The Nikon Coolpix S630 is an interesting camera, even though there isn't much to it. The camera is very simple, with no advanced features or gaudy distractions. It's built for novice or casual photographers who have no interest in fiddling with options or manual controls. In many ways, it's similar to the Sony W290, except instead of a high-definition movie mode, its distinguishing feature is a long, 7x optical zoom.
That's a big lens for such a small camera, so big that it's hard to believe they could fit it into such a tiny body. The S630 is tiny. And lightweight. It's a perfectly portable digital camera. One point of advice that all camera shoppers should take to heart: don't expect big things from small cameras. That said, wags who deride small, point-and-shoot cameras for poor image quality would do well to consider the importance of comfort and ease to a photographer less interested in every last pixel than in how they're going to fit their new toy in their pocket.
That said, the photo quality on the S630 is not very good. It's not terrible, but with plenty of other options available like the aformentioned W290 or any of Canon's line of 'SD' ultracompact cameras, why settle for 'not terrible'? All the advantages of this camera are in its design, and not in its primary function, taking photos.
Design: A Subtle Curve
The Nikon S630 is a 12-megapixel ultracompact digital camera with a 7x optical zoom. The main feature of the camera's body is a very slight curve that acts as a psuedo-grip, allowing the photographer a more comfortable, hand-fitting clutch than the typical, rectangular ultracompact. It's quite useful and very eye-catching, a nice little innovation that required very little elaboration on the original form factor but significantly changes how one interacts with the camera.
The back of the camera is very sparse, with few buttons to deal with. The 2.7-inch LCD takes up most of the space, and serves as the primary method of framing and previewing shots, as there is no optical viewfinder.
Performance: Automatic, Unsatisfying
If you look at the sample images in the right-hand sidebar, you'll see that the image quality isn't exactly spectacular. It's alright, but not great. The S630 takes fair-to-middling shots with a degree of softness that can rob a scene of its vitality and verve. Up close (particularly in the shot of the rosebush), you can see speckles and noise, something that's been a perennial complaint about Nikon point-and-shoot/ultracompact cameras, like the ill-fated Coolpix S60. Detail and precision are not the forte of the Nikon S630.
Interestingly enough, the video clips taken with the S630 came out very satisfactory. They were vivid, stable, and good-looking, definitely top-tier for a non-HD digital camera.
When using the camera, the Auto mode makes everything very easy. Using the camera is a breeze, a very pleasant experience. Unfortunately, when you go back and check out your photos at their actual size and not just on the LCD display, reality sets in. With the S630, Nikon has made it very easy to take mediocre shots. There are no significant manual features on the S630, effectively damning you to toil with various levels of automatic function.
Conclusion: Comfort Over Quality
Despite the impressive aesthetic appeal and comfortable portability of the S630, if it doesn't provide good photographs, there's very little point. It's a shame that the camera couldn't offer the whole package, as it would be quite formidable as competition for Canon's dominance in compact cameras. In the end, however, function must back up form, and in the case of the Nikon S630, that doesn't happen.