Nikon S7c Review

 
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Nikon Coolpix S7c Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Pretty accurate color overall, though some oversaturation in strong reds and blues. Generally good hue accuracy as well.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

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 S7c oversaturates the strong red tones, and certain blues, somewhat, but results are still within acceptable limits. 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 S7c performed well, and produced good-looking skin tones, if slightly pinkish in some cases.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The Coolpix S7c performed well overall, though overall color appeared slightly dark outdoors, with good results in a range of lighting situations.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, less positive exposure compensation required than usual.

Auto WB +0.7 EV Incandescent WB +0.7 EV Manual WB +0.7 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and warm and yellowish with the Incandescent setting. Results were more accurate with the Manual option, however. The Nikon Coolpix S7c required less than the average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +0.7 EV. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting looks pretty accurate, though the blue flowers are just a hint dark with some purple tints. (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.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Nearly accurate color outdoors, though a hint dark. Good overall exposure, with less positive exposure compensation required, though high contrast.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Nikon Coolpix S7c produced very high contrast under harsh lighting, with limited shadow detail. That said, the Coolpix S7c did typically require less positive exposure compensation than average. Overall color is a tad dark outdoors, but still fairly accurate, without any strong color casts.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,300-1,400 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,400 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,300 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed distinct line patterns down to about 1,400 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,300 vertically. Extinction at around 1,800 lines. 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.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images overall, though moderate edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Some noise suppression limits detail in the shadows as well.

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 S7c captures sharp images overall, though high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left show some moderate 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 effect in the darker shadows, as well as in some of the more moderate shadow areas, where the detail appears blurred.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the lower sensitivity settings, but high noise with strong blurring and bright pixels at the higher options.

ISO 50 ISO 100
ISO 200 ISO 400

Noise levels are low to moderate at the Nikon Coolpix S7c's lower sensitivity settings, though some minor blurring of detail is visible as low as ISO 100. At ISO 400, noise is quite high, with bright pixels that alter the overall color and strong blurring in the details.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, though high contrast limits shadow detail. Limited low-light performance, though capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
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 S7c produced high contrast under the harsh lighting of the test above, with limited shadow detail. Highlights are just on the verge of blowing out on the white shirt at +0.3 EV, but become much too washed out at the +0.7 EV setting. (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.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
50
Click to see CPS7CLL00503.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
ISO
100
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
ISO
200
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
ISO
400
Click to see CPS7CLL04003.JPG
0.7 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
ISO
800
Click to see CPS7CLL08003.JPG
0.3 sec
f2.8
Click to see CPS7CLL08004.JPG
0.6 sec
f2.8
Click to see CPS7CLL08005.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
Click to see CPS7CLL08006.JPG
1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
ISO
1600
Click to see CPS7CLL16003.JPG
1/8 sec
f2.8
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1/4 sec
f2.8
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0.5 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8
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1 sec
f2.8

Low light:
The Nikon Coolpix S7c captured bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night), though only at the ISO 1,600 setting. At the normal ISOs (50 and 100), images were still dim at the one foot-candle light level, about equivalent to city street lighting at night). So, you'd need at least ISO 200 to capture bright images under those conditions. Overall color looks good with the Auto white balance. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject only down to just above the 1/2 foot-candle light level with its AF assist light turned off, so you'll need to employ the AF assist lamp for darker conditions. Keep in mind that the longer shutter times necessary here absolutely 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.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Slightly dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required less than average exposure compensation for flash exposures. Moderate flash range.

35mm equivalent 105mm equivalent
Normal Flash +0.3 EV Slow-Sync Flash, Default Exposure

Flash coverage was slightly uneven at wide angle with falloff in the corners and at the edges of the frame. At telephoto, some falloff is still present, though the exposure is much darker. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Coolpix S7c's flash underexposed our subject slightly at its default setting, requiring a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. (Some readers may prefer the brighter +0.7 EV shot, but I think the image is just a hair too bright.) The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required no positive compensation whatsoever, and resulted in better overall coverage. However, the longer shutter speed also results in a stronger orange cast from the background lighting.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see CPS7CFL06W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
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1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL08W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL09W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL10W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL11W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see CPS7CFL12W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL13W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL14W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL15W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL16W.JPG
1/60 sec
f2.8
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see CPS7CFL06T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL07T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL08T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL09T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL10T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL11T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see CPS7CFL12T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL13T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL14T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL15T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100
Click to see CPS7CFL16T.JPG
1/120 sec
f5.0
ISO 100

With the lens at wide angle, the Coolpix S7c's flash was bright and powerful to about 11-12 feet with the ISO at 100. At telephoto however, results were much dimmer, with the best intensity to about seven feet.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see CPS7CFL_MFR245WA146.JPG
24.5 feet
Click to see CPS7CFL_MFR130TA436.JPG
13.0 feet

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 S7c seems to perform close to what Nikon says it will, though the wide angle shot appears a bit dim.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, good color, good 8x10 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 1,600 shots are marginal even at 4x6.

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 S7c had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14 inch prints from ISO 50 and 100 images. At 13x19, its prints were softer, but probably fine for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check up to ISO 200, but ISO 400 gets rougher, only moderately acceptable at 8x10. ISO 800 shots are usable at 4x6, but ISO 1,600 shots are best avoided altogether, as they're mottled and faded even at 4x6.

Color is good overall, but gradually fades as ISO increases.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix S7c 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 S7c 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.

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