It’s a funny thing, but last week I ran out of my allotted 1,000 words trying to describe all the features and options of the Olympus E-500 DSLR. This week I’ve got a camera that’s so simple I’m going to be hard pushed to find 1,000 words to describe it.
Launched in February this year, the Coolpix S5 is one of two new cameras in Nikon’s S range of ultra-slim pocket compacts. The S series itself is relatively recent, starting with the 5.0 megapixel S1 launched around this time last year. All the cameras in the series share the same basic layout, with a 3x optical zoom non-protruding lens mounted in the top right corner of the front panel, and only a bare minimum of external controls. The S5 has a 6.0 megapixelssensor, a high resolution 2.5in LCD monitor, and a strong metal body. It measures 93 x 59 x 20mm and weighs 165g including battery and card – it may be neither the slimmest nor the lightest camera on the market, but it is small and light enough to slip into a shirt pocket or purse without leaving much of a bulge.
Like all Nikon compacts the build quality is exemplary. The finish is protected by a scratch-resistant lacquer, and the LCD also has a scratch-resistant acrylic outer layer, so the camera should survive an accidental in-pocket encounter with you car keys without too much damage. For its size the S5 feels surprisingly substantial, and it has a feeling of real quality about it. As well it might, because with a list price of £299.99 and a street price of around £235 it is well above the average for a camera in this class. With cameras such as the smaller and lighter Casio EX-Z60, Sony DSC-W50 or Pentax Optio S6 available for under £200 the Coolpix S5 needs to be something special if it’s going to compete. The Nikon brand name alone, unimpeachably reputable though it may be, simply isn’t enough these days.
What it does offer is simplicity of operation that will appeal to most first-time users, which is slightly ironic since the S5 contains more advanced technology than most other cameras. I’ll come to the clever stuff in a bit, but first let’s look at the handling and performance.