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Falling under the Style banner of the Coolpix range, the S510 offers a few different ways of doing things like a rotating navigation pad and vertical lens cover. It looks pretty cool as well.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Specifications
- Sensor: CCD - 8.1Mp
- Image Size: 3246 x 2448 Pixels
- Lens: 35-105mm f/2.8-4.7
- Focus: 15cm Macro
- Exposure: Auto
- Monitor: 2.5in TFT LCD
- Other Features: Advanced Face Priority and Optical Vibration Reduction
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Storage: 52Mb internal memory/SD
- Batteries: Li-ion rechargeable
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 88x51x22mm - 125g
- Transfer: USB
A close comparison is the Canon Ixus 950IS at £209 also with 8Mp and Image stabiliser, but just pips the post on the zoom with a 4x optical. Alternatively, the Panasonic FX33 offers 8.1Mp and the Mega Optical image stabiliser and also has a slightly larger 3.6x optical zoom. The Panasonic is a similar size and slightly heavier whilst the Canon is both larger and heavier.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Modes and features
A small square box awaits you as the foam packing is unravelled and the Nikon Coolpix S510 certainly conforms to aesthetics. The front is good looking with a lens cover that slides open vertically like curtains and a thin strip of a flash. The Power button and Shutter release adorn the top of the camera with a power LED sitting in between them. They sit flush with the body so the profile still appears flat.
The back of the camera has the small zoom rocker in the top right easily accessible by the thumb but is a little too small and needs to be operated by the thumbnail. A small expanse of metal brings you to the Mode and Playback buttons. The Mode button has six quick access options available which are Shooting mode, Hi ISO, Scene, Microphone, Video and Set up.
The Shooting mode simply takes you back to taking pictures whilst the Hi ISO option selects a high ISO rating for shooting in low light conditions. The Scene mode is a funny affair as Scene needs to be chosen, ok pressed, then Menu selected to choose the desired Scene. In typical Nikon fashion, there are 16 modes to choose from which are Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close up, Museum, Fireworks, Copy, Backlight, Panorama and Image mode to change the resolution. I am happy to see the similar modes amalgamated like the Beach and Snow modes as they are the same, but some manufacturers will separate them to make the camera look like it has more to offer.
The Voice recorder does what it says on the tin as does the Video mode and the final option is the Set up which has three screens of core options.
The Menu can be configured to either use icons or text, whichever you prefer. This user-configuration aspect can also be applied to the Welcome screen, Date, and Monitor settings can have the photo information displayed and the brightness altered. Date imprint can be turned on or off as can Vibration reduction, AF assist, Digital zoom, Sound settings and the Power down can be changed from as little as 30 seconds to 30 minutes. Formatting the memory is also available here and the internal or memory card can be chosen, Languages can be selected, the Video mode changed, all modes Reset and also selection of the Firmware version.
When in shooting mode, the Menu has six options for changing the Resolution which is doubled up from the Scene mode, White balance can be changed, Continuous shooting, ISO ratings, Colour options which range through Standard, Vivid, Black & white, Sepia and Cyanotype which gives a slight cyan cast to a Black & white image. The final option in the Menu is the AF area mode. This can be changed between Face priority, Auto, Manual or centre.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Build and handling
Stylising is the word of the day from the clean cut lines to the triangular wrist strap loop and the small metal case is a great size for slipping into a bag or pocket for easy transportation. The lens is smooth, fast and isn't wobbly. The battery door is flimsy as it actually bends so i cannot see it lasting very long, but it does have a lock on it so it won't open on its own. The tripod bush is also plastic which won't put up with a lot of punishment.
The rotary wheel is a great idea and brings a freshness to the approach of digital compacts. It can get a little tiring from time to time as with the wheel, it now has three functions. Two are for navigation and the third is the quick access options for Flash, Self timer, Macro and Exposure compensation. So if you are wanting to press left, the wheel could rotate you round faster than what you might like. It will take some getting used to.
One unusual thing I found was in the Set up menu. Monitor settings has two options, Photo Info and Brightness. When either of these are changed and ok is pressed to confirm, it takes you back to the Monitor settings screen with no way of going back to the Menu. Other options take you out of that option and back to the Menu, but not this one.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Flash options
The Nikon Coolpix S510 has five flash options which are Auto, On with Red-eye reduction, Flash off, Flash on and Night scene portrait which will flash to light up people and use a slow shutter speed to light up dark backgrounds. A tripod would be useful with this setting. The range of the flash is 50cm - 3.5m at wide angle and 50cm - 6.5m at telephoto which is an exceptional performance.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Performance
Nikon say the S510 has a start up time of 0.7 seconds, however, that is the time it takes for the screen to come on from pressing the power button. The camera is not ready to actually take a picture until roughly a second later. It also has a shutter lag of under 0.005 seconds but only in Response priority mode.
The continuous shooting test managed seven images in ten seconds which is slightly above average for a compact, though we've seen a couple of spectacular results lately from other models. It took another couple of seconds after the test finished to completely save the images.
The landscape image has been taken on a cloudy day and so aberration is difficult to detect, but a slight amount of purple fringing is apparent on the white bar that crosses over the window of the building. Even though it was taken in the landscape mode, the image looks fuzzy in places suggesting a more shallow aperture than is necessary. Checking the EXIF data confirms my suspicions as the aperture has a value of f/5.7 which is not a landscape setting.
The colour chart shows boosting of the blues and reds and a balanced skin tone. The neutral tones also give a good result although the white could be a little whiter than what it is.
The portrait image gave a balanced image with a slight yellow cast to warm skin tones throughout. The Auto image with Vivid Colour selected from the Colours menu saturates the whole image and in this case, makes the portrait image look better as the skin colour is glowing more and looks less flat.
Despite a capability of upto ISO2000, the Hi ISO mode only needed to use ISO1600 to cope with the image in the lift and noise is obvious as is to be expected.
The colour chart image boosts primary colours and gives a good skin tone result.
The macro image is not the best result I have seen at 15cm. I have altered the colour balance for display purposes.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Noise test
The Nikon Coopix S510 has an ISO range of 64 to 2000. The ISO64 image is good showing great detail and defined lines and ISO100 is no different giving equally good results. Noise is showing slightly at ISO200 on the low key areas and the image has softened slightly all over. ISO400 has the noise sharpening and showing more distinctly which means that ISO800 has more white and purple noise showing all over the image, not just low key. ISO1600 has given a terrible result with white coloured noise all over and degrading the image severely and the ISO2000 image has understandably decayed to a misty result with the petals paling out as well.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Verdict
The Nikon Coolpix S510 is a decent little compact for everyday shooting and will satisfy those happy snappers who just need a camera for going out and looking good with. The flash range is great and coupled with the metal body, high ISO capability and image stabiliser suggests it is geared up for going out with.
The camera is attractive to look at and is available in different colours to appeal to more people.
Nikon Coolpix S510 Plus points
Great flash range
Nikon Coolpix S510 Minus points
Landscape mode uses wrong aperture
Flimsy battery door
The Nikon Coolpix S510 costs around £199 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.