The S52 is part of a new Nikon double act, with the otherwise identical S52c adding Wi-Fi connectivity. But if instantly sharing images over a network isn’t your thing, this camera is a much better bet, as it’s not only slimmer but also cheaper, allowing you to spend more on the SD card you’ll need for picture storage.
The camera itself is light, yet solid. At first glance it appears to be just a hunk of regulation silverish metal, but the subtle curves of the front plate add extra dazzle, and make it comfortable to hold.
The screen is a whopping 3in number that really hogs the real estate on the back of the camera. However, unlike Kodak’s equally expansive V1273, this isn’t a touch-screen display, and all the menus and options are accessed via the closely-grouped but easily accessible collection of controls that sit to the right of the screen.
The only other button of note is the smiley face icon on the top lip of the S52. This provides you instant access to ‘portrait’ mode, which lets the camera know you are about to take a picture of a person’s face, and brace itself accordingly. There’s also the now standard face detection, which in this case is capable of recognising 12 people – so the first 11 plus a sub.
The S52 also benefits from impressive image stabilisation which, when coupled with the incredibly high ISO setting of up to 3200, provides excellent low-light shooting. We wouldn’t advise pushing the limits of the ISO too high, but anything shot at 400 or below is impressively noise free and saves you using the less than impressive flash.
Whether they are shot in shade or bright sunlight, images are crisp and sharp; the nine megapixels here doing better then the 12 on offer in many other compacts when it comes to rendering detail. It’s not all wine and roses though, and the colour reproduction of the S52 leaves a little to be desired when compared to the likes of the Sony DSC-T2. The colours seem to lack a little in the way of vibrancy of that and other classic compacts.
If you do go for the Wi-Fi capable ‘c’ version you get a slightly thicker camera that has the ability to send images wirelessly to Nikon’s Picture Town web site from, in theory, any public Wi-Fi hotspot. We love the idea of wireless photography, but it’s just as easy to plug this camera into a computer, and we can use our five megapixel Nokia N95 for any snaps that people have to see immediately.
With or without wireless, the S52 is an impressive piece of equipment: well built, user friendly and capable of some crisp and sharp images. Nice one Nikon.