Nikon Coolpix S630
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Posted: 11/09/09
Glossy, sleek, compact and definitely good-looking, the Nikon Coolpix S630 comes in an array of stylish colors that go outside the norm. Its super shiny front body panel looks like candy, and its gently-curved shaping is very comfortable for back pants pockets. The Coolpix S630 features a 7x, glass zoom lens and a 12-megapixel CCD, backed up by Nikon's latest EXPEED image processor. The camera also employs a 4-way VR Image Stabilization system, which takes camera shake, subject movement, ISO and the trademark Best Shot Selector mode into consideration to produce sharper images. Also included are several automatic functions, such as smile, blink and face detection, which all work together to get better portraits, and a Scene mode Auto Selector that determines the best preset Scene mode to use for the subject at hand.
The Coolpix S630 is good for novices in that it does feature so many automatic functions, though more experienced users will appreciate freedom to control white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, metering mode, etc. at their whim. A new feature on the Coolpix S630 is the Sports Continuous mode, which can capture as many as 11 frames per second in its fastest setting, which is much better than the average continuous shooting mode on a compact digital camera. The Coolpix S630 also offers some standard Nikon functions like D-Lighting, automatic Red-Eye Fix and Face Detection that prove useful in correcting common shooting problems.
The Nikon Coolpix S630 weighs in at just 5.7 ounces (162g) with battery and SD card, and measures just 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.0 inches (97 x 58 x 26mm), making it a very portable option. Currently available at a suggested retail price of about US$280, the Coolpix S630 is about middle of the price range for pocket digital cameras.
Nikon Coolpix S630
by Stephanie Boozer
Boasting a new EXPEED image processor and 12-megapixel sensor with 7x optical zoom, the Nikon Coolpix S630 comes in an array of deep-hued tones, from black and silver to midnight blue, ruby red and royal purple. Sleek and compact, the Coolpix S630 features a minimalist design and a gently curved, pocket-friendly body.
Look and feel. The Nikon Coolpix S630 has a nice heft to it without being too weighty at its 5.7 ounces (162g), enough to make it feel substantial. The camera sports a beautifully glossy front and side case, in one of five colors, that you'll definitely want to protect with a soft case when it's not in use. Measuring 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.0 inches (97 x 58 x 26mm), the Coolpix S630 has a curved body style and low profile, both very conducive to slipping into a back pocket. A recessed area on the back panel cradles your thumb comfortably, serving as a good rear grip counter to the flat front, though I'd still recommend using the wrist strap as a safety precaution.
Textured metal control buttons add a sense of quality to the Nikon Coolpix S630, and there are only a few present to twiddle with. The 2.7-inch color LCD monitor on the rear panel sports a resolution of about 230,000 dots, with a bright display. The reflective surface does result in some glare that can interfere with framing, especially in bright conditions, and is also easily scratched or smudged.
Controls. A small, metal Power button on the top panel activates the camera, placing it into shooting mode. Recessed slightly, the Power button is hard to accidentally actuate. Next to it are the Shutter button and surrounding Zoom lever, both easily activated when shooting one-handed. Rather than a mode dial, the Coolpix S630 has a Shooting Mode button on the rear panel, which pulls up the shooting mode menu, navigated by the rotary controller below. The rotary controller can be turned like a dial, or be pressed in just about any direction. Its main directional settings (up, down and left) access flash mode, self-timer, and macro options, respectively. Playback mode is activated by its own button just right of the Shooting Mode button. The only other external controls are the Menu and Erase buttons directly below the rotary controller.
Nikon left no room on the Coolpix S630 for an optical viewfinder, allowing the 2.7-inch LCD to dominate the majority of the rear panel. As mentioned before, a recessed area in the upper right corner of the rear panel makes a very comfortable thumbgrip, and prevents your thumb from accidentally slipping over and smudging the shiny LCD monitor.
The camera's tiny flash is powerful enough for general use, but we found that in close-up shots such as the macro test shot below, it was ineffective. The somewhat long lens barrel blocks any light coming from the flash at very close shooting range, so you'll want to keep that in mind when shooting in macro mode. Our lab technician noted that the flash indicator was somewhat counter-productive, in that it flashes to indicate that it's charging for the entire time you might have the Shutter button half-pressed and never stops to indicate a full charge. Thus, you wind up continuing to half-press and release the Shutter button to determine when the flash if fully charged. Not a major gripe, but definitely a slightly irritating factor if you're trying to take a lot of portraits with flash and are held up by not knowing when the flash is ready. Of course, the flash averages about 5 seconds for recharge time, which is relatively fast, so you could just wait the estimated time and then set up your next shot.
Lens. Ranging from 37 to 260mm equivalent, the Nikon Coolpix S630's 7x optical zoom lens is one of the camera's biggest boasting points. Overall quality is fair, with moderate to low distortion. Blurring in the corners is noticeable at the wide-angle setting, but details are also just a little soft at the center of the frame at both zoom positions. In terms of geometric distortion, the Nikon S630's EXPEED image processor is indeed working hard to prevent any strong barrel or pincushion distortion, as we noticed a moderate amount of pincushion at full wide-angle.
The Coolpix S630 boasts 4-Way VR Image Stabilization, which employs compensation for camera shake, motion detection, increased ISO up to 6,400 for better handling, and the standard Nikon Best Shot Selector (BSS) option. If enabled, BSS automatically snaps 10 images and saves the one sharpest image.
Modes. Shooting mode is controlled by a menu activated by a press of the Shooting Mode button on the rear panel. Playback mode also has its own button, just to the right. Within the shooting mode menu, you can opt for straight Auto mode, Scene mode, Sport Continuous mode, High Sensitivity mode, Smile mode, or Movie mode. Within the Scene selection is an Auto Selector setting, or you can manually choose Party/Indoor, Night Landscape, Fireworks Show, Voice Recording, Portrait, Beach/Snow, Close-up, Copy, Landscape, Sunset, Food, Backlight, Night Portrait, Dusk/Dawn, Museum, or Panorama Assist.
The Coolpix S630's Sport Continuous mode is a new offering, which optimizes the camera for faster-paced action. Through a secondary menu, you can opt for low, medium, or high speeds, the fastest being approximately 11 frames per second and the slowest at about 3.7 frames per second. In High Sensitivity mode, the camera automatically increases the ISO based on the lighting conditions or the amount of zoom. Smile mode uses face and smile detection to get clear images only of smiling faces. Additionally, a Blink Proof addition lets the camera snap two images of a smiling face, saving only the one image where a subject did not blink. Combine these features with an automatic Red-Eye Fix, and your portraits will likely improve.
Because more and more consumers are expecting point-and-shoot digital cameras to do a lot of thinking for them, Nikon wisely included an Auto Selector Scene mode, designed to pick the Scene mode for you based on what the camera sees in the image. If the camera detects a face framed tightly, it switches to Portrait mode. If the camera detects a subject in front of a bright background, it will enable Backlit mode, automatically employing D-Lighting to improve brightness and shadow detail.
Outside of the preset shooting modes, the camera's Auto mode is more like Program AE mode, where it controls the basic shutter speed and lens aperture and gives you control over the rest. "The rest" being white balance, ISO, metering, etc., all of which also have Auto settings if you choose to the let the camera control those as well.
The Nikon S630's movie mode is fairly standard, capturing normal 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolutions at either 15 or 30 frames per second.
Menu. The Nikon Coolpix S630's menu is fairly standard, with a side-tabbed interface revealing lists of options. The rotary controller navigates through selections, either by turning or pressing it up, down, left or right. The OK button at its center confirms any changes or selections. The menu is pretty basic and uncomplicated, and users should be able to find what they need quickly.
Storage and battery. The Nikon Coolpix S630 stores images on SD/SDHC memory cards, for a maximum capacity of 32GB per card. That'll be sufficient for most needs with this camera, and indeed a 4 to 8GB card should do the trick unless you plan to shoot a lot of video. There's also about 44MB of internal memory to get you started without a card.
The Nikon Coolpix S630's battery is a 1,050mAh, 3.7-volt lithium-ion design, model number EN-EL12. The rectangular battery latches in place beneath a long sliding door, next to the memory card slot. A single charge is good for about 220 shots, which is a little lower than average, so you'll definitely want to keep a spare fully charged and on-hand.
Shooting. The Nikon Coolpix S630 is simple to operate, thanks to its highly automatic nature. Under most normal conditions, the camera is fairly responsive. In terms of timings, its shutter lag was pretty good, meaning the camera was ready for a shot fairly quickly, when not waiting on the flash to recharge. However, shot-to-shot cycle times for large JPEGs was a bit sluggish. That, combined with the flash indicator's counter-intuitive performance, does make for frustration when taking a series of shots.
The Coolpix S630's zoom is a little noisy, but smooth and fast when zooming in large blocks. If you're trying to move in minute distances, it's a little clunky and inaccurate, and zooms way too fast. Making the transition from optical zoom to digital zoom is also sluggish, as you have to hold down the Zoom lever in full telephoto for quite a little while before it realizes to jump into digital zoom.
Outdoors, you might find the highly reflective LCD surface somewhat of an encumbrance, especially in harsh lighting. But overall, the Nikon S630's bright display is good for framing.
Considering all of the factors, from timing to quality to performance, shooting with the Coolpix S630 is clearly not an enthusiast's digital camera. It's definitely an attractive, very compact camera with some very good capabilities. Consider whether slow cycle times would bother you (2.2 seconds between shots); otherwise, image quality and overall performance are good. The Coolpix S630 also offers very intelligent image stabilization, high ISOs and smart in-camera correction tools.
Nikon Coolpix S630 Lens Quality
Wide: A hint soft at center
Wide: Softest upper left
Tele: Also a hint soft at center
Tele: Softer upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Nikon Coolpix S630's zoom is soft in all four corners of the frame, which extends further in toward center than average, noticeable in high-detail wide-angle shots. At telephoto, blurring isn't as strong in the corners, and doesn't extend very far. At both zoom settings, details at the center of the frame are slightly soft as well.
Geometric Distortion: The Nikon Coolpix S630's EXPEED processor is obviously working hard here, attempting to counteract lens distortion at wide-angle, where we actually measured a moderate amount of pincushion (about 0.2%). At telephoto, only about one pixel of pincushion was present, which is quite low (less than 0.1%).
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle
is moderate, and appears to be exaggerated by the blurring in the corners mentioned
above. Telephoto, however, exhibits more defined distortion, with brighter magenta
and cyan pixels.
Macro: The Nikon Coolpix S630's macro mode captures a very small minimum area, with very sharp detail at the center of the frame. However, blurring in the corners is quite strong, and color balance is very warm. Minimum coverage area is 0.91 x 0.68 inches (23 x 17 mm). The camera's flash is useless at this close range, with severe shadows from the lens.
Nikon Coolpix S630 Image Quality
Color: The Nikon Coolpix S630 pushed saturation in bright red, blue, orange, and yellow tones, while it actually undersaturated strong greens and cyans. Shifts in hue accuracy are also noticeable, as the camera very strongly pushed cyan toward blue, and yellow toward green. Darker skin tones are actually close to accurate, while lighter skin tones have a magenta tint. Overall performance is slightly worse than average here.
ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is very good at ISO 64 through
200, with softening becoming more noticeable at ISO 400. Chroma (color) noise
remains low key throughout the series, but luminance noise becomes more of a
problem from ISO 800 on up. Noise suppression is also a factor here. See Printed
results below for more on how this affects printed images.
Wide: Fairly bright
Tele: Also bright
Incandescent: The Nikon Coolpix S630's Incandescent white balance handles our tungsten lighting test better than both Auto and Manual options. Surprisingly, the Manual option results in a slight greenish cast, while the Auto setting shows a stronger red cast. That said, the Incandescent setting is just a tad off as well, looking slightly magenta overall, yet it's the best of the three. None of them is off to any extreme degree compared to other cameras we review.
The Nikon S630 also required no positive EV compensation, while most require at least +0.3 compensation
Printed: ISO 64 prints look pretty good at 13x19 inches, though with some evidence of anti-noise processing and some chroma noise left behind. ISO 100 shots are better at 11x14, as detail at 13x19 inches starts to degrade. ISO 200 still looks good at 11x14 inches, though detail in the shadows is fairly soft. ISO 400 shots look okay at 8x10, but with some softness around the edges of even fine detail. ISO 800 shots are good at 5x7, and ISO 1,600 shots are good at 4x6. ISO 3,200 shots are usable if there's not a lot of fine detail in the shot, but colors are oversaturated, obliterating detail, and there's a little too much murkiness in the shadows. ISO 6,400 shots are just too murky and blurry to bother.
Nikon Coolpix S630 Performance
Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is fast, at 0.42 second at wide-angle and 0.62 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.008 second, which is excellent.
Cycle time: Cycle time is a little sluggish, though, capturing a frame every 2.2 seconds in single-shot mode. We did not test the camera's Sport Continuous mode, which Nikon says captures 3-megapixel or lower images at up to 11 frames-per-second.
Flash Recycle: The Nikon Coolpix S630's flash recycles in about 5 seconds after a full-power discharge, about average.
Nikon Coolpix S630 Conclusion
The Nikon Coolpix S630 is definitely an eye-catching compact digital camera boasting a lot of updated Nikon technologies, a good 7x optical zoom lens and a 12-megapixel CCD. Working in its favor are its 4-way VR Image Stabilization, zippy EXPEED image processor, and a host of intelligent automatic functions to help you get the most out of your camera. Working against it are some noticeable blurring issues from lens quality, so-so color performance, slower shot-to-shot times, and less-than-accurate white balance. On the flip side of that are an impressive Sports Continuous shooting mode, useful D-Lighting, and Smile/Blink detection tools, and a very high maximum ISO setting (6,400). While the Coolpix S630 isn't for the enthusiast photographer, it's a pretty good camera for the snapshooter, with a long 7x zoom in a pocketable package. Printed results raise its score quite a bit, with the ability to print a nice 11x14 from lower ISO shots, and decent 4x6-inch images even from ISO 1,600 shots. Not bad from such a small camera with a relatively long zoom. We recommend avoiding the higher ISO settings, though. For its unique qualities and good printed results, the Nikon S630 earns a Dave's Pick.