In moments of uncontrolled vanity, I sometimes delude myself into believing that what I say about camera design in my reviews somehow has an effect on the people who actually design them. One thing I have droned on about at some length is the idea that cameras need to be comfortable and secure to hold. There's no point having a tiny camera crammed with all the latest gizmos if it slips out of your fingers like a bar of soap every time you try to take a picture.
Well perhaps Nikon's designers were listening after all, because the new CoolPix S630 compact has an unusual curved shape with a large textured thumbgrip area on the back, and is one of the most comfortable-to-hold compact cameras on the market.
The specifications are pretty impressive as well. It has a 12-megapixel CCD with sensor-shift image stabilisation, a 7x zoom f/3.5 - f/5.3 lens equivalent to 37-260mm, a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor and a strong half-metal, half-plastic body, available in a range of colours, although in the UK it's only black or red. Overall build quality although the zoom control is a bit jerky.
The S630 is a pretty expensive camera, currently selling for around £250, which puts it on the same high shelf as other luxury compacts such as the new Canon IXUS 990 IS (12.1MP, 5x zoom, £379), or the Sony Cyber-shot W270 (12.1MP, 5x zoom, £299). While its longer zoom range and lower price might make the S630 look like good value by comparison, bear in mind that both of those rival models feature HD video recording, while the Nikon is limited to VGA at 30fps.