2005-10-09

Nikon Coolpix S1

I get on some bandwagons before real people hear about them, and I'm sometimes off again and on to the next thing by the time they're mainstream. Other bandwagons pretty much pass me by completely. I thought digital photography was going to be one such, but it would appear not.

I was passing the Apple Store the other day, on my way to buy truffles, but popped in to see the nano and check out the digital cameras. I didn't really like any of them, but the Nikon Coolpix S1 was the nicest-looking, had the largest screen, and sported the fewest buttons. I felt like I pretty much understood it just by looking at it. None of the others looked like anything I'd want to have to deal with.

Things I like:

  • Experience using it suggests that it is pretty much as simple as it looks.

  • The pictures look fine to me, but I'm not a photography geek.

  • The screen is big enough that I can mostly fight the urge to move my eye closer to the "viewfinder". (It's been a long time since I last used a camera.)

  • It lets you use ISO date format, and defaults to the 24 hour clock.

  • The manual is surprisingly good. It's dead tree, but it's clear, pertinent, and informative. (The section on inserting an SD card lets itself down by having two pictures showing the correct orientation, only one of which is correct.)

  • If you take a blurry picture, the camera tells you there and then, when you still have a chance to take another one.

Things I don't like:

  • It's slow. There's a noticeable delay between pressing the big button to take a picture and the picture actually being taken. As I've mentioned before, I was born impatient and I'm getting less patient as my life runs out. I've no idea how other digital cameras compare. (Reading the manual, I see the work-around is to press the button half-way down, pay for the focusing cost, and then move the other half of the way when you want to take the picture. A quick experiment showed that this works reasonably well, though it's obviously not as good as if the device were just much faster.)

  • Its on-board storage is puny. 12 MiB. Which seems to correspond to 14 "exposures" at the default resolution. That's the reason, I guess, that you have to read the manual to find out how much storage you're getting. It's not mentioned on the box, and the Apple Store doesn't mention it either.

    There's only one SD card slot, and though the built-in 12 MiB would appear to be soldered on somewhere else, that storage isn't used when you insert an SD card.

    12 MiB in a great big camera when the iPod nano contains 4 GiB? That makes no sense. You could fit about eight or nine iPod nanos in the volume filled by this camera. (Having seen an image at the default resolution outside of iPhoto, though, I realize just how enormous they are. And the manual has clear tables showing you how many pictures/movies at the available resolutions with different amounts of storage. All the same, I've ordered a big SD card so I can forget about this.)

  • Although iPhoto's UI implies the ability to delete images copied off some cameras, the Nikon Coolpix S1 doesn't appear to be one of them, so I have to manually delete the images. (This turns out to be true of the on-board storage, but not when you're using an SD card.)

  • It can be difficult to see the display against the bright California sunshine, even in October.


And I still don't understand why mechanical/electronic devices need flashes in lighting conditions where my eyes can see just fine.