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Nikon Coolpix S4300 review: Nikon Coolpix S4300

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The Good Easy to use; Good image colours; Touchscreen menus.

The Bad Limited image customisation options; Some noise on images.

The Bottom Line The Nikon Coolpix S4300 is a great choice for anyone who wants to hand over the task of choosing the best settings for any shot to the camera. If you'd like to teach yourself more about photography by learning the controls over time, you might find it limiting.

8.3 Overall

There are times when all you want is a simple camera to take to the pub or the beach. Not everyone likes to fiddle with settings, navigate three screens of options or have to understand aperture and focal lengths to get the best shot.

Well, now they don't have to. The S4300 has had its settings and options stripped to the bare minimum, which means you can get on with enjoying the scenes in front of you while it works out how best to shoot them.

Build and specs

Despite its slim body, the S4300 is home to a 16-megapixel sensor and a 6x zoom, equivalent to 26-156mm on a regular 35mm camera. That makes it well suited at the wider end to broad landscapes, and at full-telephoto it will deal with close-up sports and wildlife shots. Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.5 at wide-angle to f/6.5 at full-telephoto, neither of which is particularly ambitious.

Nikon Coolpix S4300
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The Nikon Coolpix S4300 is a slim camera with a high resolution and decent mid-range zoom that's operated mostly via the screen.

If you're looking for a simple point-and-shoot camera that takes you in hand, freeing you to think about framing and firing the shutter, then the S4300 might be for you. If you want a snapper that you'll grow with as you get more confident, look elsewhere.

The auto shooting mode is supplemented only by a choice of scene modes, special effects and smart portrait, so you can't set it to aperture or shutter priority. This limits your options when it comes to being creative.

While the shutter speed ranges from 1/2,000 to 4 seconds, for example, the decision on where to put it rests entirely with the camera. Four seconds is too short for the most creative night-time shots if you want to capture long streaking headlights and lit city scenes. Even if it wasn't, you wouldn't be able to select it manually outside of the fireworks scene mode, as the simple menu system doesn't offer this as an option.

Nikon Coolpix S4300 test photo
The S4300 takes much of the decision-making process out of the photographer's hands and produces a decent set of pictures (click image to enlarge).

You can set the white balance and sensitivity though, with the former offering five preset modes, plus auto and manual. This manual option is neatly handled. Selecting it zooms the lens to maximum telephoto, allowing you to frame a sample of white from your scene in a small window at the centre of the screen and use this as a reference point by tapping 'measure'.

The 3-inch LCD screen is bright and fine grained, with a smooth refresh and a touch-sensitive surface. This is important as the number of physical buttons on the S4300 has been kept to an absolute minimum, with only video recording, playback and scene buttons supplementing the regular power and shutter buttons and zoom rocker.

The full menu sits beneath a graphical tab at the bottom of the screen. There's no need to trawl it for the most common shooting options as there are icons for flash, timer (2 and 10 seconds), macro and exposure compensation along the bottom of the display. The latter offers +/-2.0EV in 1/3EV steps, updated in real-time as you tap graphics to move a pointer along the scale.

These icons disappear when you're shooting, at which point the whole screen becomes an enlarged shutter button. Tapping the subject you want in focus sharpens it up and fires the shutter.

Nikon Coolpix S4300 test photo
You can use the whole of the touch-sensitive display as a shutter button by tapping the subject you want to focus on (click image to enlarge).

Sensitivity sets out at ISO 80 and extends to ISO 3,200, although at the top end of the scale it cuts the resolution to 4 megapixels. This isn't uncommon, with many consumer cameras trimming the number of recorded pixels in high ISO shots so that they can interpolate data from adjacent photosites to build up the image. But it does mean that if you want to make full use of that 16-megapixel sensor, you'll have to keep sensitivity at ISO 1,600 or below.

Stills tests

Macro mode takes you in to 5cm from your subject. You can invoke it manually or leave the auto mode to select it when needed -- an option I found both reliable and predictable.

Results are sharp, with a clearly-defined sweet spot at the focal point. However, with the maximum aperture at wide-angle topping out at f/3.5, the focal fall-off wasn't as fast or extreme as I would have liked, with a lot of the image remaining fairly sharp in my tests.

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