Nikon CoolPix S630 Review: Nikon CoolPix S630

    The S630 is a bit thicker than usual for Nikon’s S-series cameras. That extra depth is for the 7x zoom lens at the front, but it doesn’t stop this camera from easily fitting in a pocket or small bag. Available in 5 colors – black, blue, purple, silver and red – it looks more stylish from the back compared to the back, where everything is more active. The right edge sticks out slightly leaving a large thumb rest that is increasingly appreciated when using the zoom ring around the shutter button on top of the camera.

    Below that are the Mode and Play buttons, followed by a scroll wheel/navigation pad and two more buttons for the settings menu and deleting photos during shooting or playback. The controls are simple, and even if the menus don’t have much to see, they’re easy to navigate, and a simple drag to the right on the zoom pulls up the Help system. In addition, you can pass them as fast or slow as you like using the scroll wheel or the navigation pad.

    When it comes to shooting options and controls, the S630’s feature set isn’t too deep, making it insufficient for those wanting to experiment. However, it is capable of taking simple snapshots. Recording modes are kept pretty neat with Auto giving you the best control over shooting, including the ability to limit the ISO range the camera uses. There are three specialized shooting modes, too. Smile mode, which takes a photo whenever it lifts up over a smiling face, includes a Blink Proof setting that will take a second photo in case it detects a blinking subject (and it works, but the person must face the Camera completely). Sports Continuity mode works well for action, but drops the resolution to 3 megapixels and increases the sensitivity to a minimum of ISO 640. Not only does this create some image noise, but it also causes outdoor shots. / enough light used excessively. Finally, there’s a High Sensitivity mode for low-light shooting, but it also reduces photos to 3-megapixel resolution and sets the ISO range from 640 to 3,200. (To be fair, the manual thoroughly warns about these and explains how and when best to use special settings.)

    Performance is somewhat sluggish for the S630. It only takes 4 seconds from power on to the first shot. Its shot-to-shot time is 3.1 seconds; use flash add 0.3 seconds to that time. Shutter lag is at 0.5 seconds in bright conditions and 0.8 in low light. In regular burst mode at full resolution, the camera can shoot 0.8 fps.

    The photo quality of the S630 is good. If you primarily view photos on a computer monitor, digital photo frames, or create prints up to 10×13 inches, you probably won’t be disappointed. However, when viewed at full size, objects in the favor center can look overprocessed and soft, where you’ll also see an increase in purple fringing and ghosting. However, central sharpness and fine detail are very good, as are colors. Typical for its class, lower ISOs are best on this camera, which is why it’s great to see the inclusion of the ISO limiter in Auto mode to keep sensitivities below ISO 200 or ISO 400. Denoising starts to make things soft and blurry at ISO 400, but you can still get a good photo at ISO 800 – good enough for small prints or at least Web use.

    If you’re looking at an average compact point-and-shoot with a more typical 3x zoom, the Nikon Coolpix S630 is a good step up (there again). It’s not particularly fast and the photos are merely good, but it’s a great design, has a very good feature set, and is very easy to use.

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