The Nikon S230 is a small camera, weighing in at just over four ounces and measuring just 20mm thick. This is a camera you won't have trouble slipping into your pocket.
The front of the Nikon S230 is dominated by the 3x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 35-105mm. Just above and to the left of the lens is an auto-focus assist lamp. Directly to the left of it is the built-in flash.
You'll notice the minimal controls on the back of the Nikon S230, that's because most of the adjustments are made using the 3-inch touchscreen display. To the right of the display you see the scene selection button and the playback button, along with the charge indicator.
There are no features on the left side of the Nikon S230, while on the right you'll find a lanyard loop.
The top of the Nikon S230 sticks with the minimalist design, you have a power button, shutter button and zoom toggle.
On the bottom of the S230 you'll find two doors. The larger one on the left opens to reveal the battery and memory card slots. The smaller one in the middle opens to reveal a Mini USB port that serves double duty as A/V out and data connection.
Like most modern point-and-shoot cameras the Nikon S230 lacks a viewfinder, so you'll have to frame all of your photos using the 3-inch display. This can be a problem in bright situations, however, as displays tend to wash out in direct sunlight.
The Nikon S230 features a 3-inch touchscreen display that takes up most of the back. Unlike most cameras that have a 4-way control, the S230 requires you to make almost all adjustments via this touch-screen. We found that it was relatively responsive and the buttons on the display were large enough to easily hit with our fingers. Don't expect it to be as responsive as an iPhone. The display seems to use resistive technology, which requires you to press on the screen a bit to get a response. One problem with touch-screen displays, of course, is that you will get smudges on the screen, so we recommend you carry around a cleaning cloth with you. The resolution of the display is 230,000 dots, relatively typical for a camera in this price range.
The Nikon S230's tiny flash is located just above and to the left of the lens. We expect that you'll likely see some issues with red-eye given how close to the lens it is, but the S230 does have built-in red-eye fix, we weren't able to tell how effective this was, however.
The Nikon S230's features a 3x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 35-105mm. The aperture range is adequate with a maximum aperture of f/3.1 at the wide end and f/5.9 at the tele end.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
The only jack found on the Nikon S230 is a single mini USB port found under a plastic cover on the bottom of the camera. This port serves double duty as both a data transfer port via a USB cable and an A/V out for connecting the camera to your television.
The Nikon S230's battery is found under the larger cover on the bottom of the camera, right next to the memory card slot. As you would expect the battery is as small as the camera itself, Nikon rates it for only 160 shots so you might want to pick up an extra if you expect to be taking a lot of photos.
The Nikon S230 supports standard SD cards, including high-capacity SDHC cards that are available up to 32GB in size. The memory card slot is found on the bottom right next to the battery slot.
Design & Appearance
The Nikon S230 is small and cute, definitely for those looking for a stylish camera. We like the clean lines of the camera and one benefit of the touch-screen interface is that it's not studded with buttons and controls like other small cameras. The S230 is available in five colors, including Plum, Jet Black, Night Blue, Gloss Red and Warm Silver.
Size & Handling
Like any small camera the Nikon S230 is going to give those with large hands fits. There's not a ton of room for you to grip the camera without you reaching the LCD display on the back or covering up the flash on the front. Those with smaller hands won't have this problem, however.
The major handling issue with the Nikon S230 is obviously making adjustments using the touch-screen. Except for the mode and playback buttons on the back you'll have to use the touch-screen to access every function of the camera. We found that this was very difficult to do one-handed, but when held in both hands we were easily able to navigate the on-screen menu system. No, it's not as fast as using a dedicated 4-way controller, but it likely won't drive you batty either.
The Nikon S230's menu system uses large fonts and buttons, not just for the sake of legibility but also to make them finger friendly as you use the touch-screen to interact with the interface. Combined with the relatively large 3-inch LCD we found the menus easy to use. One thing that is missing is a customizable or quick access menu that you see on higher-end point and shoots.
Ease of Use
The Nikon S230 is not a difficult camera to use, there are no advanced manual modes and only a limited number of adjustments you can make. This is truly a point and shoot camera. The most difficult thing is to make adjustments using the touch-screen, but even this isn't overly difficult as long as you use both hands. We also imagine that most people who buy this camera probably won't be delving into the menus too much.
The Nikon S230's auto mode has several features to help improve your shots. First up is an automatic scene selector, which attempt to tell what kind of scene your capturing and make the necessary adjustments. There's also face detection on board, which can handle up to 12 faces (theoretically). The S230 also tries to compensate for camera shake, although this is electronic rather than built into the lens, which is usually less effective. Motion detection is also built in, which boosts the ISO when fast motion is detected in the scene.Finally you can switch to a smile detection mode, which will try to figure out when your subject smiles and takes a photo at the appropriate time. This is not built into the standard auto mode, however. These technologies are all relatively standard in modern camera, but they do all help to make the automatic mode a bit smarter. This is a good thing since you won't find any advanced manual modes on the S230, although you can make manual adjustments to ISO and exposure compensation.
The Nikon S230 captures video at a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 24 frames per second, relatively typical for a modern camera.
Unfortunately Nikon has not provided any information about the maximum frames per second the S230 can capture. In the menu you can choose from Continuous, Best Shot Selector (which takes up to ten shots and picks the sharpest), Multi-Shot 16, and Interval Timer Shooting.
To enter playback on the Nikon S230 just press the dedicated playback button at the bottom right of the back. This gives the interface below where you see your latest photo in full screen. You can navigate between photos by pressing the next and previous buttons on-screen, but you can also swipe your finger across the screen.
Custom Image Presets
The Nikon S230 offers 19 different scene modes, each adjusts your settings for a particular situation. Press the mode button and then the scene mode tab on the display to get the list of all the scene modes and then select the one you want. Unfortunately, the requirement for having rather large icons on the screen so their finger friendly also means you don't have a lot of information on the display about what the scene modes actually do, so we recommend you peruse the manual to figure out what all these icons mean. As you can see below, they range from the mildly arcane to the completely absurd.
The Nikon S230 is a simple camera and doesn't have any true manual modes like aperture/shutter priority or full manual. You can make some manual adjustments to things like ISO, but don't expect a lot of control here. You're really at the mercy of the S230's automatic mode for the most part.
Like most modern cameras the Nikon S230 offers a face detection mode that will focus on faces in the scene. It also takes advantage of the touch screen allowing you to tap on any point on your screen to lock focus on that point. You can exit this mode by pressing the Off button that appears just over the Menu button at the bottom left of the screen once you've tapped on the screen. Although an interesting feature you do have to be careful not to accidentally tap the screen and lock your focus on accident. There is no support for manual focus.
The Nikon S230 offers a fairly typical range of ISO options that can be accessed via the main menu. ISO settings go all the way up to ISO 2000, although frankly we wouldn't recommend using anything above 400 with a camera this limited.
The Nikon S230 offers a standard selection of white balance modes. You can choose from Auto, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy and Flash. There's also a manual white balance option, a nice feature to see on a simple point and shoot like the S230.
The Nikon S230 doesn't offer any metering modes that you can select from. We think it likely that it uses either average or center-weighted metering as its default.
Nikon has not published any information about the range of shutter speeds the Nikon S230 offers, this isn't too important since you have no control over that anyways.
The Nikon S230's aperture range is nothing overly impressive, starting at f/3.1 at the wide end and going down to a maximum aperture of f/5.9 at the tele end. Frankly even with the camera zoomed all the way out you're not going to get very impressive low-light performance out of S230, so we recommend you use the flash when in dim conditions.
Nikon is making a big deal about the Nikon S230's image stabilization features, with four different features that are supposed to help you get sharp photos. The first is software processing to produce sharper images. The second is motion detection that boosts the ISO and shutter speed automatically when a moving object is detected. They also tout the ISO 2000 capabilities of the S230 and a Best Shot Selector feature that takes up to 10 photos and saves the sharpest.
Frankly none of these features wow us. Yes, they can help in some situations, but they're not going to perform as well as optical image stabilization or sensor shift. Not that we're surprised to see the lack of these features on a camera as small as the S230.
Picture Quality & Size Options
The Nikon S230 offers two quality options for images: High and Normal. The maximum image size is 3648 x 2736 with the smallest coming in at 640 x 480 and three options in between. You can also choose a 16:9 setting at a resolution of 3584 x 2016.
There are no picture effects like Sepia or Black and White available on the Nikon S230.
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