At first glance, the Nikon S5 is unassuming. The near-featureless fascia and tiny recessed lens give it a distinctly minimalist appearance. It’s anything but modest once you start using it, though - excellent image quality, loads of features and ease of use make this a great point-and-click camera.
The images we captured with the S5 were generally excellent. A noticeable lack of noise, even at the highest ISO setting of 400, is a huge benefit, making it flexible enough to use either indoors or outside. We were also pleased by the absence of chromatic aberrations in areas of high contrast. Colour reproduction was superb, with skin tones and natural colours rendered faithfully. One minor complaint is that at zoom levels approaching 100 per cent, JPEG compression artefacts became too obvious, but with the 6-megapixel CCD giving a maximum image size of 2816 x 2112 you’ll still be able to print your images comfortably at A4 without any trouble.
Although the 3x optical zoom is nothing to write home about, the lack of purple fringing in our images suggests high-quality elements in the lens. A frustration is that the zoom motor only has six increments to it, which makes perfecting the composition of a shot impossible without moving your physical position.
Weighing just 152g, the S5 is small enough to be used one-handed, and that includes navigating through the menu system. Our favourite feature on the back of the camera is the jog dial. While not a revolutionary concept, it cuts down on the number of buttons you need to press to quickly skim through your images. The 2.5in LCD on the back is clear and bright, but note the lack of optical viewfinder.
The S5 has a good range of Manual modes, although it isn’t for photographers who demand creative control over every aspect of their photos. There’s a Spot Focus mode, which allows you to place the cursor over the area of the frame you’d like to focus on, and a manual white-balance mode. There’s spot metering too, which is relatively unusual in a camera at this level. There’s no way to set shutter speed manually, though; the nearest you get is a Night mode, which increases the length of time the shutter is open, although it’s still limited to a maximum of two seconds.
Nikon’s exclusive BSS (Best Shot Selector) function takes several images sequentially with the same shutter and focus settings, and then chooses the sharpest, which is useful in low light to pick the shot with the least camera shake. We also appreciate the panoramic feature, which saves the last third of the previous image to help you line up the next shot. Nikon’s PictureProject software includes lets you stitch up the resultant images.
Both the A-Listed Canon IXUS 65, and the S5 are excellent cameras. Both will take finely detailed images, although the Canon’s stand up a little better to close inspection. Both have good accompanying software and a glut of in-camera features to help you take excellent photos in virtually any situation. The one good reason to choose the S5 is Nikon’s unique Best Shot Selector, but the Canon’s lower price, higher ISO range, wider shutter speed and slightly superior image quality, is enough to convince us that the IXUS 65 should be at the top of your list.