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|
|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.
For those who like to take close-ups, the S3000 is at its sharpest in Macro mode. It can focus as close as 3.1 inches from a subject. There are a few ways to enter Macro mode, too. It will automatically switch to it when using the Scene Auto Selector mode. You can also select Close-up mode from the camera's Scene options. And if you're in Auto mode, you can turn on with the directional pad.