Ever since Google launched its Android operating system, it has taken the mobile phone market by storm with innumerable applications (Apps) made around the platform.
The main features of Android are connectivity, rich app base, and relatively simple user interface. Now, after biting a second piece from Apple, the droid has slowly hacked into cameras too with Nikon launching the android-based Coolpix S800C. Could this trigger a reverse migration from a ‘smartphone with a camera’ to a ‘smart camera with a phone’? Let us explore.
Design and Build Quality
The exterior of the Nikon Coolpix S800C is largely made of polycarbonate, save the front portion, which is metal. The device has the power switch and the zoom lever on the top panel, while the LCD panel dominates the back panel, lined with three small Android-style buttons—Home, Menu, and Back. The lens has a three-segment construction and it protrudes quite a bit during zooming. The tripod receptacle is metal. The LCD has a plastic outer screen which, I think, is a bad idea considering that a camera is mostly kept on its back and the fact that it is touch screen increases the chances of scratches. In fact, the piece supplied to us already had scratches covering every millimetre of the screen. We would like to see a Gorilla Glass screen in the next upgrade (hope Nikon is listening).
Let us get this clear—the Nikon S800C does not feature a phone. Though it is based on Android, it is still a camera. So let us start with the camera features. The 16-megapixel S800 uses a 1/2.3-inch Type (approximately 6.16 x 4.62mm) CMOS sensor. It houses a Nikkor 25- 250mm equivalent lens constructed with 8 elements in 8 groups including an ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element. The f-numbers range from f/3.2 to 6.4 at the wide-angle end and f/5.8 to 11.6 at the telephoto end. Aperture mechanism consists of an electronically controlled ND filter. The camera features dual vibration reduction function, which combines optical (lens- shift) VR and electronic (ISO) boost. AF is achieved through contrast-detect method. In normal mode, lens focusses from approximately 50cm to infinity at the wide-angle end, and approximately 1.0m to infinity at the telephoto end. In Macro mode, it focusses as close as 10cm (all measured from the front surface of the lens). Focus area selection methods are Face Priority, Auto (9-area automatic selection), Centre, Manual, and Subject Tracking. Exposure control is through programmed auto exposure and the exposure can be compensated up to +/-2 EV in 1/3-EV steps. Metering modes are 256-segment Matrix, Centre-weighted, and Spot. The S800C features a combination of mechanical and electronic shutter (electronically limiting the readout time of the sensor). Shutter speed ranges from 4 to 1/4000 sec. Sensitivity of the camera ranges from ISO 125 to 1600, while in Auto mode it can be boosted up to ISO3200.
The S800C records still images in JPEG format with maximum pixel dimensions of 4608 x 3456, while videos are recorded in MOV format with the highest quality of 1920 x 1080 at approximately 30 frames per second. Self-timer can be set to trigger the camera at either 10 or 2 sec interval. Shooting modes available are Easy Auto, Auto, Scene, Special Effects, Smart Portrait, and Movie. Scene mode provides options of Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/ Indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/ Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Food, Fireworks Show, Black and White Copy, Backlighting, Easy Panorama, and Pet Portrait. The camera features drive modes such as Single, Continuous H (8 fps, 60 fps, and 120 fps), Continuous L (1.4 fps), BSS (Best Shot Selector), and Multi-shot 16. The built-in flash has a range of approximately 0.5 to 5.6m at the wide-angle end and approximately 1.0 to 3.1m at the telephoto end when the ISO is set to Auto. Flash control is through TTL method with monitor pre-flashes.
The Nikon S800C works on Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread) operating system and features a Cortex-A9 processor. It has 512MB RAM. It has a GPS receiver with 1575.42 MHz frequency with WGS 84 geodetic system. It also features Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) with approximately 60m range along with Bluetooth version 2.1. You can download all popular apps including games and E-mail with the exception of cellular communication apps. The only feature missing in this is a mobile communication module.
The device uses a 3.5-inch, approximately 819,000-dot widescreen OLED touch panel with anti-reflection coating. The S800C has approximately 1.7GB internal memory for saving images and approximately 680MB for Android apps. It also accepts an SD memory card as external storage. It is powered by an EN-EL12 rechargeable Li-ion battery (included). It weighs approximately 184 g (including battery and memory card) and has dimensions of approximately 111.4 x 60.0 x 27.2 mm (W x H x D).
The Coolpix S800C is comfortable to handle and easy to use. Nikon has rooted the device in such a way that when you switch it on, it will load the camera instead of the Android home screen. This is a wise move since Android takes a long time to load, compared to the camera interface. There is no playback button, but a thumbnail at the corner of the screen provides access to the playback mode. From this mode, you can share images using Dropbox, Facebook, Gmail, Picasa, Twitter, or any such image- sharing service through Wi-Fi. But we felt the touch response was inferior to the new Android cameras available in the market.
The Nikon Coolpix S800C performed reasonably well. The lens controlled darkening of corners very well with only mild darkening observed at extreme corners at wide-open aperture, at the wide-angle end. Distortion was practically zero througout the zoom range. Metering modes performed as expected. Autofocus was reasonable, though it was not very quick to lock on every time. But the device did not have any trouble focussing in low light. Images out of the box appeared slightly soft. Prominent flare was observed at the wide-angle end with the lens wide open in images shot under strong back lighting, but we did not observe any chromatic aberration.
Auto White Balance was slightly disappointing in out-of-the-box images since the camera produced distinct colour cast under all lighting conditions except Daylight and Fluorescent. But the colour casts could be removed easily in Photoshop. Native print size was 11.52 x 15.36 inches at 300 ppi. Observed at 25 percent size, images were noise-free up to ISO 800. At 50 percent screen size, noise was observed at ISO 800 and slight noise could be seen even at ISO 400. When viewed at 100 percent, all images produced slight noise. Overall, the images were usable up to ISO 800.
The device connected to Wi-Fi networks without any problem, though we felt that the connectivity was slightly poor compared to Android phones.
Value for Money
The Nikon Coolpix S800 retails at an MRP of Rs.20,950. This is tad too high than the expected range for a camera without any manual setting or priority modes.
+ Good features
+ WiFi enabled
+ Power of Android
– Scratch-prone LCD
– No capacitive touch screen
– Performance could have been better
|Design and Build Quality
|Value for Money
Smartphone cameras have taken image sharing to a new level. However, more pixels packed into small sensors of Smartphone cameras have their limitations, no matter what configuration it has. If you are concerned about this, and do not mind carrying a basic phone in addition to this camera-cum-Android device, then the Nikon Coolpix S800 is a good buy. But, we feel, there is much room for improvement.