Nikon Coolpix S4000 Brief Review

Rankings

This product was ranked


REVIEW SUMMARY

Specifications

  • 12 megapixels
  • 4x optical zoom
  • 4-way image stabilization
  • 3-inch touchscreen LCD monitor
  • 720p HD video (30 fps)
  • Captures to SD/SDHC memory cards
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries
  • Release Date: 2010-03-15
  • Final Grade: 88 4.4 Star Rating: Recommended

4.4 Star Rating: Recommended
Loading 2x

Nikon Coolpix S4000 Hands-On Review
The Nikon S230 was a dismal camera, but the S4000 features commendable improvements in picture quality and user interface. This might actually be worth a buy. By TJ Donegan.
By , Last updated on: 8/21/2014

When Nikon released the S220 and S230 point-and-shoot cameras last year, their aim was simple: produce thin, sleek, simple little cameras in a slew of color options. For the S230, they offered touchscreen control as well, at a price at least $75 cheaper than most other touchscreen cameras.

 

There was one hitch, however: the S220 and S230 sold well, but left a lot to be desired in terms of picture quality. Read customer reviews of either camera and you'll understand [Ed. Note: We rated the S220 of of the worst cameras of 2009]. While an affordable touchscreen camera and a bevy of color choices are desirable traits, at the end of the day a camera has to be able to take good, in-focus pictures even when light isn't perfect.

 

Enter the Nikon S4000. As the direct replacement for the S230, the S4000 looks like an exact clone when not in operation. Its controls are nearly identical to the S230, as well. What isn't identical is the quality of the images the S4000 produces.

 

Picture Quality

 

As someone who hated the S230's picture quality, I think the S4000 is a steal of a camera when applied in the right settings. The key is to rein in the camera's ISO setting, which determines how sensitive the camera will be to light. Higher ISO allows for faster shutter speeds to prevent blur in low-light situations but those higher ISOs also create dull, degraded colors and grainy images.


This is the case with any digital camera, but the S230 had a very difficult time producing quality images under even average conditions. The S4000 performs typically in average lighting conditions and really shines when taking outdoor pictures when light is ample, as colors really pop. It doesn't feature optical image stabilization, which would help to reduce the need to rely on ISO speeds, but it does feature a “fixed range auto” option that allows the camera to choose the ISO it needs, but with a cap of 400 or 800.

 

Interface

 The S4000's best feature may be its touchscreen control. While many cameras tend to go all-or-nothing with touchscreen control, even in Nikon's own product lineup, the S4000, like the S230 before it, retains two buttons on the rear of the camera for accessing playback and shooting modes, as well as a shutter button and zoom toggle on the top of the camera.


Touch control is well implemented and doesn't feel like a gimmick, the way it can with other touchscreen cameras. One accesses the different shooting modes with physical button on the rear side, but makes adjustments to the rest of the camera's settings by touching the screen in the desired area. The buttons are large and the screen is sensitive enough that it's rare to press the wrong button, as even a fingernail is registered on the screen unlike with some touch screens. 

 

The LCD itself is designed to handle the task. It's a big three-incher with double the pixel count of the S230 (and what is typically found in small digital cameras -- 460,000 pixels vs. 230,000). Those extra pixels make it much easier to see details and to determine color balance, focus, and whether a shot came out as expected.

 

The extra real estate also allows plenty of space for the thumb on the rear of the camera, making one-handed shooting more comfortable than with other touchscreen cameras. One can also choose the focal point by touch, which is useful, or, in place of the shutter button, to take the photo, which is not useful.

 

Performance

 

As we'd expect from a mid-tier point-and-shoot, the S4000 doesn't have the ability to manually adjust shutter speed or aperture. It does have 18 scene modes including panoramic and “draw” modes, a 4x zoom range at 27-108mm equivelant for outdoor and group photos. ISO can be boosted as high as 3200 for when quality isn't a concern but light is limited.


 Users will find the time between shots frustrating, only getting a continuous shot off about once per second. It's about on par with other cameras in this price range in that regard. It does support a “Best Shot Selector” that takes a host of shots and then chooses what it thinks is the best one, though I found that mode to be less useful than it sounds.

 

The main drawback is the lack of optical image stabilization. The camera has to rely on its “Electronic Vibration Reduction” and ability to boost its own ISO to counteract camera shake when light is limited. As such the camera is best suited for use in average and ideal lighting conditions. For its price, it really should have optical stabilization, but it still performs quite well outdoors.


Battery life is typically short on touchscreen cameras because the high-powered screen is on so much of the time. The S4000's life was a little bit shorter than the average non-touchscreen, around 200 shots with a full charge. The tiny flash doesn't draw too much power, which helps compensate for the screen. Overall, it's better than expected, but still not very good.

             

The S4000 does lack some of the color and editing options found in higher-end cameras such as those offered by Canon and even Nikon itself, but it does support a surprisingly good high-definition (720p) video recording mode with good audio quality (though the mic does suffer from the typical wind-muffling when outdoors). That's all for about $50 less than touchscreen cameras typical retail for.

 

Conclusion

 

The S4000, despite the price bump over the S230, still sits at a very interesting position in the market. It's still one of the most affordable touchscreen cameras around, and its picture quality is now on par with most of its competitors in the market, especially in good, outdoor light, though low-light shooting remains hairy. The lack of optical image stabilization is troubling and some other performance issues are irritating. But in the end, the S4000 features one of the best touchscreen interfaces I've seen, and the image and video quality are pretty good for $200. It's a vast improvement over Nikon's previous offering, and if you're sold on the touchscreen craze, this camera could be the best value for you.

 


Hillary Grigonis is the Managing Editor at DCHQ. Follow her on Facebook or Google+.

STORE PRICING

Loading 2x

COMMENTS, QUESTIONS, & ANSWERS FORUM BY VIEWERS AND EDITORS

0 comments
Add Comment

Nikon Reviews

Nikon has long been one of the top manufacturers in the industry, and their products are still solid options today. The camera giant is continuously releasing new products with enhancements in image quality and performance.

It's hard to go wrong with a Nikon DSLR. With a different model available for every skill level from beginner to professional, Nikon's DSLR's have always been top notch. Their latest DSLRs have seen improved noise reduction, enhanced video quality and upgraded designs over cameras from just a few years ago.

Nikon made an interesting move in the realm of mirrorless cameras—instead of pushing for bigger sensors, Nikon instead has focused on speed. The Nikon 1 line cameras use a 1” sensor, which is larger than your average point-and-shoot but smaller than the Micro Four Thirds options. While the 1 line doesn't have much resolution, their cameras boast speeds upwards of 15 fps—no other mirrorless line currently comes close to that level of speed.

Nikon's compacts aren't as much of a sure thing as their DSLRs—some of their smaller cameras are quite impressive, while others are beaten out by competitors. We liked their higher end consumer point-and-shoots like the COOLPIX S6500, but be careful with their budget compacts. They offer quite a range of compact cameras, just be sure to read the reviews on the individual camera first.

Nikon offers a full range of cameras from tiny budget models to professional DSLRs. More often than not, if you go with a Nikon, you're getting a solid camera.

We here at Digital Camera HQ offer unbiased, informative reviews and recommendations to guide you to the right camera. We're not an actual store; we're just here to help you find the perfect camera at the best price possible by using our camera grades. Let us know if you have any problems or questions, we're happy to help.