Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on March 27 2009

nikon s630 prev

I’ve just published my review of the Nikon Coolpix S630, a pocket-sized camera with 7X optical zoom and a very ergonomic “Sure Grip” design. As usual, full-sized photos taken straight out of the camera are available in the Nikon Coolpix S630 photo gallery. Hit the link for the full review of the camera.


DPInterface Nikon Coolpix S630 Review

Brad Soo – March 27th, 2009

nikon s630 intro

The Coolpix S630 can be regarded as Nikon’s offering in the “small camera, big zoom” market; with 12 megapixels of resolution, 7X optical zoom with image stabilization, 2.7 inch LCD and a comfortable-to-hold design (really). The camera also has Nikon’s Smart Portrait system (which consists of face, smile and blink detection as well as redeye fix), automatic scene selection and Motion Detection.

Ready to learn more about the camera? Read on

Size and Weight

(201.1) 103.0 x 60.5 x 37.6 mm (220 g) – Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
(179.5) 96.5 x 57.5 x 25.5 mm (140 g) – Nikon Coolpix S630
(177.6) 96.4 x 55.9 x 25.3 mm (132 g) – Olympus Stylus 7000
(187.0) 96.0 x 60.0 x 31.0 mm (185 g) – Olympus Stylus 9000
(195.7) 103.3 x 59.6 x 32.8 mm (206 g) – Panasonic Lumix ZS3/TZ7
(200.7) 104.1 x 61.0 x 35.6 mm (219 g) – Samsung HZ10W
(223.1) 107.3 x 68.7 x 47.1 mm (250 g) – Sony Cyber-shot H20
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card

The Nikon Coolpix S630 is one of the smaller cameras in the “compact camera, large zoom” category. The camera is very lightweight as well. The Coolpix S630 will easily fit into most pockets… and we’ll discuss ergonomics in the camera tour section

Box packaging

The Nikon Coolpix S630 comes with a decent bundle:

  • EN-EL12 Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cables
  • Camera software CD
  • User’s manual

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has 44 MB of built-in memory and doesn’t come with a memory card. The Coolpix S630 takes SD/SDHC memory cards and I would recommend getting a 2 GB or 4 GB card to start with. A high speed memory card helps to reduce writing times slightly; so you might consider getting one (I’m not forcing you here though, since the difference isn’t huge).

280 shots – Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
220 shots – Nikon Coolpix S630
150 shots – Olympus Stylus 7000
250 shots – Olympus Stylus 9000
300 shots – Panasonic Lumix ZS3/TZ7
290 shots – Sony Cyber-shot H20
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries according to CIPA Standard

The Coolpix S630 uses the EN-EL12 lithium-ion rechargeable battery. You’ll get about 220 shots per charge (CIPA Standard), which is below average both in its class and as a digital camera. I’d recommend getting an additional battery with the camera if possible.

Accessories

Nikon doesn’t offer a whole lot of accessories for the Coolpix S630. You can get an optional AC adapter and various camera cases for the camera, but that’s about it.


Camera Tour

The Nikon Coolpix S630 is a sturdy and compact camera with a 7X zoom lens. Build quality was good – no creaking when holding the camera and everything felt solid in hand. In terms of ergonomics, the Coolpix S630 is the most comfortable to use small camera that I’ve ever held. Nikon touts this as their “Sure Grip” design; where the camera’s shape curves towards the right side (and also increase in depth) to create a very nice right hand grip which doesn’t protrude or bulge out a lot from the camera.

The Nikon Coolpix S630 comes in your choice of several colors: black, silver, red, dark blue or purple. And as you can tell, this is the silver model.

nikon s630 front

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has a 7X optical zoom lens which covers a familiar 37 – 260 mm with an aperture range of f3.5 to f5.3 (it appears to be the same lens used on Olympus’ Mju 1060 and Stylus 7000 models). The lens is a bit on the slow side, and has no wide-angle component. However, there’s optical image stabilization, which Nikon calls Vibration Reduction, which helps reduce blur caused by shaky hands.

There are two things to the right of the lens: to the upper right is the autofocus assist/self-timer countdown lamp and to the lower right; the camera’s microphone. Next to the NIKON logo is the Coolpix S630’s flash.

nikon s630 back

There’s a 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels on the back of the Coolpix S630. The screen has great visibility in both low and bright light. All of the Coolpix S630’s controls are situated next to the screen. You’ll notice a small indicator for the camera’s flash status as well as the very nice indent where your right thumb will go.

nikon s630 scr2

Press the mode button and you’ll see this screen

Directly below that indent are two buttons: one is the mode button and the other is for accessing playback. The mode button brings up a semi-transparent overlay on the display with four tabs showing the main shooting modes of the camera:

  • Program mode
  • Scene modes – Auto scene selection, portrait, landscape, night portrait, party/indoor, beach/snow, dusk/dawn, sunset, night landscape, close-up, food, museum, fireworks, copy, backlight, panorama assist, voice recording
  • High sensitivity mode – the camera will boosts ISO in order to obtain a sharp photo
  • Movie mode – more on this later

One of the “must have” features on 2009 cameras is, as it seems, a mode where the camera detects the scene and automatically picks an appropriate scene mode. The Coolpix S630 has such a feature, which Nikon coins “Scene auto selector” and it does exactly what I described in the previous sentence.

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has a rotary wheel + navigation pad combo. You can operate it in the usual four directions as well as rotate the entire wheel to scroll through menus, photos and change settings. Let’s have a look at the directional functions:

  • Up – Flash setting (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, off, on, slow sync)
  • Down – Focus mode (Normal, macro, infinity)
  • Left – Self timer (Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds)
  • Right – Exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 steps)
  • Center – OK/Set

The last two controls on the back of the Coolpix S630 are the MENU and delete photo buttons.

nikon s630 top

There’s not a lot at the top of the Coolpix S630; the power button and shutter button with a zoom controller wrapped around it are all you will find. You’ll also be able to observe the wedge-like shape of the Coolpix S630 which increases in depth and curves towards the right… and unlike any other camera shaped similarly, the Nikon Coolpix S630 is REALLY nice and easy to hold; you’ll have to get your hands on the camera to try it out, and once you do, you’ll probably wish every camera was like this too.

nikon s630 side

This side of the camera is blank. On the other side, you’ll find two ports: for DC-IN and combined USB + A/V out respectively. The camera supports USB 2.0 High-speed connectivity.

nikon s630 bottom

At the bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S630 are its battery/memory card compartment (the door over it is solid), tripod mount and speaker. You also get to see more of the Coolpix S630’s ergonomic design (note the shape).

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

nikon s630 scr1

I’ve reviewed many Nikon cameras over the years and I’m disappointed that Nikon STILL skimps on details when it comes to on-screen display of information. There are very few shooting details (you can see flash mode, image stabilization, shooting mode and number of images remaining here), exposure info when you half-press the shutter button and no live histogram, battery indicator or any other details. A zoom indicator appears when you use the zoom controller.

The Nikon Coolpix S630 offers quite a number of image resolution options as well as two compression settings. Image resolution choices include 12 MP, 8 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, 1 MP, XGA, VGA and widescreen (8 or 2 MP). Sadly, you can only select image compression (High or Normal) only if you are using the 12 megapixel setting… the default compression setting for lower resolutions is “Normal” quality.

nikon s630 scr3nikon s630 scr4

The Coolpix S630 features Nikon’s new menu system for 2009 Coolpix cameras, which is supposedly modeled based on their digital SLR menu system (but to me, it looks a whole lot like a less colorful version of Panasonic menus):

  • Picture size/quality
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, flash, custom)
  • Metering mode (Matrix, center weighted)
  • Continuous mode (Single shot, continuous shooting, Best Shot Selector)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 2000, 3200, 6400)
  • Color options
  • Focus area (Face detection, auto, center point)
  • AF mode (Single/continuous)

The Coolpix S630 has several features that I want to talk about: Best Shot Selector takes up to 10 pictures in a row before the camera selects the best/sharpest one from the bunch. There’s also Motion Detection, which is activated via the setup menu, where the camera will look at the scene and automatically set ISO based on the amount of action going on (a still scene prompts the camera to choose a low ISO value, while ISO will be increased when there’s a lot of movement in the frame).

The camera also boasts Nikon’s Smart Portrait system, which comprises of face detection of up to 12 faces, software-based redeye removal, D-Lighting (brighten dark areas of photos), Smile Mode (the camera takes a picture automatically when a smile is detected) and Blink Proof.

Blink Proof is a feature new to Nikon cameras. It’s different from your average “warning appears that one of your subjects blinked”, as it combines smile detection with blink detection. Blink mode will take two pictures when a smile is detected and save the photo where your subject(s) had their eyes open.

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has a nice macro mode where you can go in as close as 2 cm from your subject. That’s about it for the Coolpix S630’s shooting features – I already mentioned the scene modes available earlier on, and there are no manual controls on the camera.

Video Recording

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has an average movie mode which records VGA (640 x 480) movie clips at 30 FPS with sound. Each movie clip is limited to 2 GB (around 30 minutes at the highest settings). You can extend recording times by lowering the frame rate to 15 FPS or resolution to QVGA (320 x 240). All movies are recorded in AVI Motion JPEG format.

Optical image stabilization can be activated but you cannot use zoom or focus while recording. Video quality was decent but audio was out of sync AGAIN like on other Nikon compacts.

Performance

All performance testing of the Nikon Coolpix S630 was performed using a high-speed 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC (90X) card.

The Nikon Coolpix S630 starts up and is ready to go in 1.5 seconds. Focusing typically took 0.3 to 0.5 seconds in bright light and times ranging from 0.7 to upwards of a second in low-light. The good news is the camera managed to focus well in low-light.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 1.8 seconds, fast and above average
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 4 seconds

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has two primary continuous shooting modes. Regular continuous shooting is just so-so; with a frame rate of 1.2 frames per second. The “Sports Continuous” (comes under the scene mode section) shoots at a blazing 11 frames per second up to 20 photos, but resolution is lowered to 3 megapixels.

The Nikon Coolpix S630 moves its lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 2 seconds. The Nikon Coolpix S630 performed in the average to tad above average range in terms of speed. The camera’s startup time and shot-to-shot were both quick while focusing and full-resolution continuous shooting were about average (for a 12 megapixel compact camera).

Image Quality

Moving on, we’re gonna look at the Coolpix S630’s image quality now:

iso64

ISO 64 (f3.5, 1/15 sec)

iso100

ISO 100 (f3.5, 1/24 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/48 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/114 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/190 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f3.5, 1/383 sec)

iso3200

ISO 3200 (f10.0, 1/101 sec)

iso6400

ISO 6400 (f10.0, 1/186 sec)

The Coolpix S630 already starts out with some visible color noise at ISO 64. At ISO 100, the noise still remains and there’s a little noise reduction. Don’t worry, for most uses (print/display), things are still acceptable at this point. Noise reduction starts to become more obvious at ISO 400 and this will limit you mostly to mid-size to small prints.

Once you hit ISO 800, image quality becomes unacceptable (too much noise and a lot of details destroyed) and the same applies to higher settings from here. At ISO 3200 and 6400, picture quality is even worse, and these settings are only available with the 3 megapixel resolution setting.

chart

Perhaps something surprising about the 7X zoom lens here is that distortion is minimal…. and no, it’s not the “distortion control” feature because I had it turned off for all the shots. Oh, which reminds me of the Distortion Control feature that Nikon has included, – it does exactly what it sounds and reduces the amount of lens distortion but apparent the S630 doesn’t need it anyway.

There’s some color fringing (chromatic aberration) in photos as well as visible blurring towards the edges of the lens. That’s not very nice because it’s noticeable in real life photos, especially foliage and landscapes.

Redeye is not a problem with the camera. The only good things about the Nikon Coolpix S630 were low distortion and no redeye, but in all other respects, the camera produced below average image quality. It’s such a pity, considering the camera has a decent feature set, the S630 is let down by its image quality.

Photo gallery

Have a look at all the full-sized photos straight out of the camera int the Nikon Coolpix S630 photo gallery.


Playback

nikon s630 scr6nikon s630 scr7

The Nikon Coolpix S630 has a decent playback mode. There are the basics such as print marking, image protection, rotation, simple slideshow and voice clip attachment. Photos can be enlarged by 10X for detail inspection and can also be tagged as your “favorites”.

You can view photos individually, in sets of thumbnails, by date or favorites only. Images can be copied between the internal memory and memory card, and you can even make a small copy of a photo for easy posting onto the web/email via the Small Picture function. You can also use the Quick Retouch feature or apply D-Lighting to photos.

nikon s630 scr5

Playback display is another area where the Coolpix S630 skimps a lot on information display. There are no shooting details, exposure info, nothing – even a histogram is unavailable.

Conclusion

The Nikon Coolpix S630 is a small camera with a lot of zoom and resolution. There’s optical image stabilization, a really, really nice, ergonomic grip (I can’t stop talking about it because it’s that good) and numerous point-and-shoot features. The camera has decent performance (some areas are above average) and very good LCD visibility. However, battery life and movie mode on the Coolpix S630 are not so great.

There are lots of features which appeal to those who want a simple camera. You’ll get the whole bundle of Nikon goodies and more in their Smart Portrait system (face, blink, smile detection, redeye fix and D-Lighting) as well as Motion Detection and scene selection which automatically pick an ISO value and scene mode respectively based on different conditions. The S630 has no manual controls though.

The Nikon Coolpix S630’s downfall is pretty anti-climatic, just about everything was smooth sailing (except battery life and movie mode) until we reached image quality. What’s the use of having good ergonomics and a decent set of point-and-shoot features when a camera can’t take good quality photos? If you actually do buy the Coolpix S630, remember to get an extra battery and be prepared to do cleaning up of images on your computer.

What’s hot:

  • Excellent ergonomics; plenty of zoom with optical VR
  • Very good LCD visibility
  • Improved menu system versus old Nikon compacts
  • Smart Portrait, motion detection and auto scene selection features
  • Decent performance with fast startup and shot-to-shot; fast (but low-res) sports mode

What’s not:

  • Visible noise at low ISOs, edge softness and color fringing
  • No manual controls
  • Lacking a lot of information display in both shooting and playback modes
  • Below average battery life
  • Below average movie mode; no zoom allowed and audio sync problems

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB or 4 GB high-speed SD/SDHC memory card
  • Extra lithium-ion rechargeable battery


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12 Comments

  1. melanie April 12, 2009 Reply

    Can you change the aperture and shutter speeds on this camera?

  2. Brad April 12, 2009 Reply

    Unfortunately there’s no manual exposure controls on the camera – so no, you can’t adjust them directly.

  3. Donna July 29, 2009 Reply

    When I review an image I’ve just taken in zoom mode, the display is vertical (taking up only the center portion of the screen) even though the photo is horizontal. Why is that? Is there a way to change that? It is very disconcerting and results in a smaller review image.

  4. Brad July 29, 2009 Reply

    Hi Donna, it could be due to the position of the camera when you took the photo/the way you’re holding it in playback. The camera ‘auto rotates’ photos depending on the position, so try holding the camera horizontally when taking a shot and playing back.

  5. Donna July 29, 2009 Reply

    The position of the camera is horizontal for taking the photo and for playback. It works fine when the shot is not taken using the zoom. I tried holding the camera vertically for playback, but the image does not move. Is “auto rotate” not working properly or turned off?

  6. Brad July 30, 2009 Reply

    Hi Donna, seeing that your camera is behaving in such a manner, it seems to be having some sort of technical issue (which unfortunately, I am unable to diagnose precisely since I’m not a camera repair person). It’s best if you contact your local dealer or Nikon support regarding your problem.

  7. Rosie August 31, 2009 Reply

    I am having problems with the automatic white balance. Purple is blue, the red in it is completely washed out, preview, on the computer screen, and in print. I have tried using the manual white balance and it just turns everything else yellowish.
    Is there a place I can find a better color profile and load it to the camera? Currently I have sRGB Color Profile.

  8. DPInterface August 31, 2009 Reply

    Hi Rosie, seeing that Nikon has no firmware updates available for the Coolpix S630, it could be that your camera's sensor has some sort of issue (One of my old cameras had the exact same issue a few years back). You might want to contact Nikon's support desk located at http://www.nikonusa.com/Service-And-Support/Servi

  9. DPInterface August 31, 2009 Reply

    Hi Rosie, seeing that Nikon has no firmware updates available for the Coolpix S630, it could be that your camera's sensor has some sort of issue (One of my old cameras had the exact same issue a few years back). You might want to contact Nikon's support desk located at http://www.nikonusa.com/Service-And-Support/Servi

  10. Suzanne King December 2, 2009 Reply

    So what camera would you recommend for under $300 that has a good quality picture, and a lot of these great features, such as selecting the best scene and selecting the best picture from a group, blink proof and a pretty high zoom?

  11. Krys December 22, 2009 Reply

    I have a Coolpix S630, HOW can I get better close ups? What settings should I use? I have experimented with this and still not satisfied…with the results. Macro, ISO??, flash or not… it just doesn’t come out crisp and clean.

    • Brad December 23, 2009 Reply

      Hi Krys, you can try to activate Macro mode, ensure the camera’s zoom indicator is within/does not exceed the ‘flower’ icon range in macro mode, setting ISO to around 100 or 200 and using a tripod if possible. Also make sure the camera is not too near (Around 2 inches at wide-angle and 12 inches when using zoom) your subject.

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