Nikon COOLPIX S30: A New Best Friend

 
Nikon COOLPIX S30

Nikon COOLPIX S30

Ambarin Afsar spends some time with Nikon’s latest offering for children, a waterproof and shockproof camera called the COOLPIX S30.

How often have you given your camera to a child and been afraid for the camera’s well being? Nikon has come up with a camera aimed specifically at children who are enthusiastic about anything that goes beep, whirr, click. The Nikon COOLPIX S30 is a chunky little toy with big buttons and a cartoony interface meant for all those young prodigies in the making. Now, you can hand over a camera to a kid and let them do whatever they want with it, namely, make pictures and have lots of fun.

Features
A spring 2012 release, the Nikon COOLPIX S30 is a 10MP camera that can shoot underwater for about 60 minutes, in depths of upto 9.8ft and is shockproof till about 2.6ft. The S30 is powered by AA alkaline batteries which are widely available. This can be quite useful, considering its intended beach and vacation use.

While you will not find a lot of fancy shooting options or extensive manual control, you do have a pick of 11 shooting modes. You can Choose a Style from Point and Shoot, Shoot Close-ups, Photograph Food, Take Soft Pictures and so on. Here, the interface sports large fonts, descriptive menu options and large symbols. This makes it quite easy for children to identify which option does what. Additionally, the camera sports four large buttons to the left of the LCD. Each of these buttons corresponds to a menu option.

One extremely interesting mode is the Point and Shoot mode, which offers sliders to further help you finetune the image. However, these settings have not been classified by their usual, technical terms such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation and Saturation. Instead, icons have been used to communicate what each option can do.

Additionally, you can decorate your frames with scrapbook-like frames. However, the choice of five frames seems a little limited and the frames themselves are a little too cheesy. Interestingly enough, you can even change the sounds the camera plays when it performs certain actions. For instance, you can make it bark like a dog or chirp like a chick when you shoot photos or hit the Play button.

The camera can also shoot 720p video and offers autofocus during video recording. However, you cannot use optical zoom and digital zoom only gives unsightly video.

Another exciting feature is the interval timer which allows you to shoot at fixed intervals of 30sec, 60sec or 5min, which is quite amazing for a camera of this price point. And in another quirky feature, when you review your images, you can even record upto two voice messages over them!

Handling
Besides the four large buttons to the left of the LCD, the camera has a four-way controller and a review button to the right of the LCD. On the top, it has a button dedicated for video, an on/off button and a shutter-release button. All of these buttons are sealed and quite easy to use. The flash is located just above the lens, so you do not end up accidentally covering it.

The camera definitely looks and feels quite sturdy and a textured thumb grip further adds to better handling.

Performance
In ample light, you get sharp images with great quality. But, when the light levels fall, the overzealous noise reduction ends up softening images quite a bit.

I was particularly surprised by the results I got while shooting in the Closeup mode. The macro photographs were particularly crisp and showed excellent detail. Overall sharpness is also quite decent and the camera manages to control fringing and flaring quite well. Also, the colours look great straight out of the box.

The AF is slightly sluggish, but, I did not notice any particular focusing issues.

Conclusion
A completely unique design and interface, easy-to-use features and its durability, all make this camera a wonderful buy for its target audience. Also, at a price of Rs. 5950, it is the world’s cheapest waterproof digital camera, by a large degree.

However, if you are looking for Full HD video and better control, you would rather look elsewhere.

The image quality, overall sharpness and dynamic range exceed expectations, surprisingly enough. Exposure: 1/125sec at f/3.7 (ISO 80). Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

The image quality, overall sharpness and dynamic range exceed expectations, surprisingly enough. Exposure: 1/125sec at f/3.7 (ISO 80). Photograph/Ambarin Afsar

Final Ratings
Features
Interval timer, 720p video, unique design
27/30

Performance
Great colours, but slightly sluggish AF
25/35

Build Quality
Sturdy build, snugly waterproof
13/15

Ergonomics
Extremely easy to use, friendly menus
13/15

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, wide service network
4/5

OVERALL: 82%
Value For Money: 4/5

Who should buy it?
Parents who want to gift their kids something that will enhance their child’s creativity.
Why?
The image quality of the camera is great for someone looking to make 4 x 6 prints. Not only does the S30 have a host of features that will keep a child endlessly occupied, it can certainly deal with rough handling.

Tags: Ambarin Afsar, August 2012, Camera review, nikon, nikon coolpix, nikon coolpix s30, nikon s30, shockproof, waterproof camera