Nikon Coolpix S640 review: Nikon Coolpix S640

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Nice design; easy to use; excellent photo quality up to ISO 200; improved autofocus and start-up performance.

The Bad High-ISO settings not worth using; no HD video.

The Bottom Line The Nikon Coolpix S640 may not be a standout camera, but it's no slouch either.

7.2 Overall

The Nikon Coolpix S640's MSRP is $50 more than its linemate, the S570. But that $50 buys you optical image stabilization, some slightly improved shooting performance, and a couple extra shooting options. Otherwise, it's the same simple and stylish camera with a wide-angle lens, 5x zoom, and consistently very good photo quality below ISO 400. The only thing keeping this very good camera from being better is the lack of an HD-quality movie mode. If you're fine with its VGA-only mode, then the S640 is a better-than-basic ultracompact camera.

Key specifications Nikon Coolpix S640
Price (MSRP) $249.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.6x2.2x0.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.8 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 5x, f2.7-6.6, 28-140mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 270 shots

Available in pink, red, white, and black versions, the S640 is a slim, lightweight camera that can be easily slipped into a pants pocket or small bag. Its metal body gives it a sturdy, high-end feel. Its lens specifications add to that feel, hitting all the things good to find on an ultracompact camera--28mm-equivalent wide-angle with a maximum aperture of f2.7 and a 5x zoom range. The only disappointment is that when zoomed out, the aperture goes down to f6.6, making low-light shots iffy when the lens is fully extended. (It was a little more acceptable on the S570 since it was cheaper.) You'll also have to be aware of your finger placement when using the flash, as the bulb is located high on the left side and easily blocked.

Its controls are fairly standard and easily learned with little effort. On its top are the power and shutter release buttons with a zoom control around the release. On its back to the right of the bright LCD and below the thumb rest are buttons for changing shooting modes; playing and editing images; accessing photo, video, and system setting menus; and deleting pictures. There's a dial for quickly moving through settings and photos and it acts as a directional pad for navigation and setting exposure, flash, timer, and macro. Again, it's all pretty straightforward. The dial moves a bit freely; however, there are stops you can feel when using it.

The S640 uses a version of Nikon's four-way VR Image Stabilization that includes optical image stabilization. It will also use high ISO settings and shutter speed adjustments along with motion detection to help with handshake and motion blur.

Another nicety about the S640 is that the camera can be charged via a USB cable.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix S640
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto; 80; 100; 200; 400; 800; 1,600; 3,200; 6,400
White balance Auto, Manual, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Recording modes Auto, Scene Auto, Scene, Smart Portrait, Subject Tracking, Movie
Focus area modes Face priority, Auto, Manual, Center
Metering Multi, Center-weighted
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cyanotype
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 10 photos

There are 15 scene modes with nothing out of the ordinary, as well as Scene Auto Selector--Nikon's automatic scene-recognition mode. Nikon's Smart Portrait System gets its own spot in the shooting-mode menu. Basically, it combines the previously available Blink Warning, Smile Shutter, In-Camera Red Eye Fix, D-Lighting, and Face Priority AF (autofocus) features into one mode and adds a Skin Softening component. This type of mode is available from other manufacturers, but Nikon's implementation is fast, works well, and has a good balance of sharpness and softening. The most control you get is in the Program mode, called Auto on this camera, that gives you settings for white balance, light metering, ISO, color options, and autofocus. There is also a Subject Tracking mode for locking focus on a moving subject so they're in focus when you're ready to shoot, and a basic movie mode--VGA-quality only with no use of the optical zoom.

Though its shooting performance isn't outstanding, it is better than we've come to expect from a Coolpix camera, and it is on par with its competition. It takes one second to power on and shoot. Subsequent shots will leave you waiting an average of 2.4 seconds between them, going to only 2.7 seconds if you use the flash. Its shutter lag in bright lighting conditions is good at 0.4 second; and in dim lighting it's still decent at 0.8 second. The S640 has a full-resolution continuous shooting speed of one frame per second. These are average performance numbers for its class, but it's an improvement for Nikon; they're still not great for moving subjects, though.

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