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Nikon COOLPIX S80 Ken McMahon, December 2010
   
 

Nikon COOLPIX S80 verdict

The Nikon COOLPIX S80 is a 14 megapixel slim compact with a 5x stabilised optical zoom lens and a 3.5 inch OLED touch-screen.

Lauched in Sepetember 2010 it replaces the COOLPIX S70, adding 2 megapixels to the sensor resolution and substituting a 5x zoom with a 35mm equivalent wide angle in a slimmer redesigned body with no physical controls other than the shutter release and horizontally sliding front cover.

Now let's see how it measures-up against its two main rivals from Sony and Panasonic.

   
   

 

 

 

 

Compared to Sony Cyber-shot TX9

 
 
     
 

As far as appearance goes, the Nikon COOLPIX S80 and Sony Cyber-shot TX9 are very similar cameras. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Sony should be flattered by the fact that the COOLPIX shares almost the exact same dimensions (it's actually a millimetre thinner) and adopts the same sliding cover mechanism, though on the COOLPIX S80 it travels horizontally rather that vertically.

Once you get beyond appearances some key differences emerge. First, the COOLPIX has a 5X optical zoom, but with a range that starts at 35mm equivalent it lacks the Cyber-shot TX9's super-wide-angle coverage. We think the Sony's wide angle coverage is a lot more useful than a 175mm telephoto, but your view may differ. The COOLPIX S80 also has 2 more Megapixels on its CCD sensor but again it's a case of more not necessarily being better. Yes, you'll be able to make bigger prints, but, other than in our high ISO noise tests, where the COOLPIX S80 excelled, the Cyber-shot TX9 has the edge when it comes to overall image quality.

One other area in which the Cybershot TX9 has a clear advantage is video, with 1080i full HD at two quality settings and AVCHD and MP4 encoding to the COOLPIX S80's 720p MPEG-4 top quality video mode. It's CMOS sensor also provides it with fast burst shooting modes that the COOLPIX can't come anywhere near. The TX9 also exploits this speed for innovative modes which combine multiple frames to reduce noise or motion blur.

On a touch-screen camera the screen is obviously an important factor. Both models have a 3.5 inch screen with similar resolution and although they use different display technologies there's actually little to tell them apart in terms of viewing quality. Though the COOLPIX S80 has simplicity on its side, we prefer the layout of the Sony touch icons and menus and found the Sony's tactile feedback, or haptics to use the jargon, provided a smoother more natural experience. This is, of course, a very subjective area and we'd recommend you get to try out these touch screen models before buying.

With these two cameras very closely matched in terms of price you're going to have to decide which of these features matter most to you, but with excellent wide angle coverage, Full HD video and awesome burst shooting modes, the TX9 is looking like a tough one to beat. See our Sony Cyber-shot TX9 review for more details.

 

Compared to Panasonic LUMIX FX700

 
 
     
 

With its more conventional styling and cheaper price tag, the Panasonic Lumix FX700 looks less of a match for the COOLPIX S80 than the Cyber-shot TX9. What they have in common is a touch screen, though at 3 inches the FX700's is slighlty smaller, a 14 Megapixel sensor and a 5x stabilised optical zoom lens.

Like the Cyber-shot TX9, the Lumix FX700 has a wide angle worthy of the name - at 24mm equivalent it fits in substantially more than the COOLPIX S80's 35mm equivalent wide angle. Of course, at the other end of the scale the COOLPIX outreaches the Lumix FX700 with a 175mm equivalent telephoto compared with 120mm.

The Lumix FX700's CMOS sensor provides it with full HD 1080i HD resolution video as well as a choice of AVCHD and Motion JPEG encoding formats which means better quality video and more of it. And, like the Cyber-shot TX9 it puts the CMOS sensor's speed to good use with a variety of burst shooting modes. To cap it off, there's also more control over exposure for those who want it with PASM exposure modes.

Features aside there's one other area in which these two cameras differ significntly and that's handling. The COOLPIX offers exclusively screen-based touch control with a simple layout, the Lumix FX700 offers more sophisticated control options via a combination of screen-based and physical controls.

See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX700 review for more details.

 

Also consider: Canon IXUS 210 / PowerShot SD3500 IS - see our Canon IXUS 210 / SD3500 IS review.

 

Nikon COOLPIX S80 final verdict

The Nikon COOLPIX S80 marks an interesting move by Nikon to gain an edge in the touch screen market. Rather than pack the S80 with features and options Nikon has opted for style and simplicity. There's no question that the S80 is a beautifully designed object - every so often a camera comes along that you'd rather hold in your hand all day than slip into your pocket and the S80 is definitely one of those.

The COOLPIX S80 is a camera for people who appreciate good design and value simplicity and functionality. It doesn't offer as much choice when it comes to exposure modes, metering options, fast shooting or video as similarly priced models from competitors. It does, however, provide a capable easy Auto mode with image stabilisation, Scene detection, face detection AF, smile-activated operation and some control over settings in Auto mode with a good range of scene modes. And what it has is very accessible. Despite the lack of physical controls, or perhaps because of them, it's a very straighforward camera to operate. To sum up, the S80 looks and feels beautiful, is fun to use and produces great results. But there are other similarly priced touch-screen models that offer more in terms of features and control.

 



Good points
Big, bright, contrasty OLED screen.
Compact, stylish and functional design.
No physical controls.
Simple on-screen controls.

Bad points
Poor battery performance.
Modest 35mm maximum wide angle.
Modest 7cm macro distance.
Poor continuous shooting performance.



Scores

(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

18 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20
14 / 20
16 / 20

80%


   
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