Nikon Coolpix S630 Review
By Mike Flacy
Leading the way for the Nikon Coolpix Style series is the new S630. This stylish, compact digicam features a 12-megapixel imagining sensor, Expeed Image processor, Nikkor 7x optical zoom lens, 4-way VR image stabilization and Nikon's Smart Portrait System. Keeping in tradition with past 'S' series models, you will find familiar interface and menu systems, 640x480 movie mode, fully automatic shooting modes and the quality that we have come to expect from Nikon.
Nikon's 4-way VR image stabilization package is made up of four features to 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. Keep in mind that ISO 3200 and 6400 are only available with a resolution of 3-Megapixels or under. Finally the Nikon original Best Shot Selector (BSS) will automatically take up to 10 images when the shutter release is pressed. From those 10 images, the camera chooses the sharpest image and saves it.
The new arching style combined with the large thumb grip on the back gives the S630 a very comfortable feel, and makes it is easy to operate with just one hand. Because of the large thumb grip, the buttons on the back of the camera are somewhat small. Fortunately, they are spaced far enough apart that they are still accessible. A rotary multi selector provides a faster way to scroll through the menus; however you can still use it the same way as a 4-way controller.
The 2.7-inch, 230,000 pixel TFT-LCD monitor, elegantly placed, allows for framing and viewing images. Featuring an anti-reflection coating and 5 levels of brightness, it is easy to see in all lighting conditions. 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.
Performance from the S630 is on par for a camera in its class. It takes 2.4 seconds for the camera to capture its first image after pressing the power button. Shutter lag is very good, taking less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and between 5/10 and 7/10 of a second when using the autofocus, depending on distance and the amount of light. In single shot mode, the camera can capture 5 images in 12 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 12.8 seconds with it.
The camera also features a continuous shooting mode and a sports continuous mode. Continuous mode is not overly exciting, capturing 10 images in 20.1 seconds (.5fps), but was able to capture 10 full sized, 12-megapixel images without filling the buffer. Sports continuous mode only captures images with resolutions of up to 3-Megapixels, but being able to capture 20 images in just 2.3 seconds (8.7fps), it can be a fun and useful tool. 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.
Overall outdoor image quality is good. The exposures are very accurate based on the cameras focus point, however, it left the overcast skies slightly overexposed. The color in the images looks very natural, giving authentic representations of what the photographer is viewing. With the included Nikkor 7x (37-260mm, 35mm equivalent) optical zoom lens, shooting landscape, group portraits and getting extremely close to distant objects it simple. On the wide end zoom lens, you will notice some slight barrel distortion. There's also a little edge softness due to varying focal distances from the point of focus.
The quality of indoor images is also good. The camera does an excellent job with indoor exposures and white balance to produce images with great exposure and vivid colors. We did notice some edge softness indoors as well, due to the camera using f/5.1 to increase the amount of available light when set to a specific ISO. Noise levels are excellent at ISO 400 and below, but increase quickly as the ISO goes up. At ISO 3200 and 6400, the camera changes the image size to 3-Megapixels in order to decrease the amount of noise. The flash range is also affected by the ISO setting used. Nikon claims the flash has a range of up to 18-feet at wide zoom when the ISO is set to Auto. This allows the ISO to go as high as needed. Keeping the ISO set low, the range decreases quickly. At ISO 64, the flash was not enough to correctly light the M&M man shot from just 7 feet away at mid-telephoto zoom. In order to keep ISO settings down, stay close to your subject when using the flash. When shooting in macro mode, the flash did an excellent job of controlling its output, giving our candy dish shot an excellent exposure.
Nikon has included several features strictly for the purpose of improving the quality of portrait shots. The Enhanced Face-Priority AF can focus on up to 12 faces and adjust the focus, color and exposure for them. D-Lighting can assist in bringing out detail in the darker parts of the image without blowing out the faces. Red-eye can be prevented via the red-eye reduction flash for removal with the red-eye removal tool. Smile mode automatically takes a picture when the subject smiles, whether you are ready or not, and the Blink Proof mode allows the camera to take 2 shots when the subject smiles and saves the image where the eyes are open. It also warns, when taking pictures in auto mode, that the subject may have closed their eyes when the image was captured. The face detection mode does an excellent job of correctly exposing and adjusting the white balance as seen in our Portrait shot. The camera does have a little trouble adjusting for subjects on the move, giving us very blurry images.
Movie mode allows for the capture of video with sound at resolutions of 640x480 (15 and 30 fps) and 320x240 (15 and 30 fps). The video shows some noise when taken in less than perfect lighting, but the playback of the movies are very smooth. The camera's built in mic also does an excellent job of picking up audio. As long as your subject is within 5 feet of the camera, you will have no problems hearing them. It will also pick up any loud background noises such as loud fans or an air conditioner, so be careful where stationing the camera. Movies captured in 640x480 (30fps) use approx. 1MB of storage per second, so we recommend using a large memory card or having several backups if taking several clips or long movies.
Powering the S630 is a 3.7V, 1050mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. While completing our tests, I was able to capture 150 images, including several videos, with a little juice left over. This is close to the 220 shots that Nikon claims can be taken with this battery. Also included with the battery is an external charger, allowing you to keep a spare battery charged and on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - Nikon's Coolpix S630 is a compact, 12-megapixel, digicam that is full of top-of-the-line features. The 7x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization, smart portrait system and new Expeed image processor really make this camera stand out when compared to other digicams in its price range. As always you get the ease of use and good image quality that we have come to expect from Nikon. With a MSRP of US$279.95, we feel this camera will make a great choice for anyone looking to get a little more versatility than your typical compact digicam has to offer.
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