Nikon COOLPIX S02: The Tiny Performer



The Nikon COOLPIX S02 is a pint-sized camera. But do looks deceive? Supriya Joshi finds out if this fashion statement also shoots good pictures.

The Nikon COOLPIX S02 is a tiny camera. No, really. If the compact cameras of the world got together for a hide-and-seek competition, the S02 would win continuously. With dimensions close to a credit card, the camera is indeed puny. But does puny mean paltry? Let’s find out.

A predecessor of 2012’s S01, the S02 replaces its 10MP CCD sensor with a 13MP CMOS sensor and features a 3x zoom lens (30–90mm in 35mm parlance).

The feature set of the S02 is pretty standard. There are five filters, called special effects, namely Mirror, Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, High key and Low key. Apart from this, there are three modes for Scene selection—Scene Auto Selector, Hand-held Night Scene and Backlit Scene HDR. One can record Full HD videos at 1080p at 30fps.

The camera operates on completely automatic settings. There is no provision for changing ISO, white balance, aperture or shutterspeed.

Even though the camera weighs about 100g, it doesn’t feel flimsy and has a robust feel. The camera body is coated with stainless steel and looks quite stylish. However, the lid which protects the HDMI slot at the bottom of the camera is very fragile and it doesn’t look like it will stand the test of time.

The camera design is quite minimalist, with all the buttons on the top of the camera and the back dominated by the touchscreen LCD screen. A Home button on the screen gives you access the Menu system where you can adjust the limited settings. However, you cannot make multiple changes in one shot, as once you change a setting; the camera goes right into shooting mode. Despite its tiny size, the SO2 sits quite comfortably in your hand. In fact, one handed operation is quite a breeze. The camera’s startup time is also quite quick, about 1.8sec.

Like the S01, the S02 has no memory card slot for an SD, or a microSD card. Instead, the images and videos are stored in 7GB of internal memory, which is more than enough, for the purpose this camera is for. However, images need to be transferred using a USB cable. But the cable is nonstandard. So, if you lose it, you won’t be able to find a replacement!

With no manual control, you are at the mercy of the camera when it came to making images. But, despite this, the images the camera produced were quite good. Across the ISO board, the image quality is quite usable. There was a certain amount of softening and noise reduction at higher ISOs. However, for the kind of camera this is, they are quite passable.

The camera dealt with chromatic aberrations quite well. The flash performance was strictly ok, as the intensity was quite harsh.

The videos recorded were simply superb, however, there is no optical zoom available during the recording. The movie mode allows you to choose between Single AF and Full Time AF, but this provision is not available while shooting still photographs.

The Mirror mode of the camera lets you make crazy reflection shots. Exposure: 1/500sec at f/4.7 (ISO 125). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

The Mirror mode of the camera lets you make crazy reflection shots. Exposure: 1/500sec at f/4.7 (ISO 125). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

The camera has its drawbacks. It is not a serious camera, nor is it trying to be one. So why are the scene modes and effects so limited? More importantly, the lack of WiFi is really jarring. The target audience for such kind of cameras places great emphasis on sharing images and the lack of connectivity in today’s day and age is disappointing. If the camera would have improved on both these fronts, it could have been a true cameraphone replacement.

It is important to note though that the S02 was part of Nikon’s recent price drop and is now priced at Rs. 5950. That’s an incredible deal for a camera that can shoot Full HD video, has a touchscreen and give decent quality. Its miniature size is only an advantage, as it may appeal to the fashion conscious, and does not hinder basic point-and-shoot operation.

Final Ratings
Five special effects, Full HD video, no WiFi

Decent image quality, great video

Build Quality
Slips easily into pocket, flimsy HDMI slot

Easy to use, touchscreen LCD

Warranty & Support
Widespread service network in India

Value For Money: 3.5/5

Who should buy it?
Beginners who are entering the world of photography and want something more than a phone.

This is a point-and-shoot camera at best, but it gets the job done. Besides a unique form factor, it is also priced very well. The Full HD video is only a bonus.

Tags: better photography, Compact camera review, coolpix s02 review, February 2014, nikon coolpix s02, nikon s02 price, nikon s02 review, small camera, Supriya Joshi