Nikon Coolpix S3000 review: Nikon Coolpix S3000

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.6
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 7.0
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Image quality: 6.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Very small, lightweight; easy to operate; inexpensive.

The Bad Inconsistent autofocus; poor low-light photos.

The Bottom Line The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is an attractive inexpensive ultracompact that's a step above your average camera phone.

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Editors' note: Many of the design, features, and shooting options are identical between the Nikon Coolpix S3000 and the Coolpix S4000 we reviewed earlier, so readers of the earlier review may experience some déjà vu when reading the same sections below.

The Nikon Coolpix S3000--and really all sub-$150 ultracompact digital cameras--is a step-up from a camera phone. It has a better lens, shooting options, performance, image quality, and battery life than a mobile device without weighing you down. However, in the world of point-and-shoots this is a lower-end model and it shows under slight scrutiny. Don't get this camera if you're planning to shoot indoors or in low light without a flash, take pictures of fast-moving subjects, or if you want really sharp shots directly from the camera. Consider it for casual photography of well-lit portraits and landscapes that will be shared online or as 4x6-inch prints and the occasional 8x10. It's a Facebook camera that can do things the average camera phone can't.

Key specs Nikon Coolpix S3000
Price (MSRP) $149.95
Dimensions (WHD) 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.1 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f3.2-5.9, 27-108mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 220 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; by computer or wall adapter
Storage media SD/SDHC cards
Bundled software Software Suite for Coolpix (Windows/Mac)

The S4000 is nicely dressed for its price. The ultracompact metal body gives it a higher-quality feel, and it's available in six colors--silver, black, green, blue, purple, and orange. Up front is a wide-angle lens with a 4x zoom and in back is a 2.7-inch LCD--both typical of its price and size. Despite its slim body and light weight, the camera is comfortable to hold and use, though with little to grab onto you'll want to use the included wrist strap.

Operating the S3000 is easy enough that anyone who's handled a digital camera before should be able to start shooting out of the box. On top is a power button and shutter release with a zoom ring. Then to the right of the LCD on back are the remaining controls. There's a Scene button for accessing all shooting modes; a playback button for viewing and editing images and videos on the camera; a delete button; and a menu button for changing any camera settings. A directional pad and OK button are used for navigation as well as changing flash, timer, exposure compensation, and macro focus settings. Menus are straightforward with separate tabs for mode-specific photo/movie options and general setup settings.

The S4000's CIPA-rated battery life is average at 220 shots per charge. The pack charges pretty quickly, though, in about 2 hours using the supplied wall adapter; it can also be charged by connecting via USB to a computer. The only output on the camera is a Micro-USB/AV port on the bottom of the camera next to the battery/memory card compartment.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix S3000
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200
White balance Auto, Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Recording modes Auto, Scene Auto Selector, Scene, Smart Portrait, Subject Tracking, Movie
Focus modes Face priority AF, 9-point Multi AF, Center AF, Macro AF
Metering modes Multipattern, Center-weighted (when using up to 2x digital zoom), Spot (digital zoom of 2x or more)
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Sepia, Black & White, Cyanotype
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Three

The shooting options, although fairly basic, are good for snapshooters, particularly for portraits. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Scene Auto Selector that adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn't match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Then there is an Auto mode, which is similar to the program AE modes on other point-and-shoots, giving you a modicum of control over your end results. You can change ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation as well as autofocus areas and modes, flash, and continuous shooting modes. Light metering is locked to multipattern unless you're using the digital zoom.

If you're able to decipher the type of scene you're shooting, it may correspond to one of the camera's 14 selectable scene modes. All of the scenes are standards like Portrait and Landscape, and there is a Panorama Assist for lining up a series of shots that can be stitched together with the bundled software.

Nikon's Smart Portrait System gets its own spot in the shooting-mode menu. Basically, it combines a Blink Warning, Smile Shutter, Skin Softening, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, and Face Priority AF (autofocus) features into one mode. The System works well, in particular for self-portraits, allowing you to take pictures without pressing the shutter release or setting a timer.

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ARTICLE DISCUSSION

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type Ultracompact
  • Optical Zoom 4 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 12.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer electronic
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"
About The Author

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.