Nikon has rarely been a company that follows faddish trends in the camera market, but lately its resolve seems to have faded a bit. Just this month, the company caved to selfie mania with the Coolpix S6900. Now it's giving Android-in-a-camera a second try with the Nikon Coolpix S810c (MSRP $349.95).
The S810c is a follow-up to the Coolpix S800c, the world's first Android-powered traditional camera, which we first checked out two years ago at Photokina. The S800c was an unqualified disappointment, but that's not entirely surprising: there has yet to be an Android-powered camera that didn't have major flaws. Since the S810c is Nikon's second attempt, we're expecting a much better camera.
While visiting the Nikon booth at Photokina 2014, we were able to take a hands-on look at the Coolpix S810c. Here's what we found.
Design & Usability
The least appealing flavor of Jellybean.
The S810c is instantly recognizable as an Android-powered camera. The back side is dominated by the 3.7-inch LCD monitor, which is paired with only three buttons: back, home, and menu.
The screen is also significantly sharper this time around, but the tradeoff is that it's no longer OLED. More res is always nice, but owners will probably miss OLED's contrast and outdoor visibility.
On the show floor, the display seemed a bit laggy, the buttons had a bit of a gummy feel, and there was a noticeable delay when we pressed any of the hard buttons. The same issues plagued the S800c, and we'd hoped to see them fixed here, but no dice. Still, touchscreen responsiveness does seem slightly improved.
Though it has the same 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel sensor as its predecessor, the S810c's processor was upgraded to run Android Jellybean (4.4.2)–a version of the OS that's already quite dated–and the lens was tweaked, too.
The new lens is a 25–300mm f/3.3-6.3 that's slightly slower than the S800c's but also offers more telephoto reach. Mass-market point-and-shoots routinely prioritize focal range over wider apertures, often to the detriment of users. Odds are that a brighter lens would be a lot more useful for most people than a 300mm zoom, but Nikon knows what sells cameras.
The Coolpix S810c employs a combination of lens-shift and electronic vibration reduction to prevent blurred shots from camera shake and slow shutter speeds. That's good news, because at 300mm f/6.3, you're going to need some help.
Video mode is more or less untouched from the S800c. In other words, the best you can do is 1080/30p. Dropping down to 720p does get you to 60fps, and you can even ratchet it up to 120fps in standard definition.
Google Play access can't save this camera.
The biggest feature the S810c can claim over most other compacts is its access to the Google Play Store and the wide world of Android apps. You can download and link up with Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more to share your photos with the world, straight from your camera.
As you'd expect, the S810c has built-in WiFi connectivity to facilitate that sharing. In addition to connecting to your local WiFi network, the camera can create its own hotspot. You can then connect to it with your phone or tablet to transfer photos and videos. We were a little surprised that the S810c doesn't feature NFC, but it does have built-in GPS for location logging.
If you love filters but are tired of Instagram's limited selection, Nikon has included plenty of its own scene modes (17 of them, ranging from landscapes to sports) and options for editing images in-camera. You can crop, rotate, add borders, apply creative filters, soften skin, and retouch all before pushing the images live for the world to see.
The S810c's Android experience is fairly complete. Beyond photographic and social media apps, you can even use the camera as a personal media player for videos and music. Yes, you heard me... music. The S810c has a headphone jack on the side, so you can hook up and listen to your favorite tunes as you shoot.
A halfhearted stab at Android integration
Multiple manufacturers are actively vying to create the first Android-powered camera that actually improves on traditional cameras, so we don't expect this to be the last attempt. For its part, Nikon has a long way to go. The S810 simply isn't much fun to use, despite its raw potential, and it's not much of an improvement over the S800c, despite its upgrades.
If you're absolutely dying to get an Android camera right now, we'd recommend spending a bit more for the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2. It has plenty of flaws of its own, but it's backed up by Samsung's deep Android/smartphone expertise and boasts far superior build quality.
But if you can hold out, do it. One day, Android might be a better fit for traditional photography, but today it has a long way to go.
Perhaps Nikon will get a little closer to the mark next time around, but we're not holding our breath. Unless you're a collector of quirky Android devices, we recommend skipping this one altogether.