Nikon Coolpix S800c review: First Android point-and-shoot misses mark

So overall, shooting performance is very good. However, the rest of the camera's performance is somewhat sluggish. Apps, outside of Nikon's camera interface, are slow to open and using them isn't any better. During testing there were several times where apps would force close or hang. I was also frequently greeted with a "Please wait..." message when turning the camera on or off. It was not unlike using an inexpensive Android smartphone from two years ago. To top it off, battery life is poor (more on that in the next section).

Design and features
The S800c from the front doesn't look all that different from Nikon's other S-series models, though its casing is plastic instead of metal. Turn it around and you're looking at very nice and responsive 3.5-inch OLED touch screen and three buttons: Menu, Home, and Return. It looks like a smartphone, and since Nikon trimmed out the screen in silver, the S800c feels like a camera that's basically had a smartphone tacked on the back instead of feeling like one complete product.

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That feeling extends to the camera's use, too. When you turn on the camera, you're greeted with what looks like a typical camera interface, albeit one designed for touch navigation.

Press the Menu button and you'll get settings for the camera features. However, touching the Home button will launch you into an Android home screen with various shortcuts to launch apps, including ones labeled "Shooting" and "Play" that bring you back to Nikon's camera interface. It makes complete sense that the camera features are reached using what's essentially Nikon's camera interface as an Android app, but there's something about it that's just off.

Key specs Nikon Coolpix S800c
Price (MSRP) $349.95
Dimensions (WHD) 4.4x2.4x1.1 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 6.5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3.5-inch OLED touch screen, 819K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 10x, f3.2-5.8, 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 140 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; wall adapter (included) or computer via USB
Storage media SD/SDHC; 1.7GB internal
Bundled software Software Suite for Coolpix (Windows/Mac)

The S800c is running on Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, a version of the OS released in February 2011. For those with Android 4.0 or later devices, the S800c will feel immediately outdated. On the other hand, the OS is easy to use and you can do all the things you'd expect such as add shortcuts and widgets for your favorite apps, add e-mail accounts, and easily type in account information with a full onscreen keyboard.

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Unfortunately, the OS and hardware don't run all that efficiently on the small battery pack Nikon used. Even just shooting automatic pictures using Nikon's camera interface, the S800c can only get up to 140 shots per charge. Do anything else such as use the Wi-Fi or GPS, play a game, record video, or stream music or video and it'll be dead pretty fast. The battery is removable at least, so you can buy extras, but you'll probably want to get an external charger, too, since the battery is charged by USB in-camera (with a proprietary 8-pin Micro-USB cable, no less).

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix S800c
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash, Manual
Recording modes Auto, Scene auto selector, Scene, Special effects, Smart portrait, Subject tracking
Focus modes Face priority, nine-area auto, manual with 99 focus areas, center, subject tracking, touch
Macro 4 inches (wide)
Metering modes Multipattern, Center-weighted (when using up to 2x digital zoom), Spot (digital zoom of 2x or more)
Color effects Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, High key, and Low key
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Three shots

One of the things that bugs me about the S800c is that its shooting options don't really go beyond what you can get with any other basic point-and-shoot or current high-end smartphone. But, if you have no interest in controlling shutter speed and aperture, the S800c is for you. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Scene Auto Selector, which 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 a regular Auto mode, which is basically the Program mode you'd find on other cameras. It'll handle shutter speed and aperture settings, but you can also adjust things like ISO and white balance.

There are 17 scene modes like Landscape and Portrait as well as modes for correcting backlit subjects, easy panorama photos (180 or 360 degrees), and handheld night shots. A separate Special Effects mode gives you some creative options like High-contrast Monochrome and High and Low key. The playback menu also has other effects filters you can apply after you shoot, like soft focus for a toy camera look and fish-eye, but this matters less on this camera because you do have Android apps.

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Again, the main reason it's nice to have Android is for the large number of photo and sharing apps . Something to be aware of, though, is that when you're using Android apps, you're limited to the capabilities of those apps. For example, almost all of the camera apps I tested would not allow you to control the zoom lens; only digital zoom was available. Similarly, if the editing app you're using doesn't support full-resolution edits, that won't change. And even if it does support them, it may not support the 16-megapixel images from the Nikon. Also, while I didn't run into any problems running some of my favorite apps, performance wasn't exactly fast because I'm pretty sure the camera's guts are that of a nearly two-year-old smartphone.

Conclusion
Unless you absolutely love the idea of having a point-and-shoot with a 10x zoom lens that also has access to Android apps, I would skip the Nikon Coolpix S800c. At least until the price comes down. Right now, you're better off getting the Coolpix S6300 (or another ultracompact megazoom ) and an Eye-Fi wireless SD card.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 10 x
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • 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.