Image quality isn't really up to scratch, but you have to look at the camera for what it is, who it's aimed at and how much it costs. It's a budget compact aimed at families who will rarely print images out, maybe one or two of the kids on holiday and it will happily provide pictures for just that. Yes, it suffers from noise, but will the end user notice, or even care? Yes the colours aren't the best, the focusing is ok, it's as slow as a camel's hump and the flash isn't intelligent at all. But will the people taking pictures with it care? We think not. But it is cheap, it's durable and it looks funky and because of those reasons, it's perfect. We've recommended this camera because it fits the demographic that it's aimed at.

4 stars

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

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix S32.

Canon PowerShot D30

The Canon PowerShot D30 is an action compact camera that's waterproof to an impressive 25m, as well as being dust, freeze and shock proof. The Canon D30 also offers12 megapixels, a 5x zoom, 1080p HD video, built-in GPS and a 3-inch screen. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot D30 review now...

Fujifilm FinePix XP70

The Fujifilm FinePix XP70 is a tough water, freeze, shock and dust proof 16 megapixel compact camera. The XP70 also offers built-in wi-fi, 10fps burst shooting, 1080i HD movies, a 5x zoom lens and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. Read our expert Fujifilm FinePix XP70 review now...

Olympus Tough TG-3

The Olympus Tough TG-3 is a new water, freeze, shock and dust proof compact camera for 2014. Boasting a fast f2.0 aperture high-speed lens, the 16 megapixel TG-3 also offers built-in wi-fi and GPS connectivity, 1080p HD movies, a 4x zoom lens and a 3 inch OLED screen. Read our Olympus Tough TG-3 review to find out what this all-action camera is capable of...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT25

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT25 is an affordable freeze, shock, water and dust proof camera. The Panasonic FT25 features a 5x zoom lens, 16 megapixel sensor and HD 720p video recording. Read our expert Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT25 review now...

Pentax Optio W90

The Pentax Optio W90 is a new all-action, go-everywhere camera. The W90 is shock, freeze, dust and water proof, and features 12 megapixels, 2.7 inch LCD, a 5x zoom lens and HD movie recording. Available for less than £250 / $275, Gavin Stoker gets to grips with the Pentax Optio W90 in our latest in-depth review.

Ricoh PX

The Ricoh PX is an unassuming compact camera that is a lot tougher than it looks, being waterproof to 3m and shockproof to 1.5m. Ricoh's first entry into the all-action market also offers a 16 megapixel sensor, 5x zoom lens and 720 p video. Can the Ricoh PX take on the likes of the Olympus Tough range? Find out in our detailed Ricoh PX review.

Samsung WP10

The WP10 / AQ100 is Samsung's first foray into the world of waterproof cameras. Sporting a 12 megapixel sensor and 5x zoom lens, the WP10 can be used at a depth of 3 meters / 10 feet. Available for less than £179.99 / $199.99, read our Samsung WP10 review find out if this budget shooter is all the camera you need.


Effective pixels 13.2 million
Image sensor 1/3.1-in. type CMOS; approx. 14.17 million total pixels
Lens NIKKOR lens with 3x optical zoom
Focal length 4.1-12.3 mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 30-90 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
F-number f/3.3-5.9
Lens construction 6 elements in 5 groups
Magnification Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 360 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Electronic VR (movies)
Motion blur reduction Motion detection (still pictures), electronic VR (still pictures)
Autofocus 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, Add a bubble effect, Add a neon effect, Add a cartoon effect, 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)
AF-area mode 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 Approx. 96% horizontal and 96% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Frame coverage (playback mode) Approx. 100% horizontal and 100% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Storage media Internal memory (approx. 25 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, and DPOF compliant
Storage file formats Still pictures: JPEG. Voice messages: WAV. Movies: MOV (Video: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, Audio: LPCM stereo)
Image size (photo size) 13 megapixels [4160 x 3120]. 4 megapixels [2272 x 1704]. 2 megapixels [1600 x 1200]
Shooting modes Point and Shoot, Choose a Style (Shoot night scenes, Shoot close-ups, Photograph food, Shoot at intervals, Shoot under water, Take a series of pictures, Photograph fireworks, Shoot backlit scenes, Mirror, Add a bubble effect, Add a neon effect, Add a cartoon effect, Take soft pictures, Create a diorama effect)
Release mode Up to 11 images continuously at a rate of about 4.7 fps
Movie - file format Large (1080p) (default setting): 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, Small (640): 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 30 fps, Small (old-fashioned): 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 15 fps
ISO sensitivity ISO 125-1600
Exposure metering 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 type Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Shutter speed 1/2000-1 s. 4 s (Choose a style is set to Photograph fireworks)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-2 AV) selection
Aperture range 2 steps (f/3.3 and f/6.6 [W])
Self-timer Approx. 10 s, smile timer
Flash range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity Auto) [W]: 0.3-3.1 m (1-10 ft). [T]: 0.6-1.7 m (2 ft-5 ft 6 in.)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
USB Hi-Speed USB
Data transfer protocol MTP, PTP
Video output Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
HDMI output Automatically selected from 480p, 720p, and 1080i
I/O terminal Audio/video (A/V) 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 One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19 (included). AC Adapter EH-62G (available separately)
Charging time Approx. 2 h 35 min (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-70P and when no charge remains)
Battery life1 Approx. 220 shots when using EN-EL19
Movie recording (actual battery life for recording)2 Approx. 1 h 35 min when using EN-EL19
Tripod socket 1/4 in. (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 107.6 x 66.1 x 40.4 mm (4.3 x 2.7 x 1.6 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 175 g (6.2 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)
Operating environment - humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Waterproof JIS/IEC protection class 8 (IPX8) equivalent (under our testing conditions). Capacity to shoot pictures underwater up to a depth of 10 m (32 ft) and for 60 minutes
Dustproof JIS/IEC protection class 6 (IP6X) equivalent (under our testing conditions)
Shockproof Cleared our testing conditions (compliant with MIL-STD 810F Method 516.5-Shock)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19, Charging AC Adapter EH-70P, USB Cable UC-E16, Brush

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