We've long been proponents of Android-based compact cameras. On paper, it seems like an excellent way to add connectivity to a device that has long been left by the wayside in the social media age.
The reality of an Android-based camera, at least in the form of the Nikon Coolpix S800c, is only halfway to delivering the results we expect. While it's incredibly easy to shoot and share photos quickly, the rest of the photography experience is frustrating for anyone used to the functionality of a regular compact camera.
Design and features
From the outside of the S800c, there's little to give away that Android is the operating system of choice lurking inside. It looks just like any typical Nikon Coolpix camera, except the screen — 3.5 inches of OLED display — is a tad larger than average.
A 10x optical zoom protrudes just slightly from the front chassis, sporting a maximum aperture range of f/3.2-5.8, and a wide-angle of 25mm. Around the back of the camera, just next to the screen, three physical buttons provide the same navigation options that you can find on any Android phone: back, home and menu.
The simple controls on the S800c.
A shutter button, zoom rocker and power switch at the top completes the physical features — every other interaction is done through the screen. The S800c accepts SD cards for external storage, and also has approximately 1.7GB of internal storage available for photos.
Shooting modes within the camera app are typical. You get Nikon's easy automatic mode, as well as standard auto mode, scene modes, special effects (soft, sepia, monochrome, high and low key), smart portrait and movie mode.
When first turning the camera on, you're greeted with a typical camera interface. The camera starts up quickly from sleep and is ready to snap away. There's very little indication that the camera runs Android, that is, until you decide to press the home button that brings up the main screen.
The shooting interface on the default camera app.
On the main homescreen, Nikon has configured the Android install (2.3/Gingerbread) with the main apps and functions for photographers. These include:
Shooting, which takes users to the photography app
Play, for playing back photos and video
Upload, which sets up an ad-hoc Wi-Fi connection with a smartphone or tablet (users need to first download the "Connect to S800c" app for Android or iOS). This lets the smartphone or tablet browse images on the S800c
Browser, for surfing the web
Settings, which brings up the traditional Android settings screen, rather than camera settings
Social media apps, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The problem with Nikon's implementation of Android on the S800c is that it's as close to a stock-standard install as you can get. Except for the phone and SMS messaging options, everything else appears as it would on a smartphone.
When you are in another app, there's no way to quickly start taking photos. You need to exit the app, and then launch the shooting app to begin taking photos. Pressing the shutter button, which often serves the purpose of entering into shooting mode on other cameras, does nothing when you're not in the right mode. The lock screen also pops up when you power down the camera within the Android interface, presenting another barrier to quick photo-taking. However, you can install a screen lock disable app to get around this.
Unfortunately, Nikon seems to have disabled the use of the optical zoom in any other photography or camera app, apart from the default one. So if you download a particular camera app for greater control — we tried Camera FV-5 for a more SLR-like interface — you are limited to the widest end of the lens, or digital zoom if the app has this available. We also experienced times when the interface would stop responding or the physical buttons refused to elicit any sort of software reaction, forcing us to do a cold reset by removing the battery.
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Start-up to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- 2.22.00.2Nikon Coolpix S800c
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)
- 2.5Nikon Coolpix S800c
(Longer bars indicate better performance)