Nikon Coolpix S50c review

Is Wi-Fi image transfer more than just a gimmick?

TechRadar Verdict

We have no qualms in saying this is a good camera, but it's not because of its gimmicky Wi-Fi transfer feature


  • +

    Good LCD

    Strong features

    Well built


  • -

    Limited manual controls

    No optical viewfinder

    Wi-Fi seems a gimmick

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People shopping for a point-and-click compact don't usually put Wi-Fi functionality that high on their wish list, but if you're looking for a camera that can beam photos straight to Nikon's community photo site, here it is.

The S50c is an updated version of the well-received S50, and offers a powerful 7.1 megapixel sensor and 3x optical zoom in a stylishly thin case. High ISO and Vibration Reduction are other key features, as Nikon continues to hitch a ride on the 'flash free photos' bandwagon.

We can take or leave transferring photos at 802.11g speeds to the sharing site; how difficult is it to take a photo, open it on your PC and upload said shot to your usual photo site? The massive success of global photo sharing sites would suggest it's very easy.

Nikon would argue that its Coolpix Connect system automatically emails your friends when a photo has been added, but are they really all sitting around in feverish anticipation of your muddy Glastonbury shots or dirty weekend in Dawlish?

We understand the S50c is being sold exclusively via Amazon and DSG stores (PC World and Dixons) so the whole Wi-Fi thing smacks of a sales gimmick, meant to impress the unwitting on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Cool case

A wireless gimmick aside, there is much to like about this camera. It looks great in its scratchproof, pearlescent casing, and the generous 3in LCD makes composition a breeze. The LCD is bright too, which is a big advantage when taking shots in strong sunlight.

So big is the LCD that the key controls are squeezed onto a narrow strip on the back. It can take a while to work out where to put your thumb, but an iPod-style click wheel means the camera is perfectly intuitive when it matters. More interesting are the face detection, high ISO and VR functions.

The S50c is programmed to recognise faces in a composition and automatically work out the correct focus and exposure. This works well, and is handy for group shots or where people are being shot against a busy background in challenging light conditions.

As mentioned, the big LCD and shiny casing can make the camera feel slightly unwieldy at first, so it's good that Nikon has included VR image stabilisation.

This may seem like overkill on a camera that only goes up to 3x optical zoom, but image stabilisation is a perennially useful feature. Nikon claims the VR system makes the camera feel faster too, and the S50c is certainly nippy if you don't shoot at maximum image quality.


Select Anti-shake mode and the camera automatically increases its ISO; increased light sensitivity means you can shoot at a faster shutter speed, reducing the risk of camera shake. The S50c offers a maximum ISO setting of 1,600, but camera noise at this level is certainly noticeable.

How bothered the target market is about noise is another matter, and we would wager a lot of point-and-click consumers don't even know what it is. Further down the ISO range - below 400 - noise is well controlled. So it's a pay off - increased risk of noise in return for flash-free flexibility - and the good news is that users of the S50c aren't excessively penalised.

Indeed, this is a quite intelligent compact, with a Best Shot Selector (BSS) that looks at 10 sequential shots and automatically selects the sharpest image.

This underscores the fact that the camera is aimed at people who just want straightforward, well exposed shots, rather than getting creative with manual controls. Indeed, apart from ISO, White Balance and simple exposure adjustment, manual controls are pretty restricted.

We like this camera for its excellent build quality and ease of use, but we're not convinced that the Wi-Fi features are worth paying any extra for. The wireless-free S50 offers most of the virtues of the S50c but comes in about £40 cheaper. For this saving, we would put up with the hassle of manually uploading images to our photo-sharing site, and spend the money we would save on a bigger memory card.

The face recognition and VR technology are certainly good to have, and the quality Nikkor lens - 6.3 to 18.9mm - produces smooth, well-exposed images across the range. But this is not a camera to grow and develop as a photographer.

The 3x optical zoom is very limited, requiring you to move physically closer to your subject, and the lack of an optical viewfinder is not always the best compositional tool. The limited aperture range also means you would be hard pushed to replicate arty effects such as blurring the background in a portrait shot.

This is a neat little breast pocket or handbag-sized snapper that comes with lots of features to make it harder to mess up your photographs. And that's surely to be applauded.