The Nikon Coolpix S620, a well-designed, entry-level compact, but with more features behind the scenes than meets the eye. Does the Nikon S620 have a unique enough sell point for it to land in your shopping basket? What Digital Camera Nikon S620 review...
The Nikon Coolpix S620 – the little brother of the S630 – is a 12 megapixel, 28mm wideangle compact camera with 4x optical zoom (28-112mm) to its name. Boasting a rotational rear thumbwheel to speed up menu scrolling, as well as subject tracking, smile detection and Nikon’s high dynamic range-pushing D-lighting feature, is the Nikon S620 a strong enough compact to shake off the competition? The What Digital Camera Nikon S620 review checks out the detail…
Nikon Coolpix S620 review – Features
The Nikon S620 comes armed with a wide 28mm lens – and with 4x optical zoom that offers a respectable 28-112mm. From wide through to mid you’ll have the ability to snap a variety of subjects and, although not the widest of lenses equipped to a compact, the 28mm has notably broad angle of view that’ll stop you backing up against too many walls to squeeze everything in. The Nikon S630, on the other hand, has a 37mm 7x optical zoom lens – so the two cameras really are entirely different kettles of fish.
There are more options tucked away inside the Coolpix S620 than initially meets the eye. It features a 2cm from lens macro mode, Nikon’s ‘vibration reduction’ image stabilisation, smile detection & blink warning, plus even more complex subject-tracking auto focus (that follows your subject around the screen) options. A 2.7in LCD screen with 230,000 dots sits on the back and it’s possible to shoot up to an ultra-sensitive ISO 6400.
Nikon S620 review – Design
Nikon has kept things nice and simple in the design of the S620. Whilst not ultra-thin, it’s a notably slender camera. Whilst we looked at the nice polished pseudo-silver model, there are pink, purple and black alternatives to keep everyone happy. The finish is very nice in all cases, refraining from overpowering hot colours; the subtle whisper of colour maintains the camera’s elegance.
Control-wise the Coolpix S620 is relatively simple – namely due to its limited number of buttons. Now, whilst too many buttons can baffle as to how to work a camera, too few buttons can cause a similar issue. Admittedly the Nikon S620 falls into the latter bracket, shy of control buttons. Almost everything is achieved via the menu system, so an extra function button or so wouldn’t have gone amiss. However, the usually static d-pad on the rear has been transformed into a rotational device – so whilst the four directional buttons are maintained to select options, it’s also possible to rotate the wheel to quickly scroll through menu options too. This does actually speed up proceedings significantly, though with the occasional slip up (where you rotate accidentally, rather than selecting an option).
The Nikon Coolpix S620 has a relatively large 2.7in LCD screen too, which sits snugly on the back. It runs almost from the very top to bottom and, considering the size of the compact itself, dominates the rear making it ideal for preview or playback.
Nikon S620 review – Performance
The Nikon Coolpix S620 starts up nice and quickly. Indeed the spec sheet boasts that all functions are engineered for fast response. For the most part this is true, though if you rush between taking a shot and quickly trying to adjust a setting such as ISO, the buttons will be irresponsive for a split second. So not as lightning-fast as could be.
Macro mode works as close as 2cms from the lens, but this is only apparent at the wide end of the zoom.
The LCD screen views well and, whether above the head or below the waist, it’s still easy enough to see all the action. Of course bright sunlight will reflect and cause some difficulty with viewing, but the S620 fares relatively well against this. A viewfinder does lack however, so it’s always a case of braving the sun.
Mode-wise the Nikon Coolpix S620 tucks the scene modes inside the menu. From the outset the feel is very much that this is an ‘auto’ point and shoot compact. There is a ‘Scene Auto Selector’ option, perhaps Nikon’s somewhat quiet resolve to ‘intelligent auto’ that widely features on competitors’ models. Here the basic controls are taken over for you, auto selecting the most appropriate scene mode for the subject at hand.
It’s perhaps the Subject Tracking mode that’s most impressive. Point your camera up to the subject and click ‘ok’ to begin tracking your subject around the frame – they can even leave the frame and return and continue to be tracked. It can get a little confused with bustling scenes with a lot of movement, but for the most part it’s a top mode to have on a compact – a little similar to that found with the Panasonic FX550, albeit minus the touch screen option.
Image Quality & Value
Nikon S620 review – Image Quality
The Nikon Coolpix S620 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to image quality. On the one hand, images shot using ISO 100-200 have very little image noise. It’s the upper sensitivities where quality really wains. ISO 3200 is very noisy, as to be expected, but it’s the ultra-noisy ISO 6400 that seems like an unnecessary last-minute add on. It’s unlikely that it’d ever be useable, given the quality that is less suggestive of image noise and more like a grit-sprinkled mosaic. Ignore ISO 6400 however, and it’s mostly smiles.
The S620’s lens is of a reasonable quality. The main concern here is the presence of purple fringing – and not just at the edge of the image. A number of instances saw those all too noticeable blue-purple edges crop up in the centre of images too. Whilst it’s relatively unnoticeable for small prints outs and web use, it’s a common problem that could be done without.
In terms of exposure the Nikon S620 seems to have come along in leaps and bounds. Previous models have struggled to accurately balance an exposure between subject and sky – something that seems much improved in the S620. Expect shots to show a relatively fair balance of highlights to shadows, further helped along by the Nikon D-Lighting, which helps to pull more detail out of darker areas whilst not blowing the highlights elsewhere.
All in all good but not great image quality, as can be much expected from many fixed-lens compacts. However, with the option of a 28mm wide lens and good all round exposure, the niggles of high ISO image quality and purple fringing will, for the most part, pale to insignificance.
Nikon S620 review – Value For Money
The Nikon S620 is perhaps a tad expensive. With an SRP of £240 there’re plenty of other cameras for similar money that may grab your interest more immediately; even the ‘bigger brother’ Nikon S630 retails for fifty quid more at £290.
These prices may seem to have escalated above and beyond some previous points, and for good reason – they have. Whilst not Nikon’s fault by any means, the value of the pound (and the dollar) to the Yen is very poor and is having knock-on effects in terms of pricing for exports. Most new products are coming out with premium price tags whereas many existing product prices are being hoisted skyward.
However, a quick scour of the web or popping into some shops and realistically you can bag a S620 for upwards of £170. And for that sort of money it more than holds its own.
The Nikon Coolpix S620 is a decent compact camera and, for the right price, presents a lot more than it perhaps appears to at first glance. Star of the show is the Subject Tracking option, which maintains focus on moving subjects in the frame. Other staple Nikon options such as D-Lighting also feature, though as they’re common these days do take something of a back seat.
The rotational thumbwheel on the back is a great way to navigate through menus and select options, and is perhaps one of the few features with a difference that may draw your attention Nikon-way. The finish of the camera itself is also top stuff, with the choice in subtle and elegant colours meaning there’s something here for everyone.
Exposure is generally decent and, assuming you use lower ISO settings, the quality’s on par with the majority of compacts too, aside from some irritating and notable purple fringing perhaps. The Nikon S620 is one of the stronger Coolpix cameras to have hit the shelves for a while, and is certainly worth some investigation. Whilst not entirely dazzling all the time, the Coolpix S620 is certainly a recommended bit of kit.