The Nikon Coolpix S710 wants to be the camera you take with you while your digital SLR stays home. It offers a robust set of manual controls, a high-resolution 14.5-megapixel sensor, a 28mm wide-angle lens, and sensitivity that goes up to ISO 3,200 at full resolution and ISO 12,800 at 3 megapixels. However, it lacks the speed dSLR users--and even many snapshooters--are used to. If you're used to shooting fast, the S710's performance comes up short. Otherwise, it's a respectable high-end point-and-shoot that is a good option for those looking for lots of shooting flexibility in a pocket camera.
The 6.5-ounce S710 is a compact 3.6 inches wide by 2.3 inches high by 1 inch thick, barely sliding under the line for our definition of ultracompact. Up front is an optically stabilized, reasonably wide 3.6X f2.8-5.6 28-101mm lens. The design is boxier than I'm used to seeing from Nikon, but still very attractive, and it's available in the company's graphite black, deep red, and brilliant silver.
In order to fit the 3-inch LCD on the back, Nikon had to keep the controls and the space between them to a minimum. The buttons are raised enough to make them easy to press and there's a directional pad/scroll wheel serving double duty. The directional pad controls flash, macro mode, timer, and exposure compensation. The scroll wheel acts in conjunction with a virtual Mode dial called up when you press the Mode button, and lets you quickly navigate shooting and setup menus, adjust ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, and flip through photos in Playback mode. The Menu button below the wheel opens up mode-specific shooting options, while the Setup menu is located on the Mode dial--an old-fashioned touch for such a modern camera.
The S710 offers Program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and manual modes, which Nikon previously only included on its Coolpix P-series cameras and dSLRs. In manual you can select shutter speed, aperture, and ISO onscreen without diving into a menu system, while the Menu system provides options for white balance (including a preset manual), metering, drive modes, color options, and autofocus and AF area modes. There is no manual focus, but there is a manual AF area mode.
Of course, being a snapshot camera, it has a regular Auto mode in addition to its Scene mode with 11 scenes to choose from; a Scene auto selector that picks the most appropriate Scene mode depending on what you're shooting; high-speed continuous shooting at 3 megapixels; and Smile mode that continues shooting pictures when it detects smiles. Because of all these options, the camera is best suited for someone either already comfortable making adjustments, beginners looking to experiment, or a household with mixed user types, as the camera is flexible. Anyone looking for a simple pocket camera will likely find the array of choices confusing and a waste of money.