Nikon Coolpix S7c digital camera

Nikon’s latest seven-megapixel compact digital camera packs everything you’d expect to find in a top-of-the-line Nikon point-and-shoot. Offering a sturdy, slim design with a large LCD, excellent image quality, and basic point-and-shoot functionality, the S7c throws in one extra feature: the ability to e-mail photos directly from the camera via a WiFi connection from any open hot spot. What’s particularly impressive about the S7c’s e-mail capability is that it requires practically no setup or configuration.

Like Nikon’s other S-series cameras, the S7c is a gently curved metal slab with a completely internal zoom lens. It has a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 35-105mm. The camera’s small size and thin design helps it fit easily into any pocket. It comes in glossy silver or matte black.

Feature rich, easy to use

On the back of the camera, you’ll find a few simple controls and a beautiful 3-inch LCD screen. To save space, Nikon has moved several connectivity options into an external docking station. If you want to transfer images to your computer, or plug the camera into a TV, you’ll first have to dock the camera. However, you can charge the camera in or out of the dock, meaning you don’t have to travel with the dock if you don’t want to. The camera has 14MB of internal memory and uses a Secure Digital card.

In terms of features, the S7c includes everything you’d want in a point-and-shoot. Exposure compensation, pre-programmed scene modes, macro mode, self-timer, adjustable ISOs, and flash control. The S7c has no priority or manual modes, but the scene modes and exposure compensation should provide plenty of control for day-to-day shooting. For quick snapshots, the camera includes an excellent face recognition technology for ensuring sharp focus on people. In-camera red-eye removal saves you a step in post-production when you’re shooting with a flash.

The S7c offers an electronic vibration reduction mechanism that uses a combination of in-camera sharpening and best-shot-selection to try to reduce blur in your images. These features work okay, but they’re no substitute for an optical stabilization mechanism, which many point-and-shoot cameras have.

Nikon’s D-Lighting feature also deserves a mention. This post-processing function can greatly improve dark shadows in your image. The brightening looks very natural and noise is well contained.

All of the camera’s features are easily accessible and configurable thanks to the spinning control wheel that makes short work of selecting menu items and options.

Wireless e-mail

When you’re ready to e-mail an image, you use the camera’s Mode menu to select the Wireless LAN option. The camera then searches for any networks in the area and provides you with a list--the same one you’d see on the Airport menu on your Mac. You select a network, and then select the images you want to mail. The Coolpix S7c offers three sizes: a high-res version for photo printing, a PC Size for viewing on-screen, and TV Size for viewing on an NTSC TV (the standard video signal for analog TV). Select the size you want, and the camera will automatically resize the image before mailing.

Finally, you choose an e-mail address. The camera provides a slow but simple method for entering e-mail addresses: Spin the wheel to select the letter you want, then press a button to confirm. Fortunately, the camera maintains an address book of all of the addresses you’ve entered, so you only have to enter them once. It would be really nice if the camera let you import vCards via the WiFi connection, but it offers no import or export facility. However, you usually need to enter only a few addresses, and I found this was easy enough to do while killing time on the subway.

You can select as many addresses as you want. There’s no mail server configuration or other settings. Instead, the camera uploads the image to a special Coolpix Connect server, which then generates and sends the e-mail. The recipient’s mail contains a thumbnail link to a Web page that allows them to view a slideshow of the images, download the images, or send you a thank you note. The images are kept on the Coolpix Connect server for two weeks. Ideally, it might be nice to use your own mail server, but trying to configure the settings using the camera’s limited text entry would quickly become tiresome.

Using the included software, you can also use the WiFi connection to transfer images to your Mac, or to print to a wireless-capable printer. The WiFi feature does have one rough spot: it’s very easy to get trapped in the WiFi menu. Getting back to shooting or playback mode can take some trial and error.

Surprisingly, heavy WiFi use has little impact on the S7c’s battery life. The camera’s tiny battery is rated at 200 pictures per charge. I used the camera heavily for a few days, and did a lot of e-mailing, and was very surprised at the camera’s long battery life.

While e-mail capability may not seem like a must-have feature for a point-and-shoot camera, once you start mailing pictures, you just might find it very addictive. If you already have a cell phone camera, the vastly superior quality of the S7c's images will make your cell phone camera seem almost laughable.

specifications

Resolution 7.1 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 35-105mm; f/2.8-5.0
Battery Type Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
Media Slots Secure Digital card and internal memory (14MB)
Size (wxhxd) 4.0x2.4x0.8 inches
Weight 4.9 oz. without battery and memory card

Macworld’s buying advice

If you’re looking for a full-featured, take anywhere, point-and-shoot camera that delivers excellent image quality, the Nikon Coolpix S7c is a great choice. Its ease of use and convenient WiFi features add great value to an already fine camera.

[ Ben Long is the author of Complete Digital Photography, 3rd Edition (Charles River Books, 2004). ]

Nikon Coolpix S7c

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