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Nikon S3500 Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted 03/04/2013

Last year, Nikon introduced the Coolpix S3300, a camera which proved that an entry-level pricetag didn't mean you had to skimp on zoom reach, resolution, or pocketability. The Nikon S3500 follows in the footsteps of that camera, and it aims to reinforce that point, adding even higher resolution and a more powerful lens.

Last year's sixteen megapixel image sensor is gone, replaced with a 20.1 megapixel CCD in the Nikon S3500. It now sits behind a 7x optical zoom, Nikkor-branded lens with 35mm-equivalent focal lengths ranging from 26-182mm. The Coolpix S3500 thus matches its predecessor's wide-angle capabilities, and bests it by a reasonable margin at the telephoto end.

Interestingly, the Nikon S3500's lens is also just a little brighter across the zoom range, with maximum apertures starting from f/3.4 at wide angle, and falling to a rather dim f/6.4 at the now-stronger telephoto. (The S3300, by contrast, provided an f/3.5 to f/6.5 range.)

Importantly, true optical image stabilization is still included, and as in the previous camera it's a lens-based rather than a sensor-based stabilization method.

On the rear panel is a 2.7-inch LCD monitor. That's smaller than average these days, but no more so than was that in its predecessor, and the modest display size likely helps keep size, weight, and power consumption down -- so perhaps it's really a positive. The display has QVGA resolution, for a total of 320 x 240 pixels. (If you're comparing to a camera rated in dots, that's equivalent to around 230,400 dots.)

Another updated feature is to be found in the Nikon S3500's autofocus system. It now includes what the company terms as target-finding autofocus. What this does is first to look for faces using its face-detection algorithms. If one or more faces are detected, the camera will focus on the dominant face. Failing that, the S3500 will consult an in-camera database of images and compare them to your current scene, then try to use the nearest match to determine where in the frame your subject lies, before focusing on that point. If this, too, fails then the S3500 will finally revert to the more normal mode of operation -- simply focusing on the closest subject it can find.

The Nikon S3500 still retains a selection of in-camera editing functions and effects, such as Glamour Retouch and Quick Effects. These, says Nikon, allow for beautifying tasks such as brightening faces, softening skin, and reddening cheeks.

As well as still images, the S3500 can still capture high definition movies at up to 1,280 x 720 pixel (720p) resolution at 30 frames-per-second in AVI Motion JPEG format with mono sound.

Available in March 2013, the Nikon Coolpix S3500 is priced at around US$140, the exact same point at which its predecessor first shipped. Five body colors will be available: silver, red, purple, orange and decorated pink.

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