The Nikon Coolpix S70 is an impressive leap forward in design and functionality from its predecessor, the S60. That camera, while it had an excellent design, had a touch-screen LCD that was occasionally frustrating to use; that's not great considering its operation was nearly all touch-based. The S70's OLED screen is not only bright and beautiful, but also very responsive, allowing for a few cool new features along with improvements to older ones. It's a little slow for shooting much more than portraits and landscapes, and its photos are merely very good for a point-and-shoot--which is hard to swallow given its price. But if you love having a touch screen and don't mind paying for it, the S70 is a lot of fun.
|Key specs||Nikon Coolpix S70|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.8x2.4x0.8 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.7 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3.5-inch OLED, 288K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f3.9-5.8, 28-140mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/640x480 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and electronic|
|Battery type, rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 200 shots|
Available in four color combinations, the S70 is an attractive, slim camera that's easily slipped into a pants pocket or small bag. On its front is a thin metal panel covering its internal wide-angle lens with a 5x zoom. Slide down the cover and the camera turns on. The only button is the shutter release and, well, it's not even necessary.
Nikon decided to take its Touch AF option a step further by giving you the option to use it as a shutter release as well. Select Touch Shutter from the menu and you can tap on your subject and the S70 will focus and shoot. It works so well that you can keep the camera steady by shooting with both hands and just tap with any finger that can reach your subject. If you want to use the actual shutter button, you can set the touch control for focus and exposure or to select a subject for the tracking AF.
At the top left of the screen is an icon for your shooting mode; tap it and you can quickly switch to another mode. Directly below it is a Play icon for reviewing photos and movies (the S70 records HD-quality video, but the optical zoom can't be used while recording). Swipe gestures work smoothly for flipping back and forth through your shots, and you can use pinch gestures to zoom in and out. In the lower left of the screen are icons for selecting a touch AF mode and pulling up all mode-specific shooting options. The right side has the onscreen zoom control (which works well this time around, though I'd still prefer a physical rocker or switch). There's also a Menu icon for accessing the rest of the camera's setting menus as well as the shooting modes. I'd say all these icons get in the way of framing shots, but because it's a wide-screen LCD, there are gutters on the left and right sides when using the camera's full resolution. If you want to use the full screen to frame shots, you'll need to shoot in a wide-screen aspect ratio, which drops photos to an 8-megapixel resolution.
Since the entire back is the screen it can be somewhat tricky to get a good grip on the S70. This is made more difficult by the placement of the lens high on the front left. Many of my test shots have a finger or shadow of a finger in them. You just have to be very careful and pay attention or you're going to be doing a lot of cropping. Another small design issue is the cover of the microUSB port for charging, transferring photos and movies to a computer, and AV out to a TV or monitor. It's difficult to open and sort of flimsy considering the cost of the camera and how often you'll need to lift it. The battery charges in camera--by wall outlet or USB port--so if you want to take more than one battery with you for a day of shooting (and you'll want to get a second battery), you'll have to do a little planning ahead with your charging or buy an external charger.
|General shooting options||Nikon Coolpix S70|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600|
|White balance||Auto, Manual, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash|
|Recording modes||Auto, Easy Auto, Scene, Movie|
|Focus area modes||Center AF, Touch AF, Touch Tracking AF, Macro|
|Color effects||Standard, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cyanotype (in Playback only)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||6 photos|
Shooting modes on the S70 are aimed squarely at snapshooters. The Auto mode gives you the most control with selections for ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, and autofocus type. You can also pick drive modes: single shot, continuous, Best Shot Selector, and Multishot 16. Best Shot Selector fires off up to 10 frames and then saves the sharpest image, while Multishot 16 compiles a sequence of 16 shots and puts them all in a grid on one photo. There are 15 scene modes with nothing out of the ordinary, as well as Easy Auto, Nikon's automatic scene-recognition mode. What is unique is with some of the scene modes is that you get an onscreen slider for modifying results, for example, boosting or reducing color in Macro or exposure in Portrait. The latter mode also uses Nikon's new Skin Softening component for smoothing skin tones.
Performance for the S70 is below average for an ultracompact at its price. It takes two seconds to wake up and shoot. Subsequent shots will leave you waiting an average of 2.1 seconds between them, jumping to 2.7 seconds if you use the flash. Shutter lag is noticeable in good lighting conditions at 0.6 second; in dim lighting it takes 1 second to focus and capture. The S70 has a full-resolution continuous shooting speed of 0.4 frames per second. With these numbers, it's definitely more suited to portraits and landscapes than shooting anything in motion.
The photo quality from the S70 is very good for a snapshot camera, but it is disappointing if you're going strictly by price. Snapping photos below ISO 200 is where it's at its best, producing reasonably sharp photos with good fine detail. Its photos are still fairly good at ISO 400, but at ISO 800 and higher there's noticeable color shifting, which is a shame since detail is still decent. The camera lets you limit the auto ISO range to either 80-200 or 80-400. If you're in daylight or bright conditions, I recommend locking it down to 80-200. Again, it did perform well through ISO 400, but it's at its best below ISO 200. It can shoot at full resolution up to and including a sensitivity of ISO 1,600, but the results don't look good in low-light conditions.
Its colors are not terribly accurate, but are nonetheless pleasing and reasonably natural. Exposure was generally OK, though clipped highlights were common, as they are with most compact cameras. The white balance presets worked well, but the auto white balance leans toward warm. For a 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens, the S70 has no discernible barrel or pincushion distortion at the camera's widest or longest lens positions, respectively. Chromatic aberration in high-contrast areas of photos was a fairly regular occurrence. The blue/purple fringe is easily seen in prints of 8x10 inches or larger, but if you're viewing pictures at smaller sizes on a computer screen or printing at sizes below 8x10, you'll probably never notice.
Its video quality is very good and on par with other cameras in its class. However, there's only digital zoom while recording.
The Nikon Coolpix S70 will certainly turn heads with its flashy design, slick touch-screen interface, and internal wide-angle 5x zoom lens. If you're after $400 worth of photo quality and performance though, those aspects of the S70 fall short of the rest of the package.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
Find out more about how we test digital cameras.