Nikon S4 Review
Nikon Coolpix S4 Design
Slim and trim with the lens in its storage position, the Nikon Coolpix S4 is fairly compact and travel-worthy. The swivel lens design is a throwback to previous Coolpix models, and allows you to point the lens in almost any direction without losing a clear view of the LCD monitor. Aside from the large lens barrel, the main camera body is mostly flat, with only a few protrusions. Rounded edges soften the flat front and make it comfortable in the hand or coat pocket. With only a tiny ridge of a finger grip on the front panel, and a small thumbrest on the rear panel, the S4's included wrist strap is a must for keeping it secure while shooting. The Nikon S4's matte silver, metal body is offset by shiny silver highlights, in keeping with the current fashion. A generous 10x optical zoom lens and a 6.0-megapixel CCD give the Coolpix S4 great image quality, and a broad selection of Scene Assist modes makes operation a breeze, even for novice users. The Nikon S4 measures 4.4 x 2.7 x 1.4 inches (110.9 x 70 x 36.3 millimeters), and weighs 9.3 ounces (263 grams) with battery, memory card, and lens cap.
The camera's front panel (with the lens in shooting position) contains the 10x zoom lens, built-in flash, and the self-timer lamp. The self-timer lamp also serves as a relatively bright AF (autofocus) assist illuminator when there isn't enough light available for the camera to set its focus. A plastic, hinged lens cover protects the lens when not in use, and neatly flips open and folds out of the way for shooting. Also on the front panel is a thin, black ridge that serves as a finger grip.
On the right side of the camera is the Secure Digital (SD) memory card compartment, an eyelet for attaching the wrist strap, and a small connector compartment. The SD card compartment door opens by sliding out and then flipping open. The card releases with a downward press. The small connector compartment above the memory card slot features the shared A/V Out / USB connector jack, and is protected by a rubbery plastic flap that remains tethered to the camera when opened. Also visible on this side of the camera is a tiny rubbery flap below the eyelet, which opens to provide space for the AC adapter's dummy battery cord.
The opposite side of the camera is featureless and fairly smooth.
The camera's top panel features the Shutter and Power buttons, a zoom lever, Mode switch, and the speaker and microphone.
The remaining external controls are all located on the camera's rear panel, along with the 2.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. Above the top right corner of the LCD is a joystick-like multi-controller, which accesses Flash, Macro, D-Lighting, and Self-Timer options, in addition to navigating menu screens. This button can also be pressed to initiate picture transfer when the camera is connected to a computer that has the Nikon software loaded onto it. Left of the multi-controller are the Playback, Menu, Delete, and Display buttons.
The Nikon Coolpix S4 has a flat bottom panel, with slightly rounded edges that curve up toward the rest of the camera. The battery compartment door and plastic tripod mount line up side-by-side, making quick battery changes while mounted to a tripod impossible. This won't likely be a problem for most Coolpix S4 users, though, given the point-and-shoot orientation of the camera. A hinged, plastic door covers the battery compartment, with a locking switch to release it.
Nikon Coolpix S4 External Controls
Shutter Button: Dominating the right end of the top panel, the Shutter button sets the camera's exposure when halfway pressed, and releases the shutter when fully pressed. In Playback mode, pressing this button lets you record a short sound caption to accompany the displayed image. If an audio clip has already been recorded, pressing the Shutter button plays it back for you. When playback images have been enlarged, pressing this button lets you save the cropped portion of the image displayed in the LCD monitor as a separate file.
Zoom Lever (see image above): Surrounding the Shutter button on the top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, this lever accesses the four and nine-image index displays when pressed toward the wide angle end, and zooms in on captured images to 10x when pushed toward the telephoto end.
Power Button: To the left of the Shutter button and Zoom lever, the power button turns the camera on and off with a push.
Mode Switch: Left of the Power button on the top panel, this sliding switch selects the camera's main operating mode. Choices are Auto, Scene, and Movie modes.
Multi-Controller (Flash, Self-Timer, and Macro Buttons): Just above the top right corner of the LCD, this joystick-like multi-controller features four arrows, one pointing in each direction. In any Settings menu, the controller navigates through menu selections, and pressing down on the center selects.
In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images. If you're looking at an unenlarged image in Playback mode, pressing the center button brings up a screen that lets you apply the S4's "D-Lighting" option, which lightens dark shadows and tones down overly bright highlights.
In Record mode, the arrow keys control specific exposure features. The up arrow controls the camera's flash mode, producing a popup menu of options (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Anytime Flash, and Flash Cancel). The left arrow activates the camera's Self-Timer mode, while the bottom arrow activates the Macro focus mode. All of these settings are confirmed by pressing the center of the button once the selection has been made.
When connected to a computer with Nikon's software loaded, pressing the center button triggers a "one touch" upload of selected images to the computer.
Playback Button: To the left of the Multi-Controller, this button accesses the camera's Playback mode, or returns the camera to record mode.
Menu Button: Directly left of the Playback button, this button displays the settings menu in any camera mode. It also dismisses the menu display.
Erase Button: Left of the Menu button, this button pulls up the Erase menu while in Playback or Record modes.
Display Button: Above the top left corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the information overlay in Playback and Record modes.
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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.