There’s a new generation of digital cameras on the market called, aptly enough, ultra-compacts. Usually point-and-click devices with no optical viewfinder – but boasting 2.5 inches monitors on the back – they’re literally pocket-sized and deliver great photos. Nikon has just entered this niche with its Coolpix S1 model which we’re about to review.
The Coolpix S1 is a 5.1 megapixels ultra-compact digital camera with white, silver and black options for its body color. It’s extremely stylish and feels like a cigarette holder inside the pocket – being just 89.9mm wide by 57.5mm high by 19.7mm deep and weighting only 118 g. Its Nikkor ED lens (with a focal range of 5.8mm to 17.4 mm which is equivalent to 35mm to 105 mm) offers a 3x optical focus with a twist: the lens doesn’t come out but instead travels inside the length of the body, using a prism to make the light hit the CCD sensor. This system was pioneered on the Minolta Dimage-X and is responsible for the Coolpix S1 thinness. The lens is protected by a cover which opens whenever the camera is on – however the lens gets more dirty than usual and requires an antistatic flannel at hand to be kept clean.
Figure 1: Front of the camera and lens.
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The large viewing screen is useful to notice pictures being spoiled by any dirt on the lens. Its resolution is relatively low – 110,000 pixels – comparing to other models like the Sony Cybershot DSC-T7 (which features double the pixels) but the 2.5 inches viewing screen serves its purpose. Picture framing is easy and the lack of an optical viewfinder passes unnoticed. The size is also good for menu browsing: the “Scene Mode” offers 15 pre-shooting settings (Museum, Backlight, Close-Up, Landscape, Underwater etc) plus some sub-settings. Navigating by them is pretty easy.
The camera use Secure Digital memory cards and has a built-in 12 MB flash memory (which at the lowest resolution of 640x480pixels has enough room for about 17 pictures). With a 256 MB SD memory card the user have a storage capability of some 99 pictures on 2592 x 1944 resolution (5.1 Megapixels) and 195 pictures on 2048 x 1536 resolution (3.2 Megapixels). Image transferring is done by the Cool Station – a docking station all-too similar to Kodak’s Easy Share. The device serves a dual purpose: image transferring and recharging the camera, although you can plug the charger directly into the base of the Coolpix S1 therefore bypassing the docking station. However the only way to transfer the pictures is by docking the camera on the Cool Station and plugging it on a USB port on your PC. The Cool Station has the not so cool habit of tipping over. The alternative – the one preferred by this reviewer – is simply using a memory card reader already plugged on the PC and inserting the SD card onto it.
All ultra-compact cameras use some sort of proprietary battery and not regular AA-bateries which help them size-wise but is a bummer when you run out of juice. The charger replenishes the EN-EL8 lithium-ion rechargeable battery in about 2 hours – whether plugged to a PC or a regular power outlet. Fully charged, the compact battery has 2.7 Wh of energy and lasts for about 200 shots. There’s a portable battery charger sold as an accessory for traveling needs.
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The Coolpix S1 also doubles as a voice-recorder using the tiny microphone on its top. The internal memory lets the user record up to 5 hours of audio on WAV format – if the 12 MB flash memory are solely dedicated to sound recording. The camera performs video recording on Quicktime format with sound and image being recorded at up to 15fps (640x480pixels). The end result is weak but not outside the limitations of this kind of camera. It serves as a memento grabber and nothing else.
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Picture-taking is where the Coolpix S1 truly shines. Following the Coolpix tradition, the photos are crisp and the colors, vivid. Pictures tend to get blurred very easily if the flash is out – there’s not much of a body in an ultra-compact digital camera to get a firm grip on. The flash has a working range of 0.3 – 2.5 m at wide-angle and 0.3 – 1.4 m at telephoto. As expected in a camera this size, no external flash can be attached to it. To avoid blurriness and over flashing we recommend using the Slow Synch Flash – it captures a good deal of background and doesn’t turn the people portrayed into ghosts of light. The camera is fully automated: the only manual control being for white balance.
The Coolpix S1 comes with a CD-ROM featuring Nikon PictureProject, a proprietary photo software interface that resembles Apple’s I-Photo. It allows red-eye correction and presents the exclusive D-Lighting feature which brightens up dark areas of the photos. The Nikon PictureProject also allows adjustments to brightness, color and sharpness and has the ability to print, e-mail and CD-burn the pictures.
Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S1 is a stylish metal camera ideal to whatever situation where camera bulkiness is an issue. If you are a sharpshooter and have no inclination to manual adjust your camera, that’s the ideal cam for you.
- Effective pixels: 5.1 million
- CCD: 1/2.5” CCD; total pixels: 5.36 milion
- Image size: 2,592 X 1,944; 2,048 X 1,536; 1,024 X 768; 640 X 480
- Lens: 3 X Zoom-Nikkor ED
- Focal length: F=5.8-17.4mm (35-mm  camera-format equivalent: 35-105mm)
- Digital zoom: Up to 4X (35-mm  camera-format equivalent: 420mm)
- Monitor: 2.5”, 110,000-dot, TFT LCD monitor with brightness adjustment
- Storage: Internal memory (approx. 12MB); SD (Secure Digital) memory cards
- File formats: Compressed: JPEG-baseline-compliant; Movies: Quicktime; Sound files: WAV
- Sensitivity: Approximately equivalent to ISO 50, 100, 200, 400; Auto
- Self-timer: Approximately 10 seconds
- Flash range: W: 0.3-2.5m/1’-8’2” T: 0.3-1.4m/1’-4’7”
- Interface: USB
- Battery: rechargeable EN-EL8 lithium-ion 3.7V 720mAh; good for approximately 200 shots
- Dimensions: 89.9X 57.5 X 19.7mm/3.5” X 2.3” X 0.8” (W X H X D)
- Approximate weight: 118g (4 oz) without memory card or battery
- More information: https://nikonimaging.com/global/products/digitalcamera/coolpix/s1/index.htm
- Average Price in the USA*: USD 342
* Researched on https://www.pricewatch.com/ on the day we published this review.
- truly pocketsize
- lots of pre-settings for the amateur photographer
- huge viewscreen
- portrays vivid colors
- lens tend to get dirty very easily
- pictures are often blurred due to poor grip when flash is out
- viewscreen has poor resolution
- only one manual control (white balance)
- small docking station tend to tip over
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