Nikon CoolPix S630

A 12-megapixel Nikon digital camera with an 11 frames-per-second continuous shooting mode and a 7x optical zoom.

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Nikon CoolPix S630
  • Nikon CoolPix S630
  • Nikon CoolPix S630
  • Nikon CoolPix S630

Pros

  • 7x optical zoom, sturdy, 11 frames-per-second burst mode

Cons

  • Lens isn't wide enough, images are somewhat soft, scroll wheel and camera shape take some getting used to

Bottom Line

The CoolPix S630 isn't one of Nikon's best digital cameras. With sub-par image quality and an unconventional shape, it fails to be anything other than halfway decent. Still, if you're in need of a powerful optical zoom and a versatile continuous shooting mode, this camera will get the job done.

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The Nikon CoolPix S630 is a 12-megapixel compact digital camera equipped with a powerful 7x optical zoom lens. It also comes with some handy inbuilt features, including ISO 6400, face and blink detection, distortion control and an 11 frames-per-second continuous shooting mode.

Unfortunately, picture quality was lower than we were expecting from a $500 camera, particularly when it came to image softness. It’s also unconventionally shaped and suffers from a fiddly user-interface. Despite these shortcomings, it remains an acceptable (if uninspiring) point-and-shoot compact camera.

The standout feature of the Nikon CoolPix S630 is probably its 7x optical zoom lens. This makes the S630 more versatile than the majority of compact cameras, which typically offer a 5x optical zoom or smaller. The obvious benefit of a 7x optical zoom lens is that you won’t have to crop your photos as much — which means they’ll retain full image quality. The inclusion of Nikon’s Vibration Reduction system will also ensure that your zoomed-in photos remain blur-free. Often, these ‘systems’ are just hollow marketing pap, but we found Vibration Reduction to be very effective. You can also zoom into subjects while recording in movie mode, which is always handy.

However, the Nikon CoolPix S630’s zoom function is not without its faults. With a minimum focal length of 37mm (equivalent), it is poorly equipped for wide-angle shooting. You’re often forced to shuffle backwards to fit everything into the frame. On top of this, we noticed significant barrel distortion in our panoramic shots, though this can usually be corrected via the camera’s distortion control function. Still, these shortcomings are very disappointing, especially when you consider the zoom’s status as a supposedly flagship feature. As it stands, the 7x optical zoom is merely good, rather than great.

Unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t end there: the S630’s image quality is mixed. Like most digital cameras, the Nikon CoolPix S630 uses inbuilt noise-reduction software to combat graininess at higher ISO settings. Unfortunately, we found that this led to overly soft images, with finer details falling victim to digital smearing. Our shots sometimes lacked the sharpness that one would expect from a 12-megapixel camera.

The Nikon CoolPix S630 provides ISO sensitivities all the way up to ISO 6400, although image quality does begin to suffer at ISO 400 and above. Nevertheless, its output remains fair in optimum conditions and should prove more than suitable for making decent sized prints with. Just be mindful there are similarly priced compact cameras on the market that offer a better imaging performance. (Recent examples include the FijiFilm Finepix F100fd and the Canon IXUS 870 IS.)

To be honest, we weren’t bowled over by the Nikon CoolPix S630’s appearance either. With dimensions of 96.5x57.5x25.5mm and weighing in at 166g, it’s slightly chunkier than the average compact camera (though to be fair, most of them don’t offer 7x optical zooms). While the titanium silver finish is attractive enough, the unit’s body is unusually contoured, with a thick curve on the left-hand side that ends in a thumb-shaped depression. This is supposed to make the camera fit more naturally into the hand, but we found ourselves pining for a standard oblong shape. On the plus side, the build quality of the camera is exceptional. We particularly liked the little metal door the houses the AV port — a nice touch.

In place of a traditional joystick configuration, the Nikon CoolPix S630 uses a spinning scroll wheel for menu navigation. While it remained perfectly responsive during testing, it doesn’t ‘feel’ particularly intuitive, especially when compared to Nikon’s CoolPix S230 which has a touch screen. Thankfully, the menu itself is very user-friendly, with English taking precedence over inscrutable symbols and icons.

Being a point-and-shoot camera, manual features are kept to a bare minimum. Along with the now-obligatory face detection and 16 scene modes, the highlight is probably the continuous shooting mode, which offers an impressive 11 frames per second burst rate (up to 20 frames can be taken with each shutter-release). If you’re a sporting fanatic keen to study the minutia of your technique, this function is bound to come in handy.

All up, the Nikon CoolPix S630 is a mixed bag of a camera that contains its fair share of faults. While it will get the job done, there are similarly priced options on the market that do a better job. A mostly unremarkable effort.

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