DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix S10
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The Coolpix S10 ($400) is the latest swivel-body digital camera from Nikon. It's the followup to the lackluster (in my opinion) Coolpix S4, which wasn't nearly as impressive as the original Coolpix 900-series cameras that came before it.
The S10 addresses many of the complaints I had with the S4, adding image stabilization, a higher resolution 2.5" LCD, and an improved movie mode. It also uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery instead of AAs. Other features include a 6 Megapixel CCD, 10X optical zoom lens, point-and-shoot operation, and (of course) that unique design.
The ultra zoom market is very crowded. How does this one-of-a-kind camera hold up to the competition? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Coolpix S10 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
In 2005 Nikon started building memory into their cameras instead of putting a memory card in the box. The Coolpix S10 has just 16MB of onboard memory, which holds a paltry five photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want a larger memory card right away. The S10 supports Secure Digital cards (though not SDHC cards, as far as I can tell), and I would recommend a 512MB card as a good place to start. I only noticed a performance improvement with a high speed SD card in continuous shooting mode, so if you do a lot of that it may be worth getting one.
Where the "old" S4 used AA batteries, the Coolpix S10 uses the familiar EN-EL5 lithium-ion battery. This slender battery holds a modest 4.1 Wh of energy, which is about average these days. How much battery life did Nikon squeeze out of it? Have a look:
Despite being an improvement over its predecessor, the Coolpix S10 still turns in battery life numbers that are about 10% below average for the group. Compared to the smaller ultra zooms, though, it's actually above average.
The usual warnings about proprietary batteries apply here. They're more expensive than AAs (though at about $30, this one isn't too bad), and you can't drop in off-the-shelf batteries when your rechargeables die.
You'll need a charger for that battery, and Nikon puts one in the box. Pop in the EN-EL5, plug in the power cord, simmer for two hours, and serve.
The S10 has a rather unique lens cap that clips onto the lens. When you want to use the camera, just swing it out to the side.
There are just two accessories available for the Coolpix S10. You've got an AC adapter, which lets you power the camera without using your batteries, and there's also a neoprene carrying case available as well.
Nikon includes version 1.7 of their PictureProject software with the Coolpix S10. The interface is somewhat reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto, and I found the software to be responsive and stable. The default view can be seen above, and it's your standard thumbnail setup.
A view showing shooting data is also available. Double-clicking on an image brings up the image edit window:
Here you can adjust things like brightness, color, and sharpness. You can also straighten images or use Nikon's D-Lighting feature to brighten up dark areas of your photos. Auto image enhancement and redeye removal features are also available.
You can also use PictureProject to e-mail or print your photos, and you can burn them to a CD as well.
The manuals included with the camera are good, but not great. You'll get a fold-out Quick Start guide to get you up and running, and there's a full manual for more details. While you will get your questions answered in the manuals, neither of them are what I'd call pleasure reading.
Look and Feel
The S10's swivel design dates back to 1998, when Nikon introduced the original Coolpix 900. While the 900-series cameras had 3X or 4X zoom lenses, the Coolpix S4 and now the S10 have much more telephoto power. While at first glance the swivel design may look like a gimmick, it's actually quite handy. You can take photos over the heads of people in front of you, or just be stealthy and take shots without your subject knowing it. The lens can rotate a total of 270 degrees, from facing the ground all the way around to facing you, the photographer.
The camera itself is fairly well built, made of a mixture of metal and plastic. The only real weak spot is the flimsy plastic door over the memory card and battery compartment. The camera's buttons are scattered over several areas, and some of them are on the small side. And, while the camera is easy to hold, my right thumb often ended up on the LCD, leaving fingerprints and blocking part of the view.
Now here's a look at how the Coolpix S10 compares to the competition in terms of size and weight: