The control interface is very simple, with just four buttons and a rotating D-pad, reflecting what is basically a very simple camera. Shooting modes are limited to program auto and scene mode, with 15 scene programs including all the usual suspects such as portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, beach/snow etcetera. The only mildly unusual ones are the night landscape and dusk/dawn settings. The main camera menu is wonderfully simple, with just image size/quality, white balance, ISO setting, AF area mode, drive mode (single, continuous, Best Shot Selector, Multi-shot 16 and interval timer), and a limited range of colour options. The only unusual setting is something called distortion control, which helps to counteract the barrel distortion often suffered by small compact camera zoom lenses.
Apart from its resolution, the main selling point of the S700 is its optical image stabilisation, which uses a floating element in the lens to counteract camera vibration at slow shutter speeds, reducing the blurring that this can cause. It is a very effective system, in fact one of the best I’ve tried on a digital compact. I found I was able to take blur-free shots at the wide angle setting at shutter speeds as low as 1/5th of a second, and 1/15th of a second at full telephoto. This is extremely helpful in low light conditions when you don’t want to use the flash, avoiding the problems of high ISO settings.
The other advanced feature is of course the face detection system. The various camera companies continue to improve this feature, and to be fair in the case of the S700 it does work reasonably well in good light, but it is still not terribly reliable unless the subjects are well-lit, looking straight at the camera and not moving around too much. As usual it doesn’t like large sunglasses, beards or darker skin tones. Another feature that is rather more useful is the D-lighting function, which helps to bring out shadow detail in high-contrast situations. It does work quite well, but it obviously can’t correct burned-out highlights, and it does produce some image noise when it brightens up the darker areas.