Shooting performance, though, is disappointing. From off to first shot takes a lengthy 3.8 seconds and the wait between shots is nearly as long at 3.3 seconds. Using the flash adds a second to that time (though there is no way to force the flash to fire every time, so this time may vary depending on what you're shooting). Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is a little long at 0.5 second in bright conditions and 0.7 in dim lighting. The S30 also has a continuous shooting speed of up to 1.5 frames per second for four shots, though our tests clocked it at 0.7fps.
Shooting with the Coolpix S30 might be a little weird for some people, too, because Nikon changed up the controls from its other Coolpix models and the vast majority of other compact cameras. On top are three buttons: shutter release on the far right, movie record button on the far left, and a power button in the middle. The buttons have a spongy feel to them, likely because of water seals beneath them. (The record button on my review camera kept getting stuck in the down position, too.)
On the back are a playback button, a row of four buttons running down the left side of the 2.7-inch LCD, and a navigation pad that doubles as a zoom control. There's no menu button; instead you just select things onscreen using the row of buttons. Instead of potentially cryptic wording or technical terms you're given options such as "Change colors," "Decorate," and "Choose a style," which means changing shooting modes. Again, if you're used to another camera's interface, it might take some adjustment, but it's otherwise very simple.
As for its design, the S30 does look and feel somewhat like a toy. The body is basically hollow and without the weight of its two, AA-size batteries, it doesn't scream "durable construction." However, it survived my testing according to its specifications. That included three 60-minute periods in 2 feet of water (it's rated for 9.8 feet) and five drops straight down from 2 feet onto 2-inch plywood. Of course, this doesn't mean your results won't be different; rugged cameras are tested to survive very specific things and even using them within those parameters can cause damage. Regardless of a camera's ratings, make sure you read the user manual for caution and care instructions.
The Nikon Coolpix S30 is an inexpensive, family-friendly waterproof point-and-shoot that's best used outdoors in good lighting and with slow-moving or stationary subjects. If you need more than that, be prepared to spend more than $120 on a different camera.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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