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Testing / Performance
*We tested the Coolpix S5 to see how realistically it replicated colors. We did this by photographing an industry standard color chart manufactured by GretagMacbeth. The chart consists of 24 color tiles. We uploaded the S5’s pictures into Imatest imaging software, which analyzed the pictures and compared the original colors of the chart to those produced by the Nikon S5. The software program output the following chart, which is a modified version of the original. It shows the ideal color in the inner vertical rectangle of each color tile. The outer square of each tile shows the color as seen by the Nikon Coolpix S5. The inner square is the original color corrected for luminance by the software.
The colors look a little off, but it is easier to see just how "off" they are in the following graph – also provided to us by Imatest. The graph shows the ideal colors as squares and the S5’s colors as circles. The long the line between the two shapes, the more erroneous the color.
Almost every color has a long leash to where it is supposed to be. Traditionally, it is the red colors that are over-exaggerated because those are the ones that enhance skin tones for digital cameras. The Nikon Coolpix S5 has a problem with blue colors though – in addition to the rest, of course.
Overall, the S5’s colors are disappointing because they just aren’t very realistic. These test results came from the camera’s Standard color mode, which is less noisy and more accurate than the Vivid color mode. The results are still unfortunate though: the camera over-saturated by 28.3 percent and had a mean color error of 11.8. The S5’s colors are even worse than its sibling’s. The S6 received a 6.48 overall color score, while the Nikon Coolpix S5 received an awful 6.07 mark. **Still Life Scene**Below is a shot of our still life scene, recorded with the Nikon Coolpix S5.
Click on the image above to view the full resolution version](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=NikonS5-StillLife-LG.jpg)
We tested the Nikon Coolpix S5’s 6-megapixel resolution by photographing another industry standard chart. The resolution chart has lots of black lines of various thicknesses and shapes to determine the camera’s ability to produce a clean and sharp shot. We snapped plenty of photos of the chart using different exposure settings, but the sharpest shot came from a focal length of 17.4 mm and an aperture of f/5.4 – the exact settings that garnered the sharpest shot from the Coolpix S6.
Click on the chart above to view the full resolution image](https://www.reviewed.com/cameras/viewer.php?picture=NikonS5-ResCH-LG.jpg)
The inner portion of the picture shows a sharp, clear shot of the resolution chart. The outer edges, though, look soft. They aren’t as blurry as the picture taken by the S6, but the numbers on the edges look like they’re fading out. The Nikon Coolpix S5 performed slightly better than the S6 in this test. Imatest puts out resolution results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which is a theoretical measurement of how many alternating black and white lines of equal thickness could fit across the frame without blurring. The Nikon S5 managed to fit 1497 lw/ph horizontally with 12.9 percent over-sharpening and 1493 lw/ph vertically with 16.1 percent over-sharpening.
This is only marginally better than the S6, which managed 1491 lw/ph horizontally and 1390 lw/ph vertically. The Nikon S6 received an abysmal resolution score of 2.96, which the Nikon Coolpix S5 only slightly trumps with its 2.99 result.
Noise – Auto ISO* (8.6)
*When the camera was set to automatically select the sensitivity, it did so correctly. With the bright studio lighting, the Nikon S5 metered the scene properly and set the ISO to the lowest possible setting. The noise level during this test was equivalent to what was found at the manual ISO 50 setting. For this, the Nikon Coolpix S5 received an overall automatic ISO noise score of 8.6. While this isn’t as illustrious as the S6’s 10.68 marking, it is still impressive.
**Noise – Manual ISO ***(6.18)
*We tested the noise level at each manual ISO setting as well. That didn’t take too long, seeing as the camera has a short ISO range that extends only from 50-400. The results are shown in the chart below. The ISO sensitivity is shown on the horizontal axis and the noise level on the vertical axis.
This chart looks almost identical to the Nikon S6’s. The rise from ISO 50 to 100 is steep, followed by a plateau from 100 to 200, and another jump from 200 to 400. The amount of noise is nearly identical too. After applying the individual noise level from each rating into a regression analysis, the overall manual ISO noise score was determined to be 6.18 – just a touch better than the S6’s 6.1 score. The Nikon Coolpix S5 performed decently and kept images pretty clean, especially for being a skinny point-and-shoot model. It would have been nice to see a larger ISO range, but the S5 will still produce good pictures in good lighting.
**Low Light Performance ***(5.25)*
To see how the S5 does when the lighting isn’t so good, we tested it in diminishing light levels of 60, 30, 15 and 5 lux. The first test was done at 60 lux, where the lighting is about what you’d find in a living room after the sun has gone down and there are two soft lamps. The second test was done at 30 lux, which is equivalent to the illumination from a single 40-watt bulb. The last two tests were done at 15 and 5 lux, which are very dark and are not common for photo opportunities; we test them in this extreme darkness to see if the image sensor has any limitations. The best pictures from the tests are shown below.
The colors suffered a bit, but the picture still retained illumination through 15 lux. The image darkened considerably at 5 lux though. Images became increasingly noisy as the light turned low and the shutter remained open longer. To see the correlation between the exposure time and the noise level, check out the chart below. It shows the shutter speed on the horizontal axis and the noise level on the vertical axis.
Once again, this chart looks familiar. The S6 used similar shutter speeds except for its 15 lux test. In that test, the S6 used a 1.7-second exposure time and the Nikon S5 used a 1.9-second shutter speed. The results are nearly the same though. The Nikon Coolpix S5 produces decently illuminated and clean shots in low light.
**Dynamic Range ***(4.25)*
Dynamic Range refers to a camera's ability to show detail and texture in both very light and very dark areas of a subject in a single picture. Cameras with poor dynamic range show areas of pure black and pure white in subjects that ought to show subtle details.
We test dynamic range by photographing a Stouffer chart, which is made up of rectangles of tone, ranging from very bright to very dark. We use Imatest software to measure how well the photographs record the tones. We look at Imatest's high quality and low quality results. High quality shows the range of tones that will look smooth and attractive, and low quality shows the broader range of tones that will show visible texture, but with increased image noise.
A camera's sensitivity setting, or ISO, has a big impact on dynamic range, so we test cameras at each ISO setting. The S5 has good scores at ISO 50, and fair scores at 100 and 200, but at 400, it's flat-out weak. High-quality range under 4 EV will yield blotchy pictures in all but the flattest lighting. It's unusual to see such a poor result at ISO 400 – many pocket cameras do better at 800 or even 1600.
**Speed / Timing
***Start-up to First Shot (6.48)
*The Nikon Coolpix S5 took 3.5 seconds to start up and take a picture, which is a long time. Many compact cameras take 2.5 seconds or more, so the S5 isn't alone in being so pokey, but the speed is a problem – if a user turns the S5 because something photogenic suddenly happens, she/he is likely to miss the shot.
The Coolpix S5 manages bursts of 4 full-resolution shots at a time, taking 1.5 seconds to shoot the burst, and about 7 seconds to clear its buffer and get ready to shoot again. A 2.6 frames per second burst rate is respectable for a compact camera, though it would be more useful if it could shoot more frames at a time. The S5 also has a high-speed burst mode, which shoots 16 low-resolution frames in slightly less than 8 seconds, and composites them into a single image that looks a bit like an index print, showing 4 rows of 4 images each.
*Shutter to shot (8.18)
*All cameras delay slightly between the time the user presses the button and when the mechanical parts and electronics actually capture the picture. Compact cameras like the S5 delay longer than more advanced cameras, and their delay frustrates many users. The S5's delay of 0.42 seconds is comparable to that of many other compact cameras. That's too bad, because many users will have trouble getting the shots they want of moving subjects – people playing sports, animals, active children and so on. Compact-camera users should cultivate the knack of pressing the shutter just before the peak of action to take into account the delay.
**Front *(8.0)*The front of the Nikon Coolpix S5 is quite plain, and its important features are all crammed into the top right corner. The 3x optical zoom lens, which remains in the camera body at all times, is between the built-in flash on the left and the auto focus assist lamp on the right. A Nikon logo graces the top left corner of the camera, while the Coolpix S5 title sits below the three features on the right side. The lens specs are printed down the right side: "Zoom Nikkor ED 5.8-17.4 mm, 1:3.0-5.4." Back***(7.5)*The back side of the camera has a platform that frames the LCD screen and a few control buttons, then what looks like a bit out of its top right corner. This semi-circular divot is where the ****right thumb rests; there are four bumps to aid grip. Just left of the divot are two rectangular buttons. The top one has two icons on it for the shooting and playback modes; the button below ****has a green ‘m’ on it with the word "mode" below it. Below this is a smaller rectangular button labeled "Menu." To its right is a similar button with a trash can icon on it. A square LED that lights up green is situated just above the delete button. At the bottom of the control set is a rotary dial with a central OK button and four surrounding icons: the top changes the flash mode, the left turns on the self-timer, and the bottom activates the macro mode. There is also an arrow icon next to a circled ‘OK’, which means that the central button can transfer pictures to printers with a single touch. To the left of all these controls is the 2.5-inch LCD screen, which is flush with the platform and has a Nikon logo beneath it.
**Left Side ***(8.0)*The left side is completely devoid of features. It has a very shiny chrome finish. So shiny, in fact, that users can check to see if broccoli is sticking in their teeth after dinner. The mirror is quite skinny, but is still usable – especially because there are no features to block the view.
**Right Side ***(8.0)*The right side can also act as a small mirror, but its view isn’t as good. There is an eyelet in the center of this side.
**Top ***(7.0)*The top of the S5 shows Nikon’s interesting "wave" design. The camera is thicker on the left side, where the 3x optical zoom lens resides. The right side is a touch thinner, which makes the camera more comfortable to hold. On the left side of the S5’s top is the one-touch portrait button that activates all of Nikon’s portraiture technology. To its right are four holes that act as the speaker. There is an oval hole directly right of the speaker; this is the microphone. On the right half of the top is a chrome highlight with three buttons on it. The power button, which is tiny and circular, is on the left. The shutter release button is oval-shaped and placed in the middle, with a tiny LED to its left. On the right side is the zoom toggle, which moves left to zoom out and right to zoom in.
**Bottom ***(8.0)*The wave design is also visible from the bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S5. The serial number and branding info are located under the thicker side with the lens on it, and the battery compartment is in the thinner side where the right hand grips the camera. Just right of the center are the tripod socket near the front and the connector terminal near the rear.
**Viewfinder (0.0)*Some digital cameras are still including an optical viewfinder, but are doing so more for nostalgia than anything else. The Nikon Coolpix S5 avoids the classic feature altogether and opts for the modern approach: a 2.5-inch LCD screen. The screen has great resolution and a 170-degree viewing angle, so it can be seen when held over the head or at the hip. Its refresh rate is good enough to keep moving subjects from blurring, which can’t be said of all LCDs on compact digital cameras. The drawback to the nice view is the coverage: the S5 only shows 97 percent of the live view on the LCD.
*LCD Screen ***(8.5)*Besides a smooth refresh rate and great viewing angle, the Nikon Coolpix S5 has 230,000 pixels on its 2.5-inch screen. While the size of the screen is smaller than the S6’s 3-inch feature, the resolution is the same. The pixels are packed tighter on the S5, so the image looks a little smoother – even if it is a bit smaller. The low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD screen’s brightness can be adjusted from 1-5; a sample image view helps users choose which brightness setting they will need. These settings will need to be adjusted when shooting outdoors. There is 97 percent coverage of the recorded image in the live view, but playback shows the entire picture. Picture information can be shown or hidden on the screen. Framing grids can be added, as well, in the Monitor Settings portion of the setup menu. The S5 model we received already had a dead pixel on its LCD screen that showed up purple. Although the user manual assures that this is normal and won’t affect the recorded image (which it doesn’t; the downloaded picture looks fine), it still sticks out and is bothersome to the eyes. Flash (5.75)Like the S6, the Nikon S5 has an incredibly weak built-in flash. It reaches only 8.5 ft at best. When users zoom in on subjects and use the flash, it is only effective to 4 ft 7 inches – hardly enough for subjects that require zooming. The flash light itself is stronger on the left side of the frame, so subjects on the right side will be a little darker. The uneven flash produced plenty of red eyes, even when the camera’s one-touch portrait button and red-eye reduction modes were used (which supposedly includes in-camera red-eye fix). The camera uses three distinct pre-flashes to shrink the capillaries in the back of the eye when the red-eye reduction is activated, but this doesn’t seem to work. The following modes can be selected by pushing the top of the multi-selector: Auto, Auto with Red-Eye, Off, On, and Slow Sync. The poor coverage, limited options, and abundance of red eyes make the built-in flash one of the least desirable features on the Coolpix S5. Zoom Lens (6.5)**The Nikon Coolpix S5 has a 3x optical zoom lens that does not telescope outwards but remains inside the metal camera body at all times. This makes the lens more durable, although I wouldn’t recommend pitching it against the wall or anything. The Nikkor lens is small and has an even smaller control. It is perhaps the tiniest zoom control on a digital camera and will drive large-fingered folks absolutely nuts. No one really has fingers small enough to comfortably handle this zoom switch. Once users sharpen their nails and move the control, the lens can zoom from 5.8-17.4 mm or 35-105 mm in 35 mm format. The control can stop at about six focal lengths within the zoom range, which is average for a compact digital camera’s 3x lens. The Nikkor lens itself, which is constructed from 12 elements in 10 groups, makes some motor noise as it zooms in and out. As it zooms, its position is visible on a bar across the top of the LCD screen. On one end of the bar is a "W" and on the other is a "T." Just right of the center of this bar is a line that separates the optical zoom range on the left from the 4x digital zoom on the right. The lens stops at that line; users must then re-push the zoom switch toward the "T" to enter the digital zoom realm. The S5 has a macro mode that focuses as close as 1.6 inches, although sometimes the lens acts a bit finicky. Several times, the camera had trouble focusing on close subjects and displayed the following message on the display screen: "Initializing lens cannot focus!" That strange phenomenon is a drawback to this lens, as is its tiny control and its positioning. The lens is located in the top right corner of the front, which is just where the left fingers naturally wander. Another disappointing aspect of the lens is its relatively small aperture range. The camera’s maximum aperture is f/3.0 in wide and f/5.4 in telephoto, with its smallest offering being f/8.5. Still, the Nikkor lens has hardly any barrel distortion and is a sturdy element of this camera.
Design / Layout
**Model Design / Appearance***(8.25)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 is one of the best-looking digital cameras out there. Its body is constructed of metal and is shaped into a wave design that is not only more comfortable to hold than the traditional box-shape, but looks pretty swanky too. The sleek Coolpix comes in a silver-colored body that is plain but looks sophisticated with its chrome highlights. The camera is slim and designed to be stashed in a pocket, which makes it look great and transport well – but is a downer for the controls. As stated before, this model has one of the smallest zoom controls out there. Its other buttons are quite cramped onto the skinny body. Still, the appearance is sexy and stylish. **Size / Portability***(8.75)*This digital camera was made to be portable, with its 0.8-inch thick profile and 3.7 x 2.3-inch measurements. The slimness and the wave design make it easy to slide into a pocket, and its weight of 4.8 oz (unloaded) makes it feel like it’s just a part of users’ legs. The durable metal body can handle the life of a transient camera that always travels in pockets and cramped quarters. Adding to the S5’s portability is the eyelet on the right side that allows for attachment of the included wrist strap. **Handling Ability***(5.0)*The S5 is made more for looks than for function. It’s like Nikon’s poster child, Kate Moss, who looks skinny and good but is probably not entirely functional. That’s why she’s on posters and not sweating on a track. Similarly, the Coolpix S5 isn’t made for major manual functionality – designers probably assumed that its target audience wouldn’t want to press any buttons except the shutter release and maybe one-touch portrait control. Thus, they crammed buttons into a corner and enlarged the LCD screen to 2.5 inches. The buttons are small, which makes handling interesting. The zoom switch is so small and hard to grip, so that’s another drawback. Worst of all, the left fingers easily get in the way of the lens. There are still a few aids to handling though: the wave design is slightly easier to handle rather than the boxy shape of most slim pocket cameras. The S5 also has a thumb divot on the back with bumps to improve grip. While these features are a start, tiny controls and cramped positioning show that Nikon still hasn’t completely grasped the comfy handling concept.
**********************************Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size (4.25)*The designers of the Nikon S5 clearly had style and portability at the forefront of their plans and control button handling as an afterthought. This model looks great, but its buttons are cramped and tiny for the most part. The zoom control is ridiculously small and difficult to push one way or the other. The power button may need to be pushed with a needle head because of its small size. The shutter release button is recessed and harder to push than on most models. Despite the cramped space and small size, the S5 does include a big rotary dial like the one on the Canon PowerShot S80 and the Nikon Coolpix S6: it can be pushed like a multi-selector or rotated like a dial. Thus, it can navigate through menus and breeze through pictures quickly and easily.
**Menu **(7.0)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 has a fairly new menu system that boasts a new color scheme and a larger icon size than those on previous Coolpix cameras. The rotary dial also improves navigation through the menus. The menus are displayed on a white background with gray text and a yellow box that highlights the current selection. There are arrows to show which way to scroll and a Help function to explain settings. There are no tabs or folders to organize menu options, but some menu options lead to other menus. The following menu is from the still image recording mode. The Nikon S5 does offer some live previews in the exposure compensation, color options, and white balance settings. In the scene modes, the menu is shortened to allow changes to image size and exposure compensation along with the scene mode selection. The following is the menu that appears in the playback mode. The setup menu is accessible from the other menus. It is also not organized into neat folders, but does let users know what page of options they are on: 2/4, for example. There is also a scroll bar on the right side of the display screen that shows approximately where users are located in the grand scheme of scrolling. Still, this method of organization isn’t exactly as neat as other menu systems on digital cameras. Menus can appear in text or as icons, although the icon setting looks crowded and confusing. This preference can be changed in the setup menu. Overall, the menu system itself isn’t ideal because of its lengthy menus and lack of organization into tabs or folders. However, users can still get around pretty quickly with the rotary dial. Ease of Use ***(6.0)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 is built to snap shots on the fly. Its automatic modes and ease of use features, along with its portable body, make it a great candidate for casual users. The S5 has a one-touch portrait button that accesses all of Nikon’s unique portraiture technology: face-priority auto focus, D-lighting compensation, and red-eye fix. This is much easier than on previous Coolpix cameras, where each feature was buried in a different menu. The camera also has one-touch auto and playback modes and even a Help option in the menu system. The Nikon S5 looks – and is – simple to use.
Auto Mode ***(7.5)*There is a button specifically made for accessing the auto mode, which is ironically the most manual mode on the camera. The S5’s auto mode comes complete with white balance, ISO, exposure compensation, color modes, and other settings. The camera even remembers the settings when it is turned off and on again. Despite the irony, the auto mode is still easy to use and works well in good lighting. In dimmer light, its pictures turn out blurry and under-exposed – unless the awful flash fires, in which case the subject will have red eyes and stark shadows. Movie Mode (7.0) The Nikon Coolpix S5 has lots of options in the movie mode, but still isn’t entirely satisfying. Movies can be recorded with 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120 pixels at 15 or 30 frames per second for each size. There is an electronic vibration reduction system, but it honestly doesn’t make much of a difference. Perhaps it isn’t very noticeable because there is no optical zoom available. Instead, the 2x digital zoom degrades image quality quickly. Users can choose to activate single or continuous auto focus modes, which both seemed to work well: the camera focused quickly even on subjects in motion. Once again, movies looked great in great lighting but suffered in low light. The S5’s movie mode has two special options. The first is a Pictmotion mode that records 320 x 240 pixels at 15 fps for up to a minute. This mode is specifically for recording movies to be merged into a Pictmotion slide show sequence. Interestingly, the mode records monaural audio as WAV files, as do all the modes, but the background music in the sequence drowns it out. The second special option is the time lapse movie mode, which takes a string of still images and records them as a single video clip. The camera can take an image every 30 seconds, or 1, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes, for up to 1,800 shots (which is far beyond what the battery can handle, so the optional power adaptor is recommended for this mode). This is perfect for users who want to track the progress of the high-rise building going up across the street. Videos are played back with QuickTime once loaded onto the computer. Drive / Burst Mode *(6.75)*The Nikon S5 has an average burst mode that shoots about 2.2 frames per second for up to 5 shots at a time. This is the same speed as the WiFi-enabled S6. Both cameras also have multi-burst modes that snap 16 pictures and stitch them together into a single 6-megapixel file that looks like a patchwork quilt. The mode has a continuous auto focus system, but it still isn’t fast enough to capture subjects moving erratically toward and away from the lens. Like the movie mode, the burst mode has a time lapse feature that takes a picture every 30 seconds, or 1, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. Unlike the movie mode, however, this mode saves each picture as its own file instead of merging them all together into a video. Of note is the self-timer, which takes a picture after 3 or 10 seconds. Playback Mode (7.25)The Nikon Coolpix S5 has a button on the back of the camera that enters the playback mode from the shooting modes. There are a variety of ways to view pictures on the S5 and, with the 2.5-inch screen, users shouldn’t have to grab their glasses or squint at the image. The rotary dial can scroll through pictures quickly or one by one, and a feature in the setup menu automatically rotates them. The ability to view pictures in index frames with 4 or 9 images makes finding one even simpler. There are very few editing options. Users can resize pictures to a more email-friendly 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels and touch them up with the portrait button. In playback mode, this button activates the D-lighting compensation that brightens the picture if needed. A preview next to the original file lets users confirm the process. Playback mode can display shooting information and zoom in up to 10x on pictures, as well as protecting them and marking them for transfer. Users can easily scroll through and select pictures for printing or deletion. Finding pictures on a large memory card is simple, too. The rotary dial helps, but there are also calendar views that bring up the first image on a specified date and a date function that shows the number of pictures taken next to the date on the screen. Videos can be played back within the camera, although the audio isn’t very good and there are no editing features. Users can play normally or scroll through the movie frame by frame. The best part of the playback mode is the innovative Pictmotion by muvee mode. This is just a fancy slide show, with interesting transitions and background music that transform pictures on a memory card (the mode cannot be accessed with internal memory only; a card is required) into a bona fide energetic video presentation. Users can scroll through the pictures and video clips and select up to 30 to be merged into a Pictmotion sequence. Then users must select background music from the following preloaded soundtracks: Pachelbel Kanon, Scarborough Fair, Pomp and Circ. March, Turkish March, and Grandfather’s Clock. These are all remixed classical pieces that last about 10 seconds and just play over and over again while the pictures zoom by. More soundtracks can be loaded with the included PictureProject software, although only with the Windows operating system. After the music is chosen, one of the following effects can be applied to the Pictmotion sequence: Moody, Pro-Slow, Pro-Fast, Classic, and Motion. The Moody effect slides pictures across the frame horizontally and vertically, while the Pro-Slow option is more traditional in its simple fading technique. The Pro-Fast choice looks incredibly jumpy because of its quick movement of the pictures in all directions, and could give viewers motion sickness. Classic puts a sepia filter onto all the pictures. The Motion option is similar to the Pro-Fast effect but incorporates fading, panning, sliding, and disappearing aspects into the show. There is also a traditional slide show that displays pictures for 2-10 seconds and can be set to play on a loop. Overall, the Nikon S5’s playback mode is one of its best assets. It is a little light on the editing options, but it does have some great organizational features and perhaps the best slide show mode on a digital camera with its Pictmotion feature. Custom Image Presets (8.0)**There are 15 custom image presets on this digital camera, with four of them located directly on the mode dial. These include the Portrait, Landscape, Sport, and Night Portrait modes. These four differ from the other 11 in that they offer framing assists for subjects on the left or right sides of the frame, for close-ups, and for couples and figures, while most scene modes only allow users to change the exposure compensation and image size choices. Framing assists superimpose yellow lines on the display screen to show where to line up subjects’ faces. Landscape assists include the following: Scenic View, Architecture, Group Right, and Group Left. The Sport mode has spectator and composite options, although the latter is basically the same thing as the multi-burst mode. The Night Portrait mode has the same aforementioned options as the portrait mode. The rest of the scene modes are located in a menu found under the Scene position of the mode dial. Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close Up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Back Light, and Panorama Assist are available. All of them work well in their respective situations. The Panorama Assist mode shows a light overlay of the last picture taken to aid users in lining up the next shot. Pictures are not stitched within the camera, though. Instead, users must wait until the files are loaded into PictureProject to put them together. There aren’t many options for the scene modes: exposure compensation and image size are about it. Some modes allow access to the flash mode setting as well. The Nikon Coolpix S5 has a one-touch portrait mode that is being marketed as the best thing since the Internet. Previous Nikon digital cameras have had this technology, but only in this year’s models is it actually easily accessible. Before, each of the three technologies was buried in a separate menu. In the S5, though, the portrait button provides access to all. The camera employs face-priority auto focus and red-eye fix in the shooting mode and D-lighting compensation in the playback mode. The face-priority focus mode takes a few seconds to locate a face, then places a yellow smiley face over the subject’s to indicate it’s ready. The red-eye fix is a digital algorithm applied just after the photo is taken and before it is written to the memory. These features don’t really work well in all situations. In fact, they don’t work well at all unless snapping passport-like shots with faces and eyes looking directly at the camera. I still ended up with plenty of red eyes in testing, but all of them came from shots with the subject looking down or not perfectly straight on the camera. The D-lighting feature in playback works much better, enhancing pictures to look decent.
**Manual Control Options Remember the Kate Moss analogy? The Nikon Coolpix S5 is, again, more for looks than functionality. Thus, its options are limited to exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, and a few others discussed in the following sections. Surprisingly, the most manual control options are available in the Auto mode – perhaps because there is no Manual mode on this camera at all. Focus***Auto Focus (6.5)
The S5 uses a contrast detection auto focus system that does well in good lighting but has trouble in low light (although it does have an auto focus assist lamp) and with difficult surfaces like water and glass. When it can’t focus, it displays a message: "Initializing lens cannot focus!" This most often happens in the macro mode, which can focus as close as 1.6 inches. The problem ultimately doesn’t prevent the camera from taking the picture, though; it just slows down the process. Pushing the bottom of the multi-selector rotary activates macro mode. When it is turned off, the camera can only focus as close as 12 inches. The auto focus mode has Center and Manual options only. The Center option focuses just where its title says it will, while the Manual option lets users scroll around to 99 different points on the frame. There is no automatic mode that focuses on off-center subjects, though. If users don’t want to manually move the focus point, they can always use the scene assist modes that have right and left framing helps: these cater the focus to the specified point. The face-priority auto focus mode, activated by the one-touch portrait button, can also find faces throughout the frame – although it takes a few seconds. When the subject is in focus, the camera makes a tiny clicking noise and a green dot appears at the top of the LCD screen. Otherwise, the dot is red and the picture isn’t perfectly sharp. * ***Manual Focus (0.0)
Nikon S5 users won’t have the opportunity to manually focus on the dewed leaves in the morning; they must cross their fingers and pray to the god of auto focus to capture sharp images.
**Exposure **(7.0)***The Nikon Coolpix S5 has several ways to manipulate exposure, although there are no manual shutter speed or aperture choices. The camera’s exposure values range from +1.2 to +16.1 in wide to + 2.9 to +17.8 in telephoto. This can be tweaked with the standard +/- 2 exposure compensation range, which comes in one-third increments. There is also an Exposure Best Shot Selector feature with three modes: Highlight, Shadow, and Histogram. Each mode snaps up to 5 shots like a burst mode and saves the best one – according to the whim of the Coolpix S5. This mode might be fun to play with for a few minutes, but shouldn’t be used in situations where grabbing the photograph is important. ** **Metering (5.5)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 has only one metering system on the camera and doesn’t let users control it any other way. It uses a matrix metering system that measures the exposure from 256 points around the frame and averages them to determine the final exposure value. The S5 does have a Back Light scene mode that uses a spot metering method, so it is possible to get decent shots of a couple on the beach in front of the bright sun.
*White Balance* (7.25)*** **The choices are much better in white balance than ISO . Auto, White Balance Preset (manual), Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Flash options are available in the Auto recording menu. There is a live view, but it is blocked by text and very hard to see. The manual setting is by far the most accurate – and it is simple to use. The camera shows a small box within the frame, in which to snap a shot of something white.
ISO*(6.5)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 hasn’t caught up with competitors in this area. Many digital cameras, including compacts, have higher sensitivities now that consumers are demanding imaging capabilities in low light. The S5 has an automatic ISO setting that chooses between 50-200 and a manual selection that extends from 50-400. The ISO can only be chosen in the Auto mode and there are no live views of it in the menu system. All in all, the selection is slim and the accessibility limited.
Shutter Speed ***(0.0)*The Coolpix S5 has a mechanical and charge-coupled electronic shutter that snaps at a fairly lousy pace. Its range is quite short, with its slowest shutter speed being 2 seconds and its fastest at 1/500th of a second. The camera automatically chooses the shutter speeds, although users can choose scene modes with the speed in mind. Modes such as Landscape will use longer exposure times, and the faster shutter speeds will be utilized in the Sport mode. There is a blur warning that can be turned on and off in the setup menu. It appears when the camera thinks users are snapping action shots in low light, for instance. This mode warns, but it does not prevent, and chances are that the warning is correct: the focus will be fine, but the shutter speed doesn’t snap fast enough for most subjects. Lots of pictures of my one-year-old returned blurred legs and hands. Aperture ***(0.0)*The Nikon S5 has a maximum aperture that is about a stop smaller than those offered on most compact models. At f/3.0 wide, this Coolpix isn’t poised for greatness when it comes to low light. When zoomed in on a faraway subject, the aperture shrinks to f/5.4. The smallest the aperture can get is f/8.5. Apertures, like the shutter speeds, are automatically selected by the camera.
**Picture Quality****/ Size Options ***(7.0)*The 6-megapixel Nikon Coolpix S5 has several image size options and an editing feature in the playback mode that creates more email-friendly-sized pictures. The following options are available: High (2816 x 2112), Normal (2816 x 2112), Normal (2048 x 1536), PC (1024 x 768), and TV (640 x 480). All of the pictures are compressed JPEG files, but only the top resolution has control over the compression: High or Normal. In the playback mode, pictures can be resized to 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels. The top resolution is theoretically good enough to make a smooth 8 x 10-inch print (although Nikon claims it can print up to 16 x 20 inches), but check the Testing/Performance section of this review to verify the S5’s actual resolution quality.
Picture Effects Mode ***(7.0)***There aren’t many picture effects on this digital camera; it certainly isn’t like the Canon PowerShots, which have vast numbers of color modes. Still, there is a selection of color filters on the S5, including Standard, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, and Cyanotype. There are live views of these color effects, but they are hard to see because the enlarged text blocks the view. The color effects are accessible only while recording and not at all in playback. The vivid color mode enhances the saturation, while the sepia looked a little too pink and the cyanotype looked an eerie blue. In the playback mode, only one picture effect can be applied: D-lighting compensation. This is done by pushing the one-touch portrait button and viewing the preview next to the original file. Users then confirm that they want the enhanced version to save the D-lit picture. Overall, this isn’t one of the S5’s best attributes, but there is a small selection for point-and-shooters who like to experiment with color.
Connectivity / Extras
**Connectivity***Software (6.5)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 comes with PictureProject version 1.6 software that lets users browse, organize, and edit pictures on Macintosh and Windows operating systems. Videos can be played back in Mac and Windows, but the Pictmotion slide shows can only be transferred to computers that work with Windows. Users can browse in three different viewing modes. The Thumbnails mode displays the pictures like an index print, and users can control how large or small they appear on the screen. The Photo and Thumbnail mode shows the selected image as a large picture, with the thumbnails running across the top. The List mode shows the thumbnail on the left and a host of shooting information organized into rows across the page. In all three of these modes, users can view a basic set of information about the selected file: file name, size, date, properties, information, and keywords. This info is located in the upper right corner of the window.
Also in the top right corner are three mode buttons: Organize (for browsing), Edit, and Design. The following editing features can be found: Brightness, D-Lighting, Color Booster, Photo Effects, Sharpening, and Straighten. In the top left corner of the selected picture is a small toolbar with a few frequently used editing tools for cropping, rotating, eliminating red-eye, and zooming and panning. For users who want a quick fix, there are Auto Enhance and Auto Red-Eye buttons across the top of the screen. The Auto Red-Eye function lessened blatant red-eye phenomena but did not eliminate it; a tool in the toolbar can manually fix it. The Auto Enhance button worked much better, fixing poor lighting and color. Videos cannot be edited with the software, but can only be played back.
The Design button merges collections of pictures into scrapbook-like pages with templates for pictures and places for captions and titles. Across the top of the screen are several controls that can be accessed at any time: Transfer, Import, Print, Mail, Share, Slide Show, Pictmotion, Burn, Auto Enhance, Auto Red-Eye, and Help.
The PictureProject CD-ROM provides a decent software program that is in the upper echelon of editing software packaged with compact digital cameras. It has one-touch controls that automatically fix common problems as well as manual editing controls for the more astute users. *Jacks, ports, plugs (6.0)**The Nikon S5 comes with a CoolStation MV-14, which is the camera’s connection to all else. The S5 has a multi-connector on its bottom that sits directly atop the camera dock. There are no other ports or jacks on the camera. Instead, the dock houses all the connections: USB, AV-out, and a power adaptor. The USB mode can be set to PTP or Mass Storage. The AV-out cable can be set to NTSC or PAL standards. The power adaptor and other cables are all included with the camera, so the S5’s battery can charge up while sitting in the dock. There are a few pros and cons to this setup. It is very convenient to set this up at home and do things like charge the battery while downloading pictures to the PC. Pictures can be sent to a PictBridge compatible printer or to a television without having to dig out the proper cables every single time. The downside: this setup isn’t easily portable and doesn’t make sense for users who download primarily to laptops. If you go on vacation, you’ll have to lug around the dock to charge batteries and download pictures to the computer. This can be very inconvenient to set up every time you switch hotels or want to charge batteries. * *Direct Print Options (5.5)*The Nikon Coolpix S5 can print directly to PictBridge compatible printers via its included CoolStation camera dock. The 6-megapixel camera has enough resolution to print large; Nikon claims it can print up to 16 x 20 inches, but check the Testing/Performance sections to see how it really did. The S5 is DPOF compliant and creates print orders quickly and easily from the playback menu. Users can scroll through lots of images fairly quickly with the rotary dial and check a box to add it to the print order. The quantity of each print, from 0 to 9 images, can be selected, and users can choose whether to print the date and info as well. Print orders can be created, then deleted after they’ve been sent. Sitting the S5 on its dock and pushing the OK button in the middle of the rotary dial sends the orders. Printing is simple, and pictures theoretically look good straight out of the camera. There is no cropping function in the playback menu, and the resizing option makes pictures much too small for printing even 4 x 6-inch shots. There is a one-touch D-lighting compensation button, though, that automatically enhances pictures similar to Kodak’s Perfect Touch technology. *Battery (5.5)*****The Coolpix S5 comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts a measly 210 shots per charge. The EN-EL8 battery will need to take a breather in the included CoolStation dock frequently, which is unfortunate. Photographers who want to use the time lapse modes will need to snap shots from the camera dock if they want to take more than 210 shots. *
Memory (4.0)*The S5 has 21 MB of internal memory, which is enough to hold 7 pictures at the top resolution. Still, users will long for more memory – and should get it. Without an extra SD/MMC card, the Pictmotion mode is totally unusable. Once a fresh card is loaded near the battery in the bottom compartment, the camera automatically saves pictures to it. Pictures can be copied from the internal memory to the card and vice versa through the playback menu. **Other features **(2.25)*Underwater Housing Accessory* – The lens and the metal body are very sturdy, but the S5 still can’t take insane amounts of humidity or water. To make it more durable, Nikon has an optional field jacket, FJ-CP1, that allows the Coolpix S5 to go underwater in depths of up to 10 ft. **Value ***(6.75)*While the Nikon Coolpix S5 is decently priced when compared to other ultra-slim models, its $349 tag is still too high if all consumers want is an automatic camera. In fact, there are cheaper digital cameras that take higher quality pictures now. Sure, they won’t be quite as sexy, but are you paying for the awesome prints you will get or the proud feeling of handling the S5 at the club?
Comparisons*Nikon Coolpix S6* – The flagship S6 is nearly identical to its S5 sibling, with the exception of its wireless technology. The WiFi-enabled Coolpix S6 has an internal 3x optical zoom lens, the same scene and movie modes, weak flash, limited manual functionality, and great Pictmotion by muvee mode. Besides the wireless technology, the S6 differs in that it has a larger 3-inch LCD screen – although it has the same 230,000-pixel resolution as the S5. The S6’s body incorporates the wave design, but it is slightly taller and wider than the S5’s, although it is not thicker. The S6’s wireless concept sounds lucrative, but the camera really isn’t as wireless as it sounds. This model also comes with a CoolStation dock that it must sit in to recharge the battery. As long as it’s in the dock, you may as well download your pictures through the dock instead of waiting the few minutes for them to wirelessly transfer over the spotty network connection. The S6 retails for $399 and offers the same modes and many of the same components as the S5; however, the S6’s wireless concept doesn’t really work with the CoolStation and low capacity battery. *Canon PowerShot SD700 IS* – This model is from Canon’s Digital Elph lineup of stylish pocket cameras. It isn’t as sexy as the S5, with its tri-color design. It isn’t as skinny as the S5, with its 1.04-inch-thick frame. It isn’t as affordable either; it retails for $499. Still, the 6-megapixel Canon PowerShot SD700 IS has some great features that actually add up to great image quality – unlike the Nikon S5. The camera’s flagship feature is its optical image stabilization, which works markedly better than the S5’s digital vibration reduction system. The SD700 has a 4x optical zoom lens and a built-in flash that reaches up to 11.5 ft. Like the S5, the SD700 cannot use optical zoom in the movie mode. The Canon model’s videos can be recorded at 15 or 30 fps with 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels. The PowerShot also has a "fast frame rate" mode that records 320 x 240 pixels at 60 fps for up to a minute. Movies can later be divided into two files in the playback mode. The Canon PowerShot SD700 IS is still an automatic camera, but it has more options from which to automatically choose. Its shutter speed range is much wider at 15-1/1600th of a second. Its maximum apertures are similar, but still wider, at f/2.8-f/5.5. The ISO range extends from 80-800, although it includes some noise. The camera performs decently in low light and extraordinarily in optimal lighting. Its colors are nearly perfect, and it has 11 scene modes and a My Colors mode that offers interesting color filters for recording and playback. The Canon SD700 retails for $499 and isn’t as sexy as the S5, but takes great pictures and has higher quality components. *Casio Exilim EX-S600* – Competing in the slim pocket camera contest is the 6-megapixel Casio S600, which has a 0.63-inch thickness that slims down ever more to 0.54 inches at one point. The metal body of the Exilim isn’t as durable and has a telescoping 3x optical zoom lens. Still, it is very attractive with its straight edges and flashy colors; it comes in orange, silver, and blue. However, the camera’s surface is slick, so users will most likely drop this one a few times. The S600’s LCD screen is a bit smaller at 2.2 inches, and its resolution is simply terrible at less than 85,000 pixels. This automatic camera has 34 scene modes, ranging from the normal (Portrait) to the useful (High Sensitivity) to the odd (Splashing Water). It has an Anti Shake mode that boosts the ISO to 800 or 1600, but its manual offerings only range from 50-400. The Casio Exilim S600 has less internal memory, with 8.3 MB, produces terribly inaccurate colors, is unusable in low light, and comes packaged with software that looks like a kids’ cartoon program. It does have some decent features, too: it has a wider f/2.7 maximum aperture and its battery lasts much longer at 300 shots per charge. The Casio S600 comes with the same dock setup as the Nikon S5 and has a similarly great body, but retails for slightly more at $399. *Kodak EasyShare V603* – This Kodak digital camera has 6.1 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom lens that telescopes outward from its 0.9-inch thick body. It is slightly thicker and definitely longer than the Nikon S5. It comes in black and silver housings and is honestly just not as classy looking as the Nikon. Still, the Kodak V603 has 22 scene modes, is incredibly easy to use, and comes at a cheaper $299 price. It has a 2.5-inch LCD screen that boasts a wide viewing angle and 230,000 pixels of resolution. The Kodak has similar features to the Nikon; for instance, the panorama stitch mode and the Kodak Perfect Touch technology that operates similarly to Nikon’s D-lighting compensation. Both cameras have in-camera red-eye fix algorithms and direct printing, although the Kodak is compatible with ImageLink printers in addition to PictBridge systems. The Kodak EasyShare V603 isn’t perfect, though. Its flash has the same weak specs as the Nikon S5’s and its burst mode only lasts for 4 shots. It has only four white balance presets and ISO options from 80-400, with an additional 800 setting only for unusable 1.3-megapixel pictures. The V603 comes packaged with a camera dock as well. *Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9* – The 6-megapixel Sony T9 has a very slim body at a diminutive 5/8 of an inch, and includes a sliding metal door that protects the internal 3x optical zoom lens when not in use. The zoom lens should be protected: it has a great optical image stabilization system, but its maximum apertures are only f/3.5-f/4.3. This is smaller than the Nikon’s at the wide end, but larger at the telephoto end of the zoom range. The Sony T9 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen with 230,000 pixels like the S5’s. It also has a slide show mode similar to the Pictmotion concept: the Sony’s version pairs interesting transitions and music backgrounds with pictures, but doesn’t string it into a video file that can be saved. The Sony doesn’t need an extra card for that function either; it has 58 MB of internal memory. Still, users of this model will want to get a card to access the full 30 fps frame rate in the movie mode. The Sony T9 has manual ISO ratings to 640 and its battery lasts 240 shots per charge. It has a multi-terminal on its bottom that connects to an adaptor with cables, but the Cyber-shot cradle is not included in the package. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T9 retails for $399, which is a little more expensive than the S5, but it has some great features and a similarly sexy metal frame. **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters* – Oh yeah, this is your camera. It is portable in a pocket and attractive to look at. It is durable, with its metal body and internal lens, so it can take a reasonable beating. Finally, it’s easy to use. The S5 was made for point-and-shooters. *Budget Consumers* – Retailing at $349, the Nikon S5 isn’t an especially great deal. There are plenty of other portable, easy to use digital cameras that even take better quality pictures for the same price or less. *Gadget Freaks* – The time lapse shooting is very cool, as are the Pictmotion slide shows. Gadget freaks will enjoy these features for about two weeks, then will get bored and want to loosen the screws to try and find out how that face-priority auto focus mode works. *Manual Control Freaks* – Look elsewhere. This digital camera is built with very few manual controls on it. The ones that are included don’t have much range, either. To these consumers, the 50-400 ISO range is simply blasphemous. *Pros / Serious Hobbyists* – This audience won’t even give this model a glance, not even as a gift for their grandmothers. Its cramped style and scandalously sexy metal body is a turn-off to these users who appreciate function over form.
**Conclusion**The Nikon Coolpix S5 is the skinnier but duller twin sister of the S6, which is slightly thicker but has wireless connectivity. The Nikon Coolpix S5’s sexy all-metal housing is attractive and its 3x Zoom-Nikkor lens is durable from remaining in the camera body, but its looks don’t necessarily translate to awesome looking pictures. The 6.1-megapixel digital camera has a 2.5-inch LCD screen and some cool features like the time lapse shooting and Pictmotion slide show modes, but the poor quality of the pictures trumps any cool feature (who wants a sweet techno slide show of under-exposed pictures?). The flash casts harsh shadows but only in its tiny range, the S5’s controls are cramped and tiny, and the battery doesn’t last very long. In the end, the Nikon Coolpix S5 is a bit over-priced at $349 for its lack of manual controls and overall quality, but is still one of the hottest cameras around.
Specs / Ratings
**Specs / Ratings