Nikon S5 Review

 
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Nikon Coolpix S5 Optics


Lens

Zoom
A typical 3x optical zoom range, with good results overall (though some noticeable blurring in the corners).

35mm
105mm
4x Digital Zoom

The Nikon Coolpix S5 zooms over the equivalent of a 35-105mm range, about average among digital cameras of this class. Details are well-defined at wide angle, though there is noticeable softness in all four corners of the frame, and a small amount of coma distortion or flare visible in the upper tree branches. The camera's 4x digital zoom takes it out to 12x total, albeit with lower resolution and softer details as a result of the digital enlargement.

Macro
A tiny macro area with excellent detail and resolution. Flash exposes fairly well, but with uneven coverage.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

As is typically the case with Nikon digital cameras, the Coolpix S5's macro setting performed unusually well, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.54 x 1.16 inches (39 x 29 millimeters). Detail and resolution were both excellent, with great definition even in the tiny particles of dust on the top edges of the coins. Corner softness is fairly minimal as well. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode, the Nikon S5 shows less than most.) The flash throttles down pretty well considering the tiny macro area, but its light doesn't reach the left corners of the frame evenly. (The flash should work fairly well at working distances of several inches or more, but plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.)

Distortion
High barrel distortion, and high pincushion as well.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The Nikon Coolpix S5's 1.05% barrel distortion at wide angle is quite high, much higher than average (average is about 0.8%, still more than we'd personally like to see), and noticeable in some images. At the telephoto end, the S5's 0.7% pincushion is also much higher than average. (Average pincushion is very low, 0.3% or less, often much less.)

Barrel distortion at 35mm is 1.05%
Pincushion at 105mm is 0.7%

Chromatic aberration
Somewhat high at wide angle, but low at telephoto.

Wide: high, top left @ 200% Wide: high, top right @ 200%
Tele: low, top left @200% Tele: low, top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is a bit high at wide angle, showing about 7-8 pixels of fairly bright coloration on either side of the target lines. Corner softness on the Nikon S5 is also fairly strong, which tends to make this effect more visible as well. At telephoto, there's virtually no chromatic aberration, though corner softness is again at work here. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Corner Sharpness
Significant softening in all four corners of the frame, but effect extends only a little way into the image area.

Wide: quite soft in the upper right corner. Wide: crisp detail at center.
Tele: soft in lower right corner. Tele: sharp at center.

The Nikon Coolpix S5 produced notably soft corners in a few shots. Though all four corners of the frame were affected at both zoom settings, the right corners appeared to have slightly stronger blurring than the others, at least with our test sample. While the blurring is quite pronounced, the good news is that it's restricted to the very corners of the images, extending only a relatively short distance into the frame.

Viewfinder

Coverage
An accurate LCD monitor.

35mm eq., LCD monitor 105mm eq., LCD monitor

The Coolpix S5's LCD monitor showed about 104% of the final image area at full wide angle (actually a little "loose"), but closer to 98% frame accuracy at full telephoto. Both numbers are likely within our margin of error for shots that have so much pincushion or barrel distortion in them. (The issue is one of deciding what part of the distorted edges of the image you're going to consider to be in or out of the frame.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix S5 Photo Gallery.

Nikon S5

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