Nikon Coolpix S5 Review

Ultra Compact

Nikon Coolpix S5 Ease of Use 8
Features 7
Movie Mode 8
Build Quality8
Colours 7
Photo Quality 7
Style 7
Lowlight 7
Macro 5
Value for Money 7
6 Megapixels
3x Zoom
2.5 inch LCD Screen
93 x 59 x 20mm


The Nikon Coolpix S5 is a fairly standard six megapixel digital camera that is small enough to slip easily into a pocket. In terms of features the Coolpix S5 has all you would expect from this type of camera. It is easy to use and is suitable for anyone who is looking for a no fuss digital camera, but is prepared to pay that bit more for a decent build quality and stylish design.

Main Features

LCD Screen:

2.5 inches
93 x 59 x 20mm

HD Movies:
Manual Controls:
Memory Cards:

Lithium-ion Rechargeable

Image Quality

This is quite a difficult camera to review. The pictures it takes are o.k., but at the same time nothing really jumps out at me to say that it stands out from the competition.

In terms of focusing the Coolpix S5 starts off well enough but in many of the photos the sharpness drifts away as you move towards the edge of the photo. This is evident in the first outdoor landscape shot. In the centre of the photo the brickwork and the tiles on the building are in sharp focus. As you move away towards the edge the focus gets progressively softer. This happens to a greater degree than I am used to seeing with other similar digital cameras. This is also noticeable in both the second and third landscape shots as well.

Staying with the landscape shots the second photo gets quite dark towards the corners of the picture. This is something that I do see with other digital cameras, but the problem is a bit more prominent here. I would also like to see the colours with more punch too. Although this is often a matter of how you like to see a photograph I do not feel the colours make the pictures catch your eye in the way I would like them to.

Looking at the dedicated test for colours this shows though that the colours are well balanced and no single colour dominates at the expense of others. There is a feature that allows you to specify more vivid colours if you would like to achieve greater depth in this area.

The outdoor portrait is my favourite shot in the set. I like the warm feel to the photo and the skin tones look natural. The Coolpix S5 also manages to produce a pleasing level of detail in the shot. To help with the colours I used the cloudy white balance shot for the photo as it was taken on an overcast day.

The indoor portrait fails to achieve the same level of sharpness. The darker conditions have made it difficult for the camera to focus properly. This is a shame because this is one of the few pocket sized cameras that have managed to really combat red eye. I would also like to have seen the picture lighter as well.

Moving the camera in closer for the shot of beer bottles taken in more or less complete darkness helps the camera to achieve a much better level of focus this time around. Again though I feel the picture is darker than I would like to have seen. This is becoming a recurring theme throughout my tests.

In macro mode the camera has produced a photo with a light blue caste. This can indicate that the camera is having problems with something called colour temperature. This should not have occurred here as the lighting conditions I use for macro test shots are the same for each camera. I also found it very difficult to get the camera to focus from the 4cm away from subject mentioned in the specification.

The final test is of how the camera reacts when the ISO rating is pushed up to ISO 400. This setting can help you to freeze motion or to take photos in lowlight. Although there is a deterioration in picture quality at this level the Coolpix S5 does in fact manage to do better than a lot of other cameras I have tested.

Shutter Lag and Recycling Times

I was able to take a single photo in 0.39 seconds and five photos in 8.38 seconds. The time taken to take a single picture is slightly above average. The time taken to take five shots is an average time.

You can compare this camera to other models by taking a look at the Shutter Lag Comparison Table.


The three times optical zoom lens has a focal length of 35 to 105mm in 35mm format. The aperture of the lens works in a range between f3 and f5.4. There is also a 4x digital zoom function. For close up photography the Coolpix S6 can focus at 4cm away from the subject.

For composing images there is a large 2.5" LCD screen. This is made up of around 230,000 pixels. There is no viewfinder.

There is a selection of pre programmed scene modes. These help the camera to take the best possible photo. When you select a scene mode you indicate to the camera the type of shot you are about to take. It will then use what it considers to be the optimum settings for the shot. The scene modes are Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night landscape, Close up, Museum, Fireworks show, Copy and Back light. In addition there is a panorama assist setting to help you piece together panoramic type shots.

The built in flash unit has a maximum range of 2.6m. This falls to 1.4m when the zoom lens is in use. The flash modes available to use are Auto, Auto with Red-eye Reduction (In-Camera Red-Eye Fix), Flash cancel, Anytime flash and Slow sync.

For when you would like to appear in the picture there is a self timer mechanism. This can be set to either a three or ten second delay. When it comes to focusing you can control the area of the scene the camera concentrates on. You can choose between the centre of the frame or to set the area manually.

To add a different feel to your photos there are a few colour options available. These are vivid, black and white, sepia and cyanotype.

Other features you have access to include white balance (auto, custom, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy and flash) and exposure compensation (+/- 2 in 0.3 increments) and ISO sensitivity (auto, 50, 100, 200, 400).

There is a best shot selector. This works when you take up to ten photos. The camera will then select what it considers to be the best shot. This is based on the exposure and level of blur.

A number of continuous shooting options are available to you. The first is a standard type. This allows you to take shots at a maximum rate of 2.2 frames per second. The next puts 16 photos into a single image. Finally there is an interval timer. This is allows you to specify a time delay. The camera will then take a single shot at the end of the delay period. The delay can be set between 30 seconds and one hour.

The Coolpix S5 can be used as a straightforward voice recorder. The recording time is only limited by the capacity of the memory card. You can also add 20 seconds of commentary to a photo that has already been taken.

Movies can be captured at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. The top recording speed is thirty per second. Sound can be recorded with the movie. Movies are only limited in duration by the capacity of the memory card.

Nikon supplies all the necessary cables and software to connect the Coolpix S5 to a computer, PictBridge computer and a television set.

Ease of Use

The Coolpix S5 does not present any real problems in terms of ease of use. Everything seems to be quite straightforward. The menu system is simple to work through and there is also some handy help text to guide you through all the different options.

Buttons on the back of the camera control the shooting mode, accessing the menu, deleting images, flash, self timer and macro. On the top of the camera is a fiddly control for zooming and a button to help with portraits. By pressing the button the camera activates In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and Face-Priority AF.

You can also choose to display the menu options as text or icons.


You can pick up a Nikon Coolpix S5 for around £200. This compares to around £195 for a Canon IXUS 60, £210 for a Sony DSC T9 and £175 for a Casio Exilim EX-S600.

If I was spending my money and I had the choice between the four cameras listed above I would go with the Canon or Sony models. There is just not enough about the Coolpix S5 to tempt me at this price.


Somehow Nikon have made the Coolpix S5 look slimmer than it actually is. Don't worry it is still slim enough to fit easily into a pocket. The front of the camera is extremely plain. In fact it is a bit too stark for my personal tastes. I also found that I need to be careful how I help the camera when I was taking a shot. With the lens tucked away up in the top left hand corner I found it relatively easy to take great shots of my fingers as they crept across the lens. The lens really is situated very near the top edge of the camera.

I like the selection wheel on the back of the camera. This helps to speed up the process of selecting options.

The camera is available in silver. It has dimensions of 93 x 59 x 20mm and weighs 135g.

Batteries and Memory Cards

A rechargeable lithium ion battery (EN-EL8) is used to supply power to the camera. Both a battery and a cradle for charging the battery are supplied with the camera. Nikon estimates you should be able to take around 210 shots with the Coolpix S5 before the battery runs down.

21mb of memory are built into the camera. Therefore no memory card is supplied as standard. I was able to take 26 pictures before the memory was full. The camera is compatible with SD cards and it looks like you will need to pick up a high capacity card before you will be able to really put this camera through its paces.

Click here to save money on SD cards..

Points I like:

Help text
Lack of red eye in test shot

Where it is not so hot:

Design causes problem with finger over lens
Short flash range


The Nikon Coolpix S5 faces some pretty stiff competition in the slimline six megapixel market. Although I have found little to actually put me off this camera I am finding it difficult to come up with reasons why you should buy it in preference to other digital cameras with similar features.

Nikon Coolpix S5 Front View Nikon Coolpix S5 Front View

Nikon Coolpix S5 Back View Nikon Coolpix S5 Back View

Nikon Coolpix S5 Top View Nikon Coolpix S5 Top View

Sample Menus

Nikon Coolpix S5 resolution Nikon Coolpix S5 sensitivity

Nikon Coolpix S5 setup Nikon Coolpix S5 shooting

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Read Review: Sony DSC TX55 Review

Panasonic DMC FX90 Rating 79/100

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Panasonic DMC FX70 Rating 79/100

The Panasonic Lumix DMC FX70 does not quite match up to the picture quality I am used to seeing from Panasonic digital cameras. It does have a lot of other plus points, but if you are looking for true clarity in your photos there are better pocket cameras around.

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Related Pages

Nikon Coolpix S5 Review Nikon Coolpix S5 Specification Nikon Coolpix S5 Sample Images Nikon Digital Cameras

Review Date

June 2006

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