Having tried a few supposedly WiFi capable gadgets – including some cameras – in the past and found them to be about as user-friendly as a cornered rat, I was pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy setting up the S50c proved to be. It automatically detected my home wireless network, and after entering my WPA security key and my own email address it was ready to go. You can enter these details either via the supplied utility software or directly into the camera, but it has to be said that the latter option is a bit of a pain. The S50c has the usual compact camera controls, with a limited number of buttons and a D-pad. The pad rotates, enabling you to quickly scroll through letters, but it still took two attempts to enter my 16-digit WPA key. Entering a long email address would take a lot of patience, but thankfully you only have to enter it once. Email addresses can be stored on an internal address book.
The My Picturetown site is well designed, with the option to sort photos into folders or albums, share them via email or a Flikr account, view them as a slideshow or download them to a computer. However I found the uploading and especially the downloading process to be extremely slow. I have a fast 4Mb cable broadband internet connection and a high-speed 2.4Ghz 802.11g wireless router, but uploading just three pictures to the site took well over five minutes, and downloading the same three pictures from My Picturetown to my home PC took over 25 minutes, with a transfer speed that seldom exceeded 9kb/s and which frequently paused for several minutes. For comparison, I regularly get download speeds in excess of 400kb/s from other websites. The picture files themselves aren’t particularly huge, at around 2.6MB each, and are downloaded in Zip-compressed folders, so there’s really no excuse for this kind of performance. Uploading and downloading files this size should take seconds over a fast connection, not hours. If you were hoping to upload all your holiday snaps from the hotel bar, you’d better book an extra week off. I hope that this slow transfer speed is just a teething problem that will be ironed out soon, because it seriously limits the usefulness of the WiFi feature.
So much for the Web 2.0 stuff, what about the camera itself? Well it certainly looks the part, with a sleek and subtly curved shape and a smooth lacquered metallic finish. It measures 97.5 x 59 x 21 mm, making it one of the slimmer cameras on the shelf, and weighs only 125g, making it one of the lightest too. Despite this it feels solid and well made, and the overall build quality is well up to Nikon’s usual high standard. The large 3-inch, 230kp LCD monitor is sharp and bright enough for daylight use, but it does take up a lot of space on the back of a fairly small camera, and as a result the controls are small and cramped, making them fiddly to operate. The rotary D-pad is quick for data entry, but it turns very freely which can make menu navigation difficult. The other buttons are very small, especially the zoom control, which is a tiny rocker switch. The only really accessible control is the on/off button, which sits exposed at the apex of the curved top panel, and is very easy to turn on accidentally. One slightly annoying feature is that unlike most other Nikon compacts, the menu control is not “shooting-priority”. For most cameras, tapping the shutter button with instantly close any open menus and return the camera to shooting mode. With the S50c however you have to manually close the menu by pressing the menu button before you can shoot.