Nikon Coolpix S3500 Review

June 11, 2013 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S3500 is a slim-line digital compact camera, just 20.5mm thick. It features a 20 megapixel sensor and, despite the thin frame, sports a 7x optical zoom with lens-shift vibration reduction. Couple that with subject tracking auto-focusing,720p HD video recording and a 2.7-inch screen, and it sounds perfect for days out at events. Priced at £99.99 / $139.95, the Nikon Coolpix S3500 is available in orange, black, pink, silver, red and purple.

Ease of Use

Tear open the box of your new Nikon Coolpix S3500 and you're first faced with a thick book that demands reading before playing with your new toy. Before you throw it behind you, it's only a Quick Start guide and is quite brief. However, it will let you know how to set the camera up for proper operation. Once that's out of the way, it's time to play. The camera is supplied with View NX2 image editing software on a CD – which also holds the full manual – but we can worry about that once some pictures have been taken.

The S3500 takes a lithium ion battery and this is included in the box along with the charger and any necessary cables to plug it in and get pictures to a computer. Of course, you may have an Eye-Fi memory card and if you do, the S3500 is wireless transfer capable as long as you have one of these cards. It works by detecting a free wi-fi hotspot. Once there, it uploads pictures to a location of your choice.

To get to the memory card, the image has to pass through the Nikon EXPEED C2 processor, which is hardware taken from the DSLR range. EXPEED is Nikon's dedicated imaging processor (everyone has one these days) which is designed to process images to the best quality possible. On some lower end compact cameras, the processor hasn't managed to cope with the high resolution of the sensor. The S3500 comes with a 20 megapixel sensor which could cause problems with noise, but the test will confirm how the camera copes.

Nikon Coolpix S3500 Nikon Coolpix S3500
Front Rear

One of the great things about the S3500 is that Nikon have fitted a 7x optical zoom into what's classed as a particularly slim body. The zoom range is 4.7 – 32.9mm, but scaling up to 35mm terms, that equates to a 26 – 182mm zoom. That's not bad in a littler camera like this and will certainly help with subjects too far away – at a Zoo, for example – or if you simply can't be bothered to walk there.

The layout of the S3500 is essentially the same as the other Nikon Coolpix cameras in the range. Of course, if it's not broken, you don't fix it and that certainly applies to the way the buttons are arranged on digital compacts because that's not changed for years. The tiny power button on the top of the camera sits pressed slightly into the body with a green light around it which comes on when the camera is powered up. The shutter release is to the right of it which has the zoom ring around it. The zoom ring is very small, suited perfectly to the S3500. On the back, the large LCD screen takes up most of the space, like an annoying older brother in the back of a car on a long drive. The buttons are left squashed to one side for the whole journey.  They take on the typical layout of four buttons surrounding the navigation pad.

The button with the green camera – like some others – has a dual purpose. It works with the button to the side of it to toggle between playback and shoot modes and when in shoot mode, accesses the Scene menu. There are four tabs in the Scene menu. Alongside the usual Auto and Scene modes, there's the Digital filters and Smart portrait. The Digital effects has some interesting filters to play with such as High key, Low key, Painting, two Toy camera options and Cross processing.

Nikon Coolpix S3500 Nikon Coolpix S3500
Front Top

The Nikon Coolpix S3500's Main menu is split into three sections. The left hand side shows the three tabs you can access with the options allocated to each section showing in the centre panel. The centre panel is a lighter grey than the dark grey of the left hand tab. This aids in differentiating where you are in the menu. The right hand panel is also dark grey and displays any sub-options. For example, the right hand panel will show the various resolution options when you highlight Image mode.

The front of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 is brushed metal and the back plate switches to black plastic. The screen bulges out of the back slightly, giving the main body of the camera a deeper look to it. We like the sweeping curves of the design, but we think that over use of the camera could result in cramped fingers due to the diminutive size forcing you to curl your hands round more than is comfortable. The battery and SD card slot is covered by a sliding plastic door. It's backed by some metal to reinforce its sturdiness, but there's no lock. The only play in the door comes from the hinge when it's open. The tripod bush is plastic which, with high use, will wear down faster than a metal version. The latter types are more likely to find more use with a camera that has a larger zoom range than the S3500. It's likely the image stabilising system will cope with any situation you should find yourself in.

Nikon Coolpix S3500 Nikon Coolpix S3500
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

We've tested a few Nikon digital compact cameras recently and we're impressed with how fast they are. Start up time is typical of the new Nikon range at a fraction over two seconds, but around half a second faster than a comparable compact from another manufacturer. Continuous shooting is continuous and not a burst mode. It took eight photos in a ten second period for an average of 0.8fps (frames per second). Downloading those pictures took around 15 seconds more.  The first three shots run at around 1fps, but after that it slows down as the buffer fills up.

Images can be played back on the S3500 regardless of whether the camera is switched on or off. When you first switch over to playback, a brief outline of the shooting settings will be shown on screen, such as the file number, resolution, date & time, that kind of thing. This disappears after a few seconds leaving the full picture. Toggling the zoom switch will either zoom into the picture or display a series of thumbnails for faster navigation. The Playback menu is more geared to sorting out your pictures if you've made a mistake such as Quick retouch, D-Lighting and Glamour retouch. You can also create a slide-show, protect pictures, rotate them and delete them. The digital effects are still available here as well if you didn't use them at time of shooting and changed your mind. This feature can be switched on or off in the Main menu and if you want to use it, press the OK button when reviewing the picture.

Image Quality

The pictures taken throughout the test were taken at full resolution and the finest compression rating unless otherwise stated. At full size, the pictures range from just under to just over 8Mb. Reduce the compression rating to lose more information and that's roughly halved. You can perform this action in the resolution menu by choosing the 20 megapixel option that doesn't have the star. It will use less information and thereby allow more pictures to be stored, but the image quality will suffer on fine detail subjects.


The low ISO performance on the Nikon Coolpix S3500 is very good. The image isn't as smooth as a high end compact, but we don't expect it to be. After all, this is a sub £100 camera. The sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. Image quality and edge definition remain good through until ISO 200 where, when viewing at full magnification, some colour noise starts to leak through. The overall image isn't really affected, it's just pockets of noise in the darker areas that are showing up. They're also not visible at full size at this stage.

At ISO 400, the green colour noise starts to interfere with the image more and at ISO 800, it gets worse. Salt and pepper noise also starts to poke through which disrupts edge definition. It has to be noted that although this is all going on, the quality of the image is still pretty good.

Loss of picture quality is to be expected at ISO 1600 and while a disappointing amount of noise is showing through the fact that this is such a high setting is great for a camera at this price point. In a bid to suppress the amount of noise invading the picture, the camera knocks the ISO 3200 images down to 3.8 megapixels. The lower amount of pixels used prevents a type of noise that's generated by the heat of neighbouring pixels as they're exposed on and start to work.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

In 35mm terms, the focal length of the 7x optical zoom fitted to the S3500 is 26-182mm. The lens that Nikon have put on this new run of digital compacts that includes the S3500 is great. We couldn't find any evidence of barrel distortions at wide-angle or pincushion at full zoom.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S3500 has 2 different image quality settings available, with High being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M High (7.55Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Normal (4.27Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg


We don't normally see an improvement in sharpening on Nikon compacts because the noise is exacerbated so much in the process. However, because the noise is suppressed so well on the S3500, you can see a mild improvement on the pictures.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

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

Chromatic Aberrations

We were really hard pressed to find any chroma on the pictures from the Nikon Coolpix S3500. We found very mild evidence of it on a couple of pictures, but not where we expected to see it. However, we did see a few examples of haloing around some high contrast areas which may be some chromatic aberration removal software at work.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The macro focusing is 5cm maximum which is sufficient for a camera of this classification. If you need any closer, then the S3500 won't be the best camera regardless of the macro facility.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The Nikon Coolpix S3500 does get a little vignetting at the corners of the frame and the flash has been designed to replicate natural light, just a more stable version of it. This means that the vignetting seen without flash is also present when it fires. However, it disperses when the lens is zoomed in.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (156mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (156mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

We didn't get any red-eye from the S3500, so we couldn't test the reduction facility effectively. It's unlikely that it will occur at all as flash are generally more intelligently positioned on cameras these days. However, should you need it you can switch it on in the flash options on the back of the camera.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The night scene shot on the Nikon Coolpix S3500 has a dual option to set the camera up for hand held night photography or tripod based. Selecting the latter will slow the shutter speed and lower the ISO for smoother pictures. Selecting hand-held uses the opposite settings selected. We found that on the tripod selection, the image was under exposed because the camera doesn't have a long enough shutter speed to cope. The camera should – in this case – select a higher ISO to let more light in, but it didn't. The Auto setting picture came out more balanced because we could set the camera manually. We chose a higher ISO 800 setting to get a lighter image. We also pre-set the white-balance and while it looks less yellow, it's further away from the actual colour of the street lights.

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 S3500 camera, which were all taken using the 20 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 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 49 second movie is 190Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 / Shooting Modes

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 / Quick Effects Menu


Nikon Coolpix S3500

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S3500

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S3500

Battery Compartment


We're extremely surprised by the Nikon Coolpix S3500. It's a nice little camera to look at and it fits nicely with the Style series that it's allocated to. The 7x optical zoom will be very useful to anyone wanting to take it on holiday and wanting to explore, not just wanting the typical pool and clubs photos. The quality of the lens is great for a camera at this price point, but the biggest surprise came in the ISO test. Sure, the camera suffers from noise, they all do. It's to be expected. What we weren't expecting was the quality of the images at both low ISO and how the camera handled the noise. We can't decide whether Nikon have reprogrammed the noise reduction software or taken it away and improved the sensor because there's none of that painted smooth look that's normally associated with small sensor noise control.

Using the Nikon Coolpix S3500 is a breeze and even if you've never handled a camera before, you won't struggle with this one. The menus are simple to understand and split into the three sections so that you can find out where you are at a glance. Here's a tip: When you're in the menu and you see a small question mark in the top right corner, switch the zoom to the right and you go into a help page that explains the feature you're currently on. The camera fits nicely into your hand thanks to the curved shape and also slips neatly away because of the thin body.

The price of around £100 is perfect for this camera. It means it's easily accessible to many people who may be looking at their first camera but don't want the complications of a normal compact. It would make a great first camera for a younger person with the funky colours and digital filters to attract the “Instagram” generation. If you're looking for a small, light weight digital compact camera and you have around £109 to spend then you need to take a look at the Nikon Coolpix S3500 because it will fit your needs perfectly.

4 stars

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

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix S3500.

Canon PowerShot A3300 IS

The new Canon PowerShot A3300 IS camera is firmly aimed at photography beginners. Offering a wealth of auto modes, 16 megapixel sensor, 5x zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen and an attractive price tag of less than £150 / $180, the A3300 IS looks like the perfect family camera. Read our Canon PowerShot A3300 IS review to find out if that's the case...

Fujifilm FinePix Z90

The slim and stylish Fujifilm FinePix Z90 camera offers point and shoot operation, a robust metal body and a range of bright metallic colours. The Z90 has 5x zoom lens with a sliding lens cover, 3 inch touch-screen LCD, high-definition movie recording, and a very attractive price-tag of £139.99 / $169.95. Read our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix Z90 review.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3

Budget doesn't have to mean cheap and nasty, and that's certainly the case with the stylish yet affordable Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 camera. A 14 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch screen, 4x wide-angle zoom lens and even 720p movies can be your for just over £100 / $125. Check out our Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 Review to find out if this camera is less disposable than its price suggests.

Pentax Optio S1

The Optio S1 is the first model in a stylish new range of compact cameras from Pentax. In addition to its dashing good looks, the Pentax S1 also offers 14 megapixels, a 5x zoom lens, 2.7 inch screen and 720p movies. Available for just £119.99 / $199.95, check out our Pentax Optio S1 review to find out if it's all style and no substance...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 is a new 16.1 megapixel compact camera with a built-in USB connector for easier image transfer and battery recharging. The stylish Sony J10 also has 4Gb of built-in memory, a 4x zoom lens, and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. Read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-J10 review to find out if this is the right point-and-shoot camera for you.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S3500 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coolpix S3500 is the update to the S3300 which has an increased resolution and more optical zoom. It is available in red, black, silver, purple, orange, pink for £88.11.
Read the full review »


Product name COOLPIX S3500
Type Compact digital camera
Number of effective pixels 20.1 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. type CCD; total pixels: approx. 20.48 million
Lens NIKKOR lens with 7x optical zoom
Focal length 4.7-32.9mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 26-182 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
f/-number f/3.4-6.4
Construction 8 elements in 8 groups (1 ED lens element)
Digital zoom magnification Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 728 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Lens shift
Motion blur reduction Motion detection (still pictures)
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range [W]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 1m (3 ft 4 in.) to infinity Macro mode: Approx. 5 cm (2 in.) to infinity (wide-angle position) (All distances measured from center of front surface of lens)
Focus-area selection Face priority, auto (9-area automatic selection), center, manual with 99 focus areas, subject tracking
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. 98% horizontal and 98% vertical (compared to actual image)
Frame coverage (playback mode) Approx. 98% horizontal and 98% vertical (compared to actual image)
Storage - Media Internal memory (approx. 25 MB) SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, and DPOF compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG Sound files (Voice Memo): WAV Movies: AVI (Motion-JPEG compliant)
Image size (pixels) 20M (High) [5152 x 3864(fine)] 20M [5152 x 3864] 10M [3648 x 2736] 4M [2272 x 1704] 2M [1600 x 1200] VGA [640 x 480] 16:9 (14M) [5120 x 2880]
Shooting Modes Auto, Scene (Scene auto selector, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Black and white copy, Backlighting, Panorama assist, Pet portrait), Special effects, Smart portrait
Continuous Shooting Single (default setting), Continuous (up to 6 images are taken at a rate of about 1.1 fps), BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16
Movie 720/30p (default setting): 1280 x 720/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 480/30p: 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 30 fps, 240/30p: 320 x 240/4:3/approx. 30 fps
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 80-1600 ISO 3200 (available when using Auto mode)
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 1/3 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
Speed 1/2000-1 s 4 s (when scene mode is set to Fireworks show)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-3.3 AV) selection
Range 2 steps (f/3.4 and f/11 [W])
Self-timer Can be selected from 10 s and 2 s
Flash - Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5 - 4.1 m (1 ft 8 in. - 13 ft) [T]: 1.0 - 2.1 m (3 ft 4 in. - 7 ft 1 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-EL19 (included) AC Adapter EH-62G (available separately)
Charging time Approx. 2 h 40 min (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-70P and when no charge remains)
Battery life¹ - Still pictures Approx. 220 shots when using EN-EL19
Movie recording (actual battery life for recording)² Approx. 50 min when using EN-EL19
Tripod socket 1/4 (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 96.8 x 57.8 x 20.5 mm (3.9 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 129 g (4.6 oz) (with battery and SD memory card)
Operating environment - Temperature 0°C-40°C (32°F-104°F)
Humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19 (with battery case), Charging AC Adapter EH-70P, USB Cable UC-E6, ViewNX 2 CD-ROM, Reference Manual (CD-ROM)
Optional accessories Battery Charger MH-66, AC Adapter EH-62G, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14

Your Comments

Loading comments…