Nikon Coolpix S630 Review

Look and Feel

The Coolpix S630 is a compact camera made of a mixture of metal and plastic. While most of the camera is well built, the plastic door over the memory card / battery compartment is incredibly flimsy (and I'm not a fan of the plastic tripod mount, either). The camera is very easy to hold with one hand, and the important controls are easy to reach. Nikon didn't go overboard with buttons on the S630, though the buttons on the back of the camera are on the small side.

Images courtesy of Nikon USA

It's an unwritten rule that compact cameras must come in several colors. Nikon sells the S630 in black, silver, red, blue, and purple. As you may have noticed, I had the red one. I like the brushed metal appearance -- it's a little more interesting than just a flat color.

Now, here's how the S630 compares to similar cameras in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SD970 IS 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu in. 160 g
Casio Exilim EX-FC100 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 8.1 cu in. 156 g
Fuji FinePix J250 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.5 cu in. 151 g
Kodak EasyShare M380 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.8 in. 7.2 cu in. 125 g
Nikon Coolpix S630 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.7 cu in. 140 g
Olympus Stylus 7000 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in. 8.4 cu in. 132 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS15 3.8 x 2.1 x 0.9 in. 7.2 cu in. 115 g
Ricoh CX1 4.0 x 2.3 x 1.1 in. 10.1 cu in. 180 g
Samsung SL420 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in. 7.7 cu in. 138 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W290 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 in. 8.4 cu in. 145 g

The Coolpix S630 is one of the biggest cameras in the group, with only the Ricoh CX1 coming in larger and heavier. Even so, the S630 is quite pocketable, and should be able to go where ever you do.

Let's begin our tour now, beginning with the front of the camera.

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S630

The main thing to see here is the Coolpix S630's 7X optical zoom lens. The lens is on the slow side, with a maximum aperture range of F3.5 - F5.3. In layman's terms, that means that the lens doesn't let in as much light as I would've liked. The focal range of the lens is 6.6 - 46.2 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 260 mm. Not surprisingly, the lens isn't threaded, so conversion lenses and filters are not supported.

The S630 features a sensor-shift image stabilization system, which Nikon calls Vibration Reduction. The camera is able to detect the tiny movements of your hands that can blur your photos, especially in low light, or at the telephoto end of the lens. The S630 shifts the CCD itself to compensate for this, which results in a higher likelihood of a sharp photo. Image stabilization won't freeze a moving subject, nor will it let you handhold the camera for night shots like those seen in my reviews, but for everyday shooting they're very helpful. Want to see the VR system in action? Have a look at these:

Vibration Reduction off

Vibration Reduction on

Both of the above photos were taken at a shutter speed of 1/6 second. As you can clearly see, the VR system did its job nicely. For some mysterious reason, you cannot use the image stabilizer in movie mode. My guess is that the sound from the sensor moving around would be picked up by the microphone (the S630's VR system is unusually noisy).

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's AF-assist lamp. The camera uses this as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

Moving to the opposite side of the lens, we find the S630's flash. The flash is pretty powerful for a compact camera, with a working range of 0.6 - 5.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.6 - 3.5 m at telephoto. Keep in mind that (as always) those numbers are taken with the ISO set to Auto, which may not be a desirable setting to use in the real world.

Back of the Nikon Coolpix S630

The main event on the back of the Coolpix S630 is its 2.7" LCD display. This screen has 230,000 pixels so, as you'd expect, everything is pretty sharp. The LCD displays 97% of the frame, so you're not getting a completely accurate view of what the final photo will look like. Outdoor visibility was decent, and in low light the screen brightens automatically, so you can still see your subject.

As you can see, there's no optical viewfinder on the S630. In fact, none of its competitors have one either. This may bother some folks, but I figure that most won't even notice.

Now let's talk about the four-way controller and the buttons that surround it. The buttons above the scroll wheel set the shooting mode (auto, scene, movie) and enter playback mode.

Plenty of scene modes Help screens tell you what each one does

While the Coolpix S630 lacks a manual shooting mode, it does have plenty of scene modes to choose from. They include:

  • Auto Scene Selection (selects from auto, portrait, landscape, night portrait, night landscape, close-up, and backlight)
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Night portrait
  • Party/indoor
  • Beach/snow
  • Sunset
  • Dusk/dawn
  • Night landscape
  • Close-up
  • Food - the camera lets you tweak the white balance for this one
  • Museum
  • Fireworks show
  • Copy
  • Backlight
  • Panorama assist - helps you line up photos side-by-side for later stitching
  • Sport continuous
  • High sensitivity
  • Smile detection

I'd like to mention those last three items in more detail before we continue the tour.

The Sport Continuous lets you take photos at 3.7, 5.5, or 11 frames/second. You're probably thinking, "what's the catch?". There are two big ones: first, the resolution is cut to 3 Megapixel or less. Second, the ISO range is 640 and above, which can lead to mediocre image quality. The high sensitivity mode has the same issues, except that you're only taking one photo at a time.

The smile detection feature does exactly as it sounds. The camera detects any faces in the frame, and as soon as it sees someone smiling, it automatically takes a picture. It will continue to do so until you exist the smile mode. The S630 also has a "blink proof" feature that's active in smile detection mode. The camera takes two photos, and automatically chooses the one where everyone's eyes are open.

Getting back to the tour now, let's talk about the S630's combination four-way controller / scroll wheel. You can use the scroll wheel for navigating menus, reviewing photos, and adjusting certain camera settings. The four-way controller does the same, and also lets you control these options:

  • Up - Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash off, fill flash, slow sync)
  • Down - Macro (on/off)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 or 10 sec)
  • Right - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Center - OK

I had no idea that you could use the four-way controller to adjust the exposure compensation, since the label for this one item is actually on the right side of the camera. Oops!

The last two items on the back of the Coolpix S630 are buttons for entering the menu system and for deleting a photo.

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S630

There isn't much to see on the top of the Coolpix S630. You'll find the power and shutter release buttons, plus the zoom controller. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 0.7 seconds. I counted a mere nine steps in the 7X zoom range -- not nearly enough, in my opinion.

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S630

Nothing here.

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S630

On the opposite side of the camera is the S630's sole I/O port. This port does double duty, being used for video output as well as USB. In case you're wondering where the optional AC adapter plugs in, the S630 uses a DC coupler, which is essentially a fake battery with a power cable coming out of it. You feed the cable through that small port at the bottom of the photo.

The camera's 7X zoom lens is at the full telephoto position in this photo.

Bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S630

On the bottom of the camera is a plastic tripod mount (not visible here) and the battery / memory card compartment. The plastic door over this compartment is very flimsy, so be careful. As you can probably tell, there's no way to access the memory card slot while the camera is on a tripod.

The included EN-EL12 lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.