It's probably fair to say that of the 12-megapixel compact cameras that I've reviewed so far, I haven't found many that I liked. Most have had distinctly sub-standard image quality, nearly all of them are are overpriced, and even the few relatively good ones are disappointing compared to similar lower-resolution models. It was with some surprise therefore that I found myself genuinely impressed by today's camera, the new Nikon Coolpix S700.
The S700 is currently the top-of-the-range model in Nikon's premium ultra-compact S (Style) series, and as one might expect it has an impressive specification. As well as its 12.1-megapixel 1/1.72-in. CCD it features an f/2.8 - f/5.4 3x zoom Nikkor lens (equivalent to 37-111mm) with optical image stabilisation, a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor with an anti reflective and scratch resistant acrylic coating, optional D-lighting in playback mode, face detection and 3200 ISO maximum sensitivity. One interesting point is that unlike most other digital cameras the megapixel rating doesn't appear anywhere on the body. Naturally all this technical cleverness doesn't come cheap, and the S700 is currently selling for around £200, which is expensive even compared to other 12-megapixel compacts. Obvious comparisons are the Fujifilm F50fd (£145), the Panasonic FX100 (£165) and the Sony W200 (£178), but even those don't match the Nikon's hefty asking price. The only comparable model that is more expensive is, unsurprisingly, the new Canon IXUS 960 IS, currently selling for around £246, although that camera also features a 3.7x zoom lens and a titanium body.
The body of the S700 is also all metal, but in this case it's aluminium. It is available in two different finishes, either the brushed-metal silver of my review camera or a very attractive darker gunmetal colour called, for some reason, Urban Black. The design is quite understated, in fact it looks almost plain, with a simple rectangular shape slightly bevelled towards the front. The only note of stylistic flair is the wedge-shaped array of buttons on the top panel. There is some sculpting on the back though, with a slightly curved indentation on the right-hand side providing a comfortable and convenient position for the thumb when shooting. The camera is very small and light, measuring 89 x 54 x 23 mm and weighing just 130g minus the battery.