The COOLPIX S3000 is one of Nikon’s most recent entry-level digital cameras. Now, you can be pretty sure whenever you see the name Nikon on a camera, you’re not going to be looking at a made-in-a-basement plastic digital snapper. But while Nikon is rightly praised for its exceptional high-end DSLRs, the company’s COOLPIX range proves it’s also capable of producing a chic, well-featured compact with better-than-average image quality that doesn’t cost the earth.
What you get
The COOLPIX S3000 is designed for relative newcomers to digital photography who don’t want too much more than basic snapping. The first thing you’ll notice is how light it is – just 116g with battery and SD card installed – and yet how solidly built, in an ultra-slim (19mm thick) metal body that comes in a choice of seven jazzy colours.
This 12-megapixel camera comes with a NIKKOR 4x wide-angle optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent: 27-108mm), plus a further 4x digital zoom. Camera operation is kept deliberately simple, so you have a large shutter button surrounded by the zoom ring on the top next to a small, recessed power button that is unnecessarily awkward to activate. Round the back is a relatively modest 230k-pixel 2.7in LCD monitor, four simple control buttons for scene setting, playback, menu and trash, plus a conventional D-pad that handles quick setups for flash, Macro, timer and exposure compensation.
Zoom and shake
While the optical zoom operates quite smoothly, the digital zoom was decidedly jerky. But then, digital zoom simply enlarges the central portion of the frame without adding any true, physical detail – something you can do with the most basic image-editing program. In daylight conditions, we were quite impressed by the on-board anti-blur system keeping the pictures stable even at the furthest extent of the zoom. This relies on a mixture of Vibration Reduction, high ISO settings, motion detection and Best Shot Selector, which chooses the sharpest of ten sequential shots.
As is common for cameras at this end of the price spectrum, the COOLPIX S3000 has no mechanical image stabilisation – but there are plenty of shooting options. Auto mode lets you have some control over white balance and ISO settings, while Scene Auto Selector picks any one of six settings according to prevailing conditions. There are an additional 16 presets, as well as Subject Tracking, which briefly locks on to a moving subject; and Smart Portrait, which fires off when a smiling face is spotted, alerts you when someone blinks and will even soften skin tones.
Disappointingly, the video options are extremely limited – a maximum 640×480 VGA resolution with no optical zooming possible, and only mono sound. Another indication that the COOLPIX S3000 is primarily a point-n’-snapper is the Macro distance, which can only manage a closeness of 8cm. Overall picture quality in relatively clear lighting conditions remains good without being exceptional and there’s little noise at the lower end of the ISO range.
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