The S10’s stand out feature is its curvaceous waveform bodywork that looks extremely nice and is actually rather nice to hold as well. But the first impression I had out of the box, was, well, cheap! It’s an all-plastic model and it lacks the tough-as-teak tactile feel of its predecessors. In fact the silver livery is also very easy to mark, which was a tad disappointing.
The attractive if somewhat fragile bodywork aside, handling is very nice indeed. The curvy design making the camera sit neatly in the hand making the camera nice to hold and use, even when the 10x optical zoom lens is swivelled round through its 270-degrees of arc.
Two controls sit on the lens section of the camera, Nikon’s version of CCD shift anti shake is activated by a press of the VR button and Face Priority AF, which automatically detects and follows peoples faces in the frame. Both are quick to use and get at. However, as with other Face AF systems I’ve looked at, it is quite slow at tracking moving subjects. VR on the other hand works a treat providing around 3-stops of equivalent exposure.
The back plate hosts the large 2.5-inch screen, a four-way joystick-style control for scrolling etc and the menu, delete, mode and shooting or playback buttons. Menus are straightforward and simple to understand with an excellent colour coding system and large fonts. However, the addition of the joystick style controller (as opposed to a larger four-way job button) can be a bit hit and miss in use (selecting the wrong direction when scrolling for example) but necessitated by that excellent large screen.
Basic shooting options include the usual array of subject program modes for instance there’s landscape, portrait, night scene and a sports mode. Best Shot Selector (BSS) is built in where the camera chooses the best image from a series and keeps just that one, as is a multi-shot mode that can take 16 continuous images at 1.6fps.
The camera is flexible on lower lighting conditions thanks to light sensitivity of up to ISO 800 combined with the new CCD-shift Vibration Reduction system.
Some of Nikon’s other advanced camera technologies find there way into the S10 including an in camera redeye fix and D-Lighting, which can rescue images that are underexposed or that have bleached out backlit backgrounds. There’s some additional entertainment value provided by Pictmotion, a feature that quickly lets you combine still images, movies, sound and background styles (all in camera) for mini audiovisual shows displayed on the camera’s screen. This is actually an excellent little addition and makes for entertaining slide shows on TV on the go. Images are stored onto SD external or 16MB of internal storage.
In terms of image quality, the S10 provides plenty of detail, the lens performing well in most conditions.
White balance works well enough (the snow preset did particularly well with snow on the White Cliffs of Dover (see test images) but the overcast setting seemed to warm everything up slightly, greys becoming slightly yellow. The custom preset mode worked best and proved a real boon to have. Despite this, the complete lack of other manual controls (aperture or shutter priority for example) apart from exposure compensation may irk some. I also noted that shadow detail and highlight detail drops away quickly on more general subjects.
Previous, award winning swivel lens/body design CoolPix cameras came at time when the digital camera market was (perhaps) not yet as mature as today and now technology has moved on and despite the wavy body design, the S10 now looks a tad wearisome.
The fact the image quality and lens perform well is good to see (as is the new price, down from a launch price of £349 to a much better RRP of £299), but noise is too quick to appear in shadows. And I can’t help wondering that despite the novel, use-at-any-angle-swivel-lens design and the practicalities it affords the user, it has perhaps now finally seen its day.
In my First Look on this model, I wrote: “The Nikon Coolpix S10 follows in the footsteps of some very good and award-winning predecessors (the Coolpix 900 and 950 come immediately to mind) that give a tough act to follow”. And on the showing here, the S10 has not done as well as I’d have expected, which is a shame.