Nikon S5 Review

 
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Nikon S5 Operation

The Nikon S5 has only a modicum of buttons, so operating the camera is done primarily through the menu system. Though it's a little tricky to navigate at first with multiple menus required to access certain features, the camera's jog dial selector is a smart addition that helps you blaze through all the various settings. The jog dial -- which I hope will soon make the "four-way multi-selector" obsolete -- is also great for speeding through 10 images per second in playback. My biggest gripes in operating the camera are the tiny size of the on/off button which makes it difficult to power on the camera quickly when you want to catch a spontaneous moment, and the teeny-weeny zoom lever which causes the camera to shake slightly when operating. The small size of both these controls does have a purpose though -- it makes sliding the camera into your pocket that much easier.

Record Mode LCD Display: In Record mode, the Nikon S5's LCD reports limited status information, including camera mode, the resolution/quality setting, number of available images, flash status, and a number of other options that vary based on current settings. Half-pressing the Shutter button displays a green circle on the top of the screen and green hash marks in the middle when focus is achieved. The Nikon S5 doesn't show aperture or shutter speed information as some do. It does tell you when it thinks the image might become blurred by camera shake when it's forced to use a slow shutter speed. The display mode can be changed from the Setup Menu, letting you choose between a viewfinder display of the subject by itself, or the subject with overlaid status information. Some scene mode options provide an overlaid grid as an aid to orienting the camera to your subject, while others offer subject outline as alignment aids for portraits.

Playback Mode LCD Display: In Playback mode, the LCD reports the image series number, resolution/quality setting, file name and folder it's stored in on the memory card, and the date and time of image capture. It also displays an icon if the image is one that's been selected for quick download with Nikon's host software, as well as an icon indicating that you can record an audio note to accompany the image. You can hide the information overlay (except for the storage medium icon) from the Setup menu via the Monitor settings. (Not easy to find, actually.) A standard slide show option lets you see the images sequentially, with no overlay on top of them, too. The more sophisticated Pictmotion slideshow (explained in the User Report) is accessed by pressing the Mode button and scrolling to the music note icon. Pressing the Nikon S5's zoom toward "W" zooms out to a four-image thumbnail view of photos stored on the card. Pressing it a second time shows a nine-image thumbnail display. Pressing the zoom control in the telephoto direction zooms in as much as 10x on the subject, handy for checking image details and focus.

 

Nikon S5 Modes and Menus

Auto Record Mode: Activated by pressing the Mode button and selecting the Shooting mode (grey camera icon) via the jog dial, this mode places the camera in control of both aperture and shutter speed, as well as most other exposure features. Pressing the Nikon S5's Menu button displays the following Shooting menu:

  • Set-Up: Takes you directly to the Set-Up menu.
  • Image Mode: Sets the image resolution and JPEG compression to 6M* High (2,816 x 2,112 with a 1:4 compression ratio), 6M Normal (2,816 x 2,112 with a 1:8 compression ratio), 3M Normal (2,048 x 1,536 with a 1:8 compression ratio), PC screen (1,024 x 768 with a 1:8 compression ratio), or TV screen (640 x 480 with a 1:8 compression ratio).
  • White Balance: Chooses from Auto White Balance, Preset for custom presetting of white balance, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Flash.
  • Exp: Accesses Exposure compensation adjustment, +/- 2 EV in 1/3 steps.
  • Continuous: Chooses from Single, Continuous, Multi-Shot 16, and Interval timer capture modes.

  • BSS: Best Shot Selector shoots up to 10 shots and picks the one with the least blur from camera shake or poor focus. Flash is automatically turned off in this mode, since it is intended for capture of natural light photos in low light.
  • Sensitivity: Selects Auto ISO or sets the camera to 50, 100, 200, or 400.
  • Color Options: Sets the color mode to Standard, Vivid, Black and White, Sepia, or Cyanotype.
  • AF Area Mode: Chooses from Center or Manual Focus.

Scene Exposure Modes: The word "Scene" indicates this mode on the circular Mode menu. Eleven preset scene modes are available on the Nikon Coolpix S5, by pressing the Menu button. All of the scene modes preset a variety of camera options for you automatically. Four scene modes with Scene Assist to help with framing your shots -- Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait -- are located on the circular Mode menu for easy access; modes from Party/Indoor on down are available under the SCENE icon when you first select that mode, then press the Menu button to select among the options.

  • Set-Up: Takes you directly to the Set-Up menu.
  • Portrait Assist Mode: With an icon depicting a woman in a hat, this mode is best for portraits, and is the first of the camera's Framing Assist modes. In Portrait mode, the camera uses a larger aperture setting to decrease the depth of field, producing a sharply focused subject in front of a slightly blurred background. Pressing the Menu button calls up the Scene Assistance menu, which lets you choose from a range of portrait setups, including basic Portrait, Portrait Left, Portrait Right, Portrait Close-up, Portrait Couple, Portrait Figure, and Face-priority AF. In each of these modes (except basic Portrait and Face-priority AF), an outline appears on the LCD display to help you align the subject. Face-priority AF actually surrounds each face it sees with a red box, and when focus is achieved, the red box of the face chosen for focus turns green.

  • Landscape Assist Mode: A mountain scene icon distinguishes Landscape mode. Here, the camera employs a smaller aperture setting to produce sharp detail in both foreground and background objects. As with Portrait mode, the Scene Assistance menu offers a handful of options (accessed as in Portrait mode). Framing options are Landscape (no guidelines), Scenic View (mountain outline), Architecture (grid), Group Right (outlines of people with lines for buildings in the background), and Group Left (also outlines of people with building and horizon lines).

  • Sports Assist Mode: A figure in action is the icon for Sports mode, which uses faster shutter speeds to freeze action. The Menu button accesses the Scene Assistance menu, with options for Sports, Sport Spectator, and Sport Composite modes. Sport Spectator enables the user to instantly press down on the Shutter button without pausing halfway to focus, and works best with unpredictable subjects within a range of 9.8 feet (3.0 meters). Sport Composite mode takes 16 images in two seconds, each time the Shutter button is pressed, and arranges them in a four-by-four array, much like Multi-Shot 16 mode.

  • Night Portrait Assist Mode: Indicated by an icon of a person in front of a star, this mode is for twilight and dusk portraits. The flash is automatically set to Auto Red-Eye Reduction mode, and syncs to the slower shutter speed, which allows more ambient light in to balance color and shadows. The camera's ISO setting automatically adjusts as high as ISO 200, depending on the light level (not reported on the LCD screen). And Noise Reduction is turned on. The Scene Assistance menu offers the same framing outlines as in Portrait mode (described above), with the exception of Face-Priority AF.

  • Party/Indoor: Use to capture background details in situations that require flash. Also good for preserving the look of candlelight or other indoor lighting.
  • Beach/Snow: Boosts the exposure to compensate for subjects that are very bright overall.
  • Sunset: Preserves the deep colors of sunsets and sunrises. (Likely sets white balance to "daylight" rather than auto, and dials in some negative exposure compensation to get a good exposure on the sky.)
  • Dusk/Dawn: Preserves the colors seen in weak natural light seen before dawn or after sunset. The flash is disabled, noise reduction is automatically enabled at slow shutter speeds, and the autofocus-assist illuminator is disabled, even in dim lighting.
  • Night Landscape: Combines longer exposures with the "Landscape" mode. Focus is fixed at infinity, and the flash is disabled in this mode. Noise reduction is enabled for long exposures, and the autofocus-assist illuminator is disabled, even in dim lighting.
  • Close Up: Adjusts the lens for close-focusing on small objects, apparently also increases color saturation slightly. Autofocus operates continuously until you half-press the shutter button, helpful in focusing on very close subjects. AF-area mode is set to "manual", so you can select what part of the frame you want to focus on by pressing the center button of the multi-controller and moving the focus cursor around the image with the arrow keys. Press the center button again to save the new AF area selection.
  • Museum: Enables longer exposure times and higher sensitivity, for indoor situations where you can't use flash. Automatically turns on the Best Shot Selector to help get a sharp image. The autofocus-assist illuminator is disabled, even in dim lighting.
  • Fireworks Show: Sets a long exposure and small aperture so you can catch the colored trails of fireworks. Exposure compensation is disabled, and the autofocus-assist illuminator is disabled, even in dim lighting.
  • Copy: Sets the color mode to black and white, boosts contrast, and adjusts exposure to produce sharp images of black text (or line drawings) on white backgrounds.
  • Backlight: For difficult lighting conditions, when the main light is behind your subject, casting their features into shadow. The flash is set to fire even in bright conditions, to throw light onto the shadowed subject.
  • Panorama Assist: Lets you capture a series of images to be stitched together later on a computer as one panoramic image. Flash, macro, and zoom setting are all fixed at their values for the first shot in the series. Likewise, exposure and white balance values are determined by the first shot in the series, to help avoid visible boundaries between the component images in the final panorama, after they've been stitched together.
Voice Recording Mode: This mode is also located on the circular mode menu. It is denoted by a small microphone icon. This mode Transforms Nikon S5 into a digital voice recorder that can hold several hours of audio on an SD card.

Movie Mode: Denoted by a movie camera icon on the circular Mode menu. Movie mode captures moving images at 15 frames per second for as long as the memory card has available space. (Provided that you have a fast enough memory card.) Pressing the Menu button pulls up the following options:

  • Set-Up: Takes you directly to the Set-Up menu.
  • Movie Options: Sets the movie resolution. Choices are TV Movie (640 x 480 pixels), Small size fine (320 x 240 pixels), Small size (320 x 240), Pictmotion (320 x 240), Smaller size (160 x 120) and Time-lapse mode.
  • Auto Focus Mode: Selects Full-Time AF (camera is always focusing, which uses more battery and makes some moderate repetitive sound) or Single AF (focuses only when shutter button is pressed).
  • Electronic VR: When on, reduces the effects of camera shake in all movie modes except for Time-lapse.

Playback Mode: Pressing the Playback button on the Nikon Coolpix S5's back panel instantly enters Playback mode. Here, you can review captured images and movies, erase, enlarge, copy, and protect images, and also set them up for printing. Pressing the Menu button offers the following options:

  • Set-Up: Takes you directly to the Set-Up menu.
  • Print Set: Sets the DPOF settings for captured images. A "Print Selected" option brings up an index display, letting you mark individual images for printing. Once images are marked, you can decide whether any text is overlaid on the image (such as image information or the date and time). You can also cancel print settings here with the "Delete Print Set" button.
  • Slide Show: Automates a slide show of all still images on the memory card with three seconds between shots. You can also enable a looped playback that will play for 30 minutes before the camera goes into standby mode.
  • Delete: Erases selected images from the memory card, or all images (except for write-protected ones).
  • Protect: Write-protects individual images from accidental erasure or manipulation. An special display of the images on the card appears, with a three image filmstrip across the top and a larger image preview on the bottom, which you scroll through and select images to be "locked." Protected images are only deleted through card formatting.

  • Transfer Marking: Marks all images or allows user to select specific images for auto transfer when the camera is connected to a computer running Nikon's software.
  • Small Picture: Creates a lower resolution copy of an image with this tool, choosing from 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120. Great for pictures you know you'll want to email.
  • Copy: Quickly copy images from internal to external memory or vise versa. Great for images you want to bring along or keep in memory for the startup screen.

Setup Mode: The following Setup menu is accessible from the top of almost all the Coolpix S5's menus:

  • Menus: Sets the menu display mode to Text or Icons.
  • Quick Startup: Turns Quick Startup on or off
  • Welcome Screen: Chooses the welcome screen that appears at startup, either none, static, or animated, or lets you choose a previously-shot image as a personalized welcome screen.
  • Date: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar. The Time Zone option lets you set the time for either your home or a destination city.

  • Monitor Settings:
    • Photo Info: Sets the monitor to Show info, Auto info, Hide info or Framing grid.
    • Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD display.
  • Date imprint: Includes the date, or date and time as part of the image. Options are Off, or to imprint Date, Date and Time, or a Date Counter, showing the number of days since a specific date that you've chosen and entered.
  • AF Assist: Disables the AF assist light, or puts it into Auto mode.
  • Sound settings: Can turn on or off the button sound, shutter sound, and startup sound, as well as control the volume.
  • Blur Warning: Turns the camera's Blur Warning on and off. (If off, the "camera shake" icon will not appear on the LCD monitor.)

  • Auto Off: Enables the Auto Off feature, which automatically shuts down the camera after a period of inactivity, to save battery life. Times are 30 seconds, or 1, 5, or 30 minutes. Sleep mode will put the camera in standby mode after 30 seconds regardless of auto off setting if no change in scene brightness occurs; a press on the power button returns the camera to full readiness.
  • Format Card/Memory: Formats the SD card or internal memory, erasing all files (even protected ones).
  • Language: Changes the menu language to Czech, Danish, German, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Finish, Swedish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai.
  • Interface:
    • USB: Sets the Nikon Coolpix S5's USB protocol to Mass Storage or PTP. The PTP option supports automatic processing of camera images under Windows XP and Mac OS X operating systems (unless you want to mount the camera on the desktop), while Mass Storage is best for older operating systems. Mass Storage makes the camera appear as a hard drive to the operating system when plugged in via the USB cable.
    • Video Mode: Sets the video output to NTSC or PAL timing.
    • Auto Transfer: Choosing On lets you mark pictures for later transfer to a computer as they are taken.
  • Reset All: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
  • Firmware version: Reports version number of firmware (the operating software) running on device.

 

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