Nikon CoolPix S550

Simple, no-fuss compact camera

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Nikon CoolPix S550
  • Nikon CoolPix S550
  • Nikon CoolPix S550
  • Nikon CoolPix S550
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Small and stylish build, 5x optical zoom with vibration reduction

Cons

  • Somewhat soft pictures, noise not well controlled, sluggish performance

Bottom Line

A decent but not noteworthy compact camera, the Nikon CoolPix S550 sports a 5x optical zoom with image stabilisation but it is let down a little in the image quality and speed departments.

Would you buy this?

A relatively simple unit for users who want a stylish and petite compact camera, the Nikon CoolPix S550 is yet another competent but not particularly special camera. Its 10-megapixel (Mp) sensor captures decent images, but its performance is a little sluggish and will frustrate some users.

Our main problem with the pictures is that they come out a little soft. Our test software picked up some minor undersharpening. While the pictures were still detailed and looked fine at small and medium magnifications, we’d have liked a little more crispness from the 10Mp sensor. There was minimal purple fringing outdoors and little in the way of haloing on high-contrast edges; however, the lens did cause some significant detail loss towards the corners of the frame which was frustrating.

Colour balance was fairly typical for a mid-range compact. Most primaries were slightly oversaturated, creating a bright, vibrant look that suits lively outdoors shots and which will please most users. There is a custom white balance option as well as a variety of colour modes that help achieve the appropriate balance for a particular situation. We found exposure was relatively good, with adequate detail in dark areas and highlights well controlled.

Noise, however, was a big issue. Normally compacts are fine up to ISO 400 but begin to lose quality beyond that. The S550, however, began to produce significant noise beyond ISO 200, with everything at ISO 400 and above suffering prominent detail loss. By the time you hit ISO 1600 the shots are totally unusable, thus we wouldn’t recommend this unit for low-light shooting.

In our speed tests the S550 was a touch sluggish. Its shutter lag was a very impressive 0.05 seconds, but it took over three seconds to start up and about the same between shots, making spontaneous photography a challenge. The burst mode is basic but serviceable at two frames per second.

In terms of features, the S550 is pretty standard for a camera in its class. The 5x optical zoom lens is a nice touch and it’s supported by Nikon’s vibration reduction to help remove hand-shake. Aside from that there’s face detection with an accompanying smile mode, a variety of scene options and D-Lighting, which helps balance out exposure. As mentioned before, white balance can be adjusted using the presets or via the custom mode and there are a few basic focus modes to play around with as well.

One of the big selling points of this unit is its size. It is extremely petite considering the lens. At the same time, the dark metal body looks smooth and feels sturdy, making for an impressively designed unit. The controls are simple and the interface is easy to navigate, making it ideal for beginners who are just getting into photography.

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