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Nikon Coolpix S3000 (sample photos)

How good is the photo quality from Nikon's sub-$150 12-megapixel ultracompact camera? Click through this slideshow to see what the Coolpix S3000 delivers.

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Joshua Goldman
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1 of 7 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

ISO comparison

The photo quality from the S3000 is OK; good enough for small prints and Web use, but it is questionable for use with anything else. Though the camera is capable of taking decent snapshots in bright lighting conditions, quality drops off noticeably between ISO 200 and ISO 400 with increased noise and softness. That's not great because even at ISO 80 the photos are soft. The noise reduction causes smeared details, and this smearing only gets worse at higher ISOs, making it a poor choice for low-light photos.
In Auto mode there's a Fixed Auto ISO option, letting you limit the camera to using a range between ISO 80-400 or ISO 80-800. I recommend using the 80-400 range whenever you're shooting in a mixed lighting environment and don't feel like switching ISO settings. The camera also seems to have problems focusing, causing me to refocus again and again before shooting.
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2 of 7 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Macro

The S3000 is at its sharpest in Macro mode. It can focus as close as 3.1 inches from a subject. Unfortunately, its AF system is inconsistent, so getting a clear shot can be trying at times.
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3 of 7 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Zoom range

The S3000's lens offers a good zoom range of 4x going from a 35mm-equivalent 27-108mm. It's enough to help you frame shots or get you a little closer to your subjects. However, with only electronic image stabilization, you'll have to be careful when using it in low-light conditions or risk it using a higher ISO.
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4 of 7 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Lens distortion

The wide-angle lens shows a some barrel distortion on the left side (top). There is little discernible distortion when the lens is extended (bottom). Center sharpness is good, but there was visible softness in the left corners of the lens on my review camera. In fact, the whole left side looks softer than the rest of the frame. This is only really noticeable when photos are viewed at 100 percent, though.
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5 of 7 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Fringing

Seeing purple-blue fringing on high-contrast subjects in photos is typical of this class of camera, but the S3000 displays an above average amount of it. Side note: Despite the camera telling me the statue was in focus, it appears soft and out of focus.
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6 of 7 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Color

At sensitivities at and below ISO 200, the camera produces bright and vibrant colors that, while not always accurate, are pleasing. Though clipped highlights are certainly a problem for this camera (as well as many point-and-shoots), exposure is generally OK and white balance is fairly accurate, too.
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7 of 7 Joshua Goldman/CNET

D-Lighting

If the S3000 does underexpose a photo, Nikon's D-Lighting feature in the camera's playback editing options will do an excellent job of rescuing details lost in shadows without overexposing other areas of the photo.

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