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Nikon COOLPIX S3000 Ken McMahon, May 2010

Nikon COOLPIX S3000 verdict

The Nikon COOLPIX S3000 is a 12 Megapixel compact with a 4x optical zoom and 2.7in screen. It supercedes the COOLPIX S220, with a larger LCD panel, an additional 2 Megapixels on the earlier model's resolution and extending the zoom range, gratifyingly mostly at the wide angle end.

The COOLPIX S3000 is small, very light, nicely designed and avaialble in no fewer than six colours including the eye-watering magenta model we were given to review.

With fully automatic exposure control, manual ISO sensitivity setting, Scene recognition, face detection, AF tracking, smile detection and VGA resolution video, the S3000 will appeal to those for whom control isn't crucial, but image quality, good looks and value for money are.



Compared to Canon IXUS 105 / PowerShot SD1300 IS


Compared with the Canon IXUS 105 / SD1300 IS, the Nikon COOLPIX S3000 looks like extraordinarily good value for money, matching the more expensive camera pixel for pixel in image resolution, sporting the same size screen and offering a (more or less) equivalent zoom range. Even the size of the two cameras is near-identical, though the COOLPIX will feel considerably lighter in your pocket. And in our our outdoor image quality tests the COOLPIX actually outperformed the IXUS 105 / SD1300 IS. So, same package, better quality picture's, lower price, what's the catch?

Well if you take all your pictures in bright sunlight and don't really like to get to involved with manual settings, then there isn't one, the COOLPIX S3000 will serve you every bit as well as the IXUS 105 / SD1300 IS. It won't look as cool, but style comes at a price.

If, on the other hand, you want to take indoor pictures without flash and shoot at dusk, then the low light performace of the Canon is well worth the extra money. The COOLPIX lacks image stabilisation and its high ISO performance can't compare with the IXUS 105 / SD1300 IS. And, if your going to be changing the ISO sensitivity and other settings, the Canon menu system is much easier to use. It's also worth noting the screen on the Canon looks much better than the Nikon, being brighter, more vibrant and with a considerably broader viewing angle. So if stabilisation, a better screen, manual controls and superior low-light performance are important to you, it's worth spending the extra.

See our Canon IXUS 105 / PowerShot SD1300 IS review for more details.


Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W310


The Nikon COOLPIX S3000 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W310 are more closely matched than either are with the Canon IXUS 105 / SD1300 IS.

They compete closely on price, have the same headline specifications in terms of resolution, sensor size and zoom range, and both lack optical or sensor-shift image stabilization.

In terms of handling the Cyber-shot W310 is a slightly bigger, more solid camera and is better equipped for movie shooting with a dedicated movie mode switch. On quality though, the Sony camera couldn't match the COOLPIX S3000 either in our outdoor test or our high ISO noise test where it did particularly badly.

This might not be such an issue if the W310 had the specialist low-light Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur modes of more expensive models like the HX5 and TX7, but sadly it doesn't. A nice edge could have been the inclusion of Sony's Sweep Panorama, but that's also reserved for higher-end models, like the W350.

Ultimately it's not that the W310 is a bad camera, but in our view it's outclassed by the Nikon S3000 for roughly the same money. For a full report, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W310 review.


Nikon COOLPIX S3000 final verdict

The Nikon COOPIX S3000 is a quality point-and-shoot compact that will appeal to those who want a capable camera that offers some control over exposure (in the form of manual ISO sensitivity settings) but are more concerned about getting good quality pictures at an affordable price. To summarise its strengths, it takes excellent photos in good lighting conditions, has a very useable 4x optical zoom range with respectable 27mm equivalent wide angle coverage, and some great ease of use features including Scene recognition and face detection.

Its weaknesses are a lack of optical or sensor-shift image stabilisation and image quality that deteriorates markedly above 400 ISO. Put those two factors together and you have a compact ill-equipped for low light operation. In its defence, Nikon's Electronic VR feature, which post-processes images in the camera to remove blur seemed to work more effectively on the S3000 than other models we've tested, but it's still no substitute for proper image stabilisation.

Another major shortcoming is the macro focusing distance. The quoted close-focussing limit of 8cm is unimpressive, ruling the S3000 out for detailed close ups and serious macro photography.

Ultimately if better low-light performance is important to you, then you'll need to spend more on a model like Canon's IXUS 105 / SD1300 IS which sports image stabilisation and superior quality at high ISOs, not to mention a far nicer screen. But again if most of your shots are taken in bright conditions - or if you're happy with the output of our sample images in dimmer light - then the COOLPIX S3000 is a great choice for the money. Nikon has delivered another easy-to-use point-and-shoot compact which might be lacking the frills of its rival from Canon, but produces equally good images (in decent light) while crucially hitting a comfortably lower price point.


Good points
4x zoom with good wide angle coverage.
Excellent image quality.
Small, light, eye-catching design.

Bad points
No optical image stabilisation.
Poor quality at high ISO settings.
Narrow viewing angle on-screen.
Modest closest focusing distance.


(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:


18 / 20
17 / 20
15 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20


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