For point-and-shoot cameras, size can mean almost everything. If a camera is just half an ounce too heavy or half an inch too thick, it'll be too uncomfortable to carry around. Smaller doesn't automatically mean better, however. The 7-megapixel Nikon Coolpix S200 is one of the smallest cameras we've seen in a long time, though it isn't necessarily better than the competition.
This ultraslim, metal camera cuts one of the smallest profiles we've seen yet. At barely three quarters of an inch thick, the S200 is only a hair larger than the popular Motorola Razr phone. It weighs only 4.5 ounces, so you'll barely even feel it in your pocket. This small design has its drawbacks, though; the camera's various controls, especially its zoom rocker, are small, flat buttons that can feel awkward to large-thumbed users.
Such a thin body doesn't leave much room for a lens. The S200's slender form sports a diminutive 38mm-to-114mm-equivalent 3x lens, hardly ideal for telephoto or wide-angle shots. You can still take plenty of pictures with the camera, but you'll have a hard time capturing vast landscapes or a tight headshot from the other side of a room with it.
Besides the mediocre lens, the S200 sports little more than the most standard features you would expect to find on a pocket camera. A modest 2.5-inch LCD screen dominates most of the camera's back panel. Its 7-megapixel sensor can reach up to ISO 1,000 sensitivity and offers Nikon's electronic Vibration Reduction, an ISO-and-shutter-speed-boosting feature for shooting with the zoom or in low light. Electronic VR isn't quite as effective as Nikon's optical Vibration Reduction, found on the S200's stainless steel brother, the Coolpix S500. The S200 also features Nikon's Face-Priority AF, a face-detecting feature that finds subjects' faces and uses them to determine focus. That way you shouldn't end up with a portrait that's focused on the plant behind Aunt Martha instead of on her face. Face detection is usually found on more high-end shooters, and sometimes determines exposure as well as focus, but Nikon has so far stuck with AF only and includes it in almost all of its snapshot cameras.
An inordinately long low-light shutter lag holds back the S200's otherwise acceptable performance. While the camera took only 0.6 second for our high-contrast shutter lag target, it took a startling 2.6 seconds with our low-contrast target. This long wait seriously hinders the camera's usefulness when shooting in low light. Otherwise, it performed sluggishly in our lab tests. After taking 1.7 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG, the S200 could fire off a new shot every 1.9 seconds with the flash turned off. With the flash enabled, that time increased to 3.2 seconds. Burst mode snapped 10 full-resolution shots in 10.2 seconds for a rate of about 1 frame per second.