It seems that every technological gadget these days just has to have a touch-screen interface, and of course that includes digital cameras. While they may look very smart and high-tech, and there's little doubt that they can offer some advantages, touch-screens also have several disadvantages when used on cameras. So when I find myself reviewing Nikon's latest touch-screen camera, the CoolPix S230, you can bet I'm going to be taking a long hard look at that screen.
The CoolPix S230 is a new 10-megapixel ultra-compact with a 3x zoom lens, and that touch-screen monitor has a large 3-inch 230k screen. The camera has a strong and stylish all-metal body, and the fit and finish are up to Nikon's usual high standard. It is available in black, purple, blue, or the crimson red shown here. Currently selling for around £190 it is a rather expensive for what is essentially a pretty basic 3x zoom compact, but the touch-screen does add a number of fun and useful features that go at least part of the way toward justifying the price.
The camera has a bare minimum of external controls, consisting only of the on/off button, the shutter button with the zoom control as a rotary bezel around it, and two small buttons on the back for playback and shooting mode, including scene mode and movie mode. This leaves plenty of room to hold the camera, and there is a small but just-about functional thumb grip on the back.
Thanks to the current popularity of PDAs and Smartphone, touch-screen technology has improved considerably over the past few years, and the screen on the S230 does work very well. It is sensitive enough to respond to a fingertip, and the on-screen button points are quite wide and well-spaced out, so even for those of us with large hands will have little difficulty. There is a disadvantage however, and to be honest it's one that surprises me. The touch-sensitive surface of the monitor has a silvery sheen which is highly reflective, making it very difficult to see what's on the screen when outdoors in bright conditions. For a camera that relies so heavily upon the quality of its monitor this is obviously a fairly serious handicap, especially for anyone thinking of buying an S230 for their summer holiday snaps. I've seen this problem before on the much cheaper GE E1050TW, but I wouldn't have expected it from Nikon.