If you're looking for a good, inexpensive point-and-shoot to take to the beach or for a dip in the pool, the Nikon Coolpix S30 is it. Nikon stripped down the shooting options and the interface to make the camera simple for the whole family to use.
Powered by AA batteries, the S30 is basically ready when you are. It can survive for up to 60 minutes underwater to depths of 9.8 feet and can survive minor drops. I wouldn't necessarily call it rugged, but it'll certainly handle more abuse than a regular $120 compact camera.
However, its photo quality and shooting performance are those of an inexpensive camera: it's slow and turns out above-average photos and 720p HD movie clips, but needs lots of light to do so. And, again, the S30 is a very basic camera. If you're after more than just automatic snapshots for sharing online, this isn't the one you want.
|Key specs||Nikon Coolpix S30|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.1x2.6x1.6 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||7.6 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||10 megapixels, 1/3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||3x, f3.3-5.9, 29-87mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||3,648x2,736 pixels / 1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||AA (2, alkaline included), 240 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No|
|Bundled software||ViewNX 2 (Windows, Mac)|
The S30's photos are good, basically on par with a decent camera phone. Give it plenty of light and you'll get good-quality snapshots. Given that this camera is designed for outdoor use, that's not such an unreasonable restriction. However, I would not recommend it if you need a camera that performs well in low light. Above ISO 200 there's a significant increase in noise and softness and, unfortunately, it's these higher sensitivities that are needed for indoor and low-light shots. The less light you have, the more noise and softness you get. Again, for shooting in bright, outdoor lighting, the S30 is good, but I wouldn't get it for regular indoor use.
Colors are bright and pleasing from the S30 when shooting outdoors in good lighting. However, Nikon does include simple sliders if you want to adjust brightness, vividness, and hue. It's an extra bit of control I wasn't expecting to find on such a simple camera. (Read more about the S30's photo quality in the sample photo slideshow.)
Video quality -- both in and out of water -- is good enough for Web use. You get quite a bit of noise and artifacts, but at small sizes the results look fine. The zoom lens does not function while recording; there is also a digital zoom, but it gives unpleasant results.
|General shooting options||Nikon Coolpix S30|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto (80-1600)|
|Recording modes||Auto, Close Up, Fireworks, Food, Underwater, Highlight Color, Soft, Diorama, Continuous|
|Focus modes||Center, Face priority (auto)|
|Macro||2 inches (Wide)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center|
|Color effects||Hue, Vividness controls|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||4 shots|
You will not find a lot of fancy shooting options or a lot of control over results with the S30; it's just not that kind of camera. It's made for point-and-shoot use and while there are a few extra shooting modes beyond its auto mode (labeled "Point and shoot" in the camera), they're all basics. That's not a criticism, since in this case it's better that Nikon limited settings and functions.
Nikon did include a few effects to make those fun summertime shots by the pool a little more interesting, including a miniature/tilt-shift mode and an adjustable soft filter. These and more can be added after you shoot, too, in the playback menu.