Amidst the influx of cheap compact cameras here at CNET of late — see the Panasonic Lumix S3, the Sony W510 and the Canon A2200 — the Nikon Coolpix S2500 is definitely the most colourful. Coming in bright pink as well as black, it follows these other cameras in top-line specifications. Think 12-megapixels, a 4x optical zoom with 27mm wide-angle lens and a 2.7-inch LCD screen (230,000-dots) and you're getting to the crux of what makes these cheap cameras tick.
The S2500 has a range of simple controls, ranging from a teensy power-button at the top of the camera to a zoom-rocker and shutter-button arrangement, and a four-way directional pad with standard flash, exposure compensation, self-timer and macro options. Delve into the scene menu with the dedicated button and you'll find full automatic mode, a range of scene selections, smart portrait mode, subject tracking and movie mode (VGA only).
The S2500 doesn't have any of the additional fancy features, like colour modes and fast-shooting, that higher-end Nikon compacts have, or indeed other cameras in this price range from different manufacturers. Connectivity is via a single AV out-port at the base, which doubles as the charger port for the camera (as with all Nikon Coolpix cameras, the battery charges in-camera). It can take SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.
Nikon rates the battery at 220 shots.
As with all the other cameras in this sub-AU$150 price range, Nikon has intentionally made the S2500 simple and easy to use for casual shooters. This means that its images aren't particularly fantastic for photo purists.
While images look fine at reduced magnification or for web display, there is very little chance that you'll be able to make a decent enlargement from the images delivered by the S2500. It's clear that the electronic image stabilisation (or vibration reduction as Nikon calls it) does not do as good a job as the optical image stabilisation found in competing cameras like the Panasonic S3. We found that a number of our test shots looked blurry and smudgy at the 4x zoom mark even as the camera pushed the ISO range higher.
A full magnification crop (inset) of a shot taken at 4x optical zoom. As you can see, digital noise and fringing is quite prominent, and if you inspect the entire shot below, you can see the effects of camera shake that has not been compensated for by the electronic image stabilisation. (Credit: CBSi)
Speaking of which, the S2500 struggles at any ISO level over 200, with images at ISO 400 displaying plenty of digital noise at full magnification. Chromatic aberration, or fringing around high contrast areas, is also quite prominent.
That said, colour rendition is decent and focusing is quick and accurate. Video quality is VGA and not particularly noteworthy. If you value HD video, the Panasonic and Canon cameras in this price range come equipped with 720p recording.
Click each image for full-sized samples from the S2500. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/200, f/5.9, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/250, f/3.2, ISO 80
Exposure: 1/60, f/5.9, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/30, f/3.2, ISO 125
The S2500 is a respectable cheap compact that loses marks for its basic feature set and standard images. If you need a camera in the sub-AU$150 range, the Nikon will be fine for casual shots in ample lighting, but we suggest checking out the Panasonic S3 and Canon A2200 in this price range, too.