Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nikon Coolpix S4300 Digital Camera Review, Sample Images, Photos in NYC

The new Nikon CoolPix S4300 is a ultra-compact point and shoot with a slim design and a touchscreen interface. This pocket-sized and highly portable digital camera is less than 1 inch thick and weighs less than 5 oz. It has a modern design and a sleek rounded body available in 5 colors - plum, red, black, white or silver (the silver has more of a champagne color finish). While it would make a great accessory for the ladies, it isn't so overtly feminine as to classify it as a female-only camera.  As far as appearances are concerned, it has mass appeal!

A main feature of the Nikon Coolpix S4300 is its bright 3.0 inch LCD touchscreen interface. Personally, I'm not a fan of touchscreen interfaces on cameras but I can usually deal with it if the camera makes this function optional. Unfortunately, with the S4300 the touchscreen interface does not come optional (it's touch or nothing) and I had to clumsily work my way through it. 

On the other hand, the Nikon S4300  redesigned its menu so now its touchscreen offers big icons rather than scrolling lists. One of my contentions with touchscreen only cameras is the difficulty of usage when wearing gloves in cold weather. While Nikon's change to icons instead of scrolling eliminated this issue, it actually created an entirely different problem that I discovered when exploring the Nikon S4300 scene mode menu. 

For example, when accessed the Scene Selector menu, my immediate inclination was to skim through the various icons displayed on screen. This desire to scroll through the various options was because the icons were just images with no text and many of the icons were unfamiliar to me.  I made the mistake of pressing one of the icons thinking that some sort of information about what the icon represented would  appear on screen. Instead, it closed the Scene Selector menu and immediately adjusted  and applied my cameras settings to whichever mode I pressed.  

Basically, if you are not familiar with what each icon represents you have to press the "help button" (the button with the question mark on the top-right hand side of the scene menu) which takes you to the Scene Selector Help Section.  Once in the Scene Selector Help Section, you have to individually press each icon to find out what it is and how it works. To add to this inconvenience is the fact that you cannot choose the Scene Mode you want while you are in the Scene Selector Help Section, you can only find out what the icon represents. In order to choose the Scene Mode you want, you would have to go back to the Scene Selector Mode.
And yes, some of the S4300 Scene Mode icons are self-explanatory but I've tested many point-and-shoots  and some of the S4300 scene mode icons were unrecognizable to me. Chances are that if you do decide to purchase the Nikon CoolPix S4300, you will eventually familiarize yourself with each of the icons and their functionality.

However, for the eager point-and-shooter who'd like to buy and shoot in a matter of minutes, you are better off using the first button on the Scene Selector Mode - Scene Auto Selector - and the Nikon Coolpix S4300 will automatically and intelligently select the optimal settings for whatever scene you are shooting in.

In addition to touchscreen settings and controls, autofocus and metering options are combined into a Touch AF/AE mode, which uses the touchscreen to place the autofocus and metering point pretty much anywhere in the frame (the outer edges aren't allowed). Power, shutter release, video record/pause, shooting mode and playback have dedicated hardware buttons, and there's the usual zoom lever on the right hand side of  the camera for the generous 6x optical zoom function - another desirable feature the Nikon Coolpix S4300 comes equipped with.

The Nikon Coolpix S4300 performance is pretty good as well. There is a bit of a response delay when changing between functions such as from video to photo (and vice versa) and even when turning the cameras power on. Despite this minor lag time, the S4300 works like a charm. 

Another notable Nikon Coolpix S4300 quality is that while other manufacturers claim all you have to do is point and shoot to take great looking images with about virtually every camera they put on the market, the Coolpix S4300 actually proves this to be true.

On the day I tested the S4300, I wasn't exactly in the photography spirit and yet, I still managed to get a variety of aesthetically pleasing shots even if my composition wasn't the best. I accredit this to the Nikon S4300's  high resolution 16 megapixel CCD sensor paired with its 6x wide-angle optical zoom NIKKOR glass lens. Additionally, Nikon's true glass lens boasts a focal length from 26-156mm, a versatile range that can zoom in for portrait shots and has a wide angle to cover beautiful landscapes. 

Additionally, The Nikon S4300 has 20 Scene Modes, including Scene Auto Selector, so you can leave it to this intelligent camera to automatically determine what type of photo you're taking and adjust the setting to assure a flawless photo.

Auto Mode IMG 01
Auto Mode IMG 02

As a avid fan of macro photography, I am always eager to see how well the macro capability is of the new camera I'm testing. To my dismay, the S4300 had a difficult time focusing even when trying both of its macro mode features - Close-up Scene Mode and Auto Mode with Macro Function enabled. The flash being on, off or on automatic made no difference in the clarity of the close-ups either. It was frustrating especially in comparison to the point-and-shoots with superb macro functionality that I've been testing recently.

Close-up Scene Mode

Auto Mode with Macro Function

In-camera image editing, special effects and scene modes are among my favorite features of point-and-shoot cameras. The Coolpix S4300 includes 7  in-camera editing functions including Crop, D-Lighting, Glamour Retouch, Quick Retouch, Rotate Image, Skin Softening and Small Picture. 

Scene modes include Back Light, Beach, Close Up, Copy, Draw, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Panorama Assist, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Scene Auto Selector, Snow, Sports, Sunrise.

Auto Mode
Scene Auto Selector Mode
Close-up Mode

Special effects and Filter effects include Sepia, High Contrast Monochrome, High Key, Low Key and Selective Color, Soft, Cross Screen, Fisheye, Miniature, Painting and Color Options.

High Contrast Monochrome Mode IMG 01

High Contrast Monochrome Mode IMG 02
Sepia Filter Effect IMG 01

Sepia Filter Effect IMG 02
Selective Color Mode: Yellow IMG 01

Selective Color Mode: Green IMG 01
Soft Effect
Low Key Effect

High Key Effect

These features enhance and add a edge of creativity and style to your shots. Below are several Nikon Coolpix S4300 sample images using some of its various scene modes and filters.

An oddity I observed while using the Nikon S4300 was when using certain scene modes/effects such as the Sepia filter, my subjects would appear blurry when viewing them through the LCD screen. However, once I pressed the shutter button and captured my image, my images would appear vivid and clear on screen.

The Nikon Coolpix S4300 also comes equipped with 720p HD video mode which was clear even while zooming. However, the first time I attempted to zoom while video recording, there was a slight jolting that occurred but after that firs time, video recording was smooth sailing.

The Nikon Coolpix S4300 takes a SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card (sold separately) and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (included with camera). 

Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S4300 is a decent compact digital camera. Although there were a few functions I found fault with, the Nikon Coolpix S4300 has key features like a 16 megapixel image censor, 6x optical zoom and touchscreen capability that make it well worth its already budget-friendly and affordable price.

The Nikon CoolPix S4300 Key Features:
  • 16MP High Resolution CCD Sensor
  • 6x Wide-Angle 26-156mm (Equiv) Zoom Lens
  • 3" Touch Screen LCD Display
  • 720p HD Video
  • Optical VR Image Stabilization
  • Sensitivity Up to 3200 ISO
  • 20 Scene Modes Inc. Scene Auto Selector
  • Subject Tracking AF for Moving Subjects
  • Smart Portrait System with Smile Timer
  • Macro Shooting as Close as 2"

You can view the Nikon Coolpix S4300 Product Tour Video for more information.

For pricing and availability, visit our Nikon CoolPix S4300 product page or visit our H and B Digital storefront location in Manhattan, NYC.

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