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Nikon CoolPix S220 review: Nikon CoolPix S220

Nikon CoolPix S220

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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5 min read

Just like there are people who only want a Flip-style camcorder for viewing and sharing video on the Web, there are people who only want a small pocket camera for posting pictures to their favorite social-networking or photo-sharing Web site. The Nikon Coolpix S220 is a Facebook camera, designed for a generation of snapshooters looking for a better experience than using their cell phone or other mobile device as their primary camera. Frankly, the camera's ultracompact design and features are much better than the pictures it produces. The photo quality from the S220 is iffy and it's not exactly fast in the performance department, either. However, if all your photos are viewed small and on a computer screen, never to be printed larger than 4x6 inches, if at all, the S220 is plenty of camera.

6.8

Nikon CoolPix S220

The Good

Great design; very compact; well priced; very good features for its class.

The Bad

Mediocre photo quality; slow performance.

The Bottom Line

The Nikon Coolpix S220 is an adequate, inexpensive choice for social-network-loving photographers.

Key specifications Nikon Coolpix S220
Price (MSRP) $149.99
Dimensions (WHD) 2.2x3.5x0.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.5-inch LCD, 150K dots/none
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3x, f3.1-5.9, 35-105mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 180 shots

Even for its incredibly small size, the S220 is comfortable to use. It's lightweight to the point where there's a chance you'd forget you had it with you. It's available in six colors, too, with names like cobalt blue, warm silver, and smooth magenta.

The control layout is straightforward with the power, shutter release, and zoom control on top and a directional pad and a handful of buttons on back for menu navigation and shooting options. Pressing the Menu button brings up mode-specific shooting options along with a secondary menu tab for system settings.

The only disappointing part of the design is the LCD. Its size is fine considering the camera's dimensions and price, and it gets bright enough that shooting in direct sun isn't a huge issue. The problem is the quality of the picture, which frequently displayed photos with off-color pixels. Something likely to make users second-guess what they've actually captured with the camera.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix S220
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Manual
Recording modes Auto, Scene, Auto Scene, Movie
Focus Face-priority AF, 9-point AF, Manual, Center
Metering 256-segment matrix
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cyanotype, Pastel
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 6 photos

Shooting features are basic point-and-shoot fare for the most part. The regular Auto mode gives you the most control, letting you set ISO, autofocus area mode, white balance, and exposure compensation. You get a handful of drive modes as well, which include Nikon's Best Shot Selector that snaps off 10 shots while the shutter's pressed and then saves the sharpest and interval timer shooting (takes a picture every 30 seconds, 1, 5, or 10 minutes) in addition to a standard continuous setting. If you like your scene modes, the S230 has 15 of them to pick from or you can let the camera choose what it determines most appropriate by using the Auto Scene Selector mode. The camera's movie mode is limited to 320x240- or 640x480-pixel video clips with sound, but no use of the optical zoom while it's recording. (Video results were decent--good enough for Web use, but grainy with noticeable color banding.)

The S220's performance is fairly slow (as is a lot of its competition). This is most noticeable with the camera's shutter lag. In well-lit conditions, it takes 0.8 second from pressing the shutter release to capture. Dimmer lighting causes the lag to go up to 1.3 seconds. If you're planning to use this camera for children or pets, you'll likely be disappointed unless you're really good at anticipating shots. Its burst speed is pretty good, though, at 1.3 frames per second. The S220's shot-to-shot time averaged 3 seconds without flash and gets only slightly longer with flash at 3.3 seconds.

The best photo results from the S220 come at ISO 80 and ISO 100. As soon as you go up to ISO 200, detail and sharpness are on steady decline. Unfortunately, the camera seems to love ISO 400 when the sensitivity is set to Auto. There are three remaining sensitivities above ISO 400--800, 1,600, and 2,000--that are really not usable for prints. However, if you're in low or dark lighting, you'll be able to capture photos without a flash and although they are ridiculously grainy and void of detail, they aren't without their charm. Just don't look at them too closely.

Colors were not exactly accurate, but were pleasing and fairly natural looking with the exception of blues, which looked too vibrant at times. The dynamic range of the camera seemed limited overall. Highlights were a bigger issue, frequently appearing blown out. Also, the auto white balance was too warm indoors; take the time to use the more accurate presets or the manual white-balance option. Lastly, the lens has some barrel and pincushion distortion, but it is effectively corrected by the camera's Distortion Control option. The lens distortion also creates a fair amount of purple fringing in high-contrast areas, characteristic of this class of camera.

The Nikon Coolpix S220 is what it is: an inexpensive, lightweight, ultracompact camera that takes pictures. Those pictures might not always look too great--especially viewed at full size--but it really comes down to what you're after. If it's capturing the moment to post online for sharing with friends and family and you're sick of using your phone to do it and want more control over the end results, the S220 is an option.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon PowerShot A480
1.8 
5.6 
2.7 
0.6 
0.6 
Kodak EasyShare M1093 IS
2.8 
1.4 
1.2 
1 
0.5 
Nikon Coolpix S230
3.5 
3.3 
3 
1 
0.5 
Pentax Optio E70
2.4 
4.2 
3.3 
1.2 
0.6 
Nikon Coolpix S220
2.2 
3.3 
3 
1.3 
0.8 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

6.8

Nikon CoolPix S220

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Image quality 5
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