The Coolpix S80 stands out for its stylish and thin appearance, giving it a classy look that's rather different from most of its flashier contemporaries. We were given a grey and silver set to tinkle with, but like many compacts these days, the camera comes in five other shades: red, black, blue, gold, and pink. The S80 has a very minimalistic design, comprising of a slide-out cover on the front and a 3.5-inch OLED touch screen taking up almost the whole area at the back. Otherwise, it's equipped with only one physical control (a shutter button), with ports and battery/card compartments safely tucked out of sight. The huge OLED display offers good brightness and color fidelity, making image viewing on it a pleasant experience generally.
It also doesn't hurt that the camera weighs a relatively light 133 grams. That and a 16.5mm thin body makes it easy to slide the S80 into your jeans' pockets, much less a satchel or a lady's purse. As a result of its streamlined design, sturdy build, and well-distributed weight, the camera felt just right in our hands.
When you power up the camera, you'll be greeted by a simple, and almost bare graphical interface. Because of space constraints on the screen, many features are hidden within tabs; though all you've to do is tap on the directional symbols to reveal them. Changing the parameters from there on is merely a tap away - and it does help that most symbols give a good indication of what to expect.
As its name suggests, the Easy Auto mode allows you to take photos without much work on your end. In this mode, the camera will decide the best settings to apply. The user literally just need to point and shoot. There's also an Auto mode for the slightly more adventurous users. Under this mode, you're allowed to change settings pertaining to the continuous shooting and subject tracking functions. Pictures can also be taken using the flash or macro mode setting.
A total of 17 scene presets (Portrait, Beach, Close-up, Backlighting, Landscape, Snow, Food, Panorama assist, Sports, Sunset, Museum, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Fireworks show, and Copy) are available on the S80. There's also a separate Smart portrait mode whereby the camera engages face detection to detect for human faces, and then automatically releases the shutter when a smile is detected.
Speaking of releasing the shutter, by default, this can be achieved by simply tapping a subject on the monitor. We prefer changing this "Touch shutter" function to "Touch AF/AE" instead (via the menu). For the latter, the camera will adjust focus and exposure based on the area which you've touched. The shutter is only released when you press the shutter release button.
The S80 also allows the user to make minor in-camera picture edits. Simply navigate to Playback mode, and click on the hidden tab at the bottom to reveal the various options. The Paint tool, for example, allows you to write/draw on your photos, decorate them with simple symbols, as well as add a frame to them. Quick Retouch lets you enhance the contrast and saturation, while D-Lighting adjusts the brightness and contrast to reveal more details in your pictures. You can also apply filter effects (there are six of them), and edit the photo's perspective. With Glamor Retouch, you can soften the skin tones; and get this, make faces look smaller, and eyes bigger!
Another post-snapping feature that we quite liked is the ability to rate the photos using a star-ranking system. While a tad tedious to use, it does provide for a rudimentary method to sieve through photos that you like best (or dislike the most) easily.
All in all, the interface is not one that's hard to get used to, but it's easy to see how frustrating and tedious it can be when one needs to tap the screen a few times in order to arrive at the appropriate page to change a setting. For now, we can't hope for the S80 to have physical buttons to solve this issue; but we hope to see a future firmware update that adds a shortcut touch control to allow users to tag a commonly used function to it.
The user interface would have also been more workable if the touchscreen responded well. Sad to say, that was not the case. We encountered sluggish, unresponsive touch controls and awkward haptics (or tactile feedback), further crippling the already clumsy user experience. And this brings us to our next point: while we liked Nikon's focus on keeping the camera as simple-looking as possible, we would've appreciated a physical zoom dial. Relying on the touchscreen for zoom controls isn't exactly ideal since the screen isn't that responsive in the first place.