The Nikon Coolpix S4300 is a style-driven 16MP compact that sits within the middle of the expansive Nikon Coolpix range and retails for around £100. Given the low price and the ubiquitous styling it’s tempting to assume that the S4300 is just another middle-of-the-road pocket compact. Closer inspection, however, reveals an eye-catching feature set that could make cameras costing twice as much blush.
It’s not so much the 8x optical zoom or even the generous range of built-in digital filter effects that mark it out; instead, the S4300’s star turn is its 3in, 460k-dot touchscreen. Normally you would expect to pay a premium for the extra functionality of having a touchscreen, and it’s certainly rare to see one on a camera costing less than £100.
In the past we’ve reviewed the Samsung MV800 (£100) and the Panasonic Lumix FS37 (£140), both of which fall within a similar price bracket, however most touch-screen compacts tend to cost closer to £200 than £100. So, can the Coolpix S4300 deliver on this early promise, or does it fall short in other areas? Let’s take a closer look and find out.
The S4300 is built around 1/2.3in CCD sensor that produces 16MP of effective resolution. In addition to the full 16MP, the camera can also be set to record at 8MP, 4MP, 2MP and VGA quality in the default 4:3 aspect, or at 14MP in a 16:9 widescreen aspect. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 – 1600 in standard mode, with an expanded setting of ISO 3200 that records images at a maximum 4MP.
The front of the S4300 is equipped with a 6x optical zoom that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 26-156mm. Maximum apertures are a little on the slow side though, with f/3.5 available at 26mm, rising to f/6.5 at 156mm. The lens does however benefit from Nikon’s proprietary Vibration Reduction anti-blurring technology, which helps to keep images (and movies) sharp at extended telephoto settings and slower shutter speeds.
While all of the S4300’s exposure modes are of the fully automatic variety, it nonetheless offers some useful shooting modes for hassle-free image taking. For basic point-and-shoot duties the S4300 offers the choice between an automatic Scene selection mode, and 20 individually selectable Scene modes. In addition, the S4300 also offers six Special Effects modes (Soft, High key, Low key, Nostalgic sepia, Selective color, and High-contrast monochrome) alongside seven Digital Filter effects (Fish-eye, Miniature, Selective color, Soft, Cross-screen, Colour and Painting).
If you expect the bulk of your image taking to be of people rather than places then the S4300 comes equipped with Nikon’s Smart Portrait System, which makes it especially well suited to portraiture. The various functions on offer within this portrait specific mode include: Smile Timer, Blink Proof, Skin Softening and Red-Eye fix.
Given the budget nature of the S4300 it comes as little surprise to find that its movie recording capabilities are limited to a maximum quality level of 720p HD at 30fps, with no capacity to record the higher quality 1080p Full HD movies. Sound is recorded in mono, via a single microphone just below the lens.