The Coolpix S5 has several small conveniences, such as 21MB of internal memory; a 30fps VGA movie mode with electronic vibration reduction; interval and 16-shot burst modes; a feature that warns you when you've taken a blurry picture; and Pictmotion slide-show software that animates your images with transition effects and music from either on-camera tracks or user-uploaded MP3s. The camera sports 15 shot presets, including 4 shooting modes such as Portrait and Sports, and 11 scene modes, such as Museum and Beach/Snow.
On the other hand, the camera lacks control over contrast, sharpness, and JPEG compression, though there are two 6-megapixel image settings with different compression levels and five color modes.
The Nikon Coolpix S5 is a snappy performer, capturing its first shot after power-up in just 2 seconds. The camera performs even better when you actually start shooting, delivering a shot-to-shot time of 1.8 seconds. It stays quick even with the onboard flash enabled, requiring just 2.1 seconds to recycle between flash shots. The Coolpix S5 exhibits impressive autofocus and shutter-lag performance in good lighting as well, focusing on and capturing CNET's standard high-contrast target in 0.5 second. Low-contrast shooting is a bit more sluggish, upping shutter lag to 1.7 seconds.
The Coolpix S5 is quick enough in burst mode; in our testing, it captured 41 shots at 1.3fps using the highest image-quality setting. At the lowest image-quality setting, the camera captured 73 frames at 2.1fps.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Nikon Coolpix S5 offers generally excellent image quality for snapshots, though critical viewers may notice vignetting and other minor flaws creeping into their photos.
Color and tonal range are excellently rendered, and its color accuracy and exposures are generally on target. The Coolpix S5's palette is rather neutral and faithful to the scene, not oversaturated as with many other point-and-shoot cameras. The Coolpix S5's Vivid color setting gives images a little more warmth and pop but doesn't go too far. Flesh tones are warm but not ruddy, even with flash at close range, and the camera's automatic white balance is fairly accurate under most conditions.
The lens exhibits very little chromatic aberration, which causes the purple or green fringing commonly found along strongly backlit or high-contrast edges, and it can yield quite sharp images. But lens artifacts tend to crop up, including significant softness and vignetting (darkening) at the corners of the Coolpix S5's frame, especially at the wide end of the zoom lens's range. We also noticed significant pincushion and barrel distortion--lines curving inward at the telephoto end and bowing outward at the wide end, respectively. Thankfully, most of these image flaws will probably go unnoticed by casual viewers looking at prints. The camera's edge sharpening is occasionally too aggressive in high-contrast areas with thin lines, such as power lines in front of a white wall, which gives them light halos.