As I said, apart from its WiFi capabilities the S50c is a fairly simple camera, with a very limited set of features. Shooting modes are limited to automatic, high-ISO mode for low light shooting, video mode (VGA 30fps) and scene mode, which has 15 scene programs, including most common ones, such as portrait, landscape, sports, fireworks etc. In normal shooting mode menu options are limited to image size and quality, white balance, sensitivity, Best Shot Selector, a limited palette of colour options, and drive mode, which includes continuous shooting, 16-in-1 burst mode and an interval timer. The only other two noteworthy functions are the VR optical image stabilisations system, which provides a reliable 2-3 stops of extra stability at low shutter speeds, and the face detection system, which is useful for portrait shots.
For such a simple camera the S50c is surprisingly slow. It takes around four seconds to start up, which is a long time considering it has a non-extending lens. In continuous shooting mode it can manage approximately one shot a second with a decent memory card, but in single-shot mode the shot-to-shot cycle time is approximately four seconds a shot, which is much slower than most comparable compacts. The main reason for this, and to be honest I’m getting sick of saying this, is the bloody awful AF system that Nikon has for some reason decided to inflict on all of its compact cameras. Even in good light, with a high-contrast stationary subject and at medium range, the S50c took well over a second to focus, hunting backwards and forwards through the focal range at least twice. Zooming in slowed it down even more. In low light the focusing is helped by an AF assist lamp with a range of about three metres, but the focusing slows down even more still, taking as long as four or five seconds to focus.
Image quality was average at best, with image noise visible on shots even at the minimum of 100 ISO, and visible compression artefacts in pictures even at the maximum quality setting. While exposure was generally accurate, colour reproduction was a bit under-saturated and generally lacked contrast. The overall level of detail was also quite low for a 7MP camera, but while the lens wasn’t the sharpest Nikkor glass I’ve ever seen, it was at least consistent, providing reasonable sharpness from edge to edge, albeit with a lot of barrel distortion at the wide-angle end.
The CoolPix S50c is an attractive and well-made camera, and the WiFi capability is both useful and easy to use, but its sluggish performance, unimpressive picture quality and very slow AF system are major problems. Considering the price, unless you really want that wireless connectivity it’s a hard camera to recommend.
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