Nikon Coolpix S3100 review

ratingratingratingratingrating
We love
Slim and light, but with an impressive features spec at this price
We hate
Picture quality could be better, especially in video mode
Verdict
A well built and easy to use budget cam, it's just a shame it doesn't produce better results

The Nikon Coolpix 3100 is the successor to last year’s S3000, and as such it shares a lot of its predecessor’s qualities – it’s a cheap and cheerful compact that’ll fit easily in any pocket. And it comes at a price that’s easy on the wallet. But that’s not to say its specs are straight from the bargain bin, far from it: 14-megapixel sensor, 720p HD movie recording, and a 5x optical zoom.

We took it out for a spin to see just what it could do.

Photos

As you can see from our sample shots, image quality is good, but not amazing. But then what do you expect for a snapper that’s under a ton. Colours are good, and quite impressive ion low light, but overall images can lack detail and sharpness. Skin tones can appear a little unnatural too.

It’s a shame, as this camera’s fully equipped for portraits, with blink detection, smile shutter, a mode for eliminating red eye, and skin softening – all handy features we didn’t expect on a camera at this price. Though useful as they are, they can’t compensate for the overall picture quality.

Video

Despite being 720p HD, the videos are a little disappointing. While again, colour reproduction is impressive, our videos lacked sharpness, appearing fuzzy as if a swarm of flies were hovering in front of objects. Move a little while filming and edges are reduced to a blur; not great, especially considering Nikon is keen to big up its anti-blur abilities.

We do love the dedicated video button on the top right though. It’s marked with a red Record sign – one touch and you’re filming, so you can start in a flash. Great for catching that vital video opportunity. And it’s a lot more intuitive than delving into menu after menu. So kudos to Nikon for realising that users of this camera want something that’s quick to hand.

Build and layout

Despite being slim enough to fit in a pocket without creating any embarrassing bulges, the S31000 is sturdy and a well put together piece of kit. It comes in seven fetching colours, though we tested the slightly dull-looking black one. (We think of it as the goth of the group, sulking in the corner while the yellow, pink, purple, blue and silver ones play in the sunshine.)

What really impresses is the button layout though. All the main functions you’ll need are brought to the fore, and easily accessible without having to navigate fiddly menus. (If only there was a way to achieve this on mobiles.) Flash, Macro, Scene Selection and more are all there waiting, plus of course the aforementioned Video button. For casual users, this camera’s target audience, it’s a godsend.

The screen is ample, though not a patch on some of the higher end models. It’s not amazingly bright or sharp, though it does the job well enough. And at this price you can’t be too picky.

Overall

So, worth a look? It’s a fun compact that’s a doddle to pick up and start shooting with. Your results probably aren’t going to win any awards, but if you want something that’s not going to weigh you down on a night out, or you’re looking for a gift for someone intimidated by higher end models, you could certainly do a lot worse.

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