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When compared with other small, snapshot cameras the Coolpix S520 is reasonably priced. One of its main strengths is the fact it is easy to use.
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|Outdoor 1 (Medium Zoom)|
When I have tested Nikon digital cameras in the past it has often struck me how bright the pictures are. This is normally a big plus point. With this photo, the Coolpix S520 has gone way over the top. It has really struggled with the lighter areas of the photo. This has wiped out a lot of detail on the boats. It has also affected the colours with some blue lines taking on a green tinge.
|Outdoor 2 (No Zoom)|
Now this photo is a real contrast to the first photo and the darker areas of the photo lose detail. This is especially true on the left hand side of the shot. This makes me doubt the camera's ability to shoot scenes with plenty of contrast and also this digital camera's ability to adjust for different lighting conditions.
|Outdoor 3 (Maximum Zoom)|
This is another darker shot. In terms of focusing at distance, the camera does well enough for a small, pocket digital camera. I like the colours in this photo.
|Outdoor 4 (Building)|
The camera does a good job of focusing on the brickwork in the building. When it comes to picture sharpness the Coolpix S520 is roughly average when compared with other, similar digital cameras.
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All three of my portrait test shots produce much improved results when compared to the more demanding scenic shots. In the outdoor portrait colour, lighting and focusing are all about spot on.
|Indoor Portrait without Flash|
Here the Coolpix S520 scores well when compared to other digital cameras. The amount of light emitted by the flash unit is about right. This helps to give great balance to the photo and the colours are excellent too. I often see skin tones that are overdone when flash is used or colour bleached by the power of the light. This Nikon digital camera manages to avoid these common problems and get more or less everything right.
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|Indoor Portrait with Flash|
This is another good effort. Again, colours and brightness are about right. The only problem is that focusing is not quite perfect. This suggests either you will need plenty of light or you will need to resort to flash as soon as lighting levels dip.
Overall, I like the way this digital camera handles colour. There is a more natural feel than with many other digital camera brands.
There is good news and bad news when it comes to the macro shot. The good news is that the shot is bright and clear. The bad news is that the Coolpix S520 can only focus from 15cm away from the subject. Compared with other cameras that is not very close. My test shot has been cropped for display.
Views on Noise - ISO 400 and 1600: Unless you really need to use them, I would avoid using higher ISO settings with any compact digital camera. They tend to add noise to a photo even at ISO 400. This is especially true in darker areas of any shot. The Coolpix S520 produces similar results to most other digital cameras.
Overall: My results are a bit mixed. I was very happy with the portrait shots I took, but the scenic shots were a disappointment. This suggests the Coolpix S520 is more at home with subjects closer to the camera.
Shutter Lag: A single photo was captured in 0.52 seconds. Five photos took 24.9 seconds. With the flash turned on times increased to 1.78 seconds for a single photo and 27.44 for five. These are all slow times and it was noticeable that the Coolpix S520 took a long time to store a photo and be ready to take another shot. It took 3.09 seconds to turn the camera on and take a picture. This is a bit slower than most other cameras I have tested recently.
Style: This camera has a simple, plain design, but it is pleasant enough to look at. It fits into a pocket and is available in black, silver, and plum.
Dimensions: 53 x 94 x 22.5mm
Batteries: Lithium Ion (EN-EL10). Nikon estimates you should be able to take around 180 shots in between charges. Both a battery and charger are supplied with the camera.
Memory cards: 23mb of memory have been built into the camera. This is enough for 10 or 11 photos. A memory card is not supplied. The Coolpix S520 is compatible with SD and SDHC cards.
Ease of use rating: I find Nikon digital cameras easy to use. The Coolpix S520 concentrates more on the more basic camera functions you need. It has fewer bells and whistles than many similar cameras and this helps with ease of use.
Points I like: Ease of use - small size
Where it could improve: Scenic shots - start up time and shutter lag Alternatives If you are looking for a step up in terms of style, features and image quality try looking at the Canon IXUS 90 IS.
David Tymon's verdict: The Nikon Coolpix S520 is aimed at people with a smaller budget who are looking for a simple, snapshot digital camera. The camera performed well in many areas and I like the colours it produces. Against that, it struggled with my scenic shots and there was a noticeable delay in taking a picture.