DigitalCameraReview.com
Nikon Coolpix S52c Review
by David Rasnake -  8/14/2008

When our Nikon Coolpix S52c review unit rolled in, we were enthused about what new techno-wizardry Nikon had brought to the table with its latest Wi-Fi enabled camera. Sadly, that enthusiasm faded fast when it became clear that our test camera was almost certainly cursed: I'm not one for superstition, but mysterious dead batteries, corrupted memory cards, and, in the end, an apparently fatal lens issue all make it seem that nothing in the last several weeks has worked out in this Coolpix's favor.

Nikon Coolpix S52c


Admittedly, few of the issues that have dogged our S52c since the day it was delivered have been related to faults with the camera itself. But a combination of bad luck and bad karma have made it hard for anyone here at DCR to really want to spend lots of time with the this camera. Lest an anvil fall on the Coolpix-carrying soul's head...

Extraneous issues aside, the S52c has not been completely free from some quirkiness of its own – the kind that can't be blamed on the supernatural. Ultimately, Nikon has made great strides in correcting concerns with previous generations of this camera. Not surprisingly, the S52c's wireless image uploading function will also continue to be the main attraction for many buyers – and given its solid performance, rightly so. But what of the rest of the camera? That's what we're here to find out.

FEATURES OVERVIEW
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
PERFORMANCE
IMAGE QUALITY
CONCLUSIONS
SPECIFICATIONS

FEATURES OVERVIEW
The Nikon Coolpix S52c is a 9.0 megapixel pocket camera in Nikon's "Style" series of ultracompacts. As with past Coolpix models, the "c" designation indicates that the S52c is equipped with wireless image transfer technology using Wi-Fi. In addition to being able to email images to friends or transfer them to photo sharing sites on the go, the Coolpix S52c is slim, stylish, and easy to tote along.

Beyond its thin form factor and wireless capabilities, however, the S52c is a fairly run of the mill pocket camera – reflecting the fact that the bulk of its specs, including its 3x optical zoom and 3.0-inch LCD, have been carried down directly from previous models in this line. In fact, most of the technology here can be traced back at least three generations (to the physically and functionally similar S50c), but processing upgrades and more resolution promise to make the S52c the best-yet product in a natural, logical evolution, if not the outcome of an exciting major overhaul.

In its overall approach, the S52c definitely favors users looking for a more hands-off approach to taking pictures. Advanced settings are relatively limited, with the Coolpix providing shooting mode adjustments for basic parameters like ISO and white balance and precious little else. If you're looking for advanced focus drive or metering mode controls – much less aperture/shutter priority options – look elsewhere. With a large screen, minimal traditional photographic controls, and of course that novel image upload capability, the S52c clearly favors a younger, tech-savvy market. Think of it as the ideal camera for the Facebook and YouTube generation – like a camera phone, but with more picture-taking prowess and less image uploading mobility.

Given this target audience, point-and-shoot simplicity is pivotal, and hence it's hardly surprising that the S52c presents only the most basic shooting mode options. Available settings, accessible via one of Nikon's trademark rotary menus, include:

As noted, options for movie quality are pretty low key by contemporary, cutting-edge ultracompact standards. But like many of Nikon's current offerings, the S52c does offer a stop-motion movie option that's good for the occasional few minutes of entertainment if nothing else.

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
Nikon reprises a familiar look and feel for the S52c, and the overwhelming majority of likes and dislikes with the current camera have been hashed out before. On the flipside, Nikon's been doing this same basic setup for awhile now, so there's hope that some of the bugs with earlier generations have been excised this time around.

Styling and Build Quality
No surprises here: the S52c looks a lot like (read: identical to) the S51c, which in turn was a virtual clone of the S50c. A side-by-side look at the S51c and S52c show just how hard it is to spot any exterior differences.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Nikon Coolpix S52c

The body is the same basic wave shape as before, which isn't exactly a problem unless you have a fashion hang up; it is a bit odd, however, in light of the rest of Nikon's mostly square Coolpix S offerings. Whereas the more recent Coolpix ultracompacts have made significant progress in terms of both style and especially build quality, the S52c looks and feels a little stuck in the past.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

The S52c's all plastic construction is solid enough, though some odd rattles and squeaks may call its ruggedness into question. On this score, we also had a problem with the S52c's lens jamming up without warning; see the "Lens and Zoom" subsection for more on this.

As much as I've come to like Nikon's dial-a-setting interface, the thin plastic scroll wheel still has the same light, disconnected, even cheap feeling three generations in: as we've commented in past reviews, this can make dial hard to use when delicate scrolling (trying to move one step down a list, for instance) is required.

Ergonomics and Interface
Whether you'll find the S52c to be a chore to hold and use largely seems to depend on the size of your hands. Tiny (tiny, tiny) buttons that give up some resistance when pressed make it difficult for those of us with larger fingers to handle the S52c's back panel.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Likewise, Nikon has yet to update what's been our primary beef with this camera since its inception several models ago: a zoom toggle that almost certainly qualifies as ridiculously small.

As I noted in my "First Thoughts" piece on this camera, the S52c's "wave" contour seems backwards to me: this is one case where I actually think an ultracompact is too thin, making it hard to securely and comfortably grip.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

The S52c's graphical user interface is one of those areas with this camera that for whatever reason didn't come off feeling as polished as we expected. On the positive side, the interface itself is largely fine, with a simple icon-heavy layout that even novices should be able to navigate. Access to all primary functions, including the setup menu, is funneled through a circular menu arrangement that's become common among Coolpix cameras.

With an interface that makes it easy to check settings at a glance, what's not to like? A persistent headache with the S52c has to do with something seemingly simple: the way menu options are dismissed. If you're several layers into a menu making settings adjustments, it's all but impossible to get back to the main shot composition screen in any reasonable number of button presses. Instead of jumping back into the ready-to-shoot position with a logical, single press (a half-press of the shutter release, or a press of the menu button, for instance), pressing MENU takes you back one level at a time.

Hence the issue: if you're three levels deep in the interface enabling the AF assist lamp when the perfect shot opportunity comes along, good luck trying to rapidly tap the (tiny) button that takes you back to the composition screen fast enough to actually capture a scene that's unfolding quickly. The fact that the S52c is a bit slow to respond to button presses is just salt in the wound in this case.

Display/Viewfinder
The S52c sports the same 3.0-inch LCD that graced its forerunner. It's a good display, with more than acceptable brightness for shooting outdoors (and thankfully so, since there aren't a lot of options for adjusting its output). Gain-up in low light is a little sluggish, and I found it hard to pick out shadow details at times, making me wish for just a little more brightness boost in dark situations.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Several of the folks here who handled this camera also noted some odd flickering with the LCD: when AF was working, the screen on our test unit would occasionally (one in every twenty focus attempts or so) black out for a millisecond before coming back to life. Given some other concerns about what previous abuse our particular review unit may have suffered, however, this may be an isolated issue with our particular sample.


PERFORMANCE
We haven't always been kind in reviewing the performance of the S52c's long line of predecessors, and indeed the cameras in this series up to this point have struggled mightily with sluggishness and generally erratic behavior. The S52c is the first such camera to receive Nikon's revamped EXPEED processing concept, however, which raised hopes about big improvements given what we've seen from other EXPEED-equipped Coolpix models.

Timings and Shutter Lag
A year ago when we reviewed the original S50c, operation speed proved to be a patch of extremely rough water for our otherwise smooth-sailing review unit: "Camera performance is where a lot of the good things about the S50c lose their appeal. [...] The S50c is slower than average pretty much all across the board." In both lab testing and real-world shooting, the S50 proved to be frustratingly sluggish, turning in 0.2 to 0.3 second shutter lag times and 0.7 second AF acquisition speeds that left the camera feeling primitive alongside its competitors. Things got a little better with the S51 series, but the major performance improvements we were hoping for still hadn't materialized as of late last year.

Since that time, Nikon has been talking publicly about its efforts to correct basic speed and operation shortcomings with its Coolpix cameras, and it seems that the performance improvements we've seen across the Coolpix line have finally made their way to the S52 models as well. Our S52c review unit turned in a shutter lag time without pre-focus of 0.07 seconds – not as fast as its very best competitors, but a far cry from the painfully slow 0.2 second shutter lag of its predecessors.

Likewise, AF acquisition speed and consistency have improved markedly, with press-to-capture times without pre-focusing the camera now hitting a best mark of 0.37 seconds at full wide-angle.

Nikon's done a lot to spiff things up around these parts, but startup times remain a weak link. In our testing, the S52c struggled to get below the 4.0 second power-on to first shot threshold that has challenged cameras in this lineage for several generations.

Lens and Zoom
The S52c's folded 3x Nikkor optic with a 35mm-equivalent range of 38-114mm is old enough to be a grandparent in digicam development cycle years. From a performance standpoint, the fact that there's very little to say about the S52c's lens is mostly a good thing. Moving from one end of the range to the other is acceptably quick, and though the travel does bounce a little bit more than expected when working back from telephoto to wide-angle, we didn't encounter any truly consternation-inducing issues.

As before, if optical performance is a little slow at wide-angle (with a maximum aperture of f/3.3), the camera doesn't lose much speed at its f/4.2 telephoto end.

Of course, there is that pesky question of ruggedness to consider. In spite of the lens being internally contained – and thus theoretically less prone to damage – our review unit powered up one morning (thankfully, a few days after we finished test shooting in earnest with the camera) with an inexplicable, apparently terminal "Lens Error!" message.

I don't want to speculate too much based on our single experience, and the fact that review units live lives of rough treatment that far exceeds anything most consumers would ever put their beloved camera through can't help matters (the S52c is certainly not the first review unit we've had problems with). But I also can't help but wonder if the S52c's lens construction isn't a little delicate for a camera that's likely to spend much of its life getting hauled around in pockets, purses, and backpacks. Our experience certainly wouldn't discourage me from buying an S52c, but I'd probably be more inclined to spend some time researching whether lens issues with this series of cameras are a more widespread concern.

Auto Focus
"Jumpy" is a fair way to describe the S52c's overall AF performance. While the numbers above speak to much shorter lock times than we've seen with these cameras in the past, all is not perfect: the S52c is a little jittery when acquiring lock, moving erratically through the focal range for a split-second before finding its mark. For some reason, our test unit also didn't always respond to half-presses of the shutter release to lock exposure and focus; it was hard to quantify the issue, as it's definitely a once-in-awhile concern, and equally difficult to tell whether something processor side or the button itself may have been the culprit.

When it does hit, the S52c is consistent. Focus speed was good across the camera's relatively limited zoom range, with no appreciable slowing at telephoto assuming there's plenty of available light. Indoors, the camera can be a bit more questionable in its lock, occasionally locking well in front of focus in low-contrast situations and, more often, giving a "red box" focusing error when light gets low. There's an AF assist lamp, though I'm still not entirely clear on the processor's decision-making algorithm in using the lamp versus not; in some relatively dark scenes, the assist lamp never engaged, but would then fire up intermittently under normal indoor light (of course, the lamp can be completely disabled in the setup menu if its random bursts of illumination start getting on your nerves).

AF area modes on the S52c include the default center-area setting, an auto multi-area mode, and a very convenient user-selected multi-area system that allows moving the focusing area with the d-pad.

A dedicated button also engages the camera's face detection system, which has seen some usability and reliability improvements since our last go ‘round with a camera in this series. Comparing performance to an S51c that's been lurking around the office, the most noticeable improvements to face detection come in acquisition speed and off-axis recognition – two key areas to be sure.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

After faces are locked, however, both the older and newer models show considerable lag between when the shutter release is pushed and when the actual shot is take – not good when you're trying to capture shots of children and others uninterested in holding still through the camera's three to four second delay.

Finally, macro focus remains a sore spot. Yet again, we weren't able to get close to the S52c's claimed 4.0 centimeter minimum focusing distance: anything under half a foot seemingly has a fifty-fifty chance of causing a focusing error, making the S52c frustrating when shooting up close.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

All in all, Nikon's ironed many of the longstanding auto focus wrinkles out of the latest generation of its wireless ultracompact, but with some irritating bugs remaining, performance is still a ways from flawless in this area.

Flash
We've said this before, but since not much has changed stylistically, it bears repeating: flash placement on the S52c could still be better, as it's right next to the lens and easy to obstruct inadvertently with a finger.

Flash performance is similar to what we've seen with previous models in this series, with just a hint of underexposure everywhere but at extremely close range making for relatively pleasing shots. The flash lacks room-filling power without shooting at extremely high ISOs (range tops out under 20 feet with Auto ISO selected), but even so recharging from a full-power burst on a full battery takes a fairly slow 8.2 seconds in our test. On balance, though, performance largely meets expectations for a current ultracompact.

Image Stabilization
The S52c uses optical Vibration Reduction (or VR), Nikon's image stabilization technology. In my experience with the camera, the system performs comparably with other top-tier optical IS technologies, and looking back through my test shots I noted several acceptably sharp captures taken at shutter speeds between 1/15 and 1/50.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

The above shot is pushing the S52c's low light capabilities on several fronts (ISO 400, 1/15 shutter with VR enabled), but the handheld image comes off nicely with plenty of sharpness, edge definition, and fine detail capture.

Beyond VR, other options for getting sharp low-light pics with the S52c include the camera's Best Shot Selector (which takes a series of shots in rapid succession and saves the sharpest one), as well as a High Sensitivity shooting mode that boosts ISO and allows for faster shutter speeds (at the expense of messier, grainier images, however).

Battery Life
Nikon has inched up official battery life numbers on the S52c to a slightly more respectable 200 captures. As we experienced with the 150-shot rated S51c, however, the problem with these official CIPA numbers is that they don't take into account a camera's biggest battery life eaters: flash pictures, lots of in-camera image review, video capture, and in the S52c's case, the granddaddy of them all – Wi-Fi connectivity.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

The S52c's Wi-Fi is considerate at least, with the radio coming online only to process upload requests. Still, less than thirty image uploads were enough to kill a nearly charged (if not completely full) battery. And if you shoot any video, cresting 120 images with the S52c may prove to be a real challenge (it certainly did for us). In short, if any camera could benefit from a spare battery or two, it's the S52c. For this reason, the fact that the latest model retains the in-camera charging method of its predecessors rather than supplying a separate battery charger – effectively eliminating the ability to shoot with one battery while another charges – may be a real headache for some.

Wireless/Wi-Fi
This is the S52c's headline technology: the ability to upload images over your home wireless network. Nikon gives you a few destination options for your images once they get to the 'net, and can also use T-Mobile's HotSpot Wi-Fi service to get them there (for a fee after your trial period is up), but for the purposes of our evaluation I primarily used the S52c to upload shots to Nikon's "my Picturetown" photo storage site from my home wireless network.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Initial wireless setup on the S52c will test your patience. Without a keyboard, you're confined to the scroll wheel for entering initial information, including user names, network connection info, and the email addresses of anyone you might want to send pictures to.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Confirmation messages on the S52c also run the gamut – from cryptic to simply nonexistent. Without trying to push an upload across, the camera gives no indication as to whether it's actually able to communicate with the wireless network you've configured, so be prepared for some back and forth in the initial setup once the "Cannot Connect" error messages start popping up.

Because the camera doesn't give detailed feedback as to the nature of its connection problems, when I initially ran up against a connection issue trying to upload photos to my Picturetown from my security-enabled home wireless network, I assumed some setting in the camera's login for the photo sharing service was askew. As it turns out, the problem was actually at once more simple and more unexpected: in spite of the fact that I use common default settings for my home network and automatically acquire dynamic IP addresses, the S52c refused to connect until I tried specifying an IP for it within my network.

As with entering email addresses and passkeys, manually configuring wireless connectivity settings can be a bit of a chore on this keyboard-less device. A few tedious minutes with the scroll wheel and some basic configuration info later, however, I was up and uploading. It's not clear why the S52c wouldn't automatically acquire a proper IP address for itself on my home network – something to do with the combination of router and internet service provider it seems, as I had no trouble getting the camera to connect automatically over our office wireless network. But I've never had any device require this kind of manual configuration before. Weird.

This one minor hang-up aside, I found the S52c's wireless to work fairly seamlessly otherwise. Wi-Fi configuration options are buried deep in the menu system, making it a bit of a pain to add a new network, but once the settings are in connecting is as simple as selecting the appropriate network name. I was even able to add the free Wi-Fi at our neighborhood coffee shop to the list and upload images without incident – though here the camera's somewhat power-limited Wi-Fi radio did have some trouble coping with the coffee shop's weak wireless signal. The closer you can get to your wireless router, the better your connection will be, and the S52c certainly doesn't have the range of even a modest computer wireless card (twenty feet from the wireless source is pushing your luck in most cases). That said, the S52c has better range than either of the other camera-based Wi-Fi solutions (the Panasonic TZ50 and the Eye-Fi Wireless SD Card) we've tested.

Uploading to my Picturetown is a snap once everything is setup. If you send photos before you've created a my Picturetown account, Nikon will email you at whatever address you list for the S52c's email function to let you know that they're temporarily holding your shots for you; once you create an account, porting previous uploads over takes a single mouse click.

In spite of the fact that the S52c automatically downsizes images before uploading them to the web, upload times can still feel a little laggy (around a minute per photo on our office network). Once the shots are pushed through, however, they show up immediately in my Picturetown's straightforward interface.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

In fact, my only gripe with the integration of Nikon's photo sharing site and the S52c comes with the photo email function. A dedicated button atop the Coolpix allows you to send shots directly to any email address that you've programmed into the camera's address book. As it turns out, however, what the camera actually sends is not an attached web-res image like some might have hoped, but a link to the image uploaded to my Picturetown. In practice the solution works just fine, but for those looking to quickly drop shots to friends (with email on their mobile phones, for instance) be aware that a secondary browser-based step is required to get at the photos when emailed.

Though the Wi-Fi can be a battery drainer, the S52c proves itself to be pretty smart where power management is concerned as well: unless you tell it to, the camera won't go looking for Wi-Fi when on battery power, but will automatically search as soon as it's plugged up for charging. Come home, plug up your camera, and away the pictures go across your home wireless network without so much as a button press from you. Brilliant!

Now several generations in, Nikon (finally) has a pretty good thing with their wireless connectivity. And a few refinements could make it even better: add a simple web browser for splash page navigation, locate the Wi-Fi setup options a little more transparently in the interface and the next-generation wireless Coolpix could really be the ticket for bloggers and travelers seeking image uploads on the road. Even as it stands currently, the S52c is arguably the best, most easy to use wireless image upload solution currently on the market – offering more flexibility in handling open networks than the original Eye-Fi system (though we haven't looked at Eye-Fi's updated models yet) and a more straightforward connection process than the Panasonic competitor.


IMAGE QUALITY
In what's arguably its most significant tech upgrade, the S52c gets a new 9.0 megapixel sensor with high-sensitivity shooting to ISO 3200. If overall image quality remains a little watery in most normal shooting situations, the S52c does show itself to be at least as capable as most other folded-optic ultracompacts.

Exposure, Processing, and Color
Given the S52c's target market, it's not surprising that the range of exposure controls and processing options here is pretty limited. A pair of color presets (plus three special-effects modes) are really your only options for changing the image look, and metering is limited to a single multi-area setting (plus your eye and the exposure compensation control).

On that note, the camera's multi-segment metering system can leave high-contrast photos washed out by default (no surprises there), but a little tweak of the exposure compensation is usually enough to bring images back to life. That said, in difficult shooting situations the S52c's lack of metering control will surely frustrate more experienced photographers: at times, getting anywhere close to correct subject metering an high-contrast scene can require up to a full stop or more of exposure compensation.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

All things considered, though, the S52c's balance of dynamic range and vibrant contrast isn't bad at all for a small-sensor ultracompact with a lens of average quality, handling wide-ranging outdoor scenes with aplomb.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

We've praised past cameras in this line for their relatively neutral default-mode saturation and sharpness processing, and the same holds true for the S52c. If anything, the default Standard color mode encourages a more low-contrast, washed out look, accentuated by the level of high-contrast overexposure typical to point-and-shoots. In the shots above, and in the majority of my outdoor shooting with this camera, I was surprised to find that I preferred the overall processing package of the camera's Vivid mode instead.

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Standard

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Vivid

Of course, the expected black-and-white and sepia modes are also available, and in an interesting twist, the S52c retains the cyanotype emulator seen on previous cameras in this line as well.

The S52c also offers Nikon's D-Lighting post-shot processing tool. D-Lighting brings midtone and shadow areas up in high-contrast shots, shifting the contrast curve to show more detail (at the expense of some increased noise) in these areas that are often lost when shooting outdoors and/or with backlit subjects. As usual, the system works flawlessly, processing an image in a few seconds and saving the "D-Lit" version as a new file.

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Original

Nikon Coolpix S52c
With D-Lighting

White Balance
Auto white balance with the S52c has gotten somewhat more consistent compared to previous-generation models. The camera continues to struggle on the auto setting late in the day, but indoor performance under both tungsten and fluorescent light sources is improved over what we've seen previously.

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

The above shot, while still shifted slightly, shows a pleasing, relatively neutral image tone that reproduces whites accurately and is warm without being excessively brown/yellow.

Lens Faults
It's been true throughout this review that if the S52c has a primary fault, it may well be its lens. To the positive, the lens on our test unit turned in a relatively sharp performance, with only minor definition loss at the edges of the frame.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Likewise, for an ultracompact optic, the S52c's tiny elements do a surprisingly nice job where controlling aberrations and fringe are concerned. A few flare spots crept in at times, but shielding lens with a free hand when shooting in late-day or early morning sun helped considerably.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

The S52c controls pincushioning acceptably well when shooting at telephoto, but barrel distortion (where lines bow out from center) at the wide end of the lens was pronounced.

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Wide-Angle

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Telephoto

Unfortunately, unlike many of its Coolpix brethren, the S52c doesn't have Nikon's Distortion Control system for keeping barrel distortion in check.

Finally, we observed some mildly darkened corners in wide-angle shots, though it was never an overwhelming concern.

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Sensitivity and Noise
The S52c, with yet another resolution bump for Nikon's Wi-Fi cam, is a mixed bag in this area.

Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 100
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 100, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 200
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 400
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 800
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 1600
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 3200
Nikon Coolpix S52c
ISO 3200, 100% crop

If anything, the manufacturer has done well in cleaning up its act at ISOs within the camera's Auto range (up to ISO 400). As seen in the sample shot used in the "Image Stabilization" subsection, the S52c is still capable of great subtlety up to ISO 400.

Beyond this, however, performance falls apart a bit, with large patches of color noise infiltrating shadow areas heavily at ISO 800. Noise reduction swings into action in force at ISO 1600, and the top two full-res settings are surprisingly usable if screen-size viewing or very small prints are your aim. Just don't look too close, as by ISO 1600 there's simply no edge definition left, and ISO 3200 takes things a step further still.

Additional Sample Images

Nikon Coolpix S52c

Nikon Coolpix S52c
Nikon Coolpix S52c Nikon Coolpix S52c
Nikon Coolpix S52c Nikon Coolpix S52c
Nikon Coolpix S52c Nikon Coolpix S52c

CONCLUSIONS
From the beginning, I really wanted to like the S52c, and Nikon's latest update to this series gave me plenty of reasons to do so: appreciably faster performance, a solid Wi-Fi system, a slim form factor, and more than acceptable image quality. In one sense, then, the S52c seems like a considerable step forward compared to the camera that came before it. If the S51c was weighed down by one elephant-sized, overarching issue in its simply abysmal focusing performance, however, the S52c is bedeviled by several minor concerns – AF issues, average lens quality, and poor battery life – that all come together to create a somewhat lackluster total user experience.


Part of this perception of myriad minor annoyances almost certainly has to do with the fact that consumer expectations are higher than they were when Nikon first launched the concept that led to the S52c: when the original S50 and S50c first rolled out, they were a pretty advanced pair of picture takers, Wi-Fi or not. Having moved overwhelmingly unchanged through several digicam development cycles, however, this is no longer true. Pedestrian specs and average if not stunning picture taking abilities mean that if you're buying this camera, you're almost certainly buying it for the wireless upload function. In that case, the S52c is the winner of a two-horse race, clearly besting the wireless transfer capabilities of the rival Panasonic Lumix TZ50 in both reliability and ease of use (though the TZ50 remains the vastly superior image maker).

Nikon has corrected the one glaring performance issue that plagued the S52c's predecessors, to the point that we no longer feel the need to heavily qualify our recommendation of this device for those looking for a camera with Wi-Fi. That said, there are still a number of rough edges here – enough to still give many folks who are less gung-ho about the wireless image transfer function pause. And with yet another refinement to and some new implementations of Nikon's in-camera Wi-Fi system officially on the horizon in the near term (in the form of the Coolpix S610c), now might be a good time to take a wait and see approach if the S52c piques your interest but some of its less than stellar points don't.

Pros:

Cons:


SPECIFICATIONS: Nikon Coolpix S52c

Sensor 9.0 megapixel, 1/2.5" CCD
Lens/Zoom 3x (38-114mm) zoom, f/3.3-4.2
LCD/Viewfinder 3.0", 230K-dot TFT LCD
Sensitivity ISO 100-3200
Shutter Speed Not Specified
Shooting Modes Auto, Scene, Movie
Scene Presets Portrait, Night Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Party, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Museum, Fireworks Show
White Balance Settings Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, White Balance Preset, Auto, Daylight, Cloudy
Metering Modes Multi
Focus Modes Face-Priority AF, Auto AF
Drive Modes Normal, Burst
Flash Modes Slow sync, Red-eye reduction, Redeye reduction with slow sync, Flash cancel/ flash off, Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Anytime flash
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
38 MB
File Formats JPEG, AVI
Max. Image Size 3456x2592
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video No
Battery Rechargeable lithium-ion, 200 shots
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input
Additional Features Vibration Reduction optical image stabilization, D-Lighting, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, Wi-Fi Image Transfer