Nikon Coolpix S800c Review
Is it a camera? Is it a smartphone? The truth is somewhere in between.
|The S800c's homescreen looks like any other Android homescreen, aside from the playback/movie buttons on the right side (with the app drawer inbetween). You can install any compatible Android apps that you like, and these will appear in this screen.|
Before I start talking about the "camera" parts of the Coolpix S800c I want to go over what makes it unique: Android. For the tech geeks out there, here are some quick specs:
- The S800c's is a dual-core ARM Cortex A9 design, though the manufacturer is unknown
- The camera has 512MB of RAM (plus 4GB of built-in storage)
- As mentioned earlier, the camera has a 3.5" capacitative touchscreen OLED display with 819,000 pixels
- The S800c runs Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread), first released in 2010, and is a little "stale" in 2013...
- Wireless protocols include 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1
You can turn the camera on in two different ways. If you press the power button, the lens will extend instantly and you can start taking photos a second later. The camera is in a sort of "dumb mode" for about thirty seconds, while the Android OS boots up. The only thing you can do during this time is take a few photos. You can't review them, enter the menu system to change settings, or access any of the Android functionality. You'll know that the camera is fully booted when the icons on the screen change color. If you want to go straight to Android, you can also turn on the camera by holding down the Home button.
The camera goes into "standby mode" after being idle for a few minutes (or when you press the power button). In this mode you can quickly go back to shooting, without having to wait for Android to boot up.
|Apps like Instagram work just fine, though photos are limited to 8 Megapixel||The Smartphone side of the application used to pull photos off of the camera over Wi-Fi|
The main Android screen (shown at the top of this page) should look very familiar to anyone who has used an Android-based smartphone. You've got your grid of icons that can be spread across multiple home screens. You can install pretty much any Android app that you desire, whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Google Maps, or Angry Birds Star Wars. Certain apps, such as Chrome, will not work, probably due to the old version of Android being used. The S800c's dual-core processor made things pretty snappy. Well, except for gaming, which is a little sluggish.
The screen isn't terribly large (especially coming from the monster screen on my phone or indeed when compared to the 4.8in screen on the back of the Samsung Galaxy Camera), which makes typing a challenge (you might want to try installing SwiftKey). Also, unlike some modern smartphones, the S800c does not offer haptic feedback, so you can't "feel" when you type.
Despite its relatively high price and fancy operating system, the S800c is actually quite stripped when it comes to camera features. Yes, it has face/smile/face detection, HDR, and a panorama mode, but if you're after Nikon's Active D-Lighting feature or manual exposure controls, look elsewhere. In the screenshot above you can see what's available while shooting: exposure compensation, macro mode, self-timer, and flash. For everything else, you'll have to press the green camera icon on the lower-right corner of the composition screen...
|This is what you'll see when composing photos on the camera. It's pretty basic, and while a composition grid is available, a histogram is not.|
Using the camera app, the S800c gives the same shooting experience as any android smartphone. One caveat, though: while the Coolpix S800c is a 16 Megapixel camera, apps can only capture 8 Megapixel images. Sharing photos is a snap (no pun intended): you can do it from Nikon's playback app, or the standard Gallery app.
Another way to share photos is to tether your camera with your Android-based smartphone. First, you'll need to download Connect to S800c for Android or iOS. Once that's done, you'll need to pair the two devices, which takes about a minute. After that you just start the app on each end, wait for the connection to be established, and you're set. The Connect to S800c really does just one thing: let you download photos from the camera to your phone or tablet. It can't control the camera in any other way (a remote shutter would've been great).
There were two issues I ran into related to Android (aside from the aforementioned poor battery life). The first is that Wi-Fi reception is poor and sometimes unreliable. The camera often couldn't find Wi-Fi networks that I had no problems with on my other devices. On several occasions the camera couldn't obtain an IP address, and I could replicate that on multiple networks. The final issue was that the camera often lost the connection to the Wi-Fi network when it went into standby mode (which Nikon said they fixed in a firmware update). Toggling Wi-Fi off and on usually resolved that issue for me.
|The camera says this is photo number 3 out of 114, which is far from the truth. It is in fact something like number 110, and one of the most recent that I had taken at this point.|
The other problem was related to image playback. When using Nikon's playback app, photos that I had just taken were not shown. If I went into the standard Android gallery app they were visible, and rebooting the camera often brought them back into the Nikon app. Another issue was how photos were organized. The photo above is number 3 out of 114, when in reality it was one of the most recent photos I took (and should be like 110). A few times the order of photos was totally messed up, for no apparent reason.
Ultimately, while I like the idea of having Android in a camera, I think Nikon still has some bugs to work out on the Coolpix S800c.