By Daniel Casciato
September 8, 2008
Review: Nikon COOLPIX S52c
Pros: Wi-Fi capability; attractive design; compact; easy to set up and use; crisp photos
Cons: Poor audio quality during video recording; unable to transfer photos directly from camera to hard drive; complicated menu system
The Nikon COOLPIX S52c ($279.95) is a 9-megapixel compact digital camera with built-in Wi-Fi. Like its predecessor, the S51c, the S52c can connect to any open Wi-Fi hotspot so users can send images directly from the camera to their Flickr accounts, blogs, or an e-mail address. It’s a nifty little feature, especially for journalists and other mobile workers who need to zap an image to someone immediately. Nikon even built its own image repository—my Picturetown—where the camera automatically synchronizes the images and stores them for later retrieval. Before we get to its Wi-Fi capability, let’s discuss the other features.
We liked the black, slim, sleek all-metal wave design of the camera. Unlike other bulky digital cameras, we were able to tuck it away in our shirt or pants pockets. The S52c is small and light— 2.3 x 3.8 x 0.8 inches and weighs 4.4 ounces—but it includes a large 3-inch LCD display. The display also includes a 170-degree wide angle view to help you better frame your shots. At 9 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom, our test photos produced sharp resolution and we were also able to create prints as large as 16 x 20 inches. According to the camera’s specifications, the S52c also has a high-contrast and anti-reflection coating on the screen to assist in clear viewing, even in direct sunlight. We found this to be true as we had no problems framing shots no matter what the weather was like.
On the down side, the camera’s shiny coat left plenty of fingerprint smudges. Another drawback is that the menu feature on the camera seemed a bit complex. It was easy to get lost inside its many options and at times difficult to navigate out of the various menus.
The S52c cuts back on the number of programmed settings for special shooting situations from previous COOLPIX generations. While other COOLPIX offered 16 scene modes, the S52c offers 12—Portrait, Night Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Night Landscape, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Close Up, Museum, and Fireworks Show. After playing around with it, we found that it was just easier to use the fully automatic mode.
The S52c’s Optical Vibration Reduction (VR) Image Stabilization technology helps to compensate for camera shake and to prevent blur. So for sporting events, this gives users more opportunities to capture fast-moving subjects and provides more clarity when shooting in low-light settings. The S52c also includes an AUTO ISO control, which automatically selects the optimal sensitivity across a range between ISO 100 and ISO 800, and up to ISO 3200 in high-sensitivity mode. When using the movie mode, the VR image stabilization allows for faster framing on the monitor and smoother action.
In-camera red-eye fix
The camera automatically fixes most instances of red-eye in the camera. But some of our images still included red-eye, which we had to digitally remove ourselves later.
One enhancement from the S51c is the Face-Priority AF, Nikon’s face-finding technology that automatically focuses on up to 12 faces within the frame. Other cameras in the line could only focus on up to five.
As with the S51c, the S52c also comes with D-Lighting, which compensates for excessive backlight or insufficient flash in images. We also liked this feature because we were able to brighten up some photos that came out too dark.
This is a new feature, which lets users create an instant slideshow by selecting pictures and combining them with music. Five pieces of music are already pre-installed, but users can also upload up to ten pieces of their own music. Because of its VGA quality, users are also able to display their slideshows on a flat-screen TV.
As with any digital camera, a larger capacity SD/SDHC card is needed to record video. With our 1 GB card, we were limited to about three minutes of video. While it’s a nice feature to have, we just weren’t that impressed with the audio quality. The audio from the video footage we shot seemed to fade in and out quite a bit.
This 802.11b/g Wi-Fi-enabled device enablers users to send photos instantly to anyone, which has the added perk of making it easier to empty your card and free up memory to take more photos.
We found the set-up process to be quite simple. Just set the camera to Wi-Fi mode by pressing the envelope button on the top of the device and we were ready to e-mail photos. The camera automatically detects the nearest open wireless network and begins the upload. If you can’t access a hotspot immediately, the S52c will store the photos in a queue until it finds one. When you know you’re near an access spot, just turn the camera back and on and it automatically connects and sends the photos. Also of note, the S52c includes six months of free T-Mobile Hotspot access.
Another feature that we liked was Nikon’s Web-based my Picturetown feature. Photos can be automatically and securely stored on my Picturetown. With the built-in Wi-Fi, we were able to access my Picturetown right from the camera to view all of our stored photos. However, you only receive up to 2 gigabytes free and have to pay an additional fee of $2.99 a month for every 20 gigabytes of storage space, up to 200 gigabytes.
One thing to keep in mind is that unlike the COOLPIX S7c, which can wirelessly transmit pictures directly to a hard drive, the S52c can only wirelessly transmit through e-mail and my Picturetown. You’ll still need a USB cable for a direct transfer to your computer’s hard drive.
The S52c is a great point-and-click device for casual photographers and novices alike. It’s a fun camera to play around with and the ability to e-mail photos makes it even more attractive. We found this new model to be an overall good buy.
- For more on Wi-Fi-enabled cameras, read “Nikon’s 3rd Gen Wi-Fi Camera Debuts,” “Review: Linksys Business Internet Video Camera with Audio,” and “D-Link 2.4 GHz Wireless Internet Camera.”
- For related news and reviews, read “Eye-Fi Announces New Version with Geotagging and Hotspot Access,” “Skyhook Announces New Hybrid Positioning System,” and “Review: D-Link 10″ Wireless Internet Photo Frame (DSM-210).”
- For more by Daniel Casciato, read “Wi-Fi Tools of the Trade: Bedouins,” “RFID Tracking Allows Prisons to More Closely Monitor Inmates,” and “Taking it to the Streets: Run Your Business from the Road.”