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Nikon CoolPix S520
- Fairly good overall image quality, looks good, simple interface
- Some noise issues at higher sensitivities, yellows are a little inaccurate, slow at times
Nikon's CoolPix S520 doesn't do anything out of the ordinary. It provides decent image quality, a simple set of features and has a nice design, but it does have some speed problems and the pictures aren't perfect.
Price$ 379.00 (AUD)
Sitting towards the middle of the company's new compact range, Nikon's S520 is a solid if slightly uninspiring camera. Its 8-megapixel sensor captures reasonably good quality images that will satisfy happy-snap users and while it does have a few nice features on offer, it also suffers from some speed issues which detract a little from the overall package.
These days an 8-megapixel sensor actually sits towards the middle of the pack, with many 10-megapixel compacts flooding the upper tiers of the market. Nonetheless, in general such a sensor will capture perfectly adequate shots for small and medium print sizes.
In Imatest's sharpness test the S520 proved to not quite have the same resolving power as some of the competition; however, this won't be noticeable unless you're making sizeable enlargements. Its shots had a slightly soft look but edges were still crisp and well defined.
Chromatic aberration wasn't too problematic either. Some Nikon compacts in the past have suffered heavily from flaring and haloing issues but that wasn't the case here. There was some corner softening though that is fairly normal while purple fringing was kept well under control. Similarly there was little in the way of haloing in our high contrast indoors chart tests.
Colour response was decent without being fantastic. There is a custom white balance option which helps keep colours looking accurate and it was noticeable in the rich reds and blues. Colours were perhaps a little paler than normal, particularly in shades of yellow and light green and the overall balance was quite soft. This can be tweaked using the colour settings in the camera's menu.
In our noise tests the S520 yielded interesting results. In some ways its performance was fairly standard, with shots at ISO 100 and ISO 200 coming out relatively clean. At higher sensitivities images weren't as noisy as on many other units; however, the noise correction algorithm did result in a drop in image quality. We'd recommend sticking to lower sensitivities unless you're making small 4x6in prints.
The cameras speed results were a little disappointing. In particular, its shutter lag hovered around the 0.15-second mark, which is considerably slower than the standard 0.07-0.1 that we typically see. Power up time was similarly sluggish at 3.5 seconds. Shot-to-shot time seemed to vary depending on the auto focus system (which was a little flaky); it was anywhere from 2 to 2.5 seconds. The burst mode was also quite slow, capturing 1.8 frames per second.
Features wise the S520 is a standard Nikon compact. It has face detect, Nikon's Best Shot Selector mode (which is basically a bracketing feature) and 15 scene modes. White balance can be set using the presets or with the aforementioned custom mode, and vibration reduction also returns providing some basic protection against handshake although it isn't as effective as an optical solution.
Design-wise the unit looks pretty good. It has a standard wide, slim, boxy build but is constructed out of brushed chrome metal which adds a touch of style. The controls and interface are all extremely basic and apart from a strangely labelled button, everything is easy to grasp and use.
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