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Nikon S32 Review -- First Impressions

Preview posted

Looking for an affordable yet rugged camera to take to beach or pool? (Hint: It might serve you well elsewhere, but when it comes to taking the drenchings and beating of a day's splashing around, your smartphone's almost certainly not the answer.) No, this niche is one Nikon aims to fill with the Coolpix S32.

This is a camera focused clearly on three things: approachability, affordability, and (within reason), a sense of near-tanklike indestructability. You'd never know it to look at it, though. Sure, with it's flash directly above the center of the lens it looks perhaps a little ungainly, but it doesn't have the overly aggressive-meets-futuristic look of many rugged cameras. It's all soft curves and sweeping arcs, here.

Although it's not quite as worldproof as some of Nikon's AW-series models, the Nikon S32 should more than suffice both seaside and poolside. It's waterproof to 33 feet and shockproof to five feet, but unlike some AW-series models, not freezeproof. (For the metric speakers amongst us, that's 10 meters and 1.5 meters, incidentally.)

The Nikon S32's lens offers 35mm-equivalent focal lengths ranging from a 30mm-equivalent wide-angle -- not the most generous in these heady days of wide-angle wundercams -- to a modest 90mm-equivalent telephoto. Maximum aperture at wide-angle is a somewhat dim f/3.3, and this falls to a decidedly dim f/5.9 by the time you reach the telephoto position. The optical formula of the lens is a simple 6 elements in 5 groups. There's also no adjustable aperture diaphragm -- instead the S32 simply switches on or off an optional neutral density filter.

A contrast-detection autofocus system is featured, and includes face-detection function. The closest focusing distance is just 2 inches (5cm) at the wide-angle position. Vibration Reduction is limited solely to electronic VR, which simply raises the ISO sensitivity (and noise levels) in an attempt to attain a hand-holdable shutter speed.

Behind the lens sits a smaller-than-average 1/3.1-inch, 13.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor. Together with the unbranded image processor, this allows the Nikon S32 to shoot at a moderate rate of 4.7 frames per second for 11 shots (a little less than two and a half seconds). Sensitivities range from ISO 125 to 1600 equivalents.

A selection of 14 user-friendly Scene modes are provided. Matrix metering is used for most exposures, although if you use up to 2x digital zoom then center-weighted metering is enabled instead, while digital zoom levels beyond this point opt for spot metering.

+/-2.0EV of exposure compensation is provided in 1/3EV steps, and seven white balance modes are available, including preset manual. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 4 seconds, although exposures beyond one second are available only in the Fireworks Show scene mode. A built-in flash has a range of 10 feet at wide angle or 5.5 feet at telephoto, using Auto ISO sensitivity.

You'll be framing and reviewing your images and movies on a fixed-position LCD monitor, par for the course with almost all rugged cameras. The monitor is a smaller-than-average 2.7-inch, anti-reflective type with a relatively low resolution of 230,000 dots.

As well as stills, the Nikon S32 is a video capture device, capable of recording at up to Full HD (1080p; 1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution with a rate of 30 frames per second. Videos use H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression, and include LPCM monaural audio.

The Nikon S32 draws power from an EN-EL19 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, said to yield around 220 shots on a charge. Connectivity includes USB 2.0 High Speed data, NTSC / PAL standard-definition composite video, and Type-D Micro HDMI high-def video. Images and movies are stored on SD, SDHC, or SDXC memory cards, or in a modest 25MB of built-in storage.

Available from March 2014, the Nikon Coolpix S32 ships in two body colors: white or blue. List pricing is set at around US$130.