Nikon introduced Wi-Fi to its S series of slim cameras earlier this year with the Coolpix S6. While we liked the camera overall, we questioned the value of the Wi-Fi, since it let you upload only to your computer or print to a printer that was connected either to your computer or your wireless LAN. Now, Nikon has introduced the Coolpix S7c, which includes built-in support for T-Mobile Wi-Fi access points, so you can e-mail photos directly from the camera while you sit at Starbucks and support your caffeine addiction. The stylish new camera also includes a 7.1-megapixel sensor; a 3-inch LCD screen; sensitivity up to ISO 1,600; a 3X optical, 35mm-to-105mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-to-f/5 zoom lens; and electronic vibration reduction.
This last feature is something new for Nikon. In its newest group of cameras, and presumably going forward, Nikon has applied the VR label, which stands for vibration reduction, to three different forms of image stabilization: optical, also known as lens-shift; mechanical, a.k.a. sensor-shift; and electronic, which uses in-camera processing, combined with data gathered by in-camera gyros at the time of capture, to try to remove blur from photos after they've been shot. The company makes no distinction on the box, so if you don't read a review like this, it's difficult to tell what's in the camera, and I doubt any of the sales staff at a big box retailer would know either.
In our tests, the S7c's electronic VR did a good job of sharpening slightly blurry photos, about on a par with what you could do with Photoshop's unsharp mask. Of course, as with most in-camera autofixes, it wasn't perfect. I noticed some extra noise as a result of the sharpening on most of the images I tried, though the good typically outweighed the bad. Plus, as with all of Nikon's in-camera editing, the original photo is always kept untouched and the new photo saved as a separate file, so you can always go back to the original and retouch it later with more care, if necessary.
The S7c's design is very similar to the S6's: slim, with a slight wave to the front of the camera, a very useful click wheel to navigate an intuitive menu system, and a few buttons on top that are all so recessed that they can be difficult to press. It's such a slick design, that a friend of mine didn't believe the shutter button was actually the shutter button. Also, the tiny zoom rocker, to the right of the shutter, was easy to accidentally nudge while preparing to shoot. It would be better placed to the left of the shutter button or redesigned completely.
Features, other than those mentioned above, are the same as in its predecessor. As such, the camera relies on its 15 scene modes and exposure compensation instead of manual exposure controls. This isn't a big surprise, as Nikon clearly made this to be a snapshooter's camera, but advanced shooters looking for aperture or shutter priority should look elsewhere.
E-mailing photos over a personal network, or a T-Mobile hot spot, was fairly simple. As with any wireless communication, you'll likely run into a few snags or dropped connections, but the S7c connected as well as most Wi-Fi devices I've used. There's even a screen that lets you enter a WEP key if the network is protected. However, the S7c won't work with a proxy network or networks such as the ones found in hotels, which display a splash page and require a login. So, while the addition of T-Mobile support was a great step forward, there's still more that Nikon can do to make its Wi-Fi cameras more useful.
Performance was neither bad nor stellar, though continuous shooting was somewhat slow. The Coolpix S7c took 2.2 seconds to start up and capture its first image, and took 2.1 seconds between subsequent shots without flash, slowing very slightly to 2.4 seconds between shots with the flash turned on. Shutter lag measured 0.7 second in our high-contrast test and 1.7 seconds in our low-contrast test, which are designed to mimic bright and dim lighting situations, respectively. We were able to capture 43 VGA-size JPEGs in just over 31 seconds for an average of 1.4 frames per second in continuous shooting mode. When we switched to the camera's highest-quality 7.1-megapixel JPEGs, we captured 31 shots in about 34.5 seconds for an average of 0.9 frames per second (fps).