Most of these controls do more than one thing. For example, the telephoto side of the zoom rocker functions as a help key when navigating menus. Pressing up on the cursor pad changes flash options, down activates macro mode, left enables the self-timer, and right marks pictures for transfer.
This camera's well-designed menu system is divided into three parts: setup, shooting and playback. The last two are accessible only when you're taking photos or reviewing images respectively. You can display menus in the customary text-and-icon mode, with a helpful scroll bar showing how far down the menu list you've ventured, or in an icon-based interface, which we found more confusing until we'd memorised what all the icons represented.
The Nikon Coolpix S2's feature set is heavily weighted in favour of the neophyte shooter who wants to take many different kinds of pictures but doesn't want to make many decisions. It has scene modes for every conceivable situation, including Panorama mode. But it lacks manual focus or exposure controls other than exposure compensation. You can adjust light sensitivity from ISO 50 to ISO 400 and set white balance manually, but that's about it. Camera-selected shutter speeds range from 2 seconds to 1/350 second, limiting this camera's utility for long exposures and capturing very fast action.
Nevertheless, the S2 has some very cool automatic features, most notably Face Priority focus. In Portrait mode, the camera looks for the human face closest to the camera and locks on to it, highlighting the focus area in red on the LCD. Other nifty tools include the Best Shot Selector, which takes a series of pictures and saves only the one that is sharpest or best exposed, the time-lapse-photography feature, which you can set to record one shot every 30 seconds to 60 minutes, the effective in-camera red-eye removal, and Nikon's D-lighting option, which brightens inky shadows in extra copies of your murky or high-contrast shots.
Many of the scene selections feature assist modes. The Portrait setting provides overlays to help you place figures or couples in the frame. Landscape Assist offers guidelines for positioning the horizon and any people in the shot. Architecture Assist supplies a grid for aligning horizontals and verticals. Macro capabilities take you as close as 40mm, but for capturing subjects farther off in the dark, the electronic flash is positively anaemic. It's good out to only 2.4m at the wide-angle lens setting and just 1.4m in the telephoto position. You can choose from five flash modes: flash off, fill flash, auto, auto with red-eye reduction and slow sync.
The Coolpix S2 doubles as a voice recorder and can capture 640x480-pixel, 15fps video clips.