DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix S7c
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The Coolpix S7c ($350) is the update to the Coolpix S6, which was one of Nikon's first cameras to support Wi-Fi. The S7c supports Wi-Fi too -- in fact, it's been enhanced over its predecessor. While before you could just transfer photos to your computer wirelessly, the S7c lets you e-mail photos right from your camera, from almost any Wi-Fi access point. It's even preset for T-Mobile Hotspots (usually found at Starbucks), so you can send some photos while sipping your double americano.
Other new features on the S7c include more pixels (7MP vs 6MP on the S6), a slightly different lens (in terms of maximum aperture), a more powerful flash, Electronic Vibration Reduction, and new high ISO options. What hasn't changed? The S7c still has a huge 3-inch LCD, fancy slideshow feature, and VGA movie mode.
Before we start the review, I have to knock Nikon for some rather questionable product labeling. If you're shopping for a camera and look at the S7c or its box, you might be mislead about its Vibration Reduction (image stabilization) capability. Have a look at this:
On the box: VR - Vibration reduction
"VR" is not only on the sticker, it's even on the camera itself. Nowhere does it say that it's electronic
So, according to the labels on both the camera and the box, the S7c has Vibration Reduction / image stabilization. And that's what I thought for a while, until I started using the camera. I noticed that there was only an "electronic VR" option available. After checking the manual (and confirming with Nikon), it turns out that VR on the S7c is nothing more than some post-shot sharpening. Pretty misleading if you ask me.
Okay, rant over. Read on to find out how the S7c performs in the crowded ultra-compact field!
What's in the Box?
The Coolpix S7c has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
Last year Nikon started building memory into their cameras instead of putting a memory card in the box. And, in one of those "what were they thinking?" moves, Nikon put less memory into the higher resolution Coolpix S7c than they did on the S6. That camera had 20MB, and the S7c has just 14MB. You can fit just four photos at the highest quality setting into that amount of memory, so consider a large memory card to be a required purchase. Since it's 7 Megapixel, I'd recommend getting at least a 512MB memory card for the S7c. The camera can use SD or MMC memory cards, and spending the extra bucks on a high speed card is worth it (no need to go overboard, though).
The Coolpix S7c uses the same EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. With just 2.7 Wh of energy, you wouldn't expect stellar battery life numbers out of the camera. So what does it get?
The S7c turns in battery life numbers which are about average. Of course, that's without using Wi-Fi, so expect much lower numbers if you use that feature frequently.
The usual reminders about proprietary batteries apply here. They're pretty expensive (though at around $23, the EN-EL8 isn't too bad), and you can't drop in off-the-shelf batteries when your rechargeables die. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to find an ultra-thin camera that uses anything but proprietary batteries.
Nikon includes a camera dock with the Coolpix S7c, which is required for USB and A/V connectivity (a big negative in my opinion), and optional for battery charging (you can also plug the AC adapter directly into the camera). It takes about two hours to fully charge the EN-EL8 battery.
The camera and dock do not support the USB 2.0 HIgh Speed standard, so transfers over the USB connection will be slow.
Like all ultra-compact cameras, the Coolpix S7c has a built-in lens cover so there's no lens cap to deal with.
There aren't too many accessories available for the S7c. The most interested one is the PD-10 wireless print adapter (priced from $50), which lets you send photos to any PictBridge-enabled printer using Wi-Fi. The only other accessories of note are an external battery charger (priced from $17) and leather camera case (around $40).
Nikon includes version 1.7 of their PictureProject software with the Coolpix S7c. The interface is 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 exposure info 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.
You'll use the included Wireless Camera Setup Utility to get the S7c's Wi-Fi feature going. You plug in the camera to your Mac or PC with the dock and USB cable and then run the program. You can enter your wireless network information, including SSID, type of network (ad-hoc or infrastructure), and security method (none, WEP, and WPA). The camera then sends that info to the camera. You can also choose a printer that's on your network for wireless printing, and you can set up the camera's address book as well (which is much) easier than dialing it in on the camera.
I'll tell you what you can do with the Wi-Fi feature later in the review.
The S7c's manual is thick and complete. It's not what I'd call pleasure reading (due to all the fine print), but it'll answer any question you might have about your camera. There's also a quick start guide included to get you up and running with the camera.
Look and Feel
On the outside, the Coolpix S7c is the "old" Coolpix S6 with a dark gray finish -- they look identical. That means that it's an ultra-compact made mostly of metal, with a stylish "wave" design. The camera is well put together.
I'm not a huge fan of the camera's ergonomics, though. Several of the camera's important buttons are tiny, and the four-way controller/command dial combo is awkward at first. There's not a whole lot of room for your thumb on the back of the camera, either.
Now here's how the S7c compares to the other ultra-compact cameras in its class.
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
Canon PowerShot SD430
3.9 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
7.4 cu in.
130 g Canon PowerShot SD630
3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
6.3 cu in.
145 g Casio Exilim EX-Z700
3.5 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
6.2 cu in.
112 g Fujifilm FinePix V10
3.3 x 2.5 x 0.9 in.
7.4 cu in.
156 g HP Photosmart R967
3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
9.1 cu in.
170 g Kodak EasyShare One (6MP)
4.1 x 2.5 x 1.0 in.
10.3 cu in.
224 g Nikon Coolpix S6
3.9 x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
7.5 cu in.
140 g Nikon Coolpix S7c
3.9 x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
7.5 cu in.
140 g Nikon Coolpix S9
3.8 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
7 cu in.
115 g Olympus SP-700
3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
8.4 cu in.
140 g Olympus Stylus 730
3.8 x 2.4 x 0.8 in.
7.3 cu in.
130 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX50
3.9 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
9 cu in.
151 g Pentax Optio T20
3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 in.
6.8 cu in.
135 g Samsung NV3
3.7 x 2.2 x 0.7 in.
5.7 cu in.
142 g Sony Cyber-shot DSC-N2
3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
8.2 cu in.
151 g Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T50
3.8 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
7.9 cu in.