Nikon S700 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 03/26/08
Slim and compact, the Nikon Coolpix S700 is a capable, well-featured addition to the Coolpix line. Its 12.1-megapixel CCD captures high resolution images with excellent detail, and its 3x optical zoom lens produces clear, sharp images. A selection of preset Scene modes rounds out the standard Auto exposure mode, and the user has control over important features such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Color, etc. A unique Distortion Control setting practically eliminates strong optical distortion, and features like Vibration Reduction, Face-Priority AF, and D-Lighting are useful tools for common mistakes and exposure troubles.
Best of all, the Nikon Coolpix S700 offers all of these features in a very compact, very sturdy, metal case that slips easily in and out of pockets (even small ones, like the front pocket of a pair of jeans). The camera's large and bright 2.7-inch color LCD monitor is great for composing and reviewing images, with accurate framing and a useful brightness adjustment. Camera controls are minimal and easy to understand, making the Nikon S700 quick to learn and simple to operate.
The Coolpix S700 appeals to a wide audience. Novices will appreciate its automatic features and ease of use, and more advanced amateurs will love its simple design and capable handling. All in all, the Nikon Coolpix S700 is a good bet for quality, size, performance, and price.
by Stephanie Boozer
In the race to be the smallest, most compact, most fully-loaded, most user-friendly, most everything digital camera, the Nikon Coolpix S700 certainly tries hard to win in all categories. Very small and compact, yet with a sturdy metal body, the Nikon S700 offers a lot of what consumers are looking for these days. Namely, a high-resolution sensor, good optics, a healthy range of preset and automatic features, and a nice complement of useful creative tools as well. With its 12.1-megapixel CCD, the Coolpix S700 certainly delivers the resolution. It also offers the benefit of true Vibration Reduction, a wide range of sensitivity settings, and a large and bright LCD monitor.
The camera's 3x optical zoom lens covers a zoom range equivalent to a 37-111mm zoom on a 35mm camera, and is balanced by an additional 4x digital zoom that actually performs well enough to be considered usable.
Look and feel. From the outset, it's clear that the Coolpix S700 is meant to go places. Its small size, rugged metal body, and low-profile controls make it a pocket-friendly choice. Measuring 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (89 x 54 x 23mm) and weighing about 5.2 ounces (147g) with battery and memory card, the Nikon S700 is definitely not a burden to carry around. The tiny wrist strap keeps it securely attached in precarious situations, and the brushed-metal panels should hide minor scratches. Though small, the Nikon S700 fit my medium-sized hand well, and despite the lack of a front-panel fingergrip, I found it comfortable to hold and shoot one-handed. Setting adjustment will most likely need a two-handed grip, but that's just par for the course with most compact digital cameras these days.
Control placement was good, I liked the new design of the Nikon S700's top shutter and power buttons with their tapered edges that stand out among the crowd. I did find that it was quite easy to accidentally turn the rotary multi-selector while holding the camera, but since it doesn't call up any settings when turned outside of a menu screen, this really wasn't a problem. You have to actually press on one of the dial's sides to enable any adjustments. I also noticed a tendency for my thumb to slip over the top right corner of the LCD display, resulting in a few extra thumbprints. Again, not a big issue, I just hate gumming up my display with smudges.
Perhaps because most real-image optical viewfinders are so inaccurate, Nikon opted for a large, bright, clear 2.7-inch color LCD monitor on the Nikon S700. Through the Setup menu, you can control the amount of information displayed on the LCD monitor, as well as the overall brightness. Unfortunately, the information display does not include the aperture and shutter speed settings, so you don't have much of an idea of what the camera is up to exposure-wise. On the upside, though, there is an available framing grid, which can help frame linear subjects by dividing the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically.
The Nikon S700's 3x lens is of good quality, made up of glass with seven elements in five groups. The 7.9-23.7mm zoom range equates to a 37-111mm zoom on a 35mm camera. Zoom motion is fluid in the optical range, but I found the camera a little reluctant to transition into the digital range. I had to hold down the telephoto portion of the Zoom lever a little harder than usual, and the movement through the digital zoom range was a bit sluggish. To combat minor blurring from slight camera movement, Nikon included optical VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilization technology, which is a true sensor-shift design in still-photography mode. (In Movie mode, the camera uses digital stabilization.)
Interface. In general I found the Coolpix S700's interface quite usable, without any major problems with any of the controls. The Power and Shutter buttons are well-placed on the top panel, and the rest of the controls neatly arranged on the rear panel. I liked the rotary multi-selector, which not only spun like a mode dial, but also actuated up and down, left and right, serving as arrow keys. Taking the place of a standard mode dial, the rotary controller was useful for multiple functions, always a bonus in small cameras like the Nikon S700.
Likewise, I found the camera's menu system to be straightforward, getting right to the point. Pressing the Menu button called up the settings menu for the mode in use, and the rotary controller cycled through the available options quickly and efficiently. A Mode button on the rear panel calls up the virtual mode dial on the LCD display, and you use the rotary controller to move through the available modes.
The only function that wasn't straightforward was switching from Playback to Record mode. To access Playback mode, you simply press the Playback button. A second press returns you to Record mode. But I kept forgetting and trying to hit the Mode button, which only displays the available settings for Playback, but no link to Record mode. Not a major issue, just a minor quibble that I kept running into. Overall, though, the Nikon S700 was simple to operate, and I found that I barely needed the manual for reference.
Modes. The Nikon Coolpix S700 keeps exposure under automatic control, and really only offers one standard Program AE still photography mode. The dial on the rear panel acts as a virtual dial, in that it doesn't directly change camera modes until you press the Mode button and the virtual mode dial appears on the LCD monitor. Here, you can choose between Shooting, High Sensitivity, Scene, Voice Recording, Movie, and Setup modes by turning the rotary multi-controller, then pressing "OK" to select.
Shooting mode is the camera's Program AE option, which provides a few shooting options for the user's control, but keeps aperture and shutter speed under automatic control. The camera does not report the settings it chooses, so you really have no idea outside of the sensitivity and exposure compensation settings of what the camera is doing. Still, you can control white balance, AF mode, color mode, ISO, exposure compensation, flash, and the type of shooting (continuous, single-shot, etc.).
The High Sensitivity mode essentially raises the ISO setting for darker conditions, with a maximum of 1,600 ISO in an effort to control image noise.
The Coolpix S700's Scene mode offers 15 preset modes, which include Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Backlight, and Panorama Assist. Each of the modes is pretty self-explanatory, designed to optimize the camera for special conditions.
For moving subjects, the Coolpix S700 features a Continuous Shooting mode, as well as a Movie mode. Within the Continuous options are standard Continuous, Best Shot Selector (BSS), Multi-shot 16, and Interval Timer. BSS mode captures as many as 10 images, then automatically selects and saves the sharpest image, an excellent idea when trying to photograph kids. Multi-shot 16 mode captures 16 small frames at approximately one frame per second, and displays them as a single 2,592 x 1,944-pixel index image. Finally, Interval Timer mode captures a series of images at preset intervals, anywhere from 30 seconds to 60 minutes, a little like time-lapse photography.
For movies, the Nikon S700 offers a range of options as well. Within the Movie menu, you can choose from 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120-pixel resolutions, or opt for Time-lapse or Stop-motion movie modes. In Time-lapse mode, the camera opens and closes the shutter at specified intervals (from 30 seconds to 60 minutes, as with Interval Timer mode), and strings the images together as a movie file. Stop-motion mode shoots a number of still images, then also strings them together as a movie file, but you manually press the Shutter button to make the exposures. After the first shot is captured, it is superimposed over the framed image so you can line up your next shot. Available in Movie mode is an Electronic VR setting, which digitally reduces blurring from camera vibrations.
Special Features. One of the more interesting and useful features of the Nikon Coolpix S700 is its Distortion Control setting. Tucked away in the main camera menu, Distortion Control corrects barrel and pincushion distortion before you snap the picture. I found this incredibly useful with the camera's full wide angle setting, which created a rather high 0.9% barrel distortion without any correction. This much distortion is quite noticeable in images of buildings or anything with straight lines near the edges of the frame. In our testing, we found that the Distortion Control setting reduced the amount of distortion at wide angle to about 0.1% pincushion, actually pushing slightly in the other direction.
Distortion Control Off
Distortion Control On
Though it does create a tiny amount of pincushion, the results are much better with the adjustment enabled, as you can see in the images above, which were shot at full wide angle. But because this is a record mode setting rather than a post-capture editing tool, you'll have to remember to switch it on when shooting buildings, railings, and any other linear subjects at full wide angle. You also lose a little of the image, since some cropping is required.
The Coolpix S700 also features Nikon's practically standard D-Lighting adjustment, which enhances contrast and brightness in dark images. Accessed through the Playback menu as a post-capture editing tool, D-Lighting comes in quite handy when you've snapped a portrait in less than ideal conditions, and forgot to switch over to one of the scene modes or didn't have a tripod around for a longer exposure.
Like many consumer digital cameras out these days, the Coolpix S700 features Face-Priority technology for better results in both focus and exposure when shooting portraits. Automatically enabled in any of the S700's portrait modes, Face-Priority seeks out the face in the image and bases focus and exposure on that portion of the frame. You can also choose Face-Priority as an AF mode through the camera menu. In this mode, the camera places a yellow border around any detected face or faces, and can detect as many as 12 faces in a frame. If you have multiple faces, focus is based on the closest one.
Storage and battery. The Coolpix S700 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and comes with a charger. A separate AC adaptor is available as an optional accessory, and might be useful for more time consuming tasks like downloading images. Nikon estimates that a fully-charged battery will capture about 150 frames, below-average battery life. I recommend picking up an additional battery and keeping it freshly-charged and on-hand for longer outings.
For image storage, the camera offers about 52MB of internal memory, but also has an SD card slot. No card comes with the camera. The internal memory will hold about nine full-resolution images, or about 416 of the lowest resolution. (Compare this to about 40 full-resolution files on a 256MB memory card.) For movies, the internal memory can hold about 47 seconds of the highest resolution setting, though a 256MB card can hold a lot longer at 3 minutes, 40 seconds. Thus, you definitely have some flexibility to grab images with the camera straight out of the box, but I'd recommend picking up a a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card pretty quickly so you don't get caught trying to erase files to make room for new ones on the spot. 2 to 4GB should do.
Shooting. Overall, shooting with the Coolpix S700 was fun and straightforward. Zoom speed through the optical zoom range was pretty good and fluid, though zooming past full telephoto and into digital zoom was a bit slow. Overall timings were slow to average to fast (prefocus timing), depending on the camera settings. AF performance seemed pretty good as well, though I did get some blurry images when shooting at full telephoto without the Vibration Reduction setting enabled, even in bright daylight while standing braced against a dock railing. Still, my overall experience with the Nikon S700 was quite good.
The LCD monitor was fairly bright out in the sunshine. However, as with most LCD monitors with a shiny surface, reflections do make it a little more difficult to see tiny details in the frame, and I found I needed to shield the display with my hand to more accurately see what I had in the frame. For image review, the LCD monitor was bright enough, and I found it to be fairly close to what I saw on my computer screen after downloading images.
I liked the camera's small size and control layout, and loved that I could easily slip it into my front jeans pocket. If I didn't need to make any adjustments or change mode settings, the camera's Auto settings streamlined shooting so that I could literally point and shoot. Overall the Nikon Coolpix S700 is a fun, easy to use camera.
Nikon S700 Image quality
The Nikon Coolpix S700 performed well in our testing, producing good overall color and exposure in a variety of settings. Details were sharp and clear in most cases, though there was some blurring in the corners of the frame in a few shots. Color saturation is good, as the Nikon S700 holds the strong reds in check. The bright yellows are a little undersaturated, but overall color looks very nice here.
Very good fine detail in this
Again, great detail in the subtle
shadings of the drawing.
The Nikon S700 did a great job with fine detail, as you can see in the ISO 64 crops above. The crop on the left is a mosaic pattern that many digital cameras struggle to capture with all of the detail. Though there is a small amount of noise suppression visible, the Nikon S700 still manages to hold onto a lot of detail here. Likewise for the subtle drawing in the crop above right, where the Nikon S700 captures the gradual shadings in the shirt sleeve and hat quite well.
(2,592 x 1,944 pixels)
The Nikon S700 produced fairly low noise at its 64 and 100 ISO settings, though there's a noticeable jump at ISO 200, where the image darkens slightly and fine details begin to blur. At ISO 400 and 800, noise is high, with strong blurring. ISOs 1,600 and 3,200 show a big jump in noise, with a much stronger noise pattern and large losses of fine detail. It appears the camera attempts to hold onto detail rather than suppress the noise, but the stronger noise pattern is very distracting here. At ISO 3,200, resolution is limited to the 2,592 x 1,944 pixel setting, and the camera's attempts at noise suppression are more evident, as the image is quite soft overall.
4x Digital Zoom
The Nikon S700's 3x optical zoom lens performed well, capturing good detail at full wide angle. Digital zoom also performed well, and much better than average, holding onto a lot of fine detail.
Auto Exposure, Auto White Balance
Outdoors, the Coolpix S700 performed well, though contrast is a little high. Still, highlight detail is pretty well preserved. Shadow detail is quite limited, both from noise pixels and some smudging from noise suppression. Overall, though, pretty good results under bright sunlight.
Appraisal. Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S700 is a good bet. It captures good-looking images under a variety of conditions, performing well indoors and out. The camera's exposure system was a bit limited in low lighting in its normal Auto exposure mode, but the night photography options and adjustable ISO should help in darker situations. Granted, higher ISOs do translate into higher noise levels, something the Nikon S700 struggles with at sensitivities higher than ISO 400, but that's a common trade-off among consumer pocket digital cameras with automatic-only exposure control. In general though, the Coolpix S700 did a good job under common tough exposure conditions, such as bright sunlight bouncing off water, dim incandescent lighting, and harsh midday sun, without compromising color and exposure greatly. With its Face-Priority AF mode, available Distortion Control setting, and host of other unique features, the Nikon S700 is definitely an excellent option for travelers and family photographers, novices and advanced amateurs. Pocket-friendly and a breeze to operate, the Coolpix S700 is a fun point-and-shoot with wide appeal at a fair price.
- 12.1-megapixel CCD delivers image resolutions as high as 4,000 x 3,000 pixels
- 3x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 37-111mm zoom on a 35mm camera
- As much as 4x digital zoom
- 2.7-inch LCD monitor
- Automatic exposure control
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 4 seconds
- f/2.8 maximum aperture
- Built-in flash with five modes
- USB interface and cable for connecting to a computer
- AV cable for connection to a television set
- Power from one custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, charger included
- Images stored in 52MB internal memory or to SD memory cards (not included)
- Vibration Reduction using image-sensor shift for still images (electronic VR for movies)
- Adjustable AF mode with manual selection and face-priority options
- 15 preset Scene modes
- Movie mode with sound
- Audio recording mode
- Adjustable metering mode with three settings
- User adjustable white balance setting with seven modes, including a manual option
- Continuous and Interval Timer shooting modes
- ISO settings from 64 to 3,200 equivalents
- High Sensitivity shooting mode (maximum of ISO 1,600)
- Color menu option for special effects
- Distortion Control menu option to reduce visible lens distortion
- D-Lighting Playback option to correct contrast and brightness post-capture
In the Box
- UC-E12 AV/USB Cable
- EN-EL10 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
- MH-63 Battery Charger
- AN-CP14 Strap
- PV-17 Dock Insert
- Nikon Software Suite CD-ROM
- Soft leather case
- Additional battery pack
- AC adaptor
- A large capacity SDHC/SD memory card
Small, compact, and very capable, the Nikon Coolpix S700 will please many consumers with its good color, exposure, and resolution. The Nikon S700 captures great images under a variety of conditions, thanks to its range of preset Scene modes and useful tools such as D-Lighting and Distortion Control. Face-Priority AF technology helps get the best focus on portraits, even of large groups. The 12.1-megapixel CCD captures excellent resolution and detail in good light an at low ISO, and the 3x optical zoom lens is sharp and clear. High ISOs extend the camera's low-light shooting capabilities, though strong image noise becomes a factor. Printed results show that ISO 800 is capable of getting a good 5x7. Higher ISOs aren't a good idea unless you don't mind a noisy 4x6, but that's not a big surprise on a very high resolution pocket camera. The lower-than-average battery life will require purchase of an extra battery for long outings, unfortunately. Overall though, the Nikon Coolpix S700 won't disappoint.