S800c_24

Nikon Coolpix S800c Review

When Nikon announced the S800c, an Android based compact camera, it really surprised a lot of people. Nikon is traditionally a camera and optics company and has never made any smartphones. So not a lot of people are expecting to see this kind of product from Nikon. But there were also concerns about whether Nikon can make the S800c a decent product or will it be slow, buggy and hard to use?

Now we finally get our hands on a production S800c, and we have been taking photos and playing since last week, and here comes our thoughts about this new smart camera.

The S800c looks just like a typical compact camera, it’s pretty small, thin and light. It has a 10x optical zoom lens at the front, that hides inside the camera when the camera is off. And at the back, there is a pretty large 3.5″ OLED touchscreen that takes up almost the whole back side. While it’s not a super high resolution screen like some of the latest smartphone, the 3.5″ OLED screen is pretty bright and easy to view.

The touch screen responses quickly. Menus response quickly and accurately, gesture controls like pitch to zoom..etc are very responsive. You can setup the camera so if you tap your finger on the screen it’ll do a AF/AE lock.  Unfortunately, the tap to focus autofocus  area does not cover the whole screen, it’s a square area that covers approx 80% of the screen. This is actually pretty common for most of the compact cameras and I don’t think this is a problem for most users to be honest, but it’s more obvious now because of the touch screen tap to focus user interface.

Nikon is obviously targeting the S800c to the consumer market, and they give you limited control over the camera settings. There is no aperture, shutter or manual mode, instead you have a few different Auto and Scene modes. Fortunately the auto/scene modes do pretty good job and creates good quality photos most of the time. I was a bit frustrated when I tried to take some slow speed panning shots as i couldn’t really find a mode that allows me to capture the image I want. Eventually I managed to capture a few shots I like but then think again, I’m probably asking a bit too much from this little compact camera as otherwise the S800c handles most everyday photos pretty well.
The camera can capture at 8.1fps at full resolution and there are some other continuous shooting modes like BSS (Best Shot Selector), 120 fps capture (at VGA resolution), Multi-shot 16..etc. It can also do video at various resolution/speed up to 1080P30.

While the camera is quite compact and can fits inside your pocket easily and no you don’t need to wear pants with oversized pockets, it still packs a 10x optical zoom inside the body (25-250mm 35mm equivalent) which gives you a lot of versatility for different kind of photos. The aperture isn’t specially fast at f/3.2-5.8 but is pretty normal for a 10x zoom lens.


10x optical zoom in a compact body

The image from the compact 10x zoom lens is really not bad at all. While some of the photos can be sometimes a bit soft with a bit of light bloom, it normally only happens when you shooting some very high contrast scenes. Most of the time the photo is sharp and nice. VR works quite well and allow you to get a sharp photo of static objects at slow shutter speed.

While the s800c look like a typical point and shoot compact camera,  once you get out of the normal shooting screen, you’ll find there is a big big world out there. If you have an Android device, you should feel pretty much at home as you’ll find the full Android OS there. If you haven’t use an Android device before, then it might be a bit confusing at the beginning. But as long as you are a semi tech-savvy person, then you should be able to figure out how to setup and use most of the features within a day or two. If you don’t know what facebook or wifi and what is an “app”, then frankly i think  you are looking at the wrong camera. A “normal” camera like the Coolpix S6400 would be a much better choice for you.


Hello World!

 

Now if you have a smartphone, which you should already have if you are interested in this camera, you’ll know it take at least 10-20 seconds for a smartphone to boot up from power off. While this is okay for a phone, as you normally only power it on once a day, no one wants a camera that takes 20 seconds to start up. And we can’t really keep the camera on standby mode all the time as otherwise we have to  recharge the camera every night no matter we use it or not.  So what Nikon did is they created a  hybrid on/off mode for the S800c. If you the camera is completely turned off, and you press the power button, the camera will switch on within a second or so, just like most compact camera. And you can start taking photos quickly. At the same time, the camera’s Android OS will start booting up in the background and it will take another 15 seconds for the android OS to boot up completely. Once the Android OS is completely boot up and ready, you can access all the other features  like using your apps, checking email, or access the advance camera settings.  This may seem a bit strange initially but it is a compromise you have to make when your camera have a heavyweight (for a camera at least) operating system and you don’t want to attach a heavyweight battery  to it.

While it’s not running the latest Android, S800c’s 2.3 Gingerbread is still the most popular Android version and you can download and run most of the apps from Google Play.

You can install all those photo apps like Instagram, Camera+, flickr onto the S800c. And you can also install Facebook and other social networking apps too to share your photos from the S800c immediately. You can either use the camera directly from within the apps like Instagram or Facebook, or you can take the photo first, then access the photos from your app. Whatever way you prefer. Someone may ask why you need a S800c while you can do all this with a smartphone. I doubt any smartphones out there will give you the same level of image quality and a 10x optical zoom lens. And the S800c’s price is less than half of any top end smartphones. By the way, Instagram seems to run a lot smoother and faster with the S800c than a iPhone 4 or even 4S.

Instagram works fast and smooth
 
Since the camera has built-in GPS, the photos you took will be geo-tagged automatically, this is awesome for those of you who do travel a lot.




Browsing facebook with the S800c

 

Of course you can also install other normal apps or games. Angry Birds runs pretty smooth on the s800c, just make sure you don’t use up all the battery playing Angry birds.


Now you can play Angry Birds on your camera!

 


With a built-in GPS, you can use the S800c as a GPS navigation device too

 

Speak about the battery, this is probably the biggest weakness of the S800c. S800c’s EN-EL12 battery is the same battery used by a lot other compact cameras like the AW100. While it’s 1050mah battery give you decent battery life when used on the other compact cameras, the Android powered S800c can drain the battery very quickly, depends on how you use the camera.
During the review, I took the fully charged camera with me for a walk.  The battery lasted about 1 hour 45 minutes and I took about 150 photos then it went completely flat.  I did turn on both the wifi and GPS. And the camera (and it’s 3.5″ LCD screen) was mostly ON during the walk as i was taking photos, reviewing them and playing with the different features.  So if you don’t turn everything on and keep everything running, the battery can probably last you a full day, but if you are a heavy user , be warned the battery won’t last too long.
But to be fair, a lot of  compact cameras are not really much better than the S800c. I have 3 batteries for my Fujifilm x10 because I can easily go through all of them in one single day.  And my x10 has a smaller screen, doesn’t have wifi, GPS and no Android running in the background. But anyway, at least the battery are not internal like some of the smartphone that you can’t replace easily, so if you like to take a lot of photos (or play a lot of Angry birds), make sure you buy one or two spare batteries. The battery can be charged using the supplied USB cable, so maybe you can use your laptop or those portable USB charging device to help extend your S800c’s battery life a bit while you are on the road.


Battery life is not really the strongest point of this camera.

 

When I was reviewing the camera, most of the time I turned on my phone’s hotspot function and get the  S800c to connect to it and then I just upload photos to the internet directly from the S800c using one of the apps. But there is another way to connect the S800c to the world.

You can  install the Nikon S800c app on your smartphone (available free in both iOS and Android version) then you can pair the S800c with your smartphone and  grab the photos from your S800c to your smartphone.  It’s quite easy to do and you just need to follow a few easy steps. But it did take me a little while to figure out how to get it going.  Ok I’m lying,  I actually thought the phone was faulty and went back to Nikon NZ and their product manager Ken showed me how to do it (Thanks Ken!) It’s actually quite a easy process to connect your phone to the S800c, so if you are stuck, just READ THE INSTRUCTIONS carefully!


Pairing the S800c and your smartphone is actually quite easy… as long as you try to read the on screen instructions.

When you use the S800c this way, you can browse the photo previews from your smartphone and download the photos your want to your smartphone. The photo transfer works quite smooth and fast consider the photos are 16MP each.   There is just one little annoying thing, after you transferred the high resolution photo from the S800c to your phone, you actually have to switch to your smartphone’s photo gallery app to see the full size photo. This is purely a software limitation so maybe Nikon can update the S800c app in the future and allow user to see the full size photo inside their app directly.

While I personally prefer to just upload the photos directly from the S800c to the internet, there are still some good reasons to use the S800c this way. For example, when you are out with your friends or family and someone has an iPad or an Android tablet, you can immediately download your photos from the S800c and view the photos on the tablet’s much bigger screen with your friends, even when you are at place there is no internet access. You can also do a batch photo backup a lot quicker in this mode.

It’s great Nikon gives us different options to suit different needs.

 

 

 

Conclusions


As a wedding photographer myself, one of the most usual question I got asked these days is when can they see the wedding photos on facebook. While it’s unlikely I’ll be using a S800c to shoot any weddings, it tells you for a lot of people facebook album, Instagram photostream is getting more and more important and become a very important part of our life. Nikon understands it and that’s why Nikon went outside of their comfort zone and made this S800c, a camera that allows you to upload photo and interact with the internet easily. While the s800c is not perfect and there are a few things I hope it can do better (like battery life), overall I’m still quite impressed. It takes good photos, is small, light, fast and responsive and give users many ways to share their photos with their friends and family. It is a brave move as smart device is a completely alien territory to Nikon but I’m really glad Nikon made such a move instead of just doing things they are traditionally good at.

This is the first smart camera from Nikon, and it definitely won’t be the last. Combining the power of the Android OS, apps, a good quality photo/video camera and internet connectivity, the potential is really unlimited.

So what will we see from Nikon in the future? Maybe a Nikon 1 mirrorless smart camera? What about DSLR?  Maybe wedding photographers can shoot, do a quick edit and upload photos to facebook and tag people from their DSLR during a wedding? And what about the Android app developers? Maybe we will see some exciting photo app that can take advantage of the much better camera on S800c and other future models?  I guess we just have to wait and see, but for now the Nikon S800c already allows you to do a lot of things that traditional cameras can’t do.

 

 

Pros
– Small and compact size, fits easily inside your pocket while still have a 10x optical zoom lens
– Large and responsive touch screen.
– Thousands of existing apps you can download and install onto the camera
– Built-in GPS
– Edit/upload photo easily using one of the photo apps or social networking apps through your smartphone or any wifi
– Hybrid power on/off mode allow user to turn on and shoot quickly
– Fast continuous shooting speed (8.1fps full resolution or even faster at lower resolution)

Cons
– Poor Battery Life
– Not the latest version of Android
– The S800c iOS/Android app requires you to go to the phone’s photo gallery to view the full size photo after download.
 

Sample Photos
(Nikon S800c, all photos are unedited JPG straight from camera, click to see larger version)


f/4.8 1/1000s ISO 125
 


f/3.2 1/640s ISO 125
 


f/5.8 1/30s ISO 140
 


f/4.5 1/400s ISO 125
 


f/4.3 1/100s ISO 125
 


f/5.0 1/13s ISO 800
 


f/3.2 1/1600s ISO 125
 


f/4.7 1/125s ISO 125


f/3.2 1/1000s ISO 125
 


f/3.5 1/1000s ISO 125
 


f/4.0 1.0s ISO 125
 


f/5.8 1/320 ISO 125
 


Multishot f/5.8 1/640 ISO 125
 


f/5.2 1/80s ISO 200
 


f/6.4 1/500s ISO 125
 

For more information and specification of the camera, please visit Nikon New Zealand’s website:
http://www.nikon.co.nz/productitem.php?pid=1523-b76abc0297

NikonJin is also on Facebook now, here is our FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/NikonJin

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

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