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Quick Review

Nikon Coolpix 3500 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 12/11/02
User Level Novice - Amateur
Product Uses Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design Point and Shoot
Picture Quality Good, 3.2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes Up to 8x10
Availability Now
Suggested Retail Price $399.95

 

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion

Nikon is one of the true leaders in the world of photography. A key player in the professional and high-end amateur markets for a good five decades now, Nikon successfully translated their long history of expertise into the digital arena. Their "Coolpix" line of cameras have been solid favorites of enthusiast-level photographers for years now, but Nikon has lately been making inroads in the "point and shoot" market for more casual users. Nikon's key has been the combination of excellent picture quality with an amazing range of features, all calculated to give the photographer maximum control over the picture-taking process.

The introduction of the Coolpix 2500 not only addressed the features novices need, with one of the most extensive sets of scene modes in the industry, but also advanced the aesthetics of camera design by several strides. The camera's sleek, svelte, and clean lines turned heads instantly. An update to this fashionable camera, the Coolpix 3500 maintains the same body design, but now has a 3.2-megapixel CCD in place of the previous two-megapixel model. The result is a camera that snaps excellent photos under a wide range of shooting conditions, and looks good while doing it. Read on for all the details.

Camera Overview

Compact, trim, and not much larger than a standard cell phone, Nikon's Coolpix 3500 updates the previous 2500 model with a larger CCD for even better quality images. The 3500 is practically identical to the previous model, with the same swivel lens design and basic features, but the streamlined exterior now has dark gray accents in place of the metallic blue of its predecessor. The 3500's small size and lack of protrusions enhance its travel appeal, as the camera conveniently fits into shirt pockets, small purses, hip packs, etc. The most interesting design feature is the rotating "internal swivel" lens, which swivels approximately 230 degrees inside the camera's frame, to a range of shooting angles. Because you can "close" the lens by rotating it to a vertical position, there's no need for a lens cap (though the actual lens surface is protected by a clear, plastic shield as well). The 3500's 3.2-megapixel CCD produces high resolution images suitable for making sharp prints as large as 8x10, as well as lower resolution images suited for e-mail attachments. The camera's compact size and attractive looks alone should draw many consumers, but the range of versatile shooting modes and exposure options add depth to its good looks.

The 3500 is equipped with a 3x, 5.6-16.8mm Nikkor lens (equivalent to a 37-111mm lens on a 35mm camera), made up of seven elements in six groups. The maximum aperture ranges from f/2.7 to f/4.8, depending on the lens zoom position. Focus ranges from one foot (30 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode, and a Close Up shooting mode (available through the Scene menu) focuses as close as 1.6 inches (four centimeters) for excellent macro shots. The five-area AF mode automatically adjusts focus based on the proximity of the subject to one of the five AF areas. In addition to the optical zoom, the 3500 also offers as much as 4x digital zoom, although I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image. The 3500 seems to have a good-quality lens: Optical distortion was a little high on the 3500 at wide angle, where I measured a 1.03 percent barrel distortion, but distortion was much less at telephoto, where I found only three pixels of pincushion distortion (about 0.1 percent). Chromatic aberration was moderate, showing about five or six pixels of color around the res-target elements in the corners of the frame. I was impressed though, by the uniform sharpness the 3500's lens delivered across the entire field of view, with little of the softness I'm accustomed to seeing in the corners of digicam images.

Most likely the result of an effort to keep the camera size to an absolute minimum, the 3500 left off an optical viewfinder in favor of a 1.5-inch, color LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor includes a detailed information display, but does not report aperture or shutter speed settings. Framing with the LCD monitor was very accurate, as I measured an impressive 99 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto lens settings. The 3500's LCD does a moderately good job of remaining visible in bright shooting conditions, but it shares the visibility problems of all LCDs under bright shooting conditions.

Exposure is automatically controlled on the 3500, making it great for snapshots, family events, and vacation photos. The camera's 256-segment matrix metering system divides the image area into segments and evaluates contrast and brightness values across the entire frame for an accurate exposure in most normal situations. Though not user-adjustable, the 3500's sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100, with an auto gain function that increases sensitivity to ISO 400 if necessary. Shutter speed ranges from 1/3,000 to two seconds, although the camera doesn't directly report shutter speed while shooting. An elongated, sliding switch on top of the camera turns it on or off, and accesses the Record and Playback operating modes. Within Record mode, you can opt for Auto, Manual, or Movie exposure modes. (Manual in this case refers to the availability of exposure features such as White Balance, Sharpness, etc., not manual control of shutter speed or aperture.) Although the camera controls aperture and shutter speed, the Record menu offers White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Sharpness, Image Size, and Image Quality settings. White Balance options include an Auto setting, plus Fine (Daylight), Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Speedlight presets. There's also a Custom setting, which determines the proper color balance based on a white card held in front of the camera, a very useful but rare feature on digicams intended for novice users. (Kudos to Nikon for including this option.) Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. The 3500 also features no fewer than 12 preset "Scene" shooting modes, which program the camera for specific shooting conditions, such as "Fireworks," "Beach/Snow," etc. The 3500's flash operates in Forced, Suppressed, Auto, and Red-Eye Reduction Forced modes.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures moving images without sound at 320 x 240 pixels, for up to 35 seconds at a time. (Provided of course, that the memory card has enough space remaining to accommodate a file of that size.) A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the camera actually takes the picture, great for self-portraits. Through the Record menu, shooting options include Continuous and Multi-Shot 16, the latter of which captures 16 thumbnail-sized images in a rapid series, which are then displayed as a matrix, occupying a single 2,048 x 1,536-pixel image. Continuous mode captures approximately three frames every two seconds, for as long as the Shutter button is held down. The total number of images in the series depends on the amount of CompactFlash space available, as well as the image size and quality settings. There's also Nikon's signature "Best Shot Selector" (BSS) feature, which captures a series of images and then automatically saves only the sharpest one to the memory card. (BSS is one of my favorite digicam features, it's amazingly helpful for capturing sharp handheld shots in dim lighting.)

The 3500 stores images on Type I CompactFlash memory cards, available separately in capacities as large as 1GB (A gigabyte is 1000 megabytes). A 16MB "starter" card comes with the camera, which only holds a maximum of 10 full resolution, fine quality images. - You should really buy a (much) larger memory card along with the camera. (I'd recommend at least a 64MB card.) The camera utilizes a single EN-EL2 lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with one rechargeable battery and charger. To ensure you don't miss an important shot, I'd recommend picking up an additional battery and keeping it freshly charged and on-hand at all times. The optional AC adapter is useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, and utilizes a "dummy" battery that inserts into the battery compartment and has a power cord extension for plugging into an outlet. The 3500 features a USB jack for downloading images to a computer, and an "Auto Transfer" option sets the camera to automatically begin downloading images as soon as it is connected to a computer loaded with the supplied Nikon software. Three CD-ROMs accompany the camera: one containing the Nikon View 5 software for downloading and editing images, one with a copy of the reference manual, and a third containing the "Watch Me First" introduction to the camera. The 3500 is DPOF compatible, with Print Setup options available through the Playback settings menu.

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 3x, 5.6-16.8mm lens (35mm equivalent is 37-111mm).
  • 4x digital zoom.
  • Five-area automatic focus.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • 256-Segment Matrix metering.
  • Maximum aperture of f/2.7 to f/4.8, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/3,000 to two seconds.
  • ISO 100 sensitivity equivalent, with auto gain to ISO 400.
  • Built-in flash with four operating modes.
  • CompactFlash memory storage.
  • Power supplied by one EN-EL2 lithium-ion battery pack (included) or optional AC adapter.
  • Compact dimensions: 4.5 x 2.3 x 1.2 inches (114 x 59.5 x 31.5 millimeters)
  • Light weight: 7.5 ounces (212 grams) with battery and memory card installed.

Special Features

  • Movie mode (without sound).
  • Continuous Shooting and Multi-Shot 16 shooting modes.
  • Scene mode with 12 preset "scenes."
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a manual setting.
  • Sharpness adjustment.
  • Best Shot Selector shooting mode.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).

Recommendation

The 3500's small, compact design makes it a good candidate for travel, as the camera fits easily into a shirt pocket or small purse. The unique lens design protects it when closed, while keeping the camera body smooth and low-profile, perfect for pockets. The metallic-grey accents of the 3500 will doubtless make it more appealing to a male audience than was the delicate blue-toned 2500, while the sleek lines will still appeal to feminine sensibilities. With the convenience of automatic exposure control and extensive preset shooting modes, the 3500 is perfect for novices and amateurs looking for great pictures and hassle-free camera operation, but enough capability to handle a variety of shooting conditions.

Design

Continuing the stylish design that debuted on the Coolpix 2500, the 3500 has a similar size and shape to an average-size cell phone. The revolving lens rotates to practically any angle, though I felt that its position within the outer camera body framework made it slightly awkward to turn at times. I noticed that I had to first push the lens from the top, then grab the bottom panel of the lens housing to continue rotating it around. I also found it easy to put a thumb over the lens itself, and wound up wiping off finger smudges quite a bit. That said, the longer I worked with the camera, the more intuitive this operation became, and I certainly wouldn't let this minor ergonomic issue stand in the way of purchasing the camera. It's a minor annoyance at worst, and one that seems to diminish with increased familiarity with the camera.

The two-toned silver and gray camera body maintain a modern look, enhanced by the curvy body style and streamlined shape. No major protrusions extend from the camera body when the lens is stowed, making the 3500 welcome in most shirt pockets and purses. While the design of the earlier Coolpix 2500 struck me as being distinctly feminine, with its metallic-blue body panels, I think the 3500's more understated gray accents will be equally appealing to both men and women.

The 3500's compact dimensions and light weight make it suitable for practically any excursion. With the lens in its closed position, the camera measures 4.5 x 2.3 x 1.2 inches (114 x 59.5 x 31.5 millimeters). With battery and memory card loaded, it weighs a mere 7.5 ounces (212 grams). The low-profile external controls maintain the camera's smooth surface, and make effective use of the camera's available space on the rear panel.

 

 

When the lens is stowed, the 3500's front panel is smooth and almost flat. Once the lens is rotated forward into its operating position, it only extends about a half-inch from the camera's front (also about a half-inch from the camera's back). The lens surface is protected by a clear plastic shield, which remains in place at all times. There is the potential that this shield could itself get scratched, but returning the lens to its stowed position before putting it away should minimize the potential for any damage. At the most, I think you'll have to clean finger smudges. (Albeit fairly often.) Sharing the front of the lens assembly is the camera's built-in flash. A Self-Timer lamp centered within the silver medallion on the non-rotating part of the front panel lights red whenever the Self-Timer is counting down. Though the 3500 doesn't offer a bulky handgrip, the front of the camera does feature a small indentation that contributes a surprising amount to a secure grip.

 

 

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the memory card / battery compartment. An inset latch locks the compartment door. Once unlocked, the door opens outward, pulling away from the camera body before flipping back to reveal the card slot and battery compartment. A flexible, plastic flap at the bottom of the compartment door makes room for the power cord when using the optional "dummy battery" AC adapter. Adjacent to the compartment is the Digital I/O slot, beneath a flexible plastic flap that remains tethered to the camera body.

 

 

The opposite side of the camera is devoid of detail, apart from the wrist strap attachment eyelet.

 

 

The 3500's smooth top panel features the sliding power switch and Shutter button. The sleek, low-profile power switch also serves as a mode switch. The first position (from the right) is the Off position, followed by Record and Playback settings. You can also see the slightly ridged pad that opens the battery compartment door.

 

 

All of the remaining camera controls share the rear panel with the LCD monitor. The wide/telephoto zoom buttons in the top right corner control both optical and digital zoom in record mode and image enlargement and index display in Playback mode. A Four Way Arrow pad navigates through menu options, accesses several Record mode features, and controls the optional information overlay display. Lining the bottom of the back panel are the Erase/Flash, Transfer/Scene, Menu, and Quick Review/Small Pic buttons.

 

 

 

The bottom panel of the 3500 reveals the plastic, threaded tripod mount, centered on the camera body. From this view, the plastic AC adapter cord flap is also visible, on the battery compartment door.

Camera Operation

I confess that the Coolpix 3500's user interface seemed slightly cryptic at first contact, but it didn't take long at all to figure out the controls and LCD menu system. (A key for me was realizing that the down-arrow button, marked with a movie camera icon, actually brings up a small menu that lets you choose between "auto," "manual," and movie modes. The camera must be in "manual" mode to access most of its menu options.)

Most of the external controls have multiple functions, reducing the reliance on the LCD menu system and making the user interface faster to operate. Flash, zoom, record mode, the self-timer, Scene mode, and the information display mode all have external controls, while the remaining exposure options are changed through the menu system. The LCD menu system is uncomplicated and easy to navigate, as it only offers two pages of settings in Record mode, and one page in Playback mode. An on-screen display reports which keys control specific menu operations, making things even simpler. Given the mostly automatic exposure control and simplified user interface, it shouldn't take more than few minutes for the average user to get the hang of things.


External Controls


Shutter Button
: Almost flush with the camera's top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Power/Mode Switch
: Adjacent to the Shutter button on the top panel, this sliding switch has three positions. The first is the "Off" position, followed by the Record and Playback mode settings.


Zoom Buttons
: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, these buttons control the optical and digital zoom while in Record mode.

In Playback mode, the "W" button displays an index display of all images on the memory card, four or nine image at a time. Alternatively, the "T" position enlarges the currently displayed image, so you can check on fine details.


Four Way Arrow Pad
: Directly to the right of the LCD monitor, this rocker button features four arrows, one in each cardinal direction. In any settings menu, these arrows scroll through the available menu options and menu screens.

In Record mode, the up arrow (timer icon) calls up the Self-Timer sub-menu, which lets you turn the 10-second self-timer on or off. The left arrow button controls the information overlay on the LCD display, turning it on or off. The down arrow (movie camera icon) displays the exposure mode sub-menu, which offers Automatic, Manual, and Movie exposure modes. (As noted above, the camera must be in "manual" mode to access most of the exposure options in the LCD menu system.)

In Playback mode, the up and down arrows scroll through captured images and movie files. The left arrow again controls the LCD information display, turning it on or off.


Quick Review/Small Picture Button
: Just below the Four Way Arrow pad, in record mode, this button activates a quick review of the most recently captured image. The image is initially displayed in a small window in the top left corner of the LCD display, while the remainder of the LCD area continues to show the live viewfinder image. A second press of the button brings the previously captured image full screen and enables the Delete key.

In Playback mode, this button creates a smaller, thumbnail-sized copy of the currently displayed image, handy for emailing copies of your pictures.


Menu Button
: Situated beneath the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button calls up the settings menu in Record and Playback modes. Pressing it a second time dismisses the menu screen.


Transfer/Scene Button
: To the left of the Menu button, this button activates the camera's image transfer mode when the camera is connected to a computer via the USB cable. (Note that the host computer must be running the Nikon software for the transfer to take place though.)

In Record mode, this button displays the Scene menu. Scene mode options configure multiple camera settings to produce the best results for a particular type of photography. Scene mode options include Back Light, Museum, Beach/Snow, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Copy (Text), Close Up, Sunset, Party / Indoor, Portrait, Landscape, and Fireworks Show.


Erase/Flash Button
: Adjacent to the Transfer/Scene button, this button controls the flash operating mode while in Record mode. Flash options are Automatic, Forced with Red-Eye Reduction, Off, and Forced.

In Playback mode, this button activates the Erase menu, which lets you delete the currently displayed image.


Card/
Batt. Latch: Nestled in the center of the battery and memory card compartment door, this button locks and unlocks the door.


Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In this mode, the camera captures still images or movie files. Exposure mode options include Scene, Auto, Manual, and Movie. In all four modes, the camera maintains control over aperture and shutter speed. Menu options vary depending on the shooting mode selected. Pressing the Menu button in record mode displays the following options:

Shooting Menu

  • Image Quality: Sets the JPEG compression level to Fine, Normal, or Basic (not active in Movie mode).
  • Image size: Sets image resolution to 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; or 640 x 480 pixels (still image modes only).
  • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the image to match specific light sources. Choices include Auto, Custom (based on a white card -- very welcome, but unusual to find in a consumer-level digicam), Fine (Daylight), Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Speedlight (Movie and Manual exposure modes only).
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments.
  • Continuous: Selects Single, Continuous Shooting, or Multi-Shot 16 shooting modes.
  • Best Shot Selector: Turns the BSS mode on or off. BSS takes a series of images in rapid succession, and then selects only the sharpest one for recording to the memory card.
  • Image Sharpening: Controls the amount of in-camera sharpening applied to the image. Choices are Auto, High, Normal, Low, or Off (Manual and Movie modes only).

Scene Menu (Capture mode only,) This is the heart of the Coolpix 3500 for "average" users. The scene mode options set up the camera for a wide variety of common shooting situations that would otherwise require multiple setting adjustments, tweaking lens aperture, shutter speed, white balance, ISO (light sensitivity), etc. The bottom line for this mode is that you can come back with very nice shots from tricky shooting situations, without having to understand the first thing about f-stops and shutter speeds. The options in this mode are as follows:

  • Portrait: No surprises, this option sets up the camera for portrait shots. (Forces a larger lens opening, to help blur the background details, emphasizing your subject.)
  • Party/Indoor: Use to capture background details in situations that require flash. Also good for preserving the look of candlelight or other indoor lighting.
  • Night Portrait: Combines longer exposure with flash, to avoid flash photos with blown-out faces and black backgrounds.
  • Beach/Snow: Boosts the exposure to compensate for subjects that are very bright overall.
  • Landscape: Best for wide shots of scenery, this mode uses a smaller aperture, to enhance depth of field. The mode also boosts contrast and saturation to enhance scenery.
  • Sunset: Preserves the deep colors of sunsets and sunrises. (Likely sets white balance to "daylight" rather than auto, and dials in some negative exposure compensation to get a good exposure on the sky.)
  • Night Landscape: Combines longer exposures with the "Landscape" mode. The flash is disabled in this mode.
  • Museum: For indoor situations where you can't use flash.
  • Fireworks Show: Sets a long exposure and small aperture so you can catch the colored trails of fireworks.
  • Close Up: Adjusts the lens for close-focusing on small objects.
  • Copy: Boosts contrast and adjusts exposure to produce sharp images of black text (or line drawings) on white backgrounds.
  • Backlight: For difficult lighting conditions, when the main light is behind your subject, casting their features into shadow.

Setup Menu (All exposure modes)

  • Brightness: Adjusts the overall brightness of the LCD display.
  • CF Card Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
  • Date: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
  • Auto Off: Specifies the period of inactivity after which the camera will turn itself off. Options are 30 seconds, or 1, 5, or 30 minutes.
  • Language: Sets the camera's menu language to German, English, French, Japanese, or Spanish.
  • USB: Specifies either PTP or Mass Storage USB modes.
  • Reset All: Resets all menu settings to their defaults.


Playback Mode
: This mode lets you review captured images and movies on the memory card, as well as erase them, protect them, and set them up for printing. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Delete: Lets you erase selected images or all images from the CompactFlash card. If "Selected" is chosen, an index display appears, allowing you to designate which images you want to delete.
  • Print Set: Sets which images will be marked for printing on a "DPOF" compatible printer, or resets all print settings (removing any print instructions). If an image is selected to be printed, you can also opt to overlay image information and/or the date over the image.
  • Protect: Activates the index display, so that individual images can be marked for protection. "Protected" images won't be deleted with a "Delete All" operation, but will disappear if the memory card is formatted.
  • Auto Transfer: Activates the Auto Transfer function, which automatically begins the image transfer process when the camera is connected to a computer that has Nikon's Nikon View software installed on it. Options are All On or All Off.
  • CF Card Format: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
  • Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD monitor.

Test Images
See our test images and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 


Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.


Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.


User Reviews

 

Test Results

  • Color: Overall, the Coolpix 3500 delivered excellent color. Its color was bright, natural, and hue-accurate under a very wide range of shooting conditions. Skin tones were very good (just a hint of extra magenta, to my eye), and colors were quite accurate. I felt that bright reds and blues were a little bit oversaturated, but the effect was slight. Color balance was very good as well, with the 3500 turning in an unusually good performance under the difficult incandescent lighting of the "indoor portrait" test.

  • Exposure: The Coolpix 3500's exposure system handled most of our test lighting well, although the Davebox came out a little dark, and the outdoor shots under full sun came out a bit contrasty. - Under harsh sunlight, the 3500's dynamic range was limited, as detail was low in both extreme shadows and highlights. While the high contrast was a problem in very contrasty lighting conditions, shots taken under more forgiving lighting showed good tonal range.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Compared to the best full-sized three-megapixel cameras, the Coolpix 3500's images were just slightly soft, but there was still good detail present, clearly beyond that produced by even the best two-megapixel models. While its images were slightly soft overall, I was impressed by how well the 3500 held sharpness out to the corners of the frame. (Many digicams I test show a good deal of softness in the corners of their images.)

  • Closeups: Excellent macro capabilities are a trademark of the entire Coolpix line, and the 3500 doesn't disappoint here. The camera captured a tiny minimum area of only 1.36 x 1.02 inches (34 x 26 millimeters), with great resolution, detail, and color. The Coolpix 3500's flash did a surprisingly good job in macro shooting, considering the close range (1.6 inches), though it still overexposed my standard macro test shot a bit.

  • Night Shots: A two-second maximum exposure time and fully automatic exposure control limit the Coolpix 3500's low-light shooting capabilities slightly, but the camera captured bright, clear images as low as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), with good color and only moderate noise. You could arguably use images taken one stop darker (1/4 foot-candle, or 2.7 lux). The Coolpix 3500's biggest obstacle here is its autofocus system, which has trouble focusing even at one foot-candle (11 lux), a level that's roughly equivalent to average city street lighting at night. (Plan on using Night Landscape mode and shooting more distant subjects under the darkest conditions, to avoid the need for the autofocus system somewhat.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The Coolpix 3500 has no optical viewfinder, but its LCD viewfinder display is very accurate, showing almost exactly 100% of the final image area.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the Coolpix 3500 is higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 1.03 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only a 0.1 percent pincushion distortion (about three pixels). Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing only about four or five pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)
  • Battery Life: Because Nikon didn't ship me an AC adapter for the Coolpix 3500, I couldn't measure its power drain and hence was reduced to the expedient of simply timing how long the camera ran in capture mode with the LCD turned on. While not as reliable as my normal direct measurements of camera power consumption, this at least gives some idea of the sort of battery life you can expect from the 3500. On this basis, I determined that a freshly-charged battery should be able to power the Coolpix 3500 in its worst-case power drain mode a bit over 90 minutes, better than average among the subcompact cameras I've tested.

In the Box

Packaged in the box are the following items:

  • Coolpix 3500 digital camera
  • Wrist strap
  • 16MB "Starter" memory card
  • USB cable
  • Li-Ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Nikon View 5, "Watch Me First," and Nikon View 5 Reference CD-ROMs
  • Quick start guide, instruction manuals, and registration information

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity CompactFlash card.
  • Additional lithium-ion battery pack.
  • AC adapter kit.

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Conclusion

I really liked the original Coolpix 2500's design and the way it fit into the hand, but would personally have had a hard time buying one for my own use, as the soft blue accents just didn't fit with my personal tastes. (I thought it was quite pretty, but "pretty" isn't a characteristic I look for in a camera for my personal use.) The 3500 keeps the same sleek styling, but tones down the color scheme somewhat, to something that any consumer could appreciate, regardless of fashion-driven color preferences. I've long maintained that cameras that sit in drawers don't take many pictures, and the Coolpix 3500 is a perfect example of a camera design that's made to take along anywhere. It snaps photos with excellent color under a wide variety of conditions, and its extensive scene modes will let even complete novices bring back good-looking photos from tricky shooting conditions. This is clearly a "consumer" camera, rather than one intended for the enthusiast, but as such it does an excellent job of combining good photo quality, ease of use, and style in a single package. While I'd really like to see an optical viewfinder included somehow, the 3500's LCD was acceptably bright in all but a few shooting conditions I used it in. Overall, an excellent choice for anyone wanting a stylish, compact camera that snaps good photos without needing a degree in photography to operate.

 

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