/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

Nikon Coolpix S7c review: Nikon Coolpix S7c

This last feature is something new for Nikon. In its newest group of cameras, and presumably going forward, Nikon has applied the VR label, which stands for vibration reduction, to three different forms of image stabilization: optical, also known as lens-shift; mechanical, a.k.a. sensor-shift; and electronic, which uses in-camera processing, combined with data gathered by in-camera gyros at the time of capture, to try to remove blur from photos after they've been shot. The company makes no distinction on the box, so if you don't read a review like this, it's difficult to tell what's in the camera, and I doubt any of the sales staff at a big box retailer would know either.

7.2

Nikon Coolpix S7c

The Good

Great click wheel; attractive, slim design; supports photo e-mail from T-Mobile access points; solid color reproduction.

The Bad

Annoying top buttons; no proxy Wi-Fi access other than T-Mobile.

The Bottom Line

Nikon adds T-Mobile hot-spot access to its slim Wi-Fi camera and continues to deliver the image quality we enjoyed in the S6.
Nikon introduced Wi-Fi to its S series of slim cameras earlier this year with the . While we liked the camera overall, we questioned the value of the Wi-Fi, since it let you upload only to your computer or print to a printer that was connected either to your computer or your wireless LAN. Now, Nikon has introduced the Coolpix S7c, which includes built-in support for T-Mobile Wi-Fi access points, so you can e-mail photos directly from the camera while you sit at Starbucks and support your caffeine addiction. The stylish new camera also includes a 7.1-megapixel sensor; a 3-inch LCD screen; sensitivity up to ISO 1,600; a 3X optical, 35mm-to-105mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-to-f/5 zoom lens; and electronic vibration reduction.

In our tests, the S7c's electronic VR did a good job of sharpening slightly blurry photos, about on a par with what you could do with Photoshop's unsharp mask. Of course, as with most in-camera autofixes, it wasn't perfect. I noticed some extra noise as a result of the sharpening on most of the images I tried, though the good typically outweighed the bad. Plus, as with all of Nikon's in-camera editing, the original photo is always kept untouched and the new photo saved as a separate file, so you can always go back to the original and retouch it later with more care, if necessary.

The S7c's design is very similar to the S6's: slim, with a slight wave to the front of the camera, a very useful click wheel to navigate an intuitive menu system, and a few buttons on top that are all so recessed that they can be difficult to press. It's such a slick design, that a friend of mine didn't believe the shutter button was actually the shutter button. Also, the tiny zoom rocker, to the right of the shutter, was easy to accidentally nudge while preparing to shoot. It would be better placed to the left of the shutter button or redesigned completely.

Features, other than those mentioned above, are the same as in its predecessor. As such, the camera relies on its 15 scene modes and exposure compensation instead of manual exposure controls. This isn't a big surprise, as Nikon clearly made this to be a snapshooter's camera, but advanced shooters looking for aperture or shutter priority should look elsewhere.

E-mailing photos over a personal network, or a T-Mobile hot spot, was fairly simple. As with any wireless communication, you'll likely run into a few snags or dropped connections, but the S7c connected as well as most Wi-Fi devices I've used. There's even a screen that lets you enter a WEP key if the network is protected. However, the S7c won't work with a proxy network or networks such as the ones found in hotels, which display a splash page and require a login. So, while the addition of T-Mobile support was a great step forward, there's still more that Nikon can do to make its Wi-Fi cameras more useful.

Performance was neither bad nor stellar, though continuous shooting was somewhat slow. The Coolpix S7c took 2.2 seconds to start up and capture its first image, and took 2.1 seconds between subsequent shots without flash, slowing very slightly to 2.4 seconds between shots with the flash turned on. Shutter lag measured 0.7 second in our high-contrast test and 1.7 seconds in our low-contrast test, which are designed to mimic bright and dim lighting situations, respectively. We were able to capture 43 VGA-size JPEGs in just over 31 seconds for an average of 1.4 frames per second in continuous shooting mode. When we switched to the camera's highest-quality 7.1-megapixel JPEGs, we captured 31 shots in about 34.5 seconds for an average of 0.9 frames per second (fps).

Image quality from the Coolpix S7c was generally very pleasing, though as can be expected, at its highest ISO settings, images became rather noisy. Colors were accurate and well saturated, though not oversaturated. Exposures were generally accurate and tended to sacrifice highlights to preserve shadow detail on the most difficult scenes. The automatic white balance did a very good job of serving up neutral colors with our lab's tungsten lights. With the same lights, the tungsten preset yielded a slight greenish cast, so you may as well stick with auto, or if you're ambitious, you can set a custom white balance, which gave us even more neutral results. Like most red-eye reduction systems, the S7c's was hit or miss, and often left at least some color in our subjects' eyes.

At its lowest sensitivity setting of ISO 50, images had plenty of detail, though they weren't the sharpest we've seen. Noise at ISO 50 was essentially nonexistent but began to creep in slightly at ISO 100 and was still only barely noticeable at ISO 200. By ISO 400, it was more noticeable, but still not nearly out of control, though Nikon's noise suppression algorithms seemed to come at the cost of some of the finer details, as the marks on the measuring tape in our test scene began to blur together. At ISO 800, images were still usable for prints, but noise was noticeable, and the numbers on the measuring tape and text in the book on which it lay were blurred beyond recognition. ISO 1,600 yielded extremely noisy images and while the content of the images are definitely recognizable, you'll probably want to stick with lower ISOs if you plan to make prints. Nikon itself nods to this fact, by capping the auto ISO function at ISO 800.

Nikon's Coolpix S7c is a nice ultracompact camera. Though there's still plenty more Nikon can do to make its Wi-Fi functionality more useful, it's done a good job of delivering what it promised in this area. If Wi-Fi doesn't mean much to you, Sony's Cyber Shot DSC-T10 delivers slightly faster performance and comparable or slightly sharper image quality.

Shooting speed
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T50
1.5 
1.5 
0.5 
Sony Cyber Shot DSC-T30
1.6 
1.8 
0.4 
Nikon Coolpix S7c
2.1 
2.2 
0.7 
Olympus FE-120
2.6 
4.9 
1.3 
Casio Exilim EX-Z850
2.7 
2.1 
0.5 
Pentax Optio A10
4.2 
3.8 
0.8 
Note: Measured in frames per second

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: Measured in seconds

7.2

Nikon Coolpix S7c

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Image quality 7