Nikon Coolpix S3100 Review

Ultra Compact

Nikon Coolpix S3100 Ease of Use 9
Features 7
Movie Mode 8
Build Quality8
Colours 8
Photo Quality 5
Style 8
Lowlight 9
Macro 6
Value for Money 6


The Nikon Coolpix S3100 is one of the cheaper pocket sized digital cameras. It has 14 megapixels and a 5x zoom lens. Nikon have a history of producing digital cameras that are straightforward and easy to use. The Coolpix S3100 upholds that reputation. You should find it very simple to operate.

There are seven different coloured versions you can choose from. These are silver, black, red, yellow, purple, blue and pink.

Why Buy The Nikon Coolpix S3100

To be really honest with you based on my tests I can't suggest you buy this camera. In my view the picture quality it produces is amongst the worst I have ever seen.


The 5x angle zoom lens has wide angle capabilities. The LCD screen is 2.7 inches in size.

This camera gives you fully automatic operation. You can also choose from the 19 scene modes that Nikon have included. These include portrait, landscape, sports and night portrait. When you place the camera in movie mode you can fire off High Definition movies.

You can also add different effects to your photos by choosing different colour options. These are vivid, black and white, sepia and cyanotype.

Nikon have included a portrait system. Features in the portrait system include a smile shutter that fires off a photo when the Coolpix S3100 detects someone is smiling, a face detection mode that can focus on up to 12 faces and skin softening for more flattering portraits. There is also a warning available to you if someone blinks when you take a photo. Another element of the portrait system fixes red eye in a portrait photo taken with flash.

New this year from Nikon is a Pet mode. This can detect the face of a cat or dog, before focusing on your pet and automatically taking a picture.

There are very few more advanced features, but you can change white balance and ISO settings. White balance helps you to fine tune the colours in your shots. ISO has a number of uses including helping you to freeze any motion in your shots. There is also a continuous shooting mode for when you want to reel off a few consecutive shots.


I like the way the Coolpix S3100 handles. For such a small digital camera Nikon have done well to create plenty of room on the back of the camera to place your thumb. This helps you to get a firm hold. The camera is fast to turn on and take the first picture. Once up and running I did find it to be on the slow side to focus and capture a picture after the shutter button had been pressed.

One of the reasons why there is some extra room on the back of the camera is that Nikon have placed a ring for zooming in and out on the top of the camera. The shutter button sits inside the zoom ring. The only other button on the top of the camera is the power button.

Near the top on the back of the camera is a button that records movie footage. Beneath this sits two further buttons. One controls the shooting mode. The other places the Coolpix S3100 in review mode so you can see the photos you have already captured.

Moving further down is a rocker. The rocker has four controls. These are for setting flash, using exposure compensation, placing the camera in macro mode and setting the self timer. In the centre of the rocker is a further button for confirming a setting.

Finally there are two further buttons for accessing the menu system and deleting images.

The buttons on the back of the camera are quite dark and it is not always easy to see what each button does with a quick glance.

The main menu is a single page with seven options. There is also a page for movie controls with three options. The set up menu runs to two pages with a total of 10 options.

Image Quality - See Sample Images Below

Outdoor Scenic Shot 1

This is a worrying start. Focusing throughout the shot is not good, but as you move away from the centre most of the detail is lost under a haze. I am certainly not used to seeing this level of noise in a shot.

Outdoor Scenic Shot 2

I tried different settings to improve results, but to no avail. This picture was taken with the Coolpix S3100 in Landscape mode. It made little difference. The resulting picture is of poor quality compared to what other digital cameras can produce. There is a lack of sharpness away from the centre of the photo. In places definition is very poor.

Outdoor Scenic Shot 3

The result does not greatly improve as you zoom in. Again there is a haze overshadowing the photo.

Outdoor Building

In terms of definition this is easily the best outdoor shot. Even though the result is an improvement on the previous test shots it has problems. The right third of the shot suffers from the hazy look as the previous photos have done. The sky looks blotchy in places too.

Outdoor Portrait

This is the most straightforward test. Lighting is natural, but not too bright. With the camera close into the subject it is much easy to focus sharply as well. Working closer in eliminates the haze too. The Coolpix S3100 produces a sharp photo, but the pink in the skin tones are slightly overdone.

Indoor Portrait With Flash

The level of light in this picture is good. The light is evenly spread and issues that other cameras can struggle with are not a problem to the Coolpix S3100. For example the hair is well lit with no dark areas. Skin tone levels are about right too. In fact when it comes to lighting a picture with flash the Coolpix S3100 outperforms a lot of small compacts.

Indoor Portrait Without Flash

Without flash the shot takes on a warmer look. The Coolpix S3100 performed well in the indoor test. It manages to keep noise levels low. This helps to improve the definition.


Close up shots are not a strong point of this camera. You will need to be around 10cm away from your subject before the Coolpix S3100 is able to focus. That is more than three times the distance some cameras in this category can manage. As long as you are at that distance the camera is able to produce an impressive level of detail, but without cropping your shots will look a lot more distant than with most digital camera macro shots.


This is one area where the Coolpix S3100 performs well.


Noise is a major problem for the Coolpix S3100. It reduces definition and clarity from shots taken at a distance.

Picture Quality Summary

Based on these tests the Coolpix S3100 struggles as soon as you try to take a picture where the subject is any distance from the camera. Could this camera be too bad to be true? Well it is always possible I had a faulty model, but having reviewed its predecessor that too suffered from quality problems. It is true that if you only ever make snapshot sized prints you may get away with shots that look acceptable, but if you try to increase print size of shots taken at distance you are likely to see quality issues appearing.

Shutter Lag Times

Shutter Lag Rating Slow

Single Shot
Five Shots
Single Shot With Flash
Five Shots With Flash
Turn on Time

0.57 seconds
22.36 seconds
0.79 seconds
22.85 seconds
2.33 seconds

Shutter Lag Table link arrow

Ease of Use

Ease of Use - Easy There are no problems when it comes to ease of use. In fact with a limited set of features on offer it is very easy to find your way around. The menu is very clear and easy to read.

Points I Like

Ease of Use - Clear Menu Screens - Photos with Flash

Where it Could Improve

Picture quality for more distant subjects


The Nikon Coolpix S3100 may be a budget digital camera, but that is no excuse for the lack of quality in the pictures it produces. There are plenty of digital cameras to choose from if you are looking for a basic pocket digital camera. This one is best avoided.

Test Shots

outdoors 1 outdoors 2 outdoors 3

building macro colours

portrait-outdoors portrait-indoors indoors

See sample images link arrow

Product Shots

Front View

Front View

Back View

Back View

Top View

Top View

Sample Menus

menu 1 menu 2

menu 3 menu 4

Top Rated Cameras in this Category

Sony DSC TX55 Rating 85/100

If the touch screen was perfect then the Sony Cybershot DSC TX55 would be a truly outstanding digital camera. As it is picture quality is hard to beat for such a small camera. Style and design is very impressive and the features on offer give you more or less everything you are likely to want in a point and shoot pocket camera and a bit more on top. It can be very hard to find the perfect touch screen so if touch control is important to you then this camera is well worth a place on your short list.

Read Review: Sony DSC TX55 Review

Panasonic DMC FX90 Rating 79/100

Panasonic offers some excellent digital cameras and can normally be replied upon to produce crystal clear photos. As with previous reviews of cameras in the FX part of the range the Panasonic Lumix DMC FX90 just does not match up to those usual high standards. Focusing is softer than it should be and you are likely to see the results of this even with relatively small sized prints.

Read Review: Panasonic DMC FX90 Review

Panasonic DMC FX70 Rating 79/100

The Panasonic Lumix DMC FX70 does not quite match up to the picture quality I am used to seeing from Panasonic digital cameras. It does have a lot of other plus points, but if you are looking for true clarity in your photos there are better pocket cameras around.

Read Review: Panasonic DMC FX70 Review

Related Pages

Nikon Coolpix S3100 Review Nikon Coolpix S3100 Specification Nikon Coolpix S3100 Sample Images Nikon Digital Cameras

Review Date

April 2011

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