Nikon Coolpix S220 Review
By Mike Flacy
Replacing the Nikon CoolPix S210 from 2008 is the new S220. Although the camera is the exact same size, it has a few changes that seem to be trade-offs. It has been upgraded to a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor, but has been downgraded to a 2.5-inch LCD with 150,000 dots and 44MB of internal memory (230,000 dots and 52MB of internal memory on the S210). Some of its other features such as; Electronic Vibration Reduction (VR), a new Expeed image processor, Scene auto selector and Nikon's smart portrait system, all add quality to the already simple-to-use Auto shooting mode.
A couple new features on the S220 are the 4-way VR image stabilization and the Smart Portrait system. They combine multiple smaller features that work together to improve the quality of your images. 4-way VR image stabilization uses the camera's motion detection, High ISO 2000 and the Best shot selector (BSS) to capture images that are as crisp as possible. Nikon's smart portrait system works the same way, combining the Smile mode, Blink proof, Face-priority AF, In-camera red-eye fix and D-Lighting to assist you in producing high quality portrait shots.
As one of the smallest and lightest cameras on the market, the S220 is actually very easy to handle and operate with just one hand. By resting it on your little finger, you are able to keep the camera steady and operate the zoom and shutter release with no problems. The 'pinch' technique can also be used with no trouble either. The menu controls on the back of the camera are large enough and spaced out so that you can easily hit the desired button. Keeping the size down overall, the 2.5-inch LCD screen fits well on the back. As we mentioned above, it has less pixels than the previous S210, but still makes it easy to frame and view your images in any lighting conditions. It is bright enough to see on a sunny day and gains up in low light situations.
Performance from the S220 is a little on the slow side, but to be expected for a camera in this price range ($149.95). After pressing the power button, it will be 2.5 seconds before the camera is able to capture its first image. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second and between 3/10 and 7/10 of a second, depending on light and distance, when allowing the auto-focus to work. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 5 images in 15.6 seconds with the flash and 5 images in 13.1 seconds without; a bit disappointing. The camera also features a continuous shooting mode, which allowed me to capture 6, full 10-Megapixel images, in just 4 seconds (1.5fps) before filling the buffer. All of our tests were completed using a 2GB Patriot SD memory card, 10-Megapixel fine quality, ISO auto, Flash off, Auto mode and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
Our outdoor image quality is decent. Exposures and colors are good, giving you a nice overall image. When you look at 100% on a computer, you will see some noise throughout the images, even at ISO 80, and you will see some aberrations (blue glowing areas) in high contrast areas. The 3x optical zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent of 35-105mm, is excellent for shooting landscape and portrait photography. With the telephoto end of the zoom, don't expect to get too much closer to your subject; however, it is a great tool for framing your shots.
The quality of our indoor images matches that of the outdoor shots. At ISO 80, there is a noticeable amount of noise when viewing the images at 100%. This takes away some of the finer details of the image, such as the stitching of the flag and the sharpness of the letters on the magazines of our ISO 80 M&M man shot. Another drawback to this camera is the underpowered flash. Our flash sample shows that it was not powerful enough to correctly light the image from 6 feet away at ISO 80. This will increase the ISO in order to create a decent flash range, which will add significantly more noise to your images.
Portrait shots from the S220 show an excellent exposure with vivid colors and natural skin tones. The face detection works well, quickly finding and following faces, even those of small children. With the camera set to Portrait mode, the camera raised the ISO to 400 in order for the flash to provide a proper exposure from 5 feet away. This left us with an unacceptable amount of noise.
Movie mode allows you to capture video at 640x480 or 320x240 pixel resolutions with sound. Our samples show that the camera had some trouble with bright sunlight. You can see the light streaks no matter if the camera is facing toward or away from the sun. The on-board mic is very sensitive and picks up all sounds that are near the camera, including any subtle breezes when shooting outside, or an air conditioner or furnace inside. They will be very obvious when playing back a recorded movie.
Powering the S220 is a 3.7V, 740mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. On a single charge we were able to capture 125 images and videos while completing our tests with no danger of running out of battery power. This compares well to Nikon's claims of 180 shots on a single charge (CIPA). With the included external charger, you will have no problems charging the battery regardless of location and it's easy to keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - The Nikon CoolPix S220 is just a slight upgrade over the S210 that came out last year. They have added a couple new features, including a 10-Megapixel imaging sensor and some shooting modes that make the camera even easier to use. However, the image quality and performance really hold this ultra-compact model back. With a MSRP of US$149.95, there are several other cameras worth looking at as well. For a camera with comparable features and better image quality, check out the ultra-compact Olympus Stylus FE-5010 for just a few dollars more.
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