Nikon Coolpix S70 Performance, Timings, and Image Quality

December 22, 2009 by Adam Crawford Reads (4,617)

The Nikon S70 is a snapshot camera, with nothing much in terms of control. It is a camera that relies heavily on the use of the touch screen for all operations, big or small, and shouldn’t be looked at to push the limits of speed or fast processing

While the OLED display does work well in various lighting conditions, including overcast and sunny days, the low resolution of the monitor makes it only comparable to higher resolution LCDs. It’s important to bring up the touch screen in terms of performance, because you have to rely heavily on it to get anything done, and that is what really bogs it down. With the mere lack of buttons, there is no way of getting around using the touch screen, which can make the S70 frustrating when you are using it out in the field.

Conversely, when we are talking pure numbers, especially when it comes to performance, the S70 is a middle-of-the-road performer. Probably the fastest thing about the S70 is its start up time. The camera is powered up by slipping down the lens cover. It takes something like a half to one second to fire up the OLED monitor.

Shooting Performance
The raw numbers from the S70’s lab test still reflect it to be a moderate performer, both in the field and a controlled environment. Shutter lag good, in fact, only second to its competition, rifling in at .02 seconds. It handily beats the Samsung TL225. AF acquisition was as sluggish in the field as it was in the lab, with lab results at about 0.67 seconds, reflecting for me in the field less than a second to a few seconds to get a sharp image in low-light conditions. Continuous shooting mode, which gives you two images at the speed of 1.5 fps, is also moderate.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture,  pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP8 0.01
Nikon Coolpix S70 0.02
Canon PowerShot SD940 IS 0.03
Samsung TL225 0.04

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP8 0.27
Canon PowerShot SD940 IS 0.34
Samsung TL225 0.41
Nikon Coolpix S70 0.67

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FP8 3 2.2 fps
Nikon Coolpix S70 2 1.5 fps
Samsung TL225 7 1.0 fps
Canon PowerShot SD940 IS 0.9 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

There are three auto focus options: Touch Shutter, Touch AF/AE, and Subject Tracking. Touch Shutter is an automatic shooting option that lets you touch any part of the screen to lock focus and capture an image without having to do a half shutter press like most cameras to get pre-focused. This can be bad or good – good in the sense that it cuts down on shooting time, but bad since the image sometimes came out blurry, especially in macro mode.

Touch AF/AE was pretty cool, and offered the most control over shooting. With Touch AF/AE you touch the OLED on your subject anywhere in the frame and the S70 will focus on that element. Once focused, you have to press the shutter. Tracking does its job, too. You can select a moving element, such as flying flag or a boat steaming in the background to keep an eye on its focus, and then press the shutter.

I also used the different versions of flash control: Auto, Auto with red-eye control, fill flash, off, and slow sync, and they were effective for the most part. At the wide-angle of the focal range you can fire flash up to 11 feet, and extended to telephoto, the flash is effective up to 8 feet.

The battery life of the Nikon S70, according to CIPA standards, is 200 shots before you need to recharge the Li-ion EN-EL12 battery. With one day of field shooting taking probably less than 200 shots, I didn’t run the battery down very much. It seems that the OLED does in fact improve battery life compared to a regular LCD.

Lens Performance
The Coolpix S70 gets a 5x optical zoom, which is 28-140mm with a maximum aperture range of f/3.9-5.8. When shooting at wide angle you can see a noticeably prevalent barrel distortion in the center of the frame, which appears circular.

Nikon Coolpix S70

When I shot at the telephoto 140mm, I didn’t find a problem with pincushion distortion, which can sometimes happen at an extended focal length. Also, I couldn’t find any evidence of chromatic aberration like purple fringing at wide-angle or in contrasty images.

Nikon Coolpix S70
Nikon Coolpix S70
Wide angle

Video Quality
The Nikon S70 has an okay movie mode, recording at resolutions up to 720p HD. Video at the highest setting is pretty good compared with other compacts and pocket camcorders I have used.

The S70 has different resolutions for video capture, including 640×480 at both 30 or 15 fps, and 320×240 at 30 or 15 fps.

Image Quality
The images right out of the box are somewhat saturated, especially reds, blues, and yellows. Unlike other point-and-shoots, the S70 has no real control over different color options, leaving you with a default setting for all shooting. This would be all well and good if the saturation issue wasn’t there.

Since you can’t control metering at all, you have to rely on the S70 to properly expose every frame, which can often lead to over-exposed images in contrasty scenes. Although we found that the camera didn’t always reproduce colors faithfully, images out of the camera are sharply focused.

The camera’s white balance can be changed manually in auto mode, giving you options of preset manual, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, and flash. The daylight and incandescent worked well, especially daylight for outside work, and Incandescent for indoor shots.

Auto white balance under our studio incandescent lights was predictably poor. As you can see in the image from our lab test, the image is very warm. The same is true for fieldwork, especially in poorly lit scenarios, where auto white balance would sometimes overexpose sky details and foreground elements.

Nikon Coolpix S70
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

ISO performance was relatively good from ISO 80 to about ISO 400. Once I hit 800, it image quality declined as a lot of grain was introduced to my images. This isn’t unusual of a small sensor with high pixel density.

Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 80
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 80, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 100
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 100, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 200
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 400
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 800
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 1600
Nikon Coolpix S70
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images

Nikon Coolpix S70 Nikon Coolpix S70
Nikon Coolpix S70 Nikon Coolpix S70
Nikon Coolpix S70
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