Test review of the Nikon Coolpix S630 digital camera
The Nikon CoolPix S630 is a new high-spec compact with an impressive specification.
It has a 12-megapixel CCD with sensor-shift anti-shake, a 7x zoom f/3.5 – f/5.3 lens equivalent to 37-260mm, and a 2.7in 230k LCD monitor all wrapped up in a strong half-metal, half-plastic body which has an unusual curved profile and a deep recessed thumbgrip, giving the camera excellent handling. It is available in a range of colours, although in the UK it’s only black or red. Overall build quality is well up to Nikon’s usual high standard.
Although it does boast a high-resolution sensor and a long zoom range, the S630 is at heart a point-and-shoot compact, and while it is very simple to use it lacks some of the advanced features found on other recent high-end compacts of around the same price. Some of its more expensive rivals feature HD video recording, but the S630 is limited to VGA at 30fps.
Main shooting modes include program auto, a scene mode with a fairly usual array of scene programs, and a third setting with a few special functions, including an 11-frames-a-second Sport Continuous mode, although this is limited to 20 frames and three megapixels. It also has a High Sensitivity mode, which is supposed to reduce blur, but all it does is set the ISO to 800, which you can do through the main menu anyway.
The S630 does offer a few advanced features though, including a smile-detection auto-shutter, which incorporates a ‘blink proof’ setting that is supposed to prevent the camera from taking a photo if the subject is blinking, although I have to say that I found both these settings to be very unreliable.
It also offers a couple of extra features in playback mode, including D-Lighting contrast correction for boosting shadow detail, and an Quick Retouch function that will attempt to improve contrast and saturation.
The autofocus system is much better than on some previous Nikon compacts. It focuses quickly and accurately in almost all lighting conditions, even at long zoom settings in quite low light, although the rather weak AF assist lamp does limit it to a range of around two metres in very low light conditions.
Despite the fast AF, the shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode is quite slow, at around 3.2 seconds, and it isn’t much faster in continuous mode, shooting a frame every two seconds, accompanied by a loud whine from the AF system, which is automatically set to full-time mode in continuous shooting.
One area where the S630 makes up points is in image quality. Exposure is usually accurate in a wide variety of lighting situations, including strong backlighting.
The lens is of excellent quality, with good edge-toedge sharpness and minimal distortion even at wide angle. Dynamic range is a bit limited, as is usually the case with 12MP compacts, but image noise is well handled. It can produce good quality images at 400 ISO, and even at 1600 ISO picture quality is good enough for websites and emails.
Although it's expensive for a point-and-shoot automatic, the S630 has excellent handling, superb design and build quality, a useful zoom range and very good image quality. It copes with most lighting conditions, and is ideal for holiday snaps and social situations. Performance is a bit slow, but it's a nice camera to use and takes good pictures.