Nikon S2 Review
|Full model name:||Nikon S2|
|Sensor size:||1-inch type|
|Kit Lens:||2.50x zoom
|Dimensions:||4.0 x 2.4 x 1.2 in.
(101 x 61 x 29 mm)
|Weight:||6.7 oz (190 g)|
|Full specs:||Nikon S2 specifications|
Nikon S2 Review -- First Impressions
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 05/14/2014
At the start of 2013, Nikon launched its S1 mirrorless camera, setting a new benchmark for 1-series affordability. Almost a year and a half later, the 14-megapixel Nikon S2 follows in that camera's footsteps, and while it can no longer technically be called the most affordable 1-series model -- its own predecessor still holds that title, and several other pre-2014 models hover at or below the S2's price -- it's certainly far and away the most affordable 1-series camera launched in the year to date.
In terms of styling, the Nikon 1 S2 looks much like its predecessor. Size and weight are near-unchanged, and while there have been some tweaks -- most notably in the area surrounding the LCD panel, which is now flush with the rest of the camera back -- they're pretty subtle. Softly-rounded corners abound, and it's an altogether cuter, friendlier-looking design than the minimalist, almost industrial look of the pricier Nikon J4. The biggest physical difference from that camera, though, is that the Nikon S2 forgoes a Mode dial, just as did its predecessor.
So what's new? Key among the changes are a higher-resolution image sensor and a faster processor. Together, these allow an increase in both ISO sensitivity and burst-shooting performance. Nikon has also significantly improved battery life since the S1, and the Nikon S2 now uses Micro SD storage and a Type-D Micro HDMI video output. Other notable differences in the S2 include support for 1080p60 video capture, a new multi-shot ISO Sensitivity Noise Reduction function, and a variety of new creative effects and tools for both stills and video.
Compared to the more expensive J4, the Nikon S2 opts for a lower-resolution image sensor with fewer on-chip phase detection autofocus points, forgoes a touch screen and built-in wireless networking, and has slightly lower battery life. The S2 also lacks the J4's raw+JPEG capture mode, skips its high-speed 720p120 video mode, and halves the number of shots saved by the Auto Image Capture function during movie shooting.
Available from June 2014, the Nikon S2 will be available in Black, White, Red or Yellow, with two different kit options. A kit including an 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens will be priced at US$450, while a two-lens kit will add a 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 VR lens to the bundle for $700.
Alongside the S2, Nikon USA has also revealed two new accessories that will be of interest to fans of scuba and snorkeling. The WP-N3 Underwater Case works for the Nikon S2 body with the 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens mounted, and allows the pairing to be used at depths of 147.6 feet (45 meters). The SB-N10 Waterproof Speedlight works alongside this underwater case, and is in fact safe to an even greater depth of 328.1 feet (100m). Pricing hasn't been disclosed for either accessory, but they'll already be available by the time the camera itself goes on sale.
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Let's take a closer look at the Nikon S2's features!
Nikon S2 Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins
Sensor. At the heart of the Nikon S2 is a 14.2-megapixel CMOS image sensor in the standard CX-format used by all 1-series cameras. Output dimensions are 4,592 x 3,072 pixels or below. The chip is just fractionally less wide than the 10.1-megapixel chip of the S1, with an area of 13.1 x 8.8mm, but has significantly higher resolution. Given that Nikon isn't describing the chip as new, it's likely related to the design used previously in the Nikon 1 J3 and V2, although sensitivity is a little higher.
Processor. That could also be explained by the new EXPEED 4A image processor, though, which replaces the EXPEED 3A chip used in the J3, V2, and S1. With more processing power on offer, it's possible that the S2 is simply doing a better job of noise processing, thus allowing higher sensitivity from the same chip.
Sensitivity. The Nikon S2 offers a range of sensitivities from ISO 200 to 12,800 equivalents. By way of comparison, the lower-res S1 provided everything from ISO 100 to 6400, while the J3 and V2 allowed ISO 160 to 6400.
If higher sensitivity is needed and your subject is relatively static, there's good news. Nikon has added a new multi-shot ISO Sensitivity Noise Reduction in the S2, which stacks four sequential shots into a single output image. By merging multiple shots, noise levels are reduced.
Performance. The Nikon S1 was already an unusually swift camera for its price-point. The S2 is even more so, able to shoot full-resolution images with autofocus at the same 20 frames-per-second rate as the more-expensive Nikon J4. That's a healthy step up from the 15 fps provided by the S1, despite the increase in resolution. (If you take that into account, the increase is even more significant -- where the S1 could effectively shoot 165 megapixels/second, the S2 will manage 284 megapixels/second.)
Given the greater performance, that could conceivably be faster than you'd want, so Nikon has also added a reduced-rate 10 fps mode with autofocus. There are also 30 fps and 60 fps full-res modes, both of which were present in the Nikon S1, and which rely on autofocus being locked from the first frame.
Autofocus. While we're discussing autofocus, it's worth pointing out that the Nikon S2 is essentially unchanged from its predecessor in this area. As with the S1, the S2 uses a hybrid autofocus system combining on-chip phase detection pixels, and contrast detection operating on information from the image sensor. There are a total of 73 phase-detection autofocus points, and 135 contrast-detection AF points. In auto-area mode, the system functions as if it has 41 AF points. An AF assist illuminator is provided, helping to get a lock on nearby subjects in low light.
Display. The Nikon S2's display is also unchanged. It's still a 3.0-inch, 460,000 dot (HVGA; ~154,000 pixel) TFT LCD, and as in the earlier camera, there's no touch-sensitive overlay. That means all of your interaction will take place through the camera's physical controls, and predominantly the Nikon 1 multi-selector. That's a significant point of differentiation from the J4, which includes a 1,037,000 dot touch-screen.
Exposure. The Nikon S2 offers the usual array of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual exposure modes, as well as a Scene Auto Selector mode, which analyzes your subject and chooses an appropriate scene type automatically. Available scene modes include Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, and Close-up.
Metering. Just like the earlier model, the Nikon S2 determines exposures using the image sensor, and offers a choice of matrix, center-weighted, or spot metering. Exposure compensation is available within a range of +/-3 EV, and with a step size of 1/3 EV.
Shutter. The S2 also still uses an electronic shutter, and is capable of shutter speeds from a very swift 1/16,000 second to 30 seconds, plus both bulb and time exposure. Flash X-sync is achieved at a sedate 1/60 second.
Flash. The Nikon S2's built-in, popup flash relies on i-TTL metering, and offers a choice of seven different flash modes. These include red-eye reduction, and flash exposure compensation is also available, within a range of -3 to +1 EV in 1/3 EV steps.
White balance. In all, the Nikon S2 offers a choice of nine white balance modes, including an underwater mode for use with its optional underwater housing. The full list of white balance modes includes Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade, Preset Manual, and Underwater, and all except preset manual allow fine tuning.
Creative options. The Nikon S2 offers a reasonable array of options for those with a creative bent. Nikon's optional Active D-Lighting function is available to draw detail out of shadows, and help hold onto the highlights.
There's a new Creative Pallet function which allows preview of effects prior to capture, and the selection of effects has been expanded. As well as the existing soft, miniature, and selective color effects, the Nikon S2 now boasts HDR, cross process, and toy camera effects. We don't yet know whether the HDR effect is a true multi-shot HDR, or simply a crunchy, HDR-esque look from a single image.
And of course, Nikon's Picture Controls options are present and accounted for, as you'd expect. Choices include Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape, and you can modify existing Picture Controls or create your own.
Movie. Like its predecessor, the Nikon S2 shoots high-definition movies, but there are several new features of note in this area. Most interestingly, where the S1 was limited to interlaced 60 fields-per-second shooting at the Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution, the Nikon S2 will now manage progressive-scan 60 frames-per-second shooting at the same resolution. Maximum clip length is ten minutes when shooting in 1080p60 mode. And while it lacks the high-speed 720p120 capture of the J4, the Nikon S2 does inherit that camera's clever Auto Image Capture function.
With Auto Image Capture active, the S2 will save still photos for you automatically at full resolution, without interrupting movie capture and without the need for you to even press the shutter button. (The idea is to allow you to hold the camera more steadily, as pressing any control is likely to cause the camera to shake, and cause untoward noise to be recorded on the audio track.)
The S2 buffers 10 images -- half as many as the J4 -- shortly after capture starts. It chooses the best video frames to save at full resolution after taking into account the status of focus, whether a face was detected, and whether the composition was what the camera considers to be "good". It then continues to look at frames as the video continues, and to rank them according to the same algorithm. If it sees a better frame, it discards and replaces the worst-ranked frame that was previously buffered. Once you finally stop video capture, the best 10 frames are written to the flash card, giving you the chance to sort through them for some keeper shots -- and the whole thing is completely automatic. It strikes us as a pretty clever use of the camera's processor power.
The Nikon S2 also boasts the jump cut and four-second clip functions of the J4, neither of which were present in the S1. When shooting jump cut video, the S2 alternates between recording for one second, and pausing capture for one second, repeating until you stop the capture. The idea is to obtain a series of short clips in a single video. The preset four-second clip function, meanwhile, is intended to generate short clips that you can manually edit into a longer video. And for fans of slowing down fast action, the S2 retains its predecessor's (admittedly, rather low-res) 400 / 1,200-fps slow-motion video modes.
Movies shot by the Nikon S2 use Electronic Vibration Reduction, which applies a slight focal length crop. Note, though, that eVR is not available when shooting at 1080p60, so your highest-quality movies will go unstabilized.
Like its predecessor, the Nikon S2 still uses H.264 / MPEG-4 AVC compression, and saves movies in a .MOV container, complete with audio from an onboard stereo microphone.
Connectivity. Although the S2 doesn't include the built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking radio of the more expensive J4, it's compatible with an optional WU-1a Wi-Fi adaptor should you later decide you want to hop on the cable-free sharing bandwagon. Even after the $60 pricetag of the WU-1a, you'll still save quite a bit over the cost of a J4 kit, but you'll get a rather less seamless experience.
As well as the optional Wi-Fi connectivity, the Nikon S2 includes both a USB 2.0 High Speed data connection, and an HDMI high-definition video output. The latter now uses a smaller Type-D Micro connector, rather than the Type-C connector of the Nikon S1.
Storage. Miniaturization has also happened in another area: the Nikon S2's flash card slot. Where its predecessor used a full-sized Secure Digital card, the S2 now has a new MicroSD card slot, as more commonly seen in smartphones. (It's both MicroSDHC and MicroSDXC compatible.) Note that while it supports both compressed JPEG and .NEF raw formats, the Nikon S2 doesn't support simultaneous raw+JPEG capture, unlike its higher-end sibling, the J4.
Power. Nikon has made a significant improvement in battery life with the S2, taking the CIPA-rated shot life from 220 up to 270 frames -- an extra 50 shots after the S1 would've thrown up the white flag. That's doubly impressive when you consider that the new EN-EL22 battery pack used by the Nikon S2, in place of the earlier EN-EL20, actually has just fractionally lower power density than before. (The new pack is rated for 1010mAh / 7.3Wh, where the old design was a 1020mAh / 7.4Wh pack.)
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