Excluding spy cameras, Nikon Coolpix S01 ($179.95 direct)($94.98 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) It’s one of the smallest point-and-shoot you’ll ever see. It has a 3x zoom lens, a 10-megapixel CCD sensor, and a touchscreen interface, and its operation is fully automatic — so you don’t need to know anything about camera functions to use it. . Aside from the cute factor, it’s a little hard to sell, especially when you consider that it’s not fast, has a sophisticated touchscreen interface, and the compact camera of our Editors’ Choice, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC- WX150(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), takes better pictures and isn’t much bigger than the S01. However, if your budget is limited, the price of the Coolpix S01 is definitely attractive.
Design and Features
The most outstanding feature of the S01 is its ultra-small size. It measures just 2.1 x 3.1 x 0.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.4 ounces. One of the smaller traditional point-and-shoots we tested, the Olympus VR-340($249.00 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), which seems large compared to the 2.4 x 4.1 x 1.1 inches and 6 ounces. S01 is available in silver, red, white or pink.
If you want to take control of your camera and adjust ISO, aperture, shutter speed and other settings, then the S01 is not for you. It works in a fully automatic fashion — the only thing you can really control is whether the flash fires or not. And, if you turn off the flash while shooting, it will return to auto mode as soon as you power off the camera.
The lens features a 3x optical zoom design that covers a field of view of 29-87mm in 35mm shooting conditions. Its aperture starts at f/4.1 and drops to f/5.9 when zoomed in all the way, so use your camera’s flash when indoors. Its highest ISO is 1600, but if you apply any zoom, it will be difficult to get a sharp photo in normal indoor lighting, even at that high sensitivity.
The camera’s LCD screen is only 2.5 inches in size and has a resolution of only 230k dots. It doesn’t look bad, though it’s not as sharp as the 3-inch 460k-dot screen found in competing cameras like the Samsung DV300F.($299.95 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window). The touchscreen is responsive, and you’ll need to use it to switch between stills and movies, and adjust some of the options the camera lets you change — namely flash output, self-timer , exposure compensation, and color mode (referred to in the menu as “Special Effects”). Available color modes include default look, black and white mode, sepia tone, slightly overexposed high-precision image and slightly underexposed low-precision photo. There is a Touch Home screen icon to the right of the LCD screen that displays the camera’s menu.
The LCD isn’t the most responsive touchscreen I’ve used. It’s a bit sluggish, and even though it’s designed to be capacitive, I sometimes have to press a bit to get it to register an input. This seems to be a problem mostly in the corners, but some of the on-screen controls — including a scroll bar for menus and an icon for turning the flash on or off — are in the corners.
You can trigger the shutter by tapping the rear screen, but it’s a bit complicated. Sometimes the camera lets you choose a point to focus and measure, but other times it will just focus on the center of the frame. I found that focusing was less reliable when using the touch method than with the traditional shutter button — the camera captured completely out of focus photos on many occasions when using the touch method, but was consistently successful. focus when using the physical shutter.
Performance and Conclusion
S01 is slow. It requires a long time of 3.4 seconds to start and take a photo, recording an average shutter lag of 0.6 seconds and can at best take a picture every 1.6 seconds. The shutter lag is long, but the real problem is that it’s inconsistent. In some cases, the camera took as fast as 0.2 seconds, but other test shots required a 0.9 second wait, and at one point the camera took almost 2 seconds to warm up after pressing the shutter button. Our shutter lag tests generally yield consistent results — we use the camera to record an analog stopwatch on a computer screen — and most of the time the delay varies from just 0.05 to 0.05. 0.1 seconds depending on the image. The S01 isn’t the only slow camera around, the Samsung DV300F starts up and shoots faster at 2.1 seconds, but records a shutter lag of 0.5 seconds and makes you wait 1.5 seconds between shots. photo.
There is no way to control ISO on the S01 and under our lighting system the camera defaulted to ISO 200, which is higher than the camera’s base ISO setting of 80. This can affect to its Imatest(Opens in a new window) sharp point. The S01 records 1,527 lines per image height at this setting, less than the 1,800 lines needed for a sharp image. Corner and line performance is a key factor, as the central stats approach an impressive 2,283 lines. Imatest calculates the final score using the centroid algorithm and some noticeable color fringing and opacity in the leftmost and rightmost two columns of our 9-column test chart certainly did. decrease the overall score.
Imatest is also used to check for image noise at each ISO setting. Under our lighting settings, the S01 reverted to ISO 400. It recorded 1.4% noise here, just below our 1.5% cut-off for unacceptable noise levels. Image detail here looks decent, but not as good at the lowest ISO 80 setting, which the camera defaulted to when taking wide shots of our test scene. The Olympus VR-340 does a better job—it records 1,733 lines at its widest, but also gets soft at the edges and corners of the frame.
Due to the lack of photographic controls, it is more appropriate to compare the S01 with a good mobile phone camera than to compare it with competing compact digital cameras. The S01’s image sensor is smaller than the standard point-and-shoot sensor – it’s 1/2.9-inch in size, where the compact camera uses a 1/2.3-inch sensor. The sensor in the iPhone 5 is still smaller, 1/3.2-inch measured diagonally, but is pretty close to the size of the S01.
I took some photos with my S01 and iPhone 5 at a brightly lit restaurant. Close examination favors the S01, but just enough. The S01 is a CCD sensor, which generally performs best at lower ISO settings, where the iPhone uses a CMOS sensor, which handles higher ISO sensitivities better. One area where the S01 beats the iPhone in terms of flash photography quality — Coolpix has a dedicated flash module that, although small, provides fairly even light, even when shooting up close. The iPhone’s small LED flash is incapable of doing so when focusing close.
The S01 records video in 720p30 quality in the QuickTime format. Quality is perfectly acceptable in good lighting conditions. It’s smooth in playback, although it does seem a bit choppy when recording. Optical zoom adjustment is disabled when recording movies, but digital zoom is still available. That zoom is pretty smooth – it jumps ahead confusingly – so use it carefully. There is only one port on the camera, a proprietary USB connection that doubles as the charging port. Battery and internal storage — you can store more than 3,000 photos in the S01’s 7.3GB internal memory.
The Coolpix S01 is impressively small and costs less than $200, but aside from the cute factor, it’s not a particularly attractive camera. It is aimed at photographers who want to focus on the content of their photos, not the settings needed to capture them. Its flash performance and modest zoom ratio beat even the best mobile phone cameras, but if you don’t use flash, the S01’s image quality is only superior to that of the iPhone 5. If you’re looking for a compact camera that’ll give you better results than the camera on your phone, there are good inexpensive options like the modestly priced Olympus VR-340 ( $100) or the more expensive Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150—which impressed us enough to win the Editors’ Choice award. The S01 has some room for improvement — a better touchscreen, faster, more consistent performance, and the ability to set the camera to remember settings make it a better product.
More reviews of digital cameras:
The Nikon Coolpix S01 is an impressively small camera aimed at photographers who prefer Auto & mdash modes; but you can do much better in the area of cheap cameras.
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