Nikon COOLPIX S7
- Slim attractive design
- Sharpness and chromatic aberration issues, Slow focus and burst mode
Nikon's S7 is an attractively designed camera, however it suffers from a variety of speed and image quality issues that make it a less than desirable puchase.
Price$ 529.00 (AUD)
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In a market where cameras are increasingly becoming a fashion accessory, it is important for companies to produce models that cater to the Fashionista demographic. The Nikon CoolPix S7 is one such unit as it sports a slim, slightly wavy design that is quite attractive. However it has a number of issues that have been problematic in other recent Nikon models, including a slow auto-focus and some sharpness and chromatic aberration issues.
This unit caries a 7.1 megapixel sensor, a size that is quickly becoming the norm. We ran it through our Imatest testing software as well as taking a variety of subjective tests shots, in order to analyse the quality of the pictures.
In our sharpness test the S7 only performed moderately, scoring 1250, which is quite a way behind what we usually see from units with similar specifications. Most 7.1 megapixel models score closer to 1400-1450. We ran the tests several times, but received the same results. That said, the impact wasn't hugely noticeable in our shots. If you're making regular 4in x 6in prints then the sharpness loss wont be noticed. However, at larger magnifications this won't be the case.
This is exacerbated by some chromatic aberration issues, with Imatest giving the S7 a score of 0.136% in this area. This is a little higher than normal and it was evident in our shots. There was noticeable haloing in the images of our high contrast test chart which got noticeably worse the as we moved the chart closer to the edge of our frame. Furthermore there was prominent blurring and discolouration at the edges of both our outdoors snaps and the barrel distortion tests.
The S7 achieved similar results in our image noise test with a slightly above average score of 1.0% at ISO 100. Our shots at this level were a little grainy but the noise was very fine, so it isn't likely to be a problem for most people. The noise reduction algorithm in the camera did a reasonable job of keeping the noise down as we increased the sensitivity. Shots taken at ISO 400 and higher were quite blotchy, but not as noise-ridden as those produced by competing models. However that said, the algorithm also resulted in greatly reduced sharpness and with that in mind, we wouldn't recommend venturing much above ISO 200.
In our colour tests the S7 performed decently but not outstandingly, achieving a score of 9.79. The primary colours were generally well-saturated, although they were a little darker than we would like. The white balance presets also seemed slightly off-kilter, giving blues a slightly grey tinge. Nonetheless this performance is adequate and fell in line with our expectations of the unit.
The main problem that has plagued Nikon compacts in the past, such as the COOLPIX S500, is the focus speed. This rears its head on the S7 as the lens is quite slow to auto focus, sometimes taking in excess of half a second. This can be a big deal if you're trying to capture a spontaneous moment quickly even though the unit exhibited a fairly standard 0.08 seconds shutter lag. This also has an impact on other times, such as the 2.6 second power up time and 1.9 second shot-to-shot time, both of which are a little sluggish.
Our speed tests also found the burst mode somewhat lacking, with the S7 capturing just 1.25 shots per second. Aside from this, the feature set is fairly standard for such a model. There are white balance presets but no custom mode, as well as ISO sensitivities up to 1600. You can also adjust the colour settings, pick from one of the 15 scene modes, or use Nikon's "Best Shot Selection" mode to capture your pictures at a variety of exposures, allowing you to hand pick the best one. As with the COOLPIX S500 an image stabilisation function is also included and this seems to work quite well overall. Our shots showed no signs of blurring or hand shake when this setting was active.
Aesthetically, the S7 is a little unique. It has a slightly wavy design, with the left hand side being slightly thicker than the right. Our model came in brushed silver, but other colours, such as black, are also available. It looks smooth, and should slip easily into a pocket or bag.
The controls are standard for a Nikon compact, with a directional pad that also doubles as a scroll wheel doing the brunt of the work. The interface will be familiar to any who have used Nikon cameras in the past and while it isn't as streamlined and efficient as interfaces such as Canon's, it does the job. That being said, we still had some minor issues with it. An example is the fact that after changing a setting you have to exit the menu manually rather than simply pushing the shutter button (this adds up when you take many photos at a variety of settings in a short space of time).
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