Nikon Coolpix S3700 Review

March 10, 2015 | Jack Baker |
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Image Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S3700’s image quality is generally quite high. Accurate exposure metering provides true-to-life brightness and contrast that helps hide the sensor’s underwhelming dynamic range, and the initial impact of shots is helped by vibrant colour reproduction.

You will see a light smattering of grain even in shots taken at low ISO sensitivities, but this is normal for small-sensor cameras and it’s only visible when viewing at 100% image size. Noise is well controlled up to ISO800, with only marginally more grain and detail smoothing than at lower sensitivities. Things do deteriorate noticeably at ISO1600 though, as whilst grain is still not distracting, colour speckling becomes prominent in low light and across neutral tones. ISO3200 is best avoided as images are recorded at less than 4 megapixels, yet still show unsightly noise levels.

With 20.1 megapixels on tap, you might imagine detail would be pin sharp, but sadly that’s not the case. Grain and noise reduction processing end up obscuring fine detail in most shots, to the point where you can zoom out to 50% image size and not lose any detail. This phenomenon is common to many similar cameras though, and at least Nikon’s noise reduction processing is subtle enough to preserve some distant detail in landscape shots, so they don’t appear too painterly.

Optical performance is very good, with no noticeable barrel or pincushion distortion at either end of the zoom range. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is minimal too, and you’ll be hard pressed to spot any difference in detail levels between the centre and corners of frame.

Noise

The S3700 has a sensitivity range of ISO80 to ISO3200. Noise levels are fairly low up to ISO800, but increased grain and colour speckling mean ISO1600 shots are best viewed at 50% image size or smaller. ISO3200 images are limited to 2272x1704 pixels (3.87MP) resolution, yet still display high levels of image noise that makes them suitable only for email or social media sharing.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso80.jpg iso100.jpg
   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

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ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

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ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

 
iso3200.jpg  

Focal Range

The camera’s 8x zoom lens covers a focal length range of 25-200mm when converted into a 35mm camera format. Digital zoom can increase this 4x to give an 800mm-equivalent maximum range, though this simply enlarges the centre of frame and doesn’t give an extra detail.

25mm

200mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

File Quality

There are two quality settings at full resolution – fine and normal – resulting in image sizes of approximated 8.5MB and 4.5MB respectively. If you need to save more card space, images can be recorded at 10MP, 4MP, 2MP or VGA 640x480 resolution. There’s also a 14MP 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio and a 15MP 1:1 square setting.

20M High (8.51Mb) (100% Crop) 20M Normal (4.45Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_fine.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Sharpening

Adding some sharpening in does work in some scenarios, but if the camera has been steadied and a low ISO used, the difference it makes is negligible.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

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sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The S3700 lens is high quality and we found difficulty finding any chromatic aberrations. There are one or two when a dark foreground is over a bright background.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Macro

A 2cm minimum wide-angle macro focussing ability is fairly impressive, and you can zoom in on your subject and still maintain focus without having to back away nearly as far as when using the equivalent Canon IXUS 160.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

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Flash

In the default Scene Auto Selector shooting mode you only have the option to turn the flash on or off. Switch to standard Auto mode and you can select: Auto; Auto with red-eye reduction; Off; Fill flash, and; Slow sync. The camera successfully avoids red-eye even without using red-eye reduction, and shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m reveals it produces only minor wide-angle vignetting.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (200mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (200mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The flash didn't produce any red-eye in the photographs whether the red-eye reduction feature was on or off.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
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Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

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Vibration Reduction

Cameras at this price point aren’t guaranteed to offer optical image stabilisation (electronic equivalent systems are no substitute), so it’s great to see the S3700 sporting proper lens-shift Vibration Reduction.

Compared to the £80 Coolpix S2900 which omits VR, the S3700 makes it far easier to shoot sharp shots indoors and in dimmer lighting conditions. It also means the camera can use slightly lower ISO sensitivity settings whilst still avoiding blur from camera shake, consequently reducing noise levels.

Antishake Off

Antishake On
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Night

This gives you two options for shooting night scenes: Tripod, and Handheld. The tripod setting restricts the sensor sensitivity to ISO80 and uses a long shutter speed (2 seconds in our case) to capture maximum detail. In Handheld mode that reduced to ¼-second at ISO800, but with a noticeable increase in noise.

Night Scene Tripod

Night Scene Tripod (100% Crop)

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Night Scene Handheld

Night Scene Handheld (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Digital Filters

The S3700 includes nine filter effects to help spice up a drab shot. These are previewed in real time and recorded at full resolution. Available effects are: Soft; Nostalgic sepia; High-contrast monochrome; Selective color; Pop; Cross process; Toy camera effect 1; Toy camera effect 2, and; Mirror.

Off

Soft

filter_01.jpg filter_02.jpg
   

Nostalgic Sepia

High Contrast Monochrome

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Selective Color

Pop

filter_05.jpg filter_06.jpg
   

Cross Process

Toy Camera1

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Toy Camera2

Mirror

filter_09.jpg filter_10.jpg

Panoramas

Where many cameras now include fully automated sweep panorama modes, the S3700 is slightly more labour intensive.

You snap the first shot, then pan the camera and a translucent overlay of the end third of the image just captured follows you. Line that up over the corresponding features in the adjacent frame and snap the second shot. Do the same again and the camera automatically stitches the three shots together, and, providing you’ve accurately aligned your shots when shooting, the results are seamless.

The advantage to this method is you can zoom in before taking the panorama, which fully automated systems don’t usually allow. However, the end results are still quite small at around 1100 vertical pixels.

panorama1.jpg