More than a point & shoot
(Pierre — 01/21/2010)
While I've owned a few compact digital cameras in the past, I've been primarily a film hobbyist. I recently bought this camera just to have around for quick shots without spending a fortune. It sure meets this requirement in terms of size. It's extremely compact, and very thin. Definitely shirt pocket size, but with a large, sharp display nevertheless.
More importantly, I value photo and lens quality over features, and I like a camera that gives good results when shooting deliberately, taking my time, etc. I've so far found that this a wonderful little camera. It doesn't have optical or sensor image stabilization (just the so-called "electronic" variety), but I don't really need that anyway. If I really need stability, I use a tripod. I like to take my time with precise composition. Admittedly, this isn't the role most envisage for a point & shoot, but this camera is more than a simple compact, in my opinion.
First of all, I have no interest in super zooms. I much prefer wide to medium zoom, and this camera has the right range: 28-140mm (35 mm equivalent). It's also reasonably fast, at 2.7. In my tests so far, it seems pretty sharp, and surprisingly free of distortion. It's exactly what I've always expected from better quality Nikkor lenses rather than cheap entry-level ones. It also has very good macro capability. The wide angle is the main reason I chose this camera. I love wide angle shots that have something in the foreground as the primary subject.
The camera has all the usual point & shoot features, such as presets for various common scenes, but what I like is that it does offer quite a bit of user selectability when used in Auto mode. It allows you to turn most features on or off, which is very useful for careful, deliberate shooting when you might want to choose some precise settings yourself: image mode for various available resolutions, white balance, continuous or single shot mode, and various color options. Autofocus can be set to full auto, face priority, center or manual (where you choose the actual focus point). In addition to these, flash can be set to various settings (fill, slow sync, auto, etc.) or turned off entirely. The camera also offers + or - exposure compensation. More importantly, as image quality with all these point & shoot compacts is highly-dependent on ISO (same as it always was even with film), having the ability to limit the camera to a range of ISO 80 to 400, 80 to 800, or to pick exact ISO settings from 80 to 3200 is a terrific advantage when the photographer is interested in high quality images.
So far, I've found images taken in the highest-quality image mode, and at both fixed and lower-range ISO settings to be stunningly sharp, noise free and distortion free. This is a camera that can deliver high quality results when used to advantage. If you just let it do its thing as a point & shoot, you get good to mediocre point & shoot results, like you do with almost any other such camera, no matter what name is on it. But if you do want a point & shoot style camera that allows you some freedom as a knowledgeable photographer when you feel like it, this is a good camera to carry around in your shirt pocket, or wherever else you carry a tiny camera. It doesn't out-spec other cameras in its price range, but it has what I need to take both snap shots and higher quality pictures. It reminds a little of some great film point and shoots of the past, such as the Olympus Pens, Leica Minilux, etc. My only reservation about it was the lack of optical IS, but it's not that important to me, and I liked the price and the extra compact size compared to Nikon's S640. That model is almost the same, but it has optical IS, and it's a little thicker.