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The S230's overall performance is a bit on the slow side. It takes nearly three seconds to start up, and about two and a half to shut down again. In single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately four seconds, which is very slow for a premium camera. There is a continuous shooting mode in the sports scene program, but its shooting rate is erratic and quite slow. It shoots the first three frames quickly enough, but then slows down to about 2.4 seconds per frame.
The AF system is excellent, focusing quickly and accurately in almost all lighting conditions despite the lack of an AF assist lamp, and the exposure system is just as good, coping well with unusual lighting, including strong backlighting. The face recognition system is also good, detecting faces even in quite poor light conditions, or when turned partly away from the camera.
The overall image quality is quite good, although there are a few problems. The lens produces a lot of distortion at wide angle, and although there is the Distortion Control feature it still suffers from extensive corner blurring even when this is switched on. Colour reproduction is excellent, but dynamic range is only about average for its class, capturing some shadow detail but blowing out bright highlights. Noise control is also a bit shaky. There is some colour mottling even at the lowest ISO setting, and copious quantities of hot pixels from 800 ISO upwards, but it still shows a good level of detail even at this setting, although 1600 and the maximum 2000 ISO look like the picture has been hit a small localised blizzard.
The Nikon CoolPix S230 is attractively designed, and it is certainly well made, but the trendy touch-screen interface can't hide the fact that this is actually a very average camera. It suffers from slow performance, a very limited range of features including lacklustre zoom range and surprisingly poor lens quality, especially considering its relatively high price.