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The run up to Christmas is always a busy time in the digital camera market and Nikon has been busier than most, launching five new compact cameras within the last couple of months. Nikon has three distinct lines of compact cameras, the ‘L’ series for Life, the ‘P’ series for Performance, and the ‘S’ series for Style. I reviewed the swivel-bodied S10 last week and although it was indeed very stylish, I was somewhat disappointed by its handling and performance.
This week I’ve got another of the S series, the S7c, an ultra-slim 7.1 megapixel model featuring a huge 3in LCD monitor, 1,600 ISO maximum sensitivity, face detection technology, electronic vibration reduction and Wi-Fi connectivity. It was launched in September with a recommended price of £299.99, which is rather expensive for a 7MP 3x zoom compact, however it is available online for £237. Which is still rather expensive for a 7MP 3x zoom compact.
Compare it with the Casio EX-Z70 (£180), the Kodak V705 (£220), the Olympus mju 700 (£163), the Pentax Optio T20 (£199), the Samsung NV3 (£173) or the Sony DSC-T10 (£216). To be fair there are one or two more expensive 7 megapixel 3x zoom cameras, such as the Canon IXUS i7 or the hilariously overpriced Sony DSC-T50, but it’s a very short list.
So what’s it got that makes it worth the money? Well it’s certainly got style, and plenty of it. Like most Nikon cameras, the build quality is impeccable. The S7c has an all-metal body finished in an attractive matt black with chrome trim, and has a nicely understated design. The body has a wave-like shape, with a smooth curve running the length of the front panel and reprised on the left-hand trim. The camera is thinner towards the right hand end, although it flares out again right at the edge, obviously intended to provide a handgrip.
At its widest point the camera is just 21mm thick, making it one of the slimmest cameras on the market. Its other measurements are also diminutive, although thanks to the large screen it isn’t among the smallest available. Nonetheless it will slip unobtrusively into a shirt pocket or handbag, and weighing 140g dry it won’t rip through the lining.
Having a big screen on a small camera means there isn’t a lot of room on the rear panel for anything else and here we come to one of the S7c’s main problems. At the top right of the rear panel is something that is clearly supposed to be a thumb rest and it even has a little pattern of four raised dots to give it some grip, but it’s only 7mm wide. Unless you have a right thumb the width of a pencil it’s virtually useless. You have to grip the camera by the very edge, and it feels awkward and insecure. That pretty matt finish is quite slippery, and several times while I was testing only the wrist strap saved me from having to write a grovelling apology to Nikon for having dropped their camera.