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.
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.
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
Single Shot With Flash
Five Shots With Flash
Turn on Time
Ease of Use
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.
Top Rated Cameras in this Category
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Canon IXUS 1100 HS Rating 85/100
The Canon IXUS 1100 HS is a very good choice if you are looking for a pocket digital camera with a combination of a longer zoom lens and touch control. Once you get used to the screen and improve your touch accuracy it responds well. Picture quality compares favourably with other pocket cameras. The style and build suggest a bit of extra class too. The IXUS 1100 HS ticks most of the boxes for a camera in this category.
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