It's ultra-cheap, but the Nikon Coolpix S3300 just "isn't a great camera," as Christopher Snow puts it at DigitalCameraInfo.com.
Experts and owners complain of subpar photos and videos, sluggish shooting, a cheap LCD screen and flimsy feel. They prefer the more solid, reliable Canon PowerShot A4000 IS (*Est. $130), or the more capable Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 (*Est. $220).
Subpar screen and so-so usability. "Usability is strictly average," says Snow at DigitalCameraInfo.com. Another source rates the Nikon S3300 average for ease-of-use, too. Snow likes the simple control layout, but the small buttons have etched-in labels "that aren't colored, so you may need to squint or tilt the camera to figure out what you're doing."
The menu is OK, Snow says -- not great. The smallish 2.7-inch LCD screen is the real problem. "Unfortunately, it's a very cheap display," Snow says. "Viewing angle is as narrow as can be," and images sometimes look more washed out on the screen than they really are. Overall, "we were annoyed by the cheap, cost-cutting LCD," Snow says, and another source rates it fair.
On the plus side, the Nikon S3300 is small and slim -- just 4.6 ounces and 8/10ths of an inch thick, slipping easily into a pocket.
'Cheap lens' and sluggish reactions. This is where the "deal-breaking drawbacks" lie, says Snow at DigitalCameraInfo.com. It starts with the lens. "The specs claim this camera uses a real glass lens, but we would've guessed plastic if we didn't know better," Snow writes. Photos suffer from blurry edges and "some of the worst chromatic aberration we've ever seen ... thick, dark yellow or blue fringes. This is a very cheap lens."
Snow also complains that the 16-megapixel S3300 smears away detail in all but the brightest light. Another source agrees that photos suffer from grainy image "noise," especially in dim situations.
However, that source also praises the S3300 for its "very good" photos in bright light and good flash photos. Plenty of owners are happy with the S3300's photo quality, but plenty of others wind up with blurry shots. "30% of my pictures were blurry," says one owner at Amazon.com. "Most likely because it takes forever to focus. I shot about 1000 pictures on my vacation. 30% (300) blurry photos, that's a lot."
Sluggish responses are another deal-breaker for Snow. As one Amazon.com owner says, "It's S-L-O-W. Painfully slow ... so slow, that I returned it and got my money back." Another says, "There's also a pretty mean shutter lag and sometimes the camera doesn't want to take the picture. That really makes my wife mad when we're trying to snap a photo of our 16 month old daughter and we miss that moment because of the delay."
Basically, action or sports photography isn't going to happen with this camera, Snow says. Another expert source agrees with Snow that the Nikon S3300 waits so long between shots that "you'll most likely miss important shots when shooting fast-moving or unpredictable subjects."
Video shoots in HD, but only 720p (not full 1080). Quality is only "fair, lower quality than many models" in one test. Audio is only fair, too, and you can't use the optical zoom while you film.
Battery life is rated at 210 shots per charge -- about average for this price range.
Some complaints about build quality. Expert testers say little about the Nikon S3300's build quality, although Snow refers to its "flimsy lens barrel" in his review for DigitalCameraInfo.com.
Most owners don't mention durability, either, but some lodge complaints. One owner at Amazon.com got a "lens error" warning right out of the box, and the camera refused to operate. A couple of others say the S3300 broke within a few days.
Another Amazon.com reviewer says the LCD screen shattered from "just a little bit of pressure in the wrong spot on the screen." Another complains that the battery cover "is very fragile and does not lock properly."
Medium 6x zoom works well, but with few extras. the Nikon S3300's 6x zoom is a little longer than the typical ultra-cheap camera, but it works well in tests. Zoomed-in close-ups rarely turn out blurry in one test, thanks to an excellent image stabilizer that compensates for shaky hands.
You don't get many extras. "Scene modes and effects are the only ancillary features available," says Snow at DigitalCameraInfo.com. You can add special effects like Nostalgic Sepia, Soft and Monochrome to make your photos look different. You can also tell the camera to pick the right settings for 19 different scenes, like Beach, Museum or Fireworks Show.
You can't shoot in 3D. There is a panorama assist feature, but it's not as easy as the sweep-panoramas you'll find on many Sony and Panasonic cameras. While those cameras do all of the work to create a panorama, the Nikon S3300 merely guides you to shoot certain photos, and then you have to stitch them together later using supplied computer software.
Like most ultra-cheap cameras, there's no HDMI jack for easy viewing on an HDTV. The Nikon S3300 has micro USB and A/V ports.
Review Credibility: Excellent Save up for something better, Christopher Snow recommends after testing the Nikon Coolpix S3300. Terrible chromatic aberration, poor shots in anything but the brightest light and slow response times are "deal-breaking drawbacks," he says. Snow specifically recommends the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS as a better choice.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S3300, Christopher Snow, April 24, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good After comprehensive testing, editors rank more than 150 point-and-shoot digital cameras from best to worst. Each camera, including the Nikon Coolpix S3300, gets ratings for photo and video quality, flash photo quality, LCD quality, ease of use and overall.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S3300, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Undated
Review Credibility: Good More than 50 owners review the Nikon S3300 here, and most say they are very pleased with its photo quality and zoomability. But one-third score it mediocre or worse, usually because it broke or shoots blurry photos.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S3300 16 MP Digital Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of December 2012
Review Credibility: Fair The purple version of the Nikon S3300 earns 4.3 stars out of 5 (other colors earn fewer reviews, but similar scores) in about 20 reviews. A couple of owners say it broke quickly, another cautions that the buttons are really small and another says it's slow, but most say they are pleased overall.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S3300 Purple, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of December 2012