The Nikon Coolpix S1 is an ultra compact digital camera. This is the type of model that will fit into a pocket or small purse easily. The Coolpix S1 is a five megapixel digital camera with a three times optical zoom lens. This type of camera is easy to use and with a fully automatic mode it can be used purely as a point and shoot camera. Therefore it is likely to appeal to someone who enjoys taking pictures without too much fuss and bother and would also like a camera that is readily at hand.
89.9 x 57.5 x 19.7mm
I have always been slightly disappointed with the picture quality provided by the ultra slim range of digital cameras. The Coolpix S1 is definitely one of the better cameras in this section when it comes to overall picture quality. There are one or two areas where it could be improved, but overall I was happy with the pictures I managed to take with it.
During the tests the Coolpix S1 produced three photos in particular that I thought were well above average. These were the outdoor portrait, the indoor shot in very low light and the macro/close up shot. I especially like the skin tones of the portrait shot. The indoor shot is taken in more or less total darkness and the Coolpix S1 manages to focus and expose the photo extremely well. The macro shot is well lit, bright and clear. With the correct lighting you should be able to produce macro shots for use on Internet auction sites with this camera.
All in all the outdoor test shots came out well. Detail is good even in dark areas, although there is a very occasional touch of purple fringing. This is where a very thin purple line appears at the edge of a white area in a shot. There is one shot where the sky could have been bluer. This is surprising as my dedicated colour test shows a strong emphasis for blue.
The indoor portrait shot is not as sharp as I would like to see. This underlines the need to ensure the room is as brightly lit as possible before taking a portrait style shot indoors.
Shutter Lag and Recycling Times
Shutter lag is the time it takes to take each picture. A constant criticism of digital cameras is the delay in between clicking the shutter button, the picture being taken and also the camera being ready to take the next picture. From a pure shutter lag view the Coolpix S1 took a picture and recorded it in 0.48 seconds. This is a relatively new test, so I feel a degree of caution is called for, but I have to say early indications are that this is a standard time. Exactly the same as the similar Canon IXUS 50 in fact.
In terms of recycling times I was able to take five pictures in the space of 9.88 seconds. That works out at a rate of 1.98 seconds per picture. I am not claiming that this is the most scientific tests, but it should give you an indication of the recycling speed of the camera. This is an average time. My test is carried out indoors under standard conditions and it is possible that you would see better results outside.
The three times optical zoom lens has a focal length equivalent to 35-105mm in 35mm format. This is supported by a four times digital zoom facility. For macro or close up work the camera can focus from four centimeters away from the subject.
One feature that impressed me was the 2.5" LCD screen. This is used for composing and reviewing photos, as well as accessing the menu system. Compared to other cameras it appeared to be brighter, clearer and easy to read. There is no room to squeeze in a viewfinder.
If you like to use pre programmed shooting modes then you are well catered for by this camera. These pre programmed modes help you to take the best possible pictures for a variety of different photo opportunities. The modes available are Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night landscape, Close up, Museum, Fireworks show, Back light, Panorama assist and Underwater.
There is also a self timer for when you would like to appear in the picture. This can be set to either three or ten seconds.
You can shoot short movies at a resolution of 640x480. This should be good enough to display on a television screen. The maximum speed is fifteen frames per second. You can also shoot time lapse movies. A typical time lapse movie is of a flower opening or clouds moving across the sky.
The built in flash unit has a range of two and a half meters. This falls by just over a meter when the zoom lens is in use. You can set the flash to always fire, never fire, fire if the camera decides flash is required and slow sync. Slow sync is often used at night when you would like the background as well as the subject illuminated. Red eye reduction is available too.
Nikon supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the Coolpix S1 to a television set, computer and PictBridge computer.
Some more advanced features include a continuous shooting function that lets you shoot at a rate of 1.8 frames per second. There is also a multi shot feature that lets you take 16 photos to build a single image. Exposure compensation, white balance and sensitivity settings (Auto, 50, 100, 200 and 400) are all available. You can also set the colour to black and white, sepia, cyanotype and vivid. Shutter speeds range from 2 - 1/350 seconds. The appropriate speed is decided by the camera and you cannot control the speed yourself.
An underwater case, the WP-CP5 is available to buy separately.
Ease of Use
You shouldn't have to spend too much time getting to grips with the Coolpix S1. It is a relatively easy to use model. All the key controls can be found on the back of the camera including the zoom, flash, close up, self timer and review images buttons. When you do need to use the menus these are well thought through and it is easy enough to find your way around. They are also clear and easy to read thanks to the large LCD screen.
You can pick up a Nikon Coolpix S1 for around £220. This compares to around £220 for a Canon IXUS 50, £230 for a Sony DSC T33 and £185 for an Fuji Finepix F455.
Despite being the standard slim rectangular shape typical of this type of digital camera the Coolpix S1 offers something a little different with the lens being tucked away in the top corner. Even when the lens is zoomed in it does not protrude allowing the camera to maintain its smooth appearance. On the back of the camera you will find all the normal control buttons, plus the generous 2.5" LCD screen. In fact design wise this is probably my favourite ultra compact.
This model is a lightweight 118g. With dimensions of 89.9 x 57.5 x 19.7mm it is slim even by ultra compact standards.
Batteries and Memory Cards
A rechargeable Lithium Ion battery is used to provide power to the camera. Nikon supplies both the battery and a charger with the Coolpix S1. A rechargeable battery has the advantage of keeping running costs down, but spares are expensive and if you want to avoid the cost of a spare then make sure you recharge the battery before you set off to take any important shots.
There is 12mb of memory built into the camera. This means that a memory card is NOT supplied. To be honest 12mb does not last long when you are taking five megapixel photos. I managed to take fourteen shots before the memory was full. Therefore I would recommend picking up a high capacity card to go with the camera. The Coolpix S1 is compatible with SD cards, so make sure this is the type of card you buy. Click here to save money on SD Cards.
Points I like:
Design and style
Overall image quality
Large, bright and clear LCD screen
Where it is not so hot:
There is little to choose between the Nikon Coolpix S1 and the Canon IXUS 50, even when it comes to price. In my opinion these are the two best five megapixel, ultra compact cameras that I have reviewed to date. The IXUS 50 produced a better indoor portrait shot, but the Coolpix S1 delivered better photos in very poor light, macro and the outdoor portrait. It is a close call and the Coolpix S1 is certainly worth close consideration.
Nikon Coolpix S1 Front View
Nikon Coolpix S1 Back View
Nikon Coolpix S1 Top View
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