Nikon Coolpix S220
At a Glance
The $150 Nikon Coolpix S220 is a decent, basic point-and-shoot, but you can find a few better options among cameras in the $200 price range.
The 10-megapixel Coolpix S220 offers a 3X-optical-zoom lens (35mm to 105mm) and quite a few more controls than the bargain-bin Coolpix L20 that landed near the top of our Top 10 chart of $200-range cameras. It's also a good-looking camera, available in six colors (silver, black, blue, magenta, green, and plum) and ultraportable thanks to its slender 0.7-inch-thick frame.
That said, the S220's image quality wasn't nearly as impressive, and unless you're looking for a very slim camera, the L20 appears to be the smarter buy between the two of them.
Like the L20, the Coolpix S220 has digital-only image stabilization, but it works much better than many software-based stabilization systems we've seen in the past. It functions well in normal circumstances; but when I shook the camera around like a maniac, I did see a bit of blur in the resulting images.
In PC World Test Center jury evaluations, the S220's glaring weak points were exposure quality--especially with the flash turned on--and overall image quality when compared to cameras in the same price range.
Relatively speaking, battery life was the Coolpix S220's strong suit, as it fired off 252 shots on its fully charged lithium ion battery, satisfactory enough for a rating of Good. Though that result isn't in the 300-plus-shots-per-charge range of many point-and-shoot cameras we've seen recently, the battery is no slouch.
Operating the Coolpix S220 is very easy: The power button, the shutter button, and the zoom controls are all on the top of the camera, while four buttons (dedicated to scene-mode selection, playback, menu access, and deleting photos) and a four-way navigational pad are on the back, to the right of the 2.5-inch-diagonal LCD screen.
In addition to one-touch access to flash controls, the timer, exposure compensation, and macro mode, the four-way directional pad handles on-screen menu navigation. All the buttons are well spaced, solid, and easy for hands of any size to use. The SD/SDHC card slot is tucked away in the Coolpix S220's battery compartment; it's slightly inconvenient, but that design is pretty much the norm for the majority of point-and-shoot cameras.
A lot of handy options are lurking in the S220's menus, too. You get six white-balance presets, six color filters ranging from black-and-white to pastel, and 18 scene modes. Among the scenes are old standbys such as Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Fireworks modes.
One handy and unique scene mode is the Panorama Assist feature, which guides you in making a stitched-together panoramic picture by keeping a ghosted image of the last shot you took on screen; that way, you can just overlap your next photo with the previous image. The included ArcSoft software suite (on a CD) takes care of stitching together the photos, with auto-pilot ease.
Blink detection and red-eye correction are also part of the in-camera feature mix, and you can jack up the ISO equivalency to 2000 to help with flash-off, low-light shots. That said, I noticed a lot of noise creeping into images that I had shot at ISO settings above 800.
Another nice surprise was the ability to zoom in and out while using the Coolpix S220's movie mode. The S220 won't replace your camcorder by any means, but I found that it shot decent standard-definition, 640-by-480 AVI clips.
All told, the Coolpix S220 offers about what you'd expect for the $150 price tag: satisfactory images, a useful feature set, and average battery life. It's a nice option if you're looking for a slim, low-cost camera, but the similarly slender Pentax Optio P70 provides a wide-angle lens and 720p HD video in a thin frame for just $30 more.