Slotting in the Nikon Coolpix range just below the S630, the 'swift and stylish' S620 compact camera boasts 12 megapixels, a 0.7-second start-up time, a 4x wideangle zoom, ISO 6,400, 'vibration reduction' and some fancy autofocus technologies. But you can get some good cameras for the S620's asking price of around £220, so is it worth it?
The more-expensive S630 proved somewhat disappointing. While the technology in the S620 is much the same, the camera itself is a different kettle of fish. For a start, it's a good deal smaller than the S630, so, while the controls are no bigger, they do seem more in tune with the camera's dimensions. And the S620's round buttons have a classier look and feel.
The start-up time is impressive too. This camera can be out of your pocket and ready to shoot in an instant -- ideal for grabbing those impromptu shots. The 4x zoom has a shorter range than the 7x lens on the S630, but its wideangle capability more than makes up for that in day-to-day use. This neat, speedy and practical little camera is rather appealing, although it's slightly too fat in the body to be considered a super-slim.
The S620's pictures are sharp, with good colours, although there's a fair amount of barrel distortion in our test shot. The autofocus is fast -- unlike some earlier Coolpix models -- and the exposure metering is reliable. The ISO 6,400 maximum needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, though -- fine details start sliding into a soupy mush long before this.
While the S620's smile-detection mode worked pretty well during some tests, it's just as confusing as that of the S630. This time, the camera took shots as soon as it detected a smile, whether or not the shutter button was pressed. And, in blink-detection mode, when the S620 is supposed to take two shots and keep the best, it baffled us by taking just one picture and displaying a warning that the subject had blinked. No doubt the manual and some more experimentation would have made these modes clearer eventually, but this stuff should be idiot-proof.
The S620's subject-tracking capability reminds us of a dog on its hind legs -- all the dog can do is stagger about for a while and fall over, but you're still impressed it can do it at all. It's rather clever how the S620 can lock onto a subject and then follow it if you or the subject moves. Everything's fine until the subject moves too quickly or starts to look too much like another object nearby, though. Then you'll find the camera's started tracking something else.
Perhaps we shouldn't carp on about the finer points of such intrinsically clever technology, but, if you're paying for it, you want it to have genuine practical value, rather than just providing a quick wow factor.
The Nikon Coolpix S620 is fast, responsive, compact and stylish, and the 4x wideangle zoom makes it practical too. Picture quality is good, but the high-ISO capability has limited value. While the face-, smile- and blink-detection and subject-tracking features are clever, unfortunately they're so clever that you might never figure out quite what they're going to do and when.
Edited by Charles Kloet