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Nikon Coolpix S3100 Digital Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Nikon Coolpix S3100, the successor to the popular Coolpix S3000.

|  Nikon Coolpix S3100 in Compact Cameras
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Nikon Coolpix S3100 front

In February 2011, Nikon introduced the Coolpix S3100, a follow up to the Coolpix S3000. The Coolpix S3000 has a 12Mp sensor, 4x optical zoom and shoots VGA videos at 640 x 480, but the Coolpix S3100 has a 14Mp sensor, 5x optical zoom and can shoot HD (720p) videos while remaining ultra-slim at just 18.4mm deep. The Coolpix is available in purple, red, black, blue, pink, yellow and silver for £111. Alternatives in this price range are the Canon Powershot A3200 for £129.00 and the Fujifilm FinePix Z90 for £124.00 which both feature 14Mp sensors, 5x optical zoom and HD movie recording.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 front lens

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Features
  • 18.4mm body available in a range of colours for vibrant take-anywhere style
  • Wide-angle 5x optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent: 26-130mm)
  • 14 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 2.7in LCD screen with anti-reflection coating and brightness adjustment
  • HD (720p) movie recording with dedicated movie-record button
  • Electronic VR (Vibration Reduction)
  • High ISO (up to ISO3200)
  • Motion detection
  • Best Shot Selector (BSS)
  • Smart portrait system with Smile Timer, Blink Proof, Skin softening and Red-eye Fix
  • Scene Auto Selector
  • 18 scene modes
  • Subject Tracking AF
  • Retouch to edit and enhance images in camera
Nikon Coolpix S3100 battery compartment

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Handling
Nikon claim the Coolpix S3100 is the stylish way to capture all the fun and it certainly doesn't disappoint. At just 18.4mm deep you'll have no problem slipping the camera into your pocket when going out with friends. The screen is clear in all lighting conditions with the buttons responsive and easy to press. One downside with the buttons is that the symbols and writing is engraved on rather than printed in another colour and therefore it's difficult to see in the dark. The camera is easy to grip and the menu system is simple to navigate.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 top

The Coolpix S3100 is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion battery and Nikon claim it is able to take up to 220 pictures on one charge. During testing the battery was only charged once and has yet to show any reduction in charge so there is no reason to doubt this claim.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 screen

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Performance
The Coolpix S3100 generally produces well exposed images although on occasions the camera underexposed a touch in bright conditions with colours accurately reproduced. At both ends of the lens the images retain plenty of detail throughout and are certainly going to be adequate for larger prints.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 wide angle shot   Nikon Coolpix S3100 full optical zoom
Wide-angle shot - ISO80, 1/1000, f/3.2, 4.6mm (35mm equivalent: 23mm)   Full optical zoom - ISO80, 1/200, f/6.5, 23mm (35mm equivalent: 130mm)

If you like shooting portraits then the Smart Portrait mode will appeal. In the images below there is an example of a portrait shot using Auto and one using Smart Portrait mode. This has softened the subject giving a much smoother look to the skin, you don't even have to press the shutter button! As soon as the subject is in view the camera will automatically focus and take a picture.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 auto portrait   Nikon Coolpix S3100 smart portrait
Auto portrait - ISO80, 1/60, f/4.9, 10mm (35mm equivalent: 50mm)   Smart Portrait - ISO80, 1/60, f/4.9, 10mm (35mm equivalent: 50mm)

To help take the best pictures possible, the Coolpix S3100 has 18 scene modes including portrait, landscape, sport, night portrait, party/indoor, beach, snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, night landscape, close-up, food, museum, fireworks show, black and white copy, backlighting, panorama assist and pet portrait. Setting the camera to macro mode didn't produce particular great images, mainly because the minimum focus distance is 10cm.

The scene modes which were used during testing didn't disappoint and there are a sample of images below. The backlit mode coped with the sun really well and has left a detailed picture of the statue. The sport mode was used to capture the droplets of water coming out of the fountain and the landscape mode has given a fantastic image of the countryside, giving a good boost to the blues and greens. The black and white mode did a decent job but the building in the background looks a touch too white.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 backlit   Nikon Coolpix S3100 sport
Backlit - ISO80, 1/1500, f/3.2, 5mm (35mm equivalent: 25mm)   Sport - ISO80, 1/640, f/5.3, 12mm (35mm equivalent: 60mm)
Nikon Coolpix S3100 landscape   Nikon Coolpix S3100 black and white
Landscape - ISO80, 1/1000, f/3.2, 5mm (35mm equivalent: 25mm)   Black and white - ISO80, 1/500, f/3.2, 5mm (35mm equivalent: 25mm)

As well as a single shot the Coolpix S3100 has continuous, best shot selector and multi-shot 16 modes. In testing the camera took a picture every 1.1 seconds in continuous mode. Best shot selector takes up to ten pictures while the shutter release button is held down. Unfortunately this never gave me any improvement in the sharpness of my images. Multi-shot 16 takes 16 photos and displays them in a 4x4 grid on one image. This is useful for taking pictures of someone or something which is moving such as a golfers swing.

ISO and noise performance
Noise is handled well by the Coolpix S3100 at ISO80 and ISO100 and doesn't worsen much by ISO200. At ISO400 there is a large increase in the amount of noise and this continues to be more noticeable at each ISO setting from ISO800, ISO1600 and ISO3200.

Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO80
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO80 Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO100 Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO200 Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO400
ISO80, 1/2, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm) ISO100, 1/3, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm) ISO200, 1/6, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm) ISO400, 1/10, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm)
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO800 Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO1600 Nikon Coolpix S3100 Test chart ISO3200  
ISO800, 1/25, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm) ISO1600, 1/50, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm) ISO3200, 1/100, f/5.5, 18mm (35mm equiv: 90mm)  

Auto white-balance works well in all light conditions, excelling under the fluorescent lights in our studio where the fluorescent preset gives a slight magenta cast. Under the incandescent lighting, the incandescent preset gave the better results but auto white-balance is still acceptable.

White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting   Nikon Coolpix S3100 Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting - ISO100, 1/8, f/4.2, 8mm (35mm equiv: 40mm)   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting - ISO100, 1/8, f/4.2, 8mm (35mm equiv: 40mm)
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting   Nikon Coolpix S3100 Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting - ISO100, 1/2, f/4.2, 8mm (35mm equiv: 40mm)   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting - ISO100, 1/2, f/4.2, 8mm (35mm equiv: 40mm)

Video mode
The video mode shoots at 720p HD, 1280x720, at 30fps, but doesn't allow the use of the optical zoom during recording. The camera can also shoot VGA (640 x 480) and QVGA (320 x 240). The maximum length of a video is 29 minutes.

Sample video.

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Verdict
The Nikon Coolpix S3000 scored eight out of ten when we tested it back in July 2010 and the Coolpix S3100 builds on this by offering a longer zoom lens, more megapixels and HD video recording. Noise performance isn't as good as the Coolpix S3000 but this is likely to be due to the higher resolution and macro mode is also pretty poor. Overall, the Coolpix S3100 is capable of taking good pictures for an extremely reasonable price and with its slim body and fantastic auto modes the Nikon Coolpix S3100 will please many a compact user.

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Pros
Nikon Coolpix S3100 5x optical zoom
Nikon Coolpix S3100 HD video recording
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Smart Portrait mode

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Cons
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Noise performance above ISO400
Nikon Coolpix S3100 Macro mode

FEATURES Nikon Coolpix S3100
HANDLING Nikon Coolpix S3100
PERFORMANCE Nikon Coolpix S3100
OVERALL Nikon Coolpix S3100

Nikon Coolpix S3100: Specification
Price £111
What comes in the box Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19 Charging AC Adapter EH-69P USB Cable UC-E6 Audio Video Cable EG-CP14 Camera strap AN-CP19 ViewNX 2 CD-ROM
Lens 5x optical zoom, 4.6-23mm (35mm equivalent: 26-130mm), f/3.2-6.5
Resolution 14Mp
Sensor size 1/2.3in
Sensor type CCD
Max. Image size 4320 x 3240
Minimum focus distance 10cm
Monitor 2.7in TFT LCD monitor, 230000 pixels
Shutter speed 1/2000 - 1sec (4sec in fireworks show)
Focusing system Contrast-detect AF
Focusing modes Face priority auto, centre, manual and subject tracking
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO80 - 3200
Metering system Centre-weighted, spot
Metering modes Programmed auto exposure with motion detection
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
Image stabilisation Electronic vibration reduction
Movie mode HD 720p (1280 x 720)
Media type SD/SDHC/SDXC
Interface USB/PictBridge
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19
Size 93.5 x 57.5 x 18.4mm
Weight 118g with battery and SD memory card
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Photographs taken using the Nikon Nikon Coolpix S3100

A beautiful messFormationFence shadowDandelionSide doorDrop leafYou calledDianthus Barbutus L.Old but goldCelebrating Earth DayNew York M&M storeWaterfallSave Treesred crabFarmer

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