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The main controls on the S5 are very basic, and it has to be said that some of them are rather fiddly. The main power switch is a tiny button on the top panel measuring less than 3mm wide and slightly recessed. I personally found this a bit hard to operate, so anyone with less-than-perfect muscle control is going to have a very hard time with it. The shutter button is also very small and hard to find by touch alone, while the zoom control is so tiny it’s ridiculous. I can understand designers wanting to make small, highly portable cameras, but there comes a point at which the camera becomes so small that it is awkward for anyone with normal-sized hands to operate. The top panel controls on the S5 may have gone past this point by several miles.
Another handling problem is the highly reflective finish of the LCD screen. Surely designers must have realised by now that this makes it impossible to see in bright sunlight? Come on Nikon, try to keep up.
The zoom control has other problems apart from its size. No matter how delicately I operated it, I couldn’t get the zoom lens to go from its widest to its longest settings in any more than six large and jerky steps. It is also impossible to switch off the digital zoom, so minus several million brownie points for that little oversight.
The D-pad almost makes up for it though. Like the Canon Powershot S60, the Coolpix S5 features a D-pad that can also rotate. This is used for the rotary Mode menu, and also allows very fast scrolling through your pictures, as fast as 10 frames a second. Of course it also operates as a normal four-way controller for menu navigation, including secondary functions for flash mode, macro mode and self-timer.
As I’ve reported before, I have a personal dislike for the style of camera that has the lens right in the top corner like the S5. They’re fine for one-handed operation, but if you try to use the camera two-handed, for instance to stabilize it when shooting in low light, it’s very easy to get the fingers of your left hand in front of the lens. It’s not a major problem I know, but I still find it annoying. However one advantage with this type of non-extending lens is much faster start-up times, in this case around 1.5 seconds, which is very fast by any standard.
Shot-to-shot times are also very good. In continuous shooting mode it can manage five shots in 3.5 seconds, although there is then a five-second wait while the files are transferred to the memory card. The S5 also has a decent movie mode, with the now-obligatory 640 x 480 pixel resolution at 30 frames per second.