The S630 is also a little lacking in overall performance. It starts up in just over 1.5 seconds, and shuts down again in just over two, which is quick enough, but in single-shot mode it is quite slow, with a shot-to-shot time of approximately 3.2 seconds. In continuous shooting mode it isn’t much better, shooting a frame every two seconds, accompanied by an alarming hissing whine from the autofocus system, which is automatically set to full-time AF in continuous mode.
Nikon has made a lot of progress with its compact camera AF system over the past year or two. It used to be a major weak point, but the AF in the S630 is very good. It focuses quickly and accurately in almost all lighting conditions, even at long zoom settings in quite low light, although the rather weak AF assist lamp does limit it to a range of around two metres in really dark conditions. The built-in flash is nice and powerful, with an effective range of about five metres and good frame coverage at wide angle.
Image quality is generally very good. Colour reproduction is excellent, and the matrix light metering is usually accurate and reliable, and copes well with most lighting conditions, including strong backlighting. The quality of the 7x zoom lens is also good, with minimal distortion, good corner sharpness and minimal chromatic aberration. However despite the quality of the lens, the 12MP resolution of the sensor and the relatively low compression ratio of the highest quality setting, the images still look slightly soft. I still don’t think there’s any advantage to 12MP over 10MP.
Another area where Nikon has made improvements is noise control, and the S630 can produce excellent image quality up to 400 ISO, and usable prints from 800 ISO. Even at 1600 ISO images are OK if you just want them for a website, but 3MP shots at 3200 and 6400 ISO do look a bit grim. Overall though the S630 is capable of producing good photographic results in a wide range of lighting situations.
Although it’s a bit expensive for a point-and-shoot automatic, the Nikon CoolPix S630 does offer excellent handling, Nikon’s impeccable build quality, a big 7x zoom and very good picture quality. It copes well with most lighting conditions, and is ideal for holiday snaps and social situations. Performance is a bit slow, and it lacks some of the latest features, but it’s a nice camera to use and takes good pictures.