As a top-of-the-range model, the S710 has plenty of features. It has full auto, program auto, shutter and aperture priority and full manual exposure, as well as smile shutter, 16 scene mode programs, auto scene selection, sound recording and a video mode. However it does lack some other useful features, such as spot metering, an interval timer or any sort of adjustable colour control. The video mode is limited to 640 x 480 at 30fps, rather than the HD video capability of some of its rivals, and the digital zoom which is all that is available when shooting video is stepped and jerky.
The control layout is pretty straightforward, but the S710 is blessed/cursed with a rotary dial that also doubles as a D-pad. The rotary part of it is used for main mode selection, as well as adjusting exposure values in the manual modes, while it functions as a D-pad for menu navigation with secondary button functions for flash mode, self timer, macro mode and exposure compensation. I found this control to be quick and responsive, but also rather fiddly for my large fingers.
The camera features automatic red-eye correction; however this cannot be turned off. It also features Nikon’s D-Lighting function, which brightens shadows in high-contrast shots, but this can only be applied in playback mode after the picture has been taken, and does introduce a lot of image noise into the darker areas of treated pictures. The other playback mode options are much more limited than some other recent compacts, offering only a basic slideshow function, print tagging, rotation, copying or resizing to very low resolutions.
One unusual feature is the S710’s maximum sensitivity of 12,800 ISO. This is one of the highest ISO settings on any digital camera, and certainly unexpected on a 14.5MP camera, however it is limited to 3.0MP resolution. It could be useful when shooting in very low light with no flash, but the image quality at this setting is pretty terrible. I’ll come back to this later.
The S710 also features Nikon’s VR optical image stabilisation, and this does work very well. I was able to take shake-free shots at wide-angle at 1/10th of a second, and at full zoom at 1/25th of a second, which is very good.
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