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Nikon Coolpix S01 Overview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted: August 22, 2012

Big cameras: they're not for everybody. Pounds of magnesium alloy and acres of faux-leather might give the feeling of a real photographic tool, but we're not all deeply into our art, and we don't all spend our spare time lifting weights to build the muscles necessary to heft an SLR. Some of us just want a simple, friendly camera for a few snapshots. Something that at least matches the quality we get from our smartphones, but throws in a little bit of zoom, and doesn't make it clear that we're carrying a camera everywhere we go. Pocket-friendly: that's the key, and it doesn't hurt if it looks nice, too.

If this sounds like you, then maybe the Nikon Coolpix S01 was made to answer your needs. Beneath its scratch-resistant, stainless body lies a 1/3-inch type CCD image sensor, a size more commonly associated with camera phones, but instead of the typical cameraphone fixed aperture, fixed focal length, and often fixed-focus lens, the Nikon S01 places a small 3x optical zoom lens. It's not the typical prism-folded design, either--it's an honest to goodness, retracting zoom lens like you'd see on most compact cameras. It's not the brightest zoom on the block, with a variable maximum aperture that falls from f/3.3 to f/5.9 across the zoom range, but it is nevertheless a real zoom lens in a camera significantly smaller than a pack of playing cards. The Nikon S01 is actually small enough that it can hide behind a standard credit card, with space to spare.

You might think that small size was the Nikon S01's only trick, but it also sports a 2.5-inch touch screen display. That's almost a necessity, simply because there's barely any room on the body for external controls, but be that as it may, it's another handy feature in a camera that's not going to break the bank. The S01 isn't quite in bargain basement pricing territory, but it's certainly entry level, and not a lot of its competitors have touch-panels. Resolution is about 230,000 dots, but given that this is a smaller display than most, those 230k dots will have a higher perceived resolution than would a larger display with the same dot count.

So--did Nikon have to make any other concessions beyond the sensor size to get the weight and size down this far? The answer is yes, but they're concessions you might well be happy to accept--many smartphone users are more than happy to live with the same decisions, after all. The Nikon Coolpix S01 lacks both removeable memory, and a removeable battery. Both are built-in for minimum size, and optimal packaging. Battery life is claimed at around 190 shots on a charge, or around an hour of video capture. (The S01 can record high-def 720p video.) Everything you capture is stored in about 7.3 gigabytes of built-in memory, and you offload the camera via high-speed USB. As far as connectivity goes, that's it, but really that's all you need.

Whether it's designed for you or not, you have to hand it to Nikon. They've designed a camera that's genuinely different to anything we've seen lately, and they've done so with a sense of style.

Available from September 2012, the Nikon Coolpix S01 ships in red, white, silver, and pink versions, priced at about US$180.