Nikon believes that the Coolpix S210 could be one of its bigger sellers this year. It's certainly got a friendly price, costing £140 online. This 8-megapixel compact camera ticks the size and affordability boxes that could see it fly off the shelves, and with technology potentially trickling down from Nikon's stonking higher-end compacts and dSLRs, it certainly has potential to make a heroic charge to the top.
The S210 has a credit card-size width, but it's actually quite chunky: the screen has a raised bezel area that adds depth. The 64mm (2.5-inch) screen feels lost in the frame. This size of screen is becoming something of a disappointment when compared with equally small cameras that sport 69mm (2.7-inch) or even 76mm (3-inch) screens.
At least it's light yet sturdy, thanks to an all-metal frame. The brushed metal front looks good but the gloss effect on the rest of the frame looks unfortunately cheap. The button layout has the standard four buttons and a circular clickpad, all clearly labeled but plasticky. The flat zoom rocker is also lacklustre.
The menu system on the Coolpix has always struck us as clunky. Here, we found that the mode and menu buttons were somewhat counter-intuitive: pressing Mode allowed you to access the setup menu but not scene modes, which are confusingly accessed by pressing Menu. It didn't help that pressing the Menu button had a different result when the camera was set to manual shooting than when it was set to a scene mode.
We use the term 'manual' loosely. Twelve steps of exposure compensation are easily available with one touch from the clickpad, but there is no aperture or shutter priority or option to limit aperture and shutter speeds. White balance and ISO speed, up to ISO 2,000, can be adjusted. We're disappointed to find that optical image stabilisation isn't available -- we've come to expect it on cameras of this size.
As well as red-eye reduction and automatic flash settings, you also get a fill-in flash for photographing backlit subjects, such as a person with bright sun behind them.
Everything works, but it's hard to find much else to say about the S210. Colour and exposure are well balanced, white balance is as reliable as any compact and focusing is quick.
For a camera so light on features, there are a decent number of burst modes. Standard continuous mode captures around 29 images in about 22 seconds before slowing. That's an actually creditable burst rate of 0.8 frames per second. From that point, the S210 kept snapping at a haphazard rate for roughly another 20 seconds, but with brief pauses to buffer occasional images.
A best shot selector mode picks the sharpest image from a burst of frames, which works fine, but we found it more useful to select our own favourite frame from the many taken. That's one of the fundamentals of digital photography, after all. The remaining burst modes are an interval timer and an 8-second burst of 16 shots at 5-megapixel resolution.
Battery life is also pretty good -- not that we had any idea of how much charge we had left as there's no onscreen battery indicator. Unforgivable.
There's nothing actually wrong with the Nikon Coolpix S210, by any means. A year or two ago it may have been hailed as a triumph of compact camera engineering. Here and now, cameras like the near-identical-looking yet much thinner Casio Exilim EX-S10 are redefining how much manufacturers can cram into small, stylish compacts, and the Coolpix range is being left behind. It does exactly what it says on the tin, being a budget, pocketable camera that takes reasonable photographs, but this camera clearly needs an injection of heroism.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday