The Nikon Coolpix S3100 is certainly pleasing to the eye, but can it take the images to match? Our Nikon Coolpix S3100 review finds out...
For those more concerned with the aesthetic of a camera as much as the interior tech the Nikon Coolpix S3100 is an enticing prospect. With a smooth, slim body and variety of colours those with an eye for design will undoubtedly be impressed, even if the tech underneath isn’t anything groundbreaking.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 review – Features
The Nikon Coolpix S3100 sports a 14MP sensor, which is becoming more standard in the current climate of high resolution compact cameras. There’s also a 5x optical zoom with a 26mm wide angle lens and both ISO and electronic image stabilization. The rear LCD is 2.7inch, which is a touch disappointing for a camera that has plenty of space to fill, and a Smart Portrait System which uses a variety of scene modes and post processing functions to take a more appealing end product. The upgraded EXPEED C2 processing engine should improve the likes of low light performance and movie mode, which is presented in the 720p HD resolution at 30fps.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 review – Design
One of the main selling points of the Nikon Coolix S3100 is the smooth, thin exterior making it more attractive to the eye and pleasing to the pocket, being able to easily slide into a small pouch quite easily. In spite of being only 18.4mm thin the zoom control and power button still sit on top, accompanied by the shutter release. The zoom feels decidedly plasticy and moves around outside the normal lateral movement far too much to inspire confidence in the build quality. Much of the same sentiment can be aimed at the shutter release, which is a touch small for an adult-sized finger, although the power button is positive to use and even has a light-up surround.
The rear of the camera houses the single press movie record button and D-pad as well as the Scene, playback, menu and delete buttons. Each feels decidedly more sturdy than the shutter release and blends in well with the dark surroundings. The screen dominates the majority of the rear of the camera, although there is a large blank space to the right that could easily have housed a 3inch screen instead.
Annoyingly the screen is both surprisingly small and of low resolution at 230k dots as opposed to the 920k dots many of the Nikon Coolpix S3100’s rivals offer. The result is a decent enough preview to compose and frame a shot, but the icons depicting the likes of remaining battery life are far too small. The menu suffers equally, offering up wispy lettering on a grey background that proves difficult to make out. The memory card and battery are housed under the same flap, next to which is the too-small AV/USB port. Even though the port is rarely used in preference to the likes of a card reader the fact that the connection is so small and awkwardly placed makes it difficult to access.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 review – Performance
Having a 5x optical zoom may not sound like a huge burden on a compact camera, especially as the likes of the Panasonic TZ20 has 16x magnification without being a huge amount larger, but the Nikon Coolpix S3100 suffers from delays when taking stills. At the wider end of the lens the 9-point AF system is reasonably snappy, picking out the subject in an intelligent manner and affording a reasonably straightforward process to take a shot. Further up the range there are more issues, in which the AF system will hunt from front to back before settling on a subject. Although more often than not the Nikon S3100 finds something to focus on the time taken can be frustrating. The focus area can be manually adjusted or at the very least limited, with the d-pad employed to move a small square around the screen limiting the focus to that area.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 review – Image Quality
Image quality achieves a reasonable balance between quick, convenient snaps and impressive end quality, although there are a few downsides. The camera tends to underexpose, especially when the zoom is in use, losing details on highlights. Although bright days will often provide problems in these areas for most digital compacts the Nikon Coolpix S3100 had real issues providing a balanced exposure in most conditions. When employing the zoom the focus depth was also severely limited, only giving an extremely shallow amount of sharpness and making it extremely hard to compose a shot.
When the S3100 does find a depth sharpness is perfectly acceptable, and returns a decent level of detail. Colour tends to favour saturation more often than not, giving some more orangey shades and turning the flesh tones overly warm. In spite of this the image quality isn’t horrible by any means, but the camera is seemingly overstretching itself rather than concentrating on the basics. The low light performance is reasonable up to the ISO 400 mark, although above that noise starts to become more visible and the two upper settings lose tone and colour quality to a noticeable level.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 review – Value
For a camera with the aesthetics, feature list and technical specs of the Nikon Coolpix S3100 is priced impressively low. The RRP of £129 will undoubtedly be undercut by both the internet and high street, making it something of a bargain all round. Although the image quality may not be ground breaking and the screen a touch smaller than it could be, but the price still keeps it firmly with the ‘bargain’ realm.
For the price the Nikon Coolpix S3100 offers plenty of features and the kind of aesthetic that will please fashion-conscious snappers. Beneath that there are a few annoyances to be dealt with, such as the delays in focusing once the zoom is used and tendency to overexposed. At the price range, the Nikon Coolpix S3100 is one of the better cameras out there, making it a real bargain for the budget shopper. It's a shame it doesn't quite tick all of the boxes necessary to turn the Coolpix S3100 into a stunning camera, but it does a reasonable job nonetheless.