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Nikon Coolpix S1

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Nikon Coolpix S1 Compact Camera

Nikon Coolpix S1
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Nikon's $380, 5.1-megapixel Coolpix S1 is no bigger than a deck of cards, even when you're snapping shots. At all times, the 3X optical zoom lens remains entirely within the S1's stylish, brushed aluminum case, so you can put the S1 away without ever having to wait for the lens to retract. This arrangement also enables the S1 to start up very fast. Dominating the back of this ultrathin camera is a 2.5-inch LCD; there's no room for an optical viewfinder. If you're a sometime-photographer, the S1's 15 scene modes will help you get the most from your shots. Several modes can also display guide lines on the screen, permitting better compositions.

Like most cameras of this size, the S1 is somewhat difficult to use one-handed. Your thumb ends up either on the LCD or atop one or more of the controls, which are densely packed to the right of the LCD. Tight as that space is, the control buttons and four-way cursor control are sensibly arranged and easy to operate, even by someone with large digits. The only exception: The small, recessed On/Off button on the model I tested responded only to a hard press of my finger. Several buttons have multiple functions, but you'll soon learn their use in each mode. The telephoto side of the zoom control, for example, doubles as a help button when you're navigating the straightforward on-screen menus. Even setting and releasing the exposure value (EV) control means going into the menus, however. This is not the camera for you if you like advanced settings such as white-balance calibration or exposure bracketing, which are now common on point-and-shoots.

The S1 comes with 12MB of internal memory--good for about five shots at the camera's highest-resolution setting--and a slot for an SD Card (you have to purchase the card separately). You also get a docking cradle, which the S1 uses for recharging its lithium-ion battery, uploading images to your PC, and displaying your photos on a TV via the included AV cable. You don't need to take the cradle with you when traveling, though, because the power adapter cable also plugs directly into the camera's single connector. In our battery life tests, we took 205 shots from a single charge--below the average number for point-and-shoot cameras we review.

Our tests photos had good image quality with accurate exposure in most lighting conditions. The exception was an underexposed flash portrait of Gloria, our mannequin model. We saw low levels of distortion in our resolution test, and shots reproduced colors faithfully. Image sharpness was about average for a 5.1-megapixel camera. Though I was generally pleased with the results of my informal testing, the shutter speed maxes out at only 1/350 second, making it hard to get sharp shots of active subjects such as pets and small children.

Nikon's Coolpix S1 is a neat and simple snapshot camera that slides easily in a shirt or pants pocket.

Nikon Coolpix S1

5.1 megapixels, 2592 by 1944 maximum resolution, 35mm to 105mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f3.0 to f5.4 aperture range, shutter speeds from 2 seconds to 1/350 second, LCD viewfinder, docking cradle with USB and video connections, 12MB internal memory and SD Card slot, rechargeable lithium ion battery, 4.2 ounces with battery; Picture Project software. One-year parts and labor warranty; 24-hour daily toll-free support.

Paul Jasper

This story, "Nikon Coolpix S1 " was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Nikon's Coolpix S1 is a neat and simple snapshot camera that slides easily into a shirt or pants pocket.

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