When you extract the 14.1-megapixel Nikon Coolpix S80 from its box, the word 'wow' may well form silently on your lips. With a huge touchscreen, sliding lens cover and metal body, this compact camera feels smooth, solid and elegant. Packing a 5x optical zoom, it's available for around £300. But does the S80 represent a triumph of style over substance?
Touch it up
The S80 is thin, measuring just 17mm deep, and its design is pleasingly minimalist. Sliding the lens cover powers up the camera, but otherwise the only physical control is the shutter-release button -- the S80 is primarily controlled by its 3.5-inch OLED touchscreen. This wide-screen display boasts a seriously high resolution of 819,000 pixels and takes up almost the whole of the camera's rear.
The S80's touchscreen is so sensitive and responsive that it feels like you only have to breathe on the screen for some change to take effect. But, while this makes for swift operation, it can also easily lead to you accidentally selecting an unwanted function.
Although there's a shutter-release button, you can also take pictures by jabbing at the screen itself. We occasionally managed to do this accidentally when simply handling the camera, as our fingers and thumbs came into contact with the edges of the screen.
By the same token, we were forever accidentally adjusting the frame by hitting the zoom buttons on the right-hand side of the screen, which was frustrating. Inevitably, the screen also quickly becomes smeared with fingerprints, so you'll constantly be wiping it clean. It's worth noting too that only the central portion of the screen is used if you're shooting in the standard 4:3 format.
The lens at no point extends from the body, by virtue of its elements being internally folded. But this means that, even though the lens is slightly inset from the edge of the camera, fingers can creep into the edge of the frame. Nevertheless, the S80 offers a respectably broad focal range for a point-and-shoot camera of 35-175mm, although it would have been good to have had a wider 28mm equivalent for panoramas and group portraits.
The S80 can record 720p high-definition movies with stereo sound, which is where the 16:9-ratio screen really comes into its own for composition and review. To complement this capability, the camera sports an HDMI output, offered alongside the standard USB/AV-out port on the base. That lets you connect the camera directly to a high-definition TV.