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Nikon Coolpix S710

Advanced 14.5 megapixel Coolpix pushes the limits
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Nikon introduced the Coolpix S710 as part of its Fall 2008 lineup. With this camera Nikon pushes the resolution limit available in inexpensive consumer cameras even farther. You now get 14.5 megapixel, a number almost unimaginable just a few years ago. Not so long ago the industry appeared to have settled on 3.2 megapixel and imaging experts marveled how close that already was to film. Experts state that a mediocre film image can have the equivalnt of as little as four megapixel and really excellent 35mm one up to 20 megapixel. 14.5 megapixel is therefore getting very close to the best 35mm film can produce although, of course, resolution isn't everything. Still, this is an amazing accomplishment.

Is the S710 only about high resolution?

The 14.5 megapixel are certainly the main attraction of the Coolpix S710. 14.5 megapixel is 4352 x 3264 pixels. If you assume you need about 200 pixels per inch for a decent quality print, you can easily get a 16 x 20 inch enlagement. You can crop half the picture away and still have a 7-megapixel image. It's amazing.

However, the S710 is not a one-trick pony. Compared to the 12.1 megapixel Coolpix S700 it replaces, the S710 offers a bit more in almost every respect:

You get a 3.6X zoom instead of just a standard 3X. It has a 28-101mm 35mm-equivalent focal length, so it starts wide and then goes up to about where a standard 3X zoom ends. This way you can fit more into the picture for group shots or indoor pictures, and still zoom in.

Unlike the majority of point & shoot consumer cameras (and unlike the S700), the S710 does not only have automatic and scene modes, but also Program, Aperture, Shutter, and Manual Exposure Modes that allow you to have complete control over the kind of pictures you wish to take.

As far as sensitivity goes, the S710 can go up to an insanely high ISO 12,800. There are some limitations here, like you're limited to 3-megapixel shots or lower at that maximum ISO level, but the super-high sensitivity opens up new opportunities for taking low-light images without flash. High sensitivity auto gain up to ISO 3200 is available even at full resolution.

Nice features

Digital camera vendors are engaged in a never-ending quest to meet and trump the competition with more and better features, and better value. The S710 clearly benefits from this arms race.

There is, for example, a display that is larger than that of the S700 predecessor. The 710's measures a full 3.0 inches diagonally and its total of 230,000 pixel make for a very sharp display that is a pleasure to use and makes it easy to see if pictures are blurred or not. Nikon also seeks the best possible outdoor and sunlight viewability with special anti-reflective coating. In addition, Nikon claims a very wide viewing angle of 160 degrees, which means pictures can be viewed at just about any angle.

The likelihood of blurred pictures is reduced via lens-shift style optical VR Image Stabilization that minimizes the effect of camera shake. This is enabled or disabled in the Setup menu. If it is enabled, the lens-shift optical technology that detects horizontal and vertical shift and tries to compensate for movements perpendicular to the direction of the panning.

A feature that's new to the COOLPIX line is a Scene Auto Selector Mode that automatically decides which is the right scene mode for an image, sort of extending automatic point & shoot capabilities. You can, of course, pick the modes yourself. There are 16 all in all: Food, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Panorama Assist, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy or Back Light. 

Like other 2007 and 2008 Coolpix cameras, the S710 incorporates a series of "Nikon In-Camera Innovations." They include In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, D-Lighting, and Face Priority AF. In-Camera Red-Eye Fix automatically detects and corrects red eye, a common condition that happens when you use the flash. In playback mode, D-Lighting compensates for excessive back-light or insufficient flash in images. What happens with D-Lighting is that the camera software creates a copy of a picture with enhanced brightness and contrast where it tries to boost dark and underexposed areas.

Face recognition, or "face priority," has been a must-have feature for virtually every consumer camera introduced since 2007 and the Coolpix S710 is no exception. The camera offers a "Face Priority" mode that makes sure the camera exposes faces properly. What that means is that the camera has the ability too find a face in a picture and then make sure that it is in focus and properly exposed. With the S710, you know face priority works when a double border around the face glows green. In playback mode, the camera can automatically zoom in on the face in a picture shot in face priority mode.

The S710 also has a "Smile Mode" that automatically triggers the shutter when a subject is smiling, and also "Blink Warning," which displays a message when it thinks that a subject has blinked.

The rotary multi selector

Like some of the earlier "Style" models, the S710 has a "rotary multi selector" that combines the functions of a mode dial and a navigation disc into an unmarked multi-function selector disc/ring. This requires a bit of getting used to.

You can use the multi selector ring like a standard navigation disc. You can also use it to toggle through flash, self timer, exposure compensation and macro mode settings by pressing down on its four sides. And to select various options you can rotate it like a mode dial to select various options both in record and playback mode. Sometimes an onscreen representation of the multi selector appears on the LCD, providing labels so you can rotate until you get to the selection you want. The multi selector works well, it's just that it is a bit different from what most digital photographers are used do. The illustration below is from a Style-series manual and shows how the selector works when the camera is in recording mode.

In terms of shooting modes, those are selected via an onscreen dial.


The Coolpix S710 is an elegant, small and handy camera that emphasizes style and offers plenty of technology. It has spectacular 14.5 megapixel resolution and comes in a very elegant brushed aluminum housing available in Graphite Black, Deep Red and Brilliant Silver. It's small enough to fit anywhere, yet has a very large and razor-sharp 3.0-inch LCD that remains quite readable outdoors thanks to an anti-reflection coating. The design is clean and uncluttered, though the somewhat unusual multi selector ring requires a bit of getting used to.

The S710 is a speedy point & shooter that also offers full P/S/A/M manual control. It offers full voice recording, VGA movies with sound and even time-lapse movies. Active image sensor vibration reduction eliminates most blur when you zoom. Movies use a separate electronic blur reduction mode. It also includes a slew of Nikon's in-camera goodies and technologies, including very fast face-priority shooting, face zoom-in during playback, automatic red-eye fix and automatic scene selection. At US$379, the S710 is not inexpensive, but it offers more than its S700 predecessaor in every respect, at the same price.

We like:

  • 14.5 megapixel resolution!
  • Terrific hi-res 3.0 inch screen
  • 3.6X optical zoom that starts wide
  • Elegant metallic design
  • Optical lens-shift image stabilization
  • Up to ISO 12,800!
  • Fast face recognition mode with smile and blink detection
  • Voice recording
Not so much:
  • No optical zoom during movies
  • Costly
Specifications Nikon Coolpix S710
Status Added 08/2008
Camera Type Ultra-Compact
Size 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.0
Weight (oz.) 5.5 without batteries
Colors Graphite Black, Deep Red, Brilliant Silver
Effective Pixels 14.5 mp
CCD Type 1/1.72
Max pixel size 4352 x 3264
File formats JPEG, WAV, AVI
Compression fine, normal, basic
Movie recording (best) til full, with audio
Max movie pixels "High Quality TV Movies with Sound" til full
Voice recording til ful + voice clips up to 20 seconds
Lens 7 elements, 6 groups
Focal length 6.0-21.6mm (28-101mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3.6X/??
Image stabilization Optical (Lens shift)
Aperture f/2.8 - f/5.6
Focus modes auto, center, manual, and AF-assist illuminator
Focus minimum/macro 1.8 feet, 4 inches
Face Priority Yes, up to 12 faces; smile and blink detection
Shutter speed
Sensitivity (ISO) auto;100 to 12,800
Autofocus system Contrast-detect AF
Metering 224-segment matrix center-weighted
White-balance modes auto/6 presets (manual, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, flash)
Shooting modes P/S/A/M; auto; 16 modes (Food, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Panorama Assist, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy or Back Light)
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 3.0" LCD (230k) wide-viewing angle touch screen
LCD type outdoor viewable, anti-reflection coating
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 19.7 feet
Flash modes 5 (auto, red-eye, off, fill, slow sync, red-eye + slow sync, rear sync)
Camera internal memory 42MB
Storage Medium SD/SDHC Card
I/O High-speed USB
Battery type EN-EL12 Li-Ion pack
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 250 images
List Price US$379.95

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