Nikon S02 Preview
by Roger Slavens
While last year's Nikon Coolpix S01 was notable mainly for its adorable good looks -- an incredibly small-and-sleek alternative to a smartphone camera -- the next generation in line also wants to make heads turn for its improved smarts.
Indeed, this year's model, the Nikon S02, promises to be more capable photographically, trading in its lower-end 10-megapixel CCD sensor for a 13.2-megapixel CMOS imager with a sensitivity range of ISO 125 to 1600 equivalents. And it also gets a bigger LCD touchscreen, moving up from the S01's 2.5-inch screen to a 2.7-inch monitor, which is a big deal since almost all of the S02's functions are controlled via touch. The bigger screen means the S02 has grown in a size, but only a little, measuring at 3.0 x 2.0 x 0.7 inches, or less than a third of an average-sized person's hand. It weighs a mere 3.5 ounces.
Don't get us wrong, the camera's tiny size, sleek appearance and relative simplicity are still what matter most. The S02 remains a fashion-forward, entry-level camera designed for someone who either doesn't have a smartphone with a decent built-in camera, or who wants an extremely pocketable model that packs a few key features you won't find in most smartphones.
Chief among these features is a 3x optical zoom lens, constructed of six elements in five groups, which delivers a decent 30-90mm equivalent range. And while the lens isn't the brightest, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3-5.9, it still bests what many smartphones can offer. The S02 also boasts an upgraded user interface, according to Nikon, with a simple-to-navigate home screen which you can customize with short cuts and even your own backdrop image.
The upgrade from a CCD to CMOS sensor not only means that the S02's still images should be better than its predecessor, but it also allows the new model to deliver Full HD (1080p) video at 30 frames per second, and 720p at 60 fps. (The S01 could only record at 720p.) The camera uses electronic vibration reduction to help keep videos steady.
In addition, the camera comes equipped with a number of built-in functions, such as a Hand-Held Night Scene mode aimed at taking better pictures in poor light, and a Backlit Scene HDR mode to improve exposure in high-contrast scenes. Several special effects have also been added, including Fisheye, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera, Mirror, Sepia, High Contrast Monochrome, High Key and Low Key. One last nice touch is that the camera features a Macro mode, and is capable of focusing as close as 2 inches (5cm) at wide angle and 20 inches (50 cm) at full telephoto.
Otherwise, the Nikon S02 is mainly designed to operate as a true, no-fuss point-and-shoot, and the camera employs a Scene Auto Selector Mode to recognize the scene and choose the best settings to capture portraits, landscapes and more. The only photographic settings that can be manually changed on the camera are exposure compensation (up to +/- 2 EV in steps of 1/3EV) and whether the built-in flash is engaged.
In fact, the S02 is so simple, it doesn't require any external media, instead employing 7.3GB of internal memory, just like its predecessor. You transfer your photos and videos via USB to your computer. Finally, the compact uses a built-in battery (which can't be removed), which you charge by plugging the camera into its AC adapter/charger (EH-70P) or a computer, via its included USB cable. Fortunately, the battery life appears to have been improved a bit, now capturing 210 shots between charges.
The cute little Nikon S02 will be available in September 2013 for a price of US$180, and comes in silver, white, blue or pink.
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