March 6, 2013

NIKON COOLPIX S4000


The Nikon Coolpix S4000 is a slim and stylish point-and-shoot camera on a budget that also happens to have a 3.0" touchscreen display on its back. Today we will find out how well it performs.

The S4000 has a very nice clean design. It is sold in five colors; red, silver, pink, plum and black. The body has a matte finish to it with glossy chrome at the top and sides.




On the front is the 12 megapixel wide angle lens with 4x optical zoom. On its top left is the flash and on the right is the focus assist lamp. The flash, thankfully, is away from the left edge, so you don't have to worry covering it accidentally with your finger while taking a picture. On the bottom right of the lens is the microphone for the video recorder. On the top is a recessed power button and the camera shutter button with the zoom ring around it.






On the back is the large touchscreen display taking most of the space. On its right is enough space left for you to rest your thumb and below it is the scene select button and the gallery mode key. The scene selector lets you choose between the multitude of scenes that the camera offers you, or you can select Auto mode. You can also select the video recording and smart portrait option from here. On the bottom is the battery and SD card slot under a flap and the 8-pin mini USB port.

Visually the camera is fairly attractive. It is also well built and slim, and light enough to be carried in your jeans pocket.

The S4000 is operated almost entirely through the touchscreen. As such you would expect the touchscreen response to be quite good, but unfortunately that is not the case. Nikon has used a resistive touchscreen that does not work well to inputs from fingers as one would expect. I had to then resort to using my finger nails, which served as a far more reliable input method. You can also use the provided stylus but then I prefer not have to have things dangling from my devices.
 



One annoyance I have with most touchscreen cameras is the unnecessarily large number of steps that you have to take to accomplish simple tasks such as changing a mode or setting or activating a feature. These things can easily be accomplished by a button or a switch on standard cameras, but on touchscreen cameras everything is relegated to the screen, which makes it a bit annoying. And if the screen is not particularly responsive, as in the case of the S4000, then it becomes even more infuriating. In the end touchscreen cameras just end up being gimmicky, which may only interest those who have little knowledge about cameras and photography.

The picture quality of the display is pretty decent. However, it could have been a bit brighter, as outdoors the display does tend to get washed out a bit. And since now the interface is touch operated it is even more important for you to see the content on the screen. It attracts a lot of fingerprints, which also affects its viewability outdoors, and the smudges on the screen make it hard to read. 

Now coming to the performance of the camera; the S4000 leaves a lot to be desired. First of all it isn't particularly fast. It takes 1.5 seconds to startup and 3.5 seconds to take the first shot. After that it takes almost 2.7 seconds from shot to shot without flash and almost 4 seconds with flash. The interface, however, is pretty snappy so no problems there. 



The image quality is disappointing. First of all the details are not very impressive. I am assuming this is because of an over zealous noise reduction algorithm, which ensures that the images are relatively noise free. I also noticed that the colors were a bit over the top in some of the shots, possibly to make them look more appealing, which is something that you usually find in inexpensive cameras.







By far the most annoying thing about this camera is the poor autofocus mechanism. It fails far too often to focus correctly on the subject. Most of the times it will just try to focus and just when you think it has finally got it right it will show a red square on the screen. The macro mode is pretty useless as well; the Nokia N900 managed to get closer to the subject with a proper focus than the S4000. The only way to get close to the subject and get a sharp focus is by selecting the close-up mode from the scene settings. This lets you get closer than in the macro mode, which is quite strange. Even then you cannot get too close. The S4000 does support touch to focus, which is handy when you just want to focus on one particular object. But you cannot guarantee that the camera will actually focus on that object, especially if it is close to the lens.

Low light photography is even bad. Most of the images came out blurry with poor details and high amount of noise. The focusing issue also cropped its ugly head once in a while and you would need to focus and refocus to get a green signal that the camera finally managed to get a proper focus. Even then the images did not look particularly sharp.

The S4000 has a 4x optical zoom. I did not notice any particular distortion at both the ends of the zoom. There was off-center some purple fringing though, which was noticeable when you see the images in 1:1 aspect ratio. The S4000 also records in 1280 x 720 at 30FPS. The video quality was pretty good though and I would rate the overall performance higher than what I got with still images. You get continuous autofocus while recording, but unfortunately optical zoom is not available for some reason.

The Nikon Coolpix S4000 is priced at Rs. 10,950 and comes with a free 4GB card and pouch. This is possibly the cheapest touchscreen camera you can buy today, which is not exactly a good thing though. As mentioned before, touchscreen cameras may be a novelty but in reality they can be quite a pain while shooting.

For every change in setting you have to make. you have to go to the screen and fiddle with the interface instead of just flicking some switch and getting done with it. What's more, the S4000 also fails to deliver in terms of image quality and image adjustment options. What you get then is a basic point-and-shoot camera that takes passable pictures and decent 720p videos. I would suggest you avoid this one, as there is not much to gain here.

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