Nikon Coolpix S2800 £99.99
12th Mar 2014 | 13:00
An affordable compact camera with plenty of creative shooting options
Available in purple, pink, red, silver and black, the Nikon Coolpix S2800 is a compact camera with a decent set of specs. With its 20 million pixel sensor, 5x optical zoom lens (26-130mm equivalent) and 12 creative filters, it's a budget compact camera, but still offers a number of ways to transform your photos.
Auto shooting modes are the main focus of the Coolpix S2800, with three of the five available shooting options - Scene Auto Selector, Smart Portrait and Auto Mode - being auto modes. The other two modes, Scene Selector (where you pick the scene mode yourself) and Creative Filter give users a little more control over their photos, but not a lot.
There are very few manual options for the user to adjust - exposure compensation, sensitivity, white balance and autofocus modes (single, tracking and so on) are the only exceptions, and the majority of those are only available when using Auto mode.
For those used to smartphone photography, probably the biggest draw of the S2800 is its creative filters - there are 12 to choose from in live shooting, and 16 that can be applied in camera to your finished shots. They range from colour adjustments like Selective Colour and High-contrast Monochrome, to more arty filters like Painting and Toy Camera mode. In live shooting, a preview of the creative filter is displayed, making it easy to see what the finished shot will look like.
Smart portrait comes equipped with a Smile Timer and Blink Proof mode - useful to make sure there are no closed eyes during group shots.
While the Coolpix S2800 offers HD video shooting, it's at the lower 720p recording size, rather than full 1080p HD. There is no inbuilt Wi-Fi connectivity with the S2800, but it is Eye-Fi compatible, meaning users can use Eye-Fi SD cards to create a Wi-Fi network.
In terms of competitors, the S2800 is up against the newly released Canon IXUS 155, which boasts a 20 million pixel sensor with 10x optical zoom, and the Samsung ES90 which has the same zoom range as the Nikon S2800, but only has a 14 million pixel sensor.
Build quality and handling
Slim and light, the Coolpix S2800 will happily fit in a jeans pocket with room to spare. It's a small camera, and feels well put together and durable for the most part. The only notable exception is the flap for the charger, which feels a little flimsy and a bit fiddly to open, not great for those who don't have the daintiest of hands.
It would have been nice to have a handgrip, but the S2800 is still fairly easy to hold without one. I also found that the flash is a little awkwardly situated in front of the shutter button, increasing the likelihood of your fingers getting in the way during shooting.
The majority of the controls are on the back right of the S2800, with just the shutter, power and zoom controls found on the top. Those familiar with the Nikon menu system will have no issues navigating their way around the settings and shooting options, but for new users it might take a bit more time to familiarise themselves with it.
While changing the shooting mode is controlled by the Scene button, everything else can be found after pressing the menu button, which some users might miss. Unfortunately, the four-way navigational pad, which gives access to macro shooting, self timer, flash options and exposure compensation is frustratingly slow to respond at times, especially straight after firing a shot. Handily though, there's a dedicated erase button, something which some compacts are missing, but is standard for the Coolpix range.
In general, the S2800 is fairly simple to operate, once you've got to grips with the menu system, which shouldn't take long.
Performance and verdict
The colors produced by the S2800 are generally punchy and bright, and seem true to life. There were occasional issues when using the camera in bright light, however.
I found during testing that shooting towards a light source created pink lines on the screen, although these didn't appear on the eventual shot.
The S2800 copes admirably in a variety of different lighting conditions and the camera's metering system does a good job producing well balanced exposures. While I noticed some lens flare when shooting towards bright sunlight, this is to be expected for a camera of this price, and it definitely isn't the worst offender we've seen. Likewise, I noticed a little fringing on backlit shots when examining images at 100%, but nothing out of the ordinary.
With a custom white balance setting available as well as the usual presets, we were hoping for a good performance from the S2800 and were not disappointed. I had good results while using the auto white balance - the camera produced accurate colours with no discernible colour casts, even under artificial lights, and I rarely had to switch from the auto white balance to a more specific preset.
During my testing, I was happy to let the Coolpix S2800 choose ISO (sensitivity) for me in the automatic setting, since shots up to ISO 800 have very little noticeable noise. Shots taken indoors or in low light were generally of an acceptable quality, with a little grain when viewed at 100% but nothing too unexpected and not something that would affect printing at A4 or below.
There is a definite lag with processing times on the S2800, which is especially noticeable if you want to change any of the settings straight after taking a shot. I used a class 10 SD card, and it quickly became frustrating to have to wait for the "please wait for the camera to finish processing" message to disappear before I was able to shoot again.
Nikon has put together a solid list of creative filters for the Coolpix S2800 - my favourites were definitely the Cross Process set, which recreates the classic darkroom technique - but I was also impressed with High Contrast Monochrome, Vivid and Toy Camera filters. Disappointingly, though, the Coolpix S2800 only offers panoramic assist rather than a full panoramic mode, meaning that you'll have to stitch together your photos using your own editing software later on.
The macro focusing distance is advertised at 10cm for the S2800, but in reality we found that it often struggled to focus when that close to a subject, resulting in blurry, out of focus shots. It is, however, capable of picking up fine detail - you just might have to refocus the camera a few times first to get the shot you want.
Offering value for money and decent build quality, the Coolpix S2800 is a great camera for those looking for their first compact camera, but it is unlikely to appeal to people who like to have a bit more control over their photos. This camera is frustratingly simple if you have any prior knowledge of photography, but would be great for someone who is just starting to get to grips with the terminology while still knowing they can get great shots if they don't feel like experimenting.
If you're looking for a camera with a longer zoom lens, the Canon IXUS 155 is arguably a better option, as it has 10x optical zoom.
Amateurs and new photographers will love the S2800 - with its creative filters and lack of complicated settings, it's likely to appeal to people who are looking for something simple and fun to use.
In general the S2800 is a nice small entry-level compact. It has a good range of interesting filters, is easy to use and won't break the bank.
There are couple of things that could take this compact from good to great. Better macro performance, full HD video and quicker processing speeds would make a difference, plus we'd really like to see just a few more manual options available, for when the auto settings don't quite get it right.
For a budget camera, the S2800 delivers a great entry-level camera, which performs well pretty consistently. Perfect to take on holiday or sling in your bag to capture spontaneous shots, the S2800 is well suited to people who like to have a dedicated camera to hand. It produces images at least as good as most current smartphone cameras, but with the advantage of not draining precious battery life.
Shots taken with the Cross Process filters are vibrant with high contrast.
An example of the High Contrast Monochrome filter, which lends a nice moodiness to shots.
Exposures are well balanced with the Coolpix S2800.
You can use the red Cross Process filter to add more unusual color depth to your shots.
Shots taken with the zoom retain a good amount of detail.
The S2800 does a good job of capturing fine detail while using Macro Mode.
Even when shooting into the sun the S2800 manages to correctly balance the exposure, although there is sometimes a little lens flare.
Colours are true to life and bright.