Nikon Coolpix S630

The S630 is fine if you need a compact camera with 7x optical zoom, but for the asking price we can't love it considering its disappointing image quality.

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Clad in a sleek brushed silver, the S630 doesn't exactly deviate from the tried and true design blueprint from earlier Coolpix cameras. At the back is a glossy 2.7-inch LCD which takes up most of the real estate, flanked by the standard control buttons and a scroll wheel which is used for alternating between menu options and photos in shooting and playback mode respectively.

Warning: curves ahead.
(Credit: Nikon)

The shutter button is positioned within easy reach at the top of the unit, and the power button sits alongside it, slightly recessed into the body. While the S630 isn't a show-stopper, its slightly bulbous curve that is 2.3cm at its thickest point sits comfortably in one hand.

At AU$499 it's definitely appealing to the more style-conscious customer who wants a little extended reach from their pocket-sized camera. In Australia, the S630 will only be available in silver.

The S630 houses a 7x optical zoom which is all the more surprising given the compact form factor, but its lens is 37-260mm which is a little disappointing as it's definitely not wide-angle. There's also a 12-megapixel sensor inside, 16 scene modes, and Nikon's vibration reduction mechanism (image stabilisation).

Ramping up the ISO capability on its compact range, Nikon has chosen to make the S630 capable of shooting at ISO 6400 — a ridiculous number that produces noise even on the highest level dSLRs, let alone on cameras with much smaller sensors.

The real differentiating point of the S630 from other compact cameras in its ilk is its burst rate — Nikon claims that up to 11 frames per second can be captured in sport continuous mode, ideal for capturing those precious pancake-flipping moments.

Performance and image quality
Setting aside our excitement about culinary exploits for a moment, we found that the S630 was generally quick, but not astoundingly so. Start-up time was less than 1.2 seconds, though shot-to-shot time slowed down considerably and we frequently had to keep pressing the shutter button to elicit some sort of response.

Incidentally, the burst mode did live up to Nikon's claims; however, on closer inspection it was only capable of taking shots between ISO 640 and 3200.

ISO 6,400 was just a mess. Click image to enlarge.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

Another curious feature was the over-zealous blink detection function. We found that it was predisposed to thinking that subjects with glasses had blinked, and continually asked us if we wanted to take the shot again. We can only put this down to Nikon's engineers being averse to the old four-eyed look.

For the first time in a while on a compact camera, we found we had to continually take a step back when trying to take a shot, purely because the widest end of the lens (37mm) paled in comparison to some of the lenses on other compacts. Wide-angle, this is not. In practice, the 7x zoom was useful, and in movie mode the camera can utilise part (not all) of the focal length during recording.

Noise was another problem with the S630, and even at low ISO levels it produced a fair amount of grain. For shots taken at ISO 3200 and above, the camera shoots at a reduced resolution of 3 megapixels, and the resulting shots are washed out and grainy.

The S630 coped reasonably well at ISO values below 400. Click image to enlarge.
(Credit: CBS Interactive)

Fortunately, chromatic aberration was kept under reasonable control, with the only noticeable fringing appearing cyan, rather than purple. This brings us to the next issue we had with the S630, its LCD screen. On areas of high detail (such as hair, leaves on trees and complex line arrangements), the screen struggled to render all the detail properly, instead making it look like small artefacts were covering these places. That said, the screen was bright and responsive even in dark situations so this other discrepancy puzzled us.

The S630 is a decent compact camera if you need speedy burst shooting in a small body with 7x optical zoom. Apart from that, there's little else to recommend this camera on considering the disappointing image quality and expensive asking price.

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