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The CoolPix S560 makes a very good initial impression. It is a very small camera, measuring 93 x 54.5 x 23.5 mm, and is also very light, weighing approximately 145g including card and battery. The body is all aluminium and despite its size and weight it feels solid and well made.
The overall design is refreshingly straightforward. The shape of the camera body is a simple oblong box, slightly rounded at the front, and with a curved indentation with a small textured area on the rear that serves as an adequate thumb grip. Compared with the slippery shape of the IXUS 970 the S560 has vastly superior handling. The body is finished in an attractive brushed texture, and is available in black (seen here), silver, and of course pink.
For a small camera with a large monitor the control layout is remarkably uncluttered, with large well-spaced buttons that are clearly labelled, although the etched markings on the D-pad can be a little hard to make out in dim light. The zoom control is a simple rocker switch, but it is sensibly positioned and operates smoothly, with eight steps between minimum and maximum zoom.
The S560 is packed with advanced features including face detection, smile detection that delays firing the shutter until your main subject is smiling, and blink detection, which warns you if your subject blinked when the photo was taken. As well as this there is Nikon's Best Shot Selector, which automatically selects the best of up to 10 sequential shots.
These features, as well as the other main shooting modes are selected via the button marked with the asterisk. There are a couple of oddities in this section, for instance as well as a scene mode with 15 scene programs, and an auto scene selection mode that picks the right scene program automatically, there is also a special mode just for taking photos of food. Why the design team didn't just add this into the scene mode menu is a mystery, but if you want to photograph your dinner then I'm sure it will be very useful.
There are a couple of unusual features in playback mode as well, including an Auto-sort function that categorises your photos by subject. The S560 also has Nikon's D-lighting feature, which attempts to compensate for lack of dynamic range by lightening shadows and darkening highlights, but while effective for some shots it can't rescue badly burned-out highlights.