Would you believe if we said, “The camera we got our hands on is smaller than your palm?” The latest from Nikon, the Coolpix S01, indeed is so small that it can easily pass off as a Zippo lighter, not kidding! Let’s find out what it packs in its teeny-weeny shell.

Ooh La La!

Ooh La La!

Design and features

This camera may come across as gimmicky to you, but going by the specifications, it seems this miniscule shooter does pack oomph. Whatever it may seem, one thing is for sure that it will make fashionistas go “Whoaaaaah!!”, and that’s exactly what the S01 is all about. To make it more appealing, Nikon offers the S01 in five colour variants. Black, white, bright red and shocking pink are commonly used by camera and cellphone manufacturers when it comes to offering products that are funky. For the first time, we’ve come across a camera completely clad in mirror-finish chrome—No! It can’t be substituted for that pocket mirror you carry in your purse!

Available in funky colours and chrome

Available in funky colours and chrome

It's unbelievably tiny!

It's unbelievably tiny!

At 77x 55 mm, this 10 megapixel shooter is incredibly tiny. You’ll feel the shopkeeper is kidding when he says the camera inside is actually the size of the photo printed on the packaging. Moving on to the specifications, the feature set is similar to that offered by entry-level digital cameras. But it’s commendable that Nikon has managed to fit everything in such a tiny form. And this wouldn’t have been possible had Nikon not used a smaller sensor. Unlike 1/2.3-inch type sensors commonly used in digital cameras, the S01 uses a 1/2.9-inch sensor—smaller than the former by around 20 percent. This allows Nikon to use smaller lens. The circumference of the tip of the lens housing is about the size of a two-rupee coin. The lens starts from 29 mm and extends up to 87 mm, which translates to 3x optical zoom. It’s too less to capture distant objects, but just perfect for indoor use and framing portraits.

Shutter release, zoom and playback button

Shutter release, zoom and playback button

The front of the camera is home to a tiny microphone to capture sound while recording videos, a focus assist lamp and a tiny flash strobe. The strip at the top has the shutter release button, zoom lever and playback button. The side has an eyelet for a wrist strap, or you may want to hook up a lanyard to sling the camera around your neck. A common connector for USB connectivity and A/V out is present at the bottom, covered by a plastic flap. Now, you may ask, “what about the battery and storage?” The Li-ion battery is built-in and so is the storage. You get 7.3GB of storage and it can’t be expanded via memory cards. 

2.5-inch resistive touchscreen

2.5-inch resistive touchscreen

The rear of the camera sports a 2.5-inch colour LCD display, which takes up almost the entire area. Squeezing tiny buttons and a D-pad doesn’t make sense in such cramped space. So, Nikon has gone in with a completely touch-driven interface. The only button present is the Home button at the bottom right corner. The S01 is pretty straightforward to use. There’s only the Auto mode for shooting photos and it completely takes care of the exposure, white balance and ISO speed. The only parameters you can tinker with are self-timer, EV, flash mode and image resolution, all available via the Home button. If you’re in a mood for creativity, you can navigate to the ‘Special Effects’ mode and use Sepia, Monochrome, High Key and Low Key filters. What’s more, you get more filters to apply in playback mode. These are available via Filter Effects and include Toy Camera, Soft, Fish eye, Miniature, Vivid and Cyanotype. 

The only parameters you can tinker with

The only parameters you can tinker with

Time for some creativity!

Time for some creativity!

You have to switch to Movie mode to shoot videos. The S01 can shoot videos at up to HD 720p with the option to use digital zoom should you want to get close to subjects. Videos are saved in MOV format (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264).

Ergonomics

Despite its miniscule form, the S01 is very comfortable to use. It’s designed for single-handed use while shooting. All you have to do is just point and shoot. Even the tiny zoom lever around the shutter release button is within comfortable reach of the index finger. Navigating the UI isn’t necessary unless you want to switch over to video recording mode or change a few settings such as flash mode, EV, image resolution and self-timer. This too is possible single-handedly thanks to the large icons, but it’s safer to grip the camera with both hands while you’re navigating the UI or viewing photos.

Performance

Since the camera handles the ISO automatically, we couldn’t do a detailed noise test—the best we could do was shoot an indoor scene in bright lighting and assess the result. The S01 captured the scene at ISO 400, and what you see is a 100 percent crop from the result. The reproduction of colours was very good, but the amount of noise was very high for ISO 400—this usually happens at ISO 800 and above. The reason for excessive noise could be the smaller sensor used in this camera (1/2.9-inch vs 1/2.3-inch used in most digital cameras). But a good thing is that there wasn’t any colour deviation due to the absence of colour noise. Overall, the image quality was below average as the clarity was seriously hampered due to excessive graininess.

Too noisy at ISO 400

Too noisy at ISO 400

The same was the case in the outdoor test. The camera shot the scene at ISO 80 (lowest value) as it was bright and sunny. Notice carefully—the patch of grass in the centre and the trees in the background look patchy. Also, the photo lacks punch due to poor contrast and slight underexposure. The only area where the S01 excels is close-ups—quite detailed with good amount of background blur in case of macros. But again, the results were noisy. The quality of video recording was just about average. The picture was grainy and you have to pan gently in order to avoid jitter.

Lack of details in outdoor shots

Lack of details in outdoor shots

Close-ups look pretty good

Close-ups look pretty good

Great-looking macro shots

Great-looking macro shots

Apart from image quality, we faced other problems with the S01 as well. On an average, it takes about two seconds to focus, which is very slow. You might miss a golden moment while it takes its own sweet time to focus on the subject. This gets worse in low light despite the presence of the AF assist lamp. At times the focusing was faulty, which resulted in out of focus shots. We also faced issues with flash when set to Auto. There’s no certainty it will fire, even in low light. Despite several attempts, it refused to fire when it was needed, and the results were blurry because the shutter speed was below 1/10 sec. So, it’s safer to set the flash to Fill mode than leaving it to the camera.

Verdict and price in India

The Nikon Coolpix S01 is more about form than function, and it commands a hefty premium for its diminutiveness. Priced at Rs 8,950, it costs more than twice entry-level digital camera. However, the latter are more feature rich and take better photos and videos. We aren’t saying you should keep away from this tiny shooter. It’s cute and funky, isn’t it? If style (unique in this case) is of utmost importance, make this camera your pocket buddy right away! Also, it would make a sweet gift (now that Valentine’s Day is nearing). The kind of photos and videos it takes is good enough for sharing on social networks. But if pristine photo quality is your priority and you want something really compact, then the S01 will disappoint you. Instead, you should consider a camera from Canon’s Digital IXUS range or the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, which is a real treat for enthusiasts, provided you’re willing to pay for the supreme quality.

Publish date: January 24, 2013 5:39 pm| Modified date: December 19, 2013 7:20 am

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