The tiny Nikon Coolpix S500 compact camera includes the latest face-detection and image-stabilisation features for consistently top-quality photos.

The Nikon Coolpix S500 delivers top-notch image quality. At £199, it may seem a little pricey for a compact camera with a relatively standard 7.1Mp sensor, a 3x zoom lens, and a 2.5in LCD.

Into the Nikon Coolpix S500's tiny and tough metal body, however, Nikon has also packed such features as automatic face detection and optical image stabilisation - although most compact cameras now offer those features.

We got some great shots with the Nikon Coolpix S500 during a rainy weekend trip. The face detection usually set accurate focus and exposure for our indoor portrait shots, but it sometimes failed to find people who slightly tilted their heads or wore glasses.

The Nikon Coolpix S500's optical image stabilisation helped us avoid blurry images in dull lighting conditions or at maximum zoom, by reducing the effect of any hand movement during the exposure.

We also found useful Nikon's Best Shot Selection (available on many Nikon cameras), which takes a series of shots and keeps just the one it determines is the sharpest. You can increase the Nikon Coolpix S500's sensitivity up to ISO 2000 to cope with moving targets in low light, but even daylight shots at this level contained so much noise that they were barely worth having.

We noticed little noise, however, in images shot at ISO 400, making the Nikon Coolpix S500 a big improvement over how most compact cameras performed until recently.

You operate most of the Nikon Coolpix S500's controls with your right thumb; they might be a little small for users with big fingers. A scrollwheel makes navigating menus and quickly adjusting a few settings easy.

Especially handy is the ability to click to the right and spin to alter the exposure compensation, but we were disappointed to find no histogram display to help you judge the effect. The Nikon Coolpix S500 also has no room for an optical viewfinder, so you must compose all of your shots on the LCD screen.

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In our image-quality tests, the Nikon Coolpix S500 earned impressive scores. We saw very accurate exposures both with and without flash. Some of the images could have been a little sharper, but we observed especially natural-looking colour and little distortion.

The Nikon Coolpix S500 took a commendable 234 shots on a single charge in our battery tests.

Nikon Coolpix S500: Specs

  • 7.1Mp
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 35mm-105mm zoom ranger
  • 2.5 in LCD
  • 26MB internal memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
  • max aperture: 2.8 1/f
  • Lithium Ion Battery
  • ISO: 100, 1600, 200, 2000, 400, 50, 800
  • USB 2.0
  • 88x22x51mm
  • 135g
  • 7.1Mp
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 35mm-105mm zoom ranger
  • 2.5 in LCD
  • 26MB internal memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
  • max aperture: 2.8 1/f
  • Lithium Ion Battery
  • ISO: 100, 1600, 200, 2000, 400, 50, 800
  • USB 2.0
  • 88x22x51mm
  • 135g

OUR VERDICT

For a compact camera so small, the Nikon Coolpix S500 delivers very good image quality. Features such as face detection and image stabilisation make shooting faultless photos easy, every time.

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