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Nikon S7C Digital Camera Review

Nikon S7C Digital Camera Review - Super slim, stylish and sexy Duncan Evans is none of these, but he takes a look at the svelte-beauty from Nikon anyway. There are lots of stylish looking compact cameras on the market, so to make any kind of splash, a new one needs to be feature-packed or offer something fresh. The Nikon S7c does both.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Nikon S7C
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Super slim, stylish and sexy – Duncan Evans is none of these, but he takes a look at the svelte-beauty from Nikon anyway.

There are lots of stylish looking compact cameras on the market, so to make any kind of splash, a new one needs to be feature-packed or offer something fresh. The Nikon S7c does both.

Nikon S7c digital camera front viewSpecifications

  • 7.1Mp resolution
  • 3x optical zoom
  • ISO50-1600
  • Electronic VR, camera shake reduction
  • Wi-Fi wireless
  • 14Mb internal memory
  • 140g weight
  • 100.5mm x 60mm x 21mm size
  • 3”, 230k pixel LCD
  • 15 Scene modes
  • VGA, 30fps movie with sound

The Nikon Style range are meant to be right in there with the Canon Ixus and Pentax Optios of this world, and the design of the camera reflects that with a matt black front, nice curves and polished chome hubcaps. At just £299.99 you are getting a lot of resolution and features for your money.

Top view of Nikon S7c digital camera
Modes and features
As befits a style camera, there aren't that many controls on the body, but the ones that are there don't seem to have been well thought out at all. However, let's start with the top and a grouping that includes the on/off button, the fire button and the zoom rocker. The on/off button is tiny and recessed, making it hard to use and almost impossible to find in dark conditions like at a party or a night time landscape. The zoom rocker is so stubby its hard to control with any kind of accuracy, not that it's particularly subtle anyway.
Rear view of Nikon S7c digital camera


Around the back is the very lovely 3” LCD screen that is used for composing and playback. This is very handy, but it does mean that invariably, it gets covered in thumbprints. There are four buttons on the back, one of which is the image delete. That's straightforward enough, the use of the others tends not to be. The playback button is clearly marked and performs the obvious function. However, then the others come into play. Press the Mode button and options come up to go into Playback, Pictmotion, Calendar, List by Date, Audio or Setup mode. Whatever is set here, is what will come up when the Playback button is pressed. Press OK to select a mode, and then, if Playback has been selected, the picture comes up on screen. Now, press the Menu button and various picture options come up. This applies to the other modes that are set – the Menu button then provides the options relevant to that mode. Unless it's Setup, in which case pressing Menu returns you to the Mode button options.

Just to ensure that you are completely confused by this system, the Shooting options work the same way. When in shooting mode – in that playback hasn't been selected – then pressing Mode brings up the picture shooting modes that include: Shooting, HiISO Sensitivity, Scene, Audio, Video, Setup and Wireless. Yes, the wireless connectivity option is in the Shooting menu rather than the Playback one. Having selected a shooting mode, the Menu button then provides options related to it. In the case of the Scene modes, this means Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close up, Museum, Fireworks, Copy, backlit portraits, Panorama assist, Exposure Compensation and Image mode. This is where the resolution can be set. It's also in the standard Shooting menue, rather than in the Setup menu where you might expect it. Pressing Okay to set the specific scene mode can also bring up further options, depending on the actual scene. What probably started out as a neat idea, has ended up being a mess.

That isn't the end of it either, there's also the Happy Face mode, which is a black, recessed button on the top. This switches into face-priority portrait mode, that is supposed to focus in on the face and brighten up shadow areas and instantly correct red-eye. It also automatically switches the flash into auto mode.

There are some good video functions, and as the camera can be set on a powered cradle, the options for time-lapse and stop motion are very welcome. The standard video can be run at 30fps as well.

The S7c takes SD cards, but comes with 14Mb of internal memory, as a backup for low-res pics. The ISO range runs from 50-1600 which, on paper, is an impressive spread.

Side view of Nikon S7c digital camera

Finally, the last control dial to mention on the back of the camera has the OK button in the middle, a rotating dial to select things around it, and underneath, four rocker position to select flash, timer and macro (yes, that's only three!). The flash and macro options are be disabled if in certain modes, so it stops instantly being able to jump from landscape mode, for example, to macro if you see something interesting close up.

Build and handling
The lens is internal and doesn't extend at all, which makes the camera start thin and stay thin. It's easily pocket sized and the build quality is very good. It's just annoying that buttons on the top are so awkward. Handling is generally good, but there's only the smallest knurled area to put a thumb to hold it, and invariably, fingers go over the lens or onto the LCD. You'll also spent no little time polishing the chrome bits. The only problem is that on cold days, the very smoothness of the camera makes it slippy to hold and easy to drop.

Flash options
Being a compact camera, the flash is built in and comes with standard red-eye reduction. There's also creative flash use in the night time portraits where a longer exposure is combined with flash. However, despite the fact that the flash can be turned off, if you change mode it automatically gets switched on again, which is very annoying. It also comes on automatically in strange situations, like shooting a macro scene, which the flash can then ruin. Where there is a receding background in a macro scene it works okay, because the background then fades to black, but where it's all one level, you have to remember to switch it off (again).

Performance (Click on the thumbnail pics to see larger versions)
Although it looks great and has a load of features, the implementation of them leaves something to be desired. The focus system struggles indoors in reasonable light and does badly in low light. The Happy Smiley portrait system starts scanning the face, but can also lose its way. It also switches the flash into auto mode as well, which then results in flat, dull images. The focus is usually in the middle of the picture. There is a menu option to enable it to be moved around but this is more trouble than it's worth.

It's a pity that the really important and useful stuff that you are likely to change all the time, like ISO, Auto White Balance and particularly Exposure Compensation, aren't on a button somewhere. It's that latter item that is essential on a compact camera.

While there are colour options for vivid, black and white, standard, cyan and sepia, the resulting files are sRGB rather than the now more prevalent, and better, AdobeRGB.

There are some neat options in the Scene modes – like landscapes having an architectural option that puts guide lines on the screen. Pity it doesn't also correct converging verticals, but that really would be asking too much.

The macro mode really can get in close – it's the singular advantage of compacts that you can get right up to something for a macro shot. Why the flash comes on automatically at this range is bizarre.

At least start up is fast and images are big and detailed. Colours are generally very accurate and in landscape mode, thanks to the very short focal length, you get lots of depth-of-field and sharpness. The veracity of the VR anti-shake system leaves something to be desired. Instead of getting shake in the pictures, they just appear very soft, when shooting in low light. I'm not at all convinced by this.

Landscape photo taken using Nikon S7c
Shot in Landscape mode with -1EV to cope with the bright sky, this is a surprisingly good result. There's decent sharpness almost to the bridge, lots of detail, good colours and almost no colour fringing.

Portrait photo taken using Nikon S7c
This was the only portrait test shot that was sharp. The Face-Priority mode switched the flash on and flattened the picture completely, and it was still soft at 1/60sec exposure. Eventually, by going into portrait scene mode and forcing the flash off, and holding very still, this 1/60sec shot came out sharp. The ISO got bumped up to 135 to do it though.


Macro photo taken using Nikon S7c
The flash system kicks in when you switch mode, here to Macro. If there is a receding background this is okay, because it starts to fade out.
Ivy taken with nikon S7c
In this macro shot though the flash ruined the picture and it had to be switched off. Once off, the macros system allows very close, sharp focusing.
Macbeth colour chart taken with Nikon S7c
The colour shades are accurate, though bright, as you would expect from a compact camera. The red and blue primary colours are bright but green is spot on. The combinations are very good, with the exception that orange looks a little reddish and what is labelled as moderate red – a pinky peach colour, is more bright pink.
Church photo taken with Nikon S7c
The Architectural element of the Landscape mode puts some guide lines up on screen, but does little else. This shot is identical to one shot in general Landscape mode. Despite using that setting the camera used an aperture of just f/2.8. Fortunately compacts have 5-6 times more depth of field than SLRs.

Noise

The ISO50 picture is really nice and clean in fairly subdued lighting, but as soon as the rating goes up noise appears even at ISO100. Plain backgrounds start to look noisy at ISO200 and while ISO400 isn't any noisier except in shadow areas, it is softer. However, at ISO800, there is a significant increase in colour noise and the detail is noticeably compromised. ISO1600 is dire, being not only noisy, but having white snow-like dots all over the picture as well.

Nikon S7c digital camera set at ISO50
ISO50
Nikon S7c digital camera set at ISO100
ISO100
Nikon S7c digital camera set at ISO200
ISO200
Nikon S7c digital camera set at ISO400
ISO400
Nikon S7c digital camera set at ISO800
ISO800
Nikon S7c digital camera set at ISO1600
ISO1600

Verdict
The design is very nice in general terms – it's glossy, sleek and attractive, which is exactly what you want in a style camera. The LCD is large and easily visible in daylight, but the auto-focus doesn't impress and the portrait-enhanced mode doesn't provide tangible benefits. The pushy flash system is a pain, because you're always turning it off, and handling isn't very good because its slippy and shiny, and the buttons are recessed.

The menu system probably was a good idea when it started out, but by the end it's a real mess. At least images, when you get them in decent light, are actually nice quality, even if the higher ISO modes are both noisy and lose detail. Whether you need 7Mp resolution is debatable, but its there and the fine image quality and stylish looks will sell this camera regardless.

In summary the positive points of the Nikon S7c are:
7Mp resolution
Big 3” LCD
VR anti-shake
A shed-load of scene modes
Looks great
Video options are extensive
Wi-Fi Mode for sending pics

The negative points:
Noise is apparent from ISO200 upwards
  ISO1600 is appalling
Autofocus isn't good in just-below ideal conditions
Face-recognition flatters
Handling is iffy
Scene modes automatically change the ISO

Nikon S7c from the frontFeatures:

Handling:

Performance:

Overall:

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Photographs taken using the Nikon S7C

Just starting out.AlpbachCalm before the strom
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