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Conclusion - Pros

  • Unique twisting body design brings real creative versatility
  • Very compact for a 10x zoom
  • Decent resolution and fairly good detail capture at lower ISO settings
  • Relatively 'natural' looking output - not over contrasty or over saturated
  • Simple point and shoot operation
  • Pretty effective Vibration Reduction system
  • Excellent screen
  • Superb build quality
  • Excellent macro mode
  • Decent flash performance
  • Unique features such as D-Lighting, Face Priority AF, Red-eye removal, Best Shot Selector
  • Fancy PictMotion slideshow feature
  • Good battery life

Conclusion - Cons

  • Slow focus (hunting) at longer focal lengths, in macro mode and in low light
  • Some focus errors at long end of zoom and in macro mode
  • Large screen and lack of grip makes for rather poor handling
  • Too easy to accidentally knock the joystick and bring up menus
  • Some aspects of user-interface are a bit fiddly
  • Noisy and soft results at ISO 400 / ISO 800
  • Mild image quality issues: highlight clipping, purple fringing, distortion, corner softness
  • Occasional overexposure of bright scenes
  • Sound cuts out before the end of movie clips
  • Very limited photographic control
  • No exposure information at all in record or playback mode
  • Face detection not as fast or reliable as some competitors
  • Fairly slow shot-to-shot times (particularly when using flash)

Overall conclusion

The Coolpix S10 follows in the footsteps of some of the most highly-rated compact cameras in digital photography's short history. I still remember reviewing the original Coolpix 900, a camera that quite literally set the standard by which all digital compacts were judged, as did the three or four 'swivel body' Coolpix models that succeeded it.

Well, it's been five years since the last in that series (the Coolpix 4500), and I for one am glad to see the twisting body design returning; the ability to swivel the lens independently of the body affords almost unrivalled shooting versatility. It gives you everything a tilt/swivel screen does - and more - in a more compact, neater format. The creative possibilities offered by this design of camera are tremendous and in some types of photography (macro, candids) it's hard to go back to a 'normal' compact camera once you've tried it.

Unfortunately the twisting body is about the only thing that links the S10 with its fondly-remembered ancestors. Where that last of the EXX series offered SLR-like photographic controls and superb handling, the S10 is unashamedly simple, with little creative control and a body design that makes it almost impossible to use in one hand. The results, though perfectly acceptable, are far from stellar, and the focus performance is disappointing.

Of course anyone wanting a 10x zoom in a compact body is going to have to accept some compromises, and I wouldn't want to discount the S10 entirely; it is a beautifully put together product with some novel features and it is undoubtedly easy to use. The typical user is unlikely to be troubled by mild corner softness or purple fringing, and if you take most of your pictures in the shorter half of the zoom range (and in good light) you'll be unlucky if you ever see focus hunting.

I guess I was disappointed with the S10 because I really wanted it to be better. The twisting body design, excellent screen and long zoom make it, on paper at least, the ultimate carry-always 'street' shooter, and the lack of creative controls is something I can live with in a pocket camera (though I can't bear not knowing my shutter speed...).

But the faltering telephoto focus, awkward ergonomics and the cumulative effect of all the minor image quality issues and other annoyances make it a difficult camera to recommend over a compact 'super zoom' like the Canon S3 IS or Panasonic DMC-FZ7 (the new Panasonic TZ2 looks promising too). It's by no means a terrible camera; in many respects it's actually a pretty good camera, it could just be better, and there are more appealing all-round options out there for the same (or less) money. For all these reasons the S10 just misses a Recommended rating.

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 6.0
Features 7.0
Image quality 7.0
Optics 8.0
Performance (speed) 6.5
Value 7.5

Above Average

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Samples Galleries

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Nikon Coolpix S10 Samples Gallery - Posted 16 February 2007

 

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