The Nikon S710 and Samsung SL310W are both slim, stylish ultracompact cameras that boast tremendous megapixel counts. The SL310W offers a 13.6 megapixel sensor, while the S710 swings for the fences with a 14.5 megapixel sensor (just short of the 14.7 megapixel cameras we've seen introduced this season, like the Canon SD990 IS).
Nikon is a known entity: though regarded mostly for their higher-end digital SLRs, they have put a lot of money behind an aggressive marketing campaign (featuring Ashton Kutcher) to make people aware of their point-and-shoot models, the S710 included.
Samsung, on the other hand, has not made much of an impression in the digital camera market. It always surprised me that Samsung, who makes excellent high-definition televisions, made such terrible insignificant cameras. Recently, however, Samsung spun their digital camera division into its own company, and seems to be making an effort to pull their digital photography reputation out of the mud with cameras like the SL310W.
So how does the established brand match up with the relative newcomer? We put these two cameras head to head.
Aesthetically, the S710's metallic body wins out over the Samsung's flashy, yet plastic-feeling façade. The Nikon is solid and sturdy, but also quite heavy compared to the SL310W.
Both cameras suffer from button design problems. Both zoom toggles are awkward and irritating to use. The Nikon's buttons are labeled confusingly. For example, there are two buttons, 'MODE' and 'MENU.' The 'MODE' button brings up the virtual mode dial, which allows you to switch between auto, manual, and other shooting modes. In auto mode, the 'MENU' button brings up the 'Image Mode' screen, which is really for changing image quality. In other modes, the 'MENU' button brings up various settings, but in auto mode it can be disorienting. The Samsung eschews most on-body icon labels and instead etches the icons in bas-relief right onto the shiny silver buttons. The problem is, the buttons are so shiny and small, it's almost impossible to figure out what the icons are.
When it comes to the LCD screen, however the Samsung SL310W wins, hands down. Though the Nikon S710 has a 3.0-inch display, the resolution is poor. Previews are often grainy and blurry. Image noise is highly prevalent. In contrast, the SL310W's 3.5-inch screen was sharp, clear, and remarkably pleasing to use.
I've taken a series of photos with both cameras, to give you an idea of how they operate in the same situation (see left sidebar). Overall, I'd say differences in image quality between the SL310W and the S710 were minute, with a slight edge going to the S710; a very slight edge. Colors do seem more natural in the S710 photos, but it's not a huge advantage. You can judge for yourself.
I will say that when it came to speediness, that is, quick startup time, fast photo capture, and brief shutter lag the SL310W handled itself a lot better than the S710, which could be sluggish in focusing and photo capture.
For reference, you may wish to compare this review with our hands-on review of the Canon SD1100, another compact, pocket camera that is in competition with the S710 and SL310W.
As you've seen throughout the review, there are a lot of similarities between these two cameras, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Image quality, however, is roughly comparable. One thing that isn't comparable? The price. The Nikon S710 costs about twice as much as the Samsung SL310W. If you're hunting for a bargain, the choice should be obvious as you'd mostly be paying a premium for design elements were you to pick the Nikon.