Nikon Coolpix S3000 Review

The Nikon Coolpix S3000 is a 12-megapixel, ultra-compact camera.  The S3000 is quite a basic point and shoot camera that’s really just a step or so up from the bottom-end Nikon L22.  The S3000 has a decent 4x optical zoom, equivalent to a 27-108mm zoom range on a 35mm camera.

If you’re looking for cheap and thin in your digital camera, read on to see if the Nikon S3000 works for you.

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Key Features

  • 12MP
  • 4x Optical Zoom
  • 2.7″ LCD
  • VGA-Quality 640 x 480 Video Capture
  • ISO 80-3200

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Handling, Ergonomics and Control

The first thing you notice about the Nikon S3000 when you pick it up is just how thin that it is.  This is an incredibly compact digital camera – easily pocketable in just about any pocket.  It’s also slim on controls, which gives it a very basic feel.

On top of the S3000, you’ll only find a power button and a shutter release, which has a zoom rocker switch wrapped around it.  The zoom rocker is a welcomed touch on a $150 camera.  It’s intuitive for operation with the index finger, and works the zoom function smoothly.

The backside of the camera has a basic set of buttons for changing shooting modes, previewing images, along with menu access and navigation.  The circular 4-way button on the rear does dual duty as menu navigator and quick access during shooting to flash, self-timer, exposure compensation and macro settings.

For those with less-than-perfect vision, be warned that the buttons are labeled with icons that are actually etched into the surface, rather than printed on the button.  As a result, it is very difficult to see just what the buttons are for unless you angle the camera just right.  The brushed aluminum finish of the buttons is very pretty.  It’s just too bad that you can’t make out what function they serve.

Aside from the button label quirk, the menu navigation is smooth and intuitive.  Shooting modes are a little limited; however, you can still get a lot out of the camera if you dig around the menu a bit.  For instance, you can adjust ISO manually from ISO 80 to ISO 3200.  Likewise, you can set it to Auto ISO so that the camera does all the guesswork for you. You can even limit the sensitivity to a designated ISO range of ISO 80-400 or ISO 80-800, which is a feature formerly reserved to higher-end cameras.

While your main shooting mode is limited to fully automatic exposure, you can adjust the ISO manually, adjust exposure compensation and use a number of flash settings in the auto mode.  Aside from auto shooting, the S3000 has several scene selection modes to help users get the right shot in the right situation.  These scene modes include: Scene auto selector, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Beach/snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Copy, Backlight, and Panorama assist.

A Smart Portrait mode attempts to automate everything for good portraits with smiling subjects by looking for smiles and blinks, automatically fixing red-eye in camera, and smoothing skin tones.  Another dedicated mode, Subject Tracking, attempts to automatically track moving subjects in the frame and maintain focus.  This feature seems to work better in theory than in practice, as the typical point and shoot camera shutter response and contrast autofocus make action shots challenging at all but sufficiently fast shutter speeds.

The S3000 also records VGA-quality video, which, as you may know, chimes in at 640 x 480 resolution.  Optical zoom can’t be used when filming video.  You can frame your video with the zoom prior to when you start recording; however, once you hit that record button, the lens is locked in place.  Although, the S3000 allows you to use a 2x digital zoom when capturing video, which is at least something.

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Image Quality

The Nikon S3000 has typical mediocre image quality for a $150 camera.  You probably aren’t going to get a lot of great poster-sized prints out of this camera; however, it will serve its duty in a capable manner by producing decent 4 x 6 prints for the family album and small images for emailing, posting on Facebook, etc., which is what most people looking at a $150 compact point and shoot are after anyway.  This is a casual user’s camera, not for an enthusiast.

I would encourage you to stay away from high ISO settings though, which is possible since the S3000 allows you to limit the sensitivity in Auto ISO mode to ISO 80-400 or ISO 80-800.  If you can live with it, I would recommend sticking in the ISO 80-400 range on this camera, because things start getting pretty noisy around ISO 800.

Below are a handful of images captured with the Nikon S3000.  Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication).  You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”


27mm – ISO 80 – f/3.2 – 1/1250s


108mm – ISO 80 – f/5.9 – 1/400s


108mm – ISO 500 – f/5.9 – 1/60s


108mm – ISO 250 – f/5.9 – 1/60s


92mm – ISO 80 – f/5.4 – 1/640s


ISO 80


ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600


ISO 3200

Nikon Coolpix S3000 Accessories

Nikon EN-EL10 Battery – The Nikon Coolpix S3000 comes with one of these rechargeable lithium-ion batteries; however, if you’re going to be away from power for an extended period, you can pick up spares.

Memory cards – I’ve used the basic Kingston SD cards in the Nikon S3000, which worked just fine. No need to go all out on fast memory cards with the S3000. Cheap cards from reputable brands will work just fine. The Nikon S3000 is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.

Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the S3000. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.

Conclusions

To sum it up, the S3000 is a user-friendly entry-level camera.  It’s ultra-compact, which means it can go with you anywhere. The downside of the Nikon S3000 is that it just isn’t up to snuff on image quality.  Unfortunately, the S3000 appears to suffer from too many megapixels crammed onto too small of a sensor.  The sharpness just isn’t there at any ISO setting to justify using all 12 megapixels for larger prints. The ISO 3200 setting is almost pointless.  If you stick with smaller prints, or all of your images live on Facebook, then you can certainly get by with the Nikon S3000.

The Nikon S3000 is available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following link:

Nikon Coolpix S3000 at B&H Photo

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