Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
nikon_s620_snapshot.jpg
  • 12-megapixels
  • 4x optical zoom lens 
  • 2.7-inch LCD with 230,000 pixel resolution 
  • Movies at 640x480 or 320x240 with audio (30fps)
  • 4-way VR (Vibration Reduction) technology
  • Lithium rechargeable battery and charger 
  • 45MB internal memory + SD/SDHC Card slot
Pros
  • Blazing fast shooting performance
  • Well designed, ultra-compact body
  • Very easy to operate
  • VGA movie mode produces pleasing videos
Cons
  • Image quality not quite up to par with other models in this category
Bottom Line
Nikon has done a nice job with the Coolpix S620, this camera offers a great value for just $229 or less.
Pick This Up If...
You want a tiny, easy to use digicam that can be tucked away almost anywhere.

The little brother to the Coolpix S630 we reviewed earlier in the year (2009), the Coolpix S620 shares many of the same features found on the S630. These include 12-megapixels of resolution, a 2.7-inch LCD, 4-way VR image stabilization system, VGA movie mode, Nikon's Smart Portrait System, and EXPEED image processor. The S620 also offers a 4x Nikkor optical zoom lens covering an equivalent range of 28-112mm. Like past 'S' series models, the S620 provides various fully automatic exposure modes, making it ideal for those who want a simple, easy to use digicam.

Nikon's 4-way VR image stabilization package is made up of four key components that help eliminate camera shake and blur from your images. The optical image stabilization counters slight camera movement and shake by moving the image sensor to match. Motion Detection determines when the camera is moving and automatically adjusts the shutter speed to capture a crisp image. For low-light situations, the camera has ISO settings of up to 6400, to keep your shutter speeds higher. Unlike past models, the S620 can use the its high ISO settings of 3200 and 6400 at full 12M resolution. Finally, the Nikon original Best Shot Selector (BSS) will automatically take up to 10 images when the shutter release is pressed, and from those 10 images, the camera will select the sharpest one and save it.

The S620 is a very compact camera; small enough to be easily tucked away in your pants pocket or purse. The camera also sports a stylish exterior that is available in five colors. Although small, I found the camera fit quite well in my large hands by wrapping my right hand around the body, while pinching the left side between my thumb and index finger. I also found that one-handed shooting was possible. The buttons on the back of the camera are somewhat small, however Nikon did space them our far enough apart that I was still able to access them without pressing more than one at a time. A rotary multi selector provides a faster way to scroll through the menus; however you can still use it the same way you would a typical 4-way controller.

Like we mentioned above, this camera shares the same 2.7-inch display found on the S630. This 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixel TFT-LCD monitor is the only viewfinder on the camera, meaning that it is used for framing, navigating the menu and viewing stored images/movies. Featuring an anti-reflection coating and 5 levels of brightness, we had no problem using it in various lighting conditions. Like we saw on the S630, the coating does a great job of cutting down on glare, but as far as preventing reflections; it only manages to give the screen a blue tint.We also found the screen was very prone to collecting finger prints. The on-screen menu system was quite simple to use/navigate, and I especially like the fact that it remembers the last menu option you visited. This allows you to quickly call up a function you are constantly changing, without having to scroll through the entire menu searching for it. 

Shooting Performance from the S620 is Very impressive. It took only 7/10 of a second for the camera to capture its first image after pressing the power button! Shutter lag is also very good, taking less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and between 1/10 and 2/10 of a second when using the autofocus. In single shot mode, the shot to shot delay averaged 2.2 seconds between frames with the flash off, and from 2.2 - 5 seconds with the flash on, depending on the output.

The camera also features several burst modes. Continuous mode allowed me to capture 10 full resolution images in 7.8 seconds (1.3fps), without filling the buffer. The Sports scene mode performed at the same rate. You can also choose from BSS, Multi-shot 16, and Interval Timer shooting. Multi-shot captured 16 tiny frames in just 3/10 of a second, then saved them as a single 5M photo. All of our tests were completed using a Patriot 2GB SD memory card, 12M High quality, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

When using the 12M* (High) setting, the S620 captured nice images outdoors. Colors look very natural, which means your photos will look as they did from your own eyes. The auto exposure system did well in the Multi (default) setting, producing pleasing images, even under bright sunlight. Images are sharp when using the lower ISO settings, however even then I did see traces of edge softness on most of our photos. The 4x Nikkor zoom lens offers a bit more versatility with framing than your typical 3x unit. While 1x doesn't seem like much, you'll notice you don't have to zoom with your feet as much. This lens provides a nice wide viewing angle at 28mm (equivalent), while still offering the telephoto reach (112mm) needed for tight framing of your subjects; just don't expect to zoom in on a distant subject. When reviewing our sample images, I saw slight barrel distortion at the wide angle extreme (typical for a consumer camera) as well as several traces of purple fringing (also called Chromatic Aberrations). 

Indoors the camera has the ability to capture pleasing images, just be sure you are close to your subject if you plan on using the flash. With the ISO set to Auto, the camera did a good job of keeping the sensitivity down to 400 and below. You can also define the parameters in which the sensitivity will perform with the Fixed Range Auto setting. When shooting our portrait example, I found the Face AF system did well, only when our subjects eyes were open. As you can see form our example, the camera chose ISO 400, which added some noise to the photo when viewing at 100%. You can also see the image is on the soft side. While this photo is not quite up to the standards set by other manufactures models in this price range, it will still be able to create very nice 4x6 or larger prints.

Noise levels are quite decent for a compact digicam. I found that ISO 1600 and below will produce nice 4x6-inch photos without much problem, however the higher 3200 and 6400 settings are pretty much worthless. When shooting in macro mode, the flash did an excellent job of controlling its output, as long as you are far enough away from your subject using the telephoto end of the zoom. If you are using the S620's "Sweet" spot, which is towards wide angle, the flash will blow out your subject (see our examples on the sample photos page.)

Movie mode produced good VGA sized videos. The exposure system did well in mixed lighting, and there is very little noise when shooting in good lighting. Video also plays back nice and smooth, thanks to the 30fps frame rate. The microphone is sensitive, so it will pick up a slight breeze as well as background noises. While the S620's movie mode preformed well, I was a bit disappointed that Nikon did not include some sort of HD video function.

Bottom Line - the Nikon Coolpix S620 is an ultra-compact, 12-megapixel digicam that offers plenty of cool features, and great performance. I feel that it could use a boost in the Image Quality department, but overall the S620 will capture pleasing snapshots. With a street price of about $229, Nikon has created a nice compact model that is sure to be popular this year. If you'd like to have a bit more powerful zoom range, be sure to check out the Nikon Coolpix S630 as well.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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