Hands on: Nikon Coolpix S30 review
1st Feb 2012 | 19:40
First look at Nikon's new "family" camera
Nikon has introduced a new Coolpix "family" camera to sit in its compacts lineup. Featuring waterproofing and shockproofing, the Nikon Coolpix S30 has been especially designed to target children and novice family users.
We spent some time with the camera at its official launch, so let's take a closer look at it.
At first glance, the Nikon Coolpix S30 could be another budget compact camera. Although it's been designed with children in mind, it doesn't look like the usual large and tacky options you might find in the toy shop.
That's because, Nikon says, although it's designed for families, it's very much not a toy. It houses a 10 million pixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens and 720p video recording, so you are getting a fairly decent range of specs for the price.
Build quality and handling
It's not the sleekest of cameras, but then it can't be, because it has to appeal to little hands, which need large buttons. Speaking of buttons, these are kept to the bare minimum, and are simple and easy to press and hold.
The Nikon Coolpix S30 also features two shutter buttons - one for stills, and the other for video. It may take some time for which one's which to sink in, but it's a feature that should be pretty handy.
Also thinking about children, Nikon has placed the lens and flash in the centre of the camera to avoid pesky fingers from straying into shot. A smart move, considering the target audience.
Coming with a suggested UK retail price of £99, this will be one of the cheapest "rugged" cameras available, when it's released on 29 March. We can therefore see this camera appealing to families who want to take it down to the beach on a family holiday without worrying about sand damage or it being dropped.
On the back of the camera is a 2.7-inch LCD screen, which although not fantastically detailed to look at, for the price and considering it has to cope with being submerged underwater, isn't too bad. It would be difficult for us to comment on how well it works in bright sunlight, since we saw it indoors. That will be interesting to test in our full review.
The menu has also been designed to be as simple as possible, with all the key operations accessible via four large buttons at the back of the camera. There aren't lots of options to change complicated settings, but that's something that the average user of this camera won't be looking for.
Since this was a production model of the Nikon Coolpix S30, we weren't able to test the image quality. However, Nikon emphasises that just because this is a "family" camera, it doesn't mean that it has skimped on high quality features.
Sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 up to 1600, while it has a maximum aperture of f/3.3, which should mean that it performs reasonably well in low light. This is another area we're keen to evaluate when we get a camera in to test for our full review.
It's also worth noting that unlike some other budget and children's compact cameras, the Nikon Coolpix S30 does feature an optical zoom, reaching up to 3x. While not exactly phenomenal compared with some of the ultra-high zooms that are now available on the market, it should be enough for the beginner user of the camera.
Nikon has really tried to ramp up the fun factor, with the ability to shoot in fun modes such as Diorama (which produces a miniature/tilt-shift effect), along with the option to add digital filters and enhancements after a shot has been taken.
These include Fish-Eye, Miniature, Cross Screen and the ability to alter different elements of the colour of an image. Again these are easy to use, and children in particular should find these options fun to play around with after the shot has been taken. Any edits you make can be saved alongside the original shot, which is also useful.
The Nikon Coolpix S30 is new ground for Nikon, which currently seems intent on dominating the market by releasing a product into every corner of it.
Having seen success with the Nikon Coolpix AW100, it's interesting to see that rugged technology trickle down to the more affordable end of the spectrum.
While we can't see this breaking any records for image quality, this isn't really a camera designed for that. This is a fun, throw around camera for families on a budget who want something quick and easy to use and aren't bothered by lots of technical aspects, but want something more than is currently offered by the toy camera market.
We can see the Nikon Coolpix S30 becoming very popular around the summer time, when people will be looking for a holiday camera, but we can also see it being a hit for birthday presents for those wanting to get their children into photography, in fact it's only a little bit surprising that this wasn't announced at Christmas.
Look out for our full review of the Nikon Coolpix S30 when it's available.
Liked this? Then check our Nikon Coolpix P310: 10 things you need to know
Sign up for TechRadar's free Week in Tech newsletter
Get the best tech stories of the week, plus the most popular news and reviews delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up at http://www.techradar.com/register