Face detection can automatically seek out and focus on up to five faces. In playback mode, it's possible to check focus on faces by zooming in on each face in turn. There is also an option to save favourite images.
Not for the first time, we're slightly baffled by Nikon's decision to have the menu button call up the list of scene modes rather than the various shooting and setup menus, as other manufacturers tend to. We feel that separate mode and menu buttons are more intuitive.
The S520 pushes the sensor sensitivity envelope with a maximum ISO speed of 2,000. Given that noise is infecting shadows from ISO 400, that seems a pointless exercise in specs-padding. Images shot at ISO 2,000 are unusable.
Still, we can't really fault the S520 as a point-and-shoot. Although we noticed some barrel distortion, there is no loss of focus towards the edge of the frame. Even in high-contrast images there is little trace of purple fringing. Battery life is good, with one charge powering our testing.
The burst mode fires 2 frames per second without flash, which isn't anything special. Shot-to-shot time is reasonably favourable at 1.5 seconds, but drops right off when flash is involved.
With capable if uninspiring image quality in a solid, compact frame, the S520 ticks the point-and-shoot boxes. At this great price we struggle to find a better competitor, but the Sony Cyber-shot W120 seems to have a broader feature set. We'd recommend a compact that feels more exciting, like the ultra-slender Casio Exilim EX-S10, but if price is the deciding factor then the S520 is a safe bet.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday