Nikon S10 Review
Nikon Coolpix S10 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color, if slightly dark in some cases. Slight oversaturation of strong reds and blues, but very good results overall.
Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Nikon Coolpix S10 does push the strong red and blue tones a little, though overall results are still quite pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the Coolpix S10 did render skin tones slightly pink and warm, though within acceptable limits.
The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Though the Coolpix S10 typically produced nearly accurate color, it did push some reds toward orange slightly. Still, great results overall.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Pretty good color with the Manual white balance setting, though a hint pink. About average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance +1.0 EV||Incandescent WB +1.0 EV|
|Manual White Balance +1.0 EV|
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and quite warm and yellowish with the Incandescent setting. With the Manual option, results are just slightly on the pinkish side, but I still found color balance here the most pleasing overall. The Nikon Coolpix S10 required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.0 EV; and even here, some of the highlights on the white shirt border on were just a tad hot. Despite the slight pink cast, overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers in the bouquet do have a purple tint. (Many digital cameras have trouble here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Slightly dark color overall, though still fairly accurate. High contrast under harsh outdoor lighting, but about average exposure performance.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Nikon Coolpix S10 did produce somewhat high contrast, with limited detail in the shadows. Noise suppression in the shadows also contributes to the loss of detail here. Exposure-wise, the Coolpix S10 performed about average, requiring an average amount of positive exposure compensation on the outdoor portrait shot. Overall color is a bit dark, but still fairly accurate.
High resolution, 1,300 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,300 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,300 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,300 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,800. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images overall, though some edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.
|Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with visible edge enhancement.||Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.
The Nikon Coolpix S10 captures fairly sharp images overall, though high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left show visible edge enhancement. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)
Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows this, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing only limited detail.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the higher settings.
(slight motion blur due
to a slow shutter speed)
|ISO 200||ISO 400|
Noise levels are low to moderate at the Nikon Coolpix S10's lower sensitivity settings, with moderate blurring of detail in the shadows. At ISO 200, noise is somewhat high, with a more noticeable grain pattern. At ISO 400, noise is much higher, with stronger blurring and brighter pixels that alter overall color.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but high contrast and limited shadow detail. Limited low-light performance, higher ISO settings required for capturing bright images under average city street lighting.
|+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV||+1.3 EV|
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
The Nikon Coolpix S10 produced high contrast with deep shadows under the
harsh lighting of the test above. Detail is limited in the shadows, partly
from the visible noise suppression. Though some areas look a little dark
at +1.0 EV, I felt the highlights at +1.3 EV were much too bright and washed
out. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations
like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)
The Nikon Coolpix S10 captured bright images down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level (about 1/4 as bright as average city street lighting at night), but only at the ISO 800 setting. The lower ISO settings (50 and 100) produced dim images even at the brightest light level, which is equivalent to typical city street lighting at night. To capture reasonably bright images here, the ISO needs to be at least at 200. Unassisted, the camera's autofocus system was only able to focus on the subject down to the 1/2 foot-candle light level. Do keep in mind though, that the longer shutter times necessary here demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Only slightly dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required less than average exposure compensation for flash exposures.
|38mm equivalent||380mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash +0.7 EV||Slow-Sync Flash +0.3 EV|
Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle, and the flash quite out of range for our viewfinder accuracy/flash coverage target at telephoto (thanks to the long 10x optical zoom range). Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Coolpix S10's flash underexposed our subject only slightly at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. Though the highlights are a bit bright, I still preferred the overall exposure here to the slightly dimmer one. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required less positive compensation at +0.3 EV, though the longer exposure time resulted in some pink-orange tints from the incandescent background lighting, and blue tints in the shadows.
The Coolpix S10's flash was fairly bright and powerful, with good intensity all the way to 16 feet at ISO 100.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 436
Auto ISO 158
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the Coolpix S10 performs as Nikon says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto.
Good print quality, great color, good 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are marginal at 5x7, good at 4x6, though undersaturated.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
The Nikon Coolpix S10 had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14 inch prints up to ISO 200. ISO 400 images were still quite good at 8x10, though the color saturation did start to diminish. The ISO 800 images were quite a bit rougher, limited to 4x6. You'll want to use a good photo editing program to bring back some punch to the colors at this setting, but the images are still reasonably good.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix S10 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
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. We 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 lot 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 digital camera 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...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon Coolpix S10 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.