The Nikon Coolpix S70 represents an impressive leap forward in design and functionality compared to its predecessor, the Coolpix S60. While that camera had an excellent design, it also had a touchscreen LCD that was occasionally frustrating to use, which wasn't 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 camera, which is hard to swallow given its £230 price tag. But, if you love having a touchscreen and don't mind paying for it, the S70 provides plenty of fun.
Touch me, I'm slick
Available in four colour combinations, the S70 is an attractive, slim camera that's easily slipped into a trouser pocket or small bag. On its front is a thin metal panel covering its internal wideangle lens with a 5x zoom. Slide down the cover and the camera turns on. The only button is the shutter release and even that's not necessary.
Nikon has 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, 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 high-definition 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 on-screen zoom control (which works well this time around, although we'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. We'd say all these icons get in the way of framing shots, but, because it's a widescreen 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 widescreen aspect ratio, which drops photos to an 8-megapixel resolution.
Since the entire back is formed of screen, it can be rather 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 our test shots have a finger or shadow of a finger in them. You have to be very careful, or you're going to be doing plenty of cropping. Another small design issue is the cover of the micro-USB port for charging, transferring photos and movies to a computer, and AV out to a TV or monitor. It's difficult to open and rather flimsy considering the cost of the camera and how often you'll need to lift it. The battery charges in the 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.
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 'multi-shot 16'.