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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix S500


   

Nikon Coolpix S500 Review

Review Date: July 7, 2007

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Nikon Coolpix S500

HANDLING & FEEL

The Nikon Coolpix S500 is an ultra-compact and light digital camera with a stainless steel body that feels solid and well-built. It is quite attractive and is slim enough to slip into a Jeans pocket or fashion handbag.

The Nikon S500 does not have a handgrip (or "finger grip") and, even though I did not find the body particularly slippery, the use of the wrist strap is highly recommended. I like the large rectangular shutter release button and the Rotary Multi Selector. The other controls, including the zoom lever, is on the small side and, although I did not have any trouble using them, you might want to do a hands-on check before purchasing it, especially if you have large hands and fingers.

Startup time is about 1 sec. from Power ON to the LCD getting ready for taking a shot. Shot to shot time is about 2 sec. (I took 5 shots in approx. 10 sec.) There is no practical shutter lag. Autofocus is fast though it will sometimes hunt a bit in low-light; it is however precise so you do lock focus.

STYLE
- Colours: overall silver with chrome accents
- Looks: rectangular, retro
FEEL
- Well designed, comfortable to hold
- Controls on the small side
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Ultra Compact: fits in a Jeans pocket or small fashion purse
- Dimensions: Approx. 88 x 51 x 22 mm (3.5 x 2.0 x 0.9 in.) excluding projections
- Weight: Approx. 125 g (4.4 oz.) without battery and SD memory card
- Takes 1 Li-ion battery EN-EL10 3.7V 740mAh
SPEED OF OPERATION
- Average startup speed with lens extending about 26 mm (1 in.) and LCD turning on in about 1 sec.
- Shot to shot time about 2 sec.
- No practical shutter lag.

The Terminal compartment is on the right side of the camera (viewed from the back) with a small rubber "door".

Controls

Nikon Coolpix S500 Top View

The top of the camera has (from right to left) the Shutter Release Button, the Power ON/OFF button, the One-Touch Portrait button, and the Anti-Shake button.

The One-Touch Portrait button turns Face-priority AF and Red-eye reduction ON. The Anti-Shake button turns VR (Vibration Reduction, aka Image Stabilization) and BSS (Best Shot Selector) ON to reduce blur caused by camera shake.

Nikon Coolpix S500 Back View
Virtual Mode Dial

All other controls are found on the back of the camera, to the right of the large 2.5-in. 230,000 pixels resolution LCD.

There is no Mode Dial but the Mode button together with the Rotary multi selector serve that purpose. Press the Mode button to bring up a virtual Mode Dial on screen, then use the Rotary multi selector to select an option: Shooting mode, High Sensitivity, Scene mode, Voice recording, Movie and Set up.

As Nikon digital cameras are well known for, there is a Scene Mode for almost everything you want to do. For example, the Panorama Assist scene mode allows you to take a number of panoramic shots and line them up precisely on screen by overlaying the semi-transparent previous image on screen. This is one of the best Panorama implementation I've used.

You can record movies (with sound) @ 640x480 at 30fps, with a maximum file size of 2GB (you can use a 4GB memory card though the camera will only show remaining time for 2GB). You have a choice of Single AF (focus locks once movie recording starts) or Full-time AF (camera continuously adjusts focus during movie recording, though focusing sound will also get recorded)

Two movie features are interesting: With Stop-motion movie, you take up to 1,800 frames (memory space permitting) @ 640x480 pixels (at 5, 10 or 15fps) and the camera joins them together into a silent movie which is played back at the selected speed.

With Time-lapse movie, the camera automatically takes pictures (640x480 pixels) at an interval which you specify (30s, 1m, 5m, 10m, 30m, 60m) and then joins them together into a silent movie which is then played back at 30fps. Interestingly, the camera will fire the flash if it deems it is necessary. I have a short Time-lapse movie sample in the User's Experience section.

The Playback function has its own dedicated button, which makes it very convenient to switch between the Record and Playback modes with a press of the button. Touch the shutter-release button to immediately return to Record mode. If you just want to view your pics without turning the camera on (i.e. extending the lens), simply press and hold the Playback button for about 4 sec. and Playback will start without the lens extending; when you're done, press the Power button to turn the camera off. The Playback button is on the soft side and, a couple of times, I've found the camera turned on in Playback mode when I retrieved it from my trousers pocket.

When in Playback mode, the Delete button will delete the displayed picture; to Delete All, you need to access the Menu.

On the bottom far left of the camera is the hard plastic tripod socket. On the bottom right side is the Battery / SD Card Compartment. There is a small latch to secure the battery from falling when the door is opened. Whether you will be able to change battery and card while the camera is mounted on a tripod will depend on the type tripod you use.

LCD & Menus

The Nikon S500 has no viewfinder but has a large 2.5 in. LCD monitor that is bright with 230,000 pixels resolution and with a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth display. It has an anti-glare coating that helps in bright sunlight. You can manually adjust the LCD monitor's brightness in SETUP. The LCD monitor will gain up in low-light but not in extreme low-light. There is an effective AF-assist Illuminator to help achieve focus in low-light. You can also display a Framing Grid of horizontal and vertical lines.

SHOOTING MENU 1 of 2

- Image mode
- White balance
- Continuous
- BSS
- ISO sensitivity

SHOOTING MENU 2 of 2

- Color options
- AF area mode

SHOOTING MENU ICONS

- All 7 Menu options summarized on a single page of icons
- Notice on some Menu screens, ? Help (Tele button) will display a short help description

IMAGE MODE 1 of 2

- 7M: High (3072*)
- 7M: Normal (3072)
- 5M: Normal (2592)
- 3M: Normal (2048)
- PC screen (1024)

IMAGE MODE 2 of 2

- TV screen (640)
- 16:9

WHITE BALANCE 1 of 2

- Auto
- White balance preset
- Daylight
- Incandescent
- Fluorescent

WHITE BALANCE 2 of 2

- Cloudy
- Flash

CONTINUOUS

- Single
- Continuous
- Multi-shot 16
- Interval timer shooting

INTERVAL TIMER SHOOTING 1 of 2

- 30s
- 1m
- 5m
- 10m
- 30m

INTERVAL TIMER SHOOTING 2 of 2

- 60m

ISO 1 of 2

- Auto
- 50
- 100
- 200
- 400

ISO 2 of 2

- 800
- 1600
- 2000

COLOR OPTIONS

- Standard color
- Vivid color
- Black-and-white
- Sepia
- Cyanotype

AF AREA MODE

- Auto: leave it to the camera to select an AF area to focus on
- Manual: select from 99 AF areas
- Center: camera always focuses on center AF area

AF AREA MODE - 99 FOCUS AREAS

- When Manual AF area mode is selected, pressing the MENU/OK button allows you to position the Af area at one of 99 possible positions on screen
- Note that the area of the screen outside the four marked corners (i.e. edges of screen) cannot be selected

 

SETUP 1 of 3

- Menus
- Quick startup
- Welcome screen
- Date
- Monitor settings

SETUP 2 of 3

- Date imprint
- Vibration reduction: turn this ON to enable image stabilization; choose OFF when camera is placed on a tripod
- AF assist: AF-assist lamp lights to enable focus lock in poor lighting
- Sound settings
- Auto off

SETUP 3 of 3

- Format card
- Language
- Interface
- Reset all
- Firmware version

SETUP MENU ICONS

- All 15 Menu options summarized on a single page of icons
- Note: on all Menu screens, ? Help (Tele button) will display a short help description

WELCOME SCREEN

- Nikon
- Animation
- Select an image

PHOTO INFO

- Show info
- Auto info
- Hide info
- Framing grid

DATE IMPRINT

- Off
- Date
- Date and time
- Date counter

DATE IMPRINT

- Date is permanently imprinted on picture

VIBRATION REDUCTION

- On
- Response priority
- Off

SOUND SETTINGS

- Button sound
- Shutter sound
- Volume

AUTO OFF

- 30s
- 1m
- 5m
- 30m

LANGUAGE

- 20 different languages

FIRMWARE VERSION

- Ver. 1.0

 

MOVIE MENU

- Movie options
- Auto-focus mode

MOVIE MENU ICONS

- Movie options
- Auto-focus mode

MOVIE OPTIONS 1 of 2

- TV Movie 640* [640x480 @ 30fps]
- Small size 320* [320x240 @ 30fps]
- Small size 320 [320x240 @ 15fps]
- Reset Smaller size 160 [160x120 @ 15fps]
- Time-lapse movie* [640x480 @ 30fps]

MOVIE OPTIONS 2 of 2

- Stop-motion movie [640x480 @ 5, 10 or 15fps]

 

PROGRAM AUTO

- Clockwise from top left: Programmed Auto Shooting mode, Macro ON, Focus indicator, Flash mode, ISO 50, VR, space for 539 images left, Image mode 7M*, Exposure Compensation +0.3EV, Vivid color, Preset WB, Continuous Shooting

SCENE MODES 1 of 4

- Portrait
- Landscape
- Sports
- Night portrait
- Party/indoor

SCENE MODES 2 of 4

- Beach/snow
- Sunset
- Dusk/dawn
- Night landscape
- Close up

SCENE MODES 3 of 4

- Museum
- Fireworks show
- Copy
- Back light
- Panorama assist (with semi transparency)

SCENE MODES 4 of 4

- Image mode

SCENE MODES ICONS

- 15 Scene Modes summarized on a single page of icons

 

PLAYBACK MENU 1 of 2

- Print set
- Slide show
- Delete
- Protect
- Transfer marking

PLAYBACK MENU 2 of 2

- Small pic.
- Copy

PLAYBACK MENU ICONS

- All 9 options summarized on a single page of icons

PLAYBACK DISPLAY

D-LIGHTING

- Enhances contrast and brightness in dark areas

HELP

- Toggle the Zoom control to T to bring up Help whenever a ? is displayed on screen

 

EXPOSURE COMPENSATION

- Press Exp. Comp. (Right Arrow) and rotate Rotary multi selector to select a value

FRAMING GRID

- Thick yellow lines
- Note: info displays only when shutter release button is half-pressed

SELF-TIMER

- Off
- 10 s
- 3 s

FLASH

- Auto
- Auto with red-eye reduction
- Flash off
- Forced flash (Fill-in flash)
- Slow sync

The Nikon Coolpix S500 is an attractive and easy-to-use point-and-shoot digital camera. Its compact form and flush design makes it easy to carry in a trousers pocket, available at any moment to capture a photo. Its stainless steel body has an unstated elegance that belies the practical features under the hood -- features that help you capture great shots.

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