Nikon Coolpix S10 review:

Nikon Coolpix S10

While the S10 includes a manual white balance feature in addition to the usual assortment of presets and auto choices, Nikon throws a curveball and calls its manual white balance Preset White Balance, so when you see it don't get confused--although we were at first. Also, the camera includes three continuous-shooting modes: one is a regular burst mode that continues to capture images as you hold the shutter button; a second captures 16 shots and arranges them in a grid in one image; and the third captures images at intervals of 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or 60 minutes. Like almost all cameras these days, you can also choose from a handful of color modes, including the anticolor black-and-white mode.

Video buffs will like the S10's ability to capture clips at as high as 640x480-pixel resolution and as many as 30fps. More interesting than that, though, is the time-lapse movie mode, which lets you capture as many as 1,800 still images in intervals the same as the interval drive mode, then strings them together into a silent movie as long as 60 seconds. Now you can finally create that time-lapse clip of the sun rising over Aunt Betty's house that you've been dreaming of making since you spent a week camping in her backyard the summer after your fifth birthday.

We were pleased, for the most part, with the S10's performance in our lab tests. It took 1.7 seconds to start up and capture its first image, then took 1.9 seconds between subsequent images without flash, and 2.2 seconds with the flash turned on. In bright lighting conditions, its shutter lag measured a speedy 0.6 second, but slowed considerably in dim light to 2.5 seconds. In its standard continuous-shooting mode, we were able to capture 54 VGA-size JPEGs in 33.1 seconds for an average rate of 1.63fps. When we stepped up to 6-megapixel JPEGs, we captured 39 shots in 31.4 seconds for an average of 1.24fps.

Images from the Nikon Coolpix S10 were very nice with lots of fine detail at its lower ISOs, well-saturated colors, and very little in the way of JPEG artifacts or colored fringing. The camera's automatic white balance served up nearly neutral colors with our lab's tungsten lights; there was an extremely mild warm cast, though some users may even like the effect. The tungsten white-balance setting yielded a slightly greenish cast with our tungsten lights, while the Preset (a.k.a. manual) white balance provided the most neutral results.

We saw almost no noise at the camera's lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 50. A very slight, very fine layer of noise crept in at ISO 100, though it was visible only on our monitor and wouldn't show up in prints. It increased slightly again at ISO 200, though again was minimized by printing and wasn't very distracting on our monitors. We did notice that there was some loss of finer detail, though we could still distinguish the individual hash marks on our test scene's measuring tape. At ISO 400, noise was noticeable on our monitor, and the hash marks on the measuring tape now blurred together completely, though prints were still usable, especially at smaller sizes. By ISO 800, noise was rampant, lots of detail was lost, and images weren't really usable for prints beyond 4x6 inches, though we'd shy away from boosting the sensitivity this high if at all possible.

Nikon does some things right with the Coolpix S10, most notably the lens and the versatile twist design, but its noise performance could definitely improve and we'd like to see them include some more advanced controls. With significant improvements in these two areas alone, Nikon's swivel-cams might be able to reclaim the status they once had as some of the most innovative and desirable compact cameras around. As they are now, you may as well spend a little extra cash and look to Canon's S3 IS. With its swiveling LCD, it'll give you all of the Nikon Coolpix S10's versatility along with more powerful controls and better noise performance.

Shooting speed
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-H2
Canon PowerShot S3 IS
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ4
Kodak EasyShare P850
Nikon Coolpix S10
Note: Seconds

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: Frames per second
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