It's easy to forget, when reviewing gadgets, that the majority of users want a product that does what it's supposed to with maximum ease and minimum effort. Clocking in at an extremely friendly £150, the 8-megapixel Nikon Coolpix S520 is the epitome of the modern compact point-and-shoot camera. We set out to find out if it does the job or if the average consumer should expect more.
The S520 fits in the palm of the hand, with a sturdy, blocky aluminium body. It comes in light bronze, 'urban' black and purple, with a subtle brushed metal effect on the front. Optical image stabilisation is included in the sturdy aluminum body.
The controls are laid out in the standard clickpad and four buttons arrangement, with a zoom rocker button that's too narrow for our large thumbs, but nicely raised so there's plenty of travel in the button action. It's actually quite a smooth-textured zoom, not leaping in and out and quickly overshooting the point you were after.
The placement of the buttons in a slightly indented plateau did make the buttons located next to the ridge of the body tough to press, however. Also, the flash is located directly above the lens, which is a recipe for red-eye. The tripod bush could be closer to the lens too.
Our main concern was the screen. At 64mm (2.5 inches), it's the minimum size we'll settle for, but it's the subpar 153,000-dot resolution that makes the screen feel jaggy.
There are 16 scene modes; as always, some -- portrait, landscape -- are more useful than others -- food mode, for example. A panorama stitch mode allows you to combine multiple shots into one wide image.
We found useful the option to select three of your favourite scene modes for one-touch access. We also like Nikon's D-Lighting feature, which boosts detail in the lighter or darker areas of high contrast images to compensate for backlighting and other lighting problems.