Nikon Coolpix S600 Review
The Nikon Coolpix S600 packs a 10 megapixels sensor with a 4X stabilized wide-angle lens and a 2.7" LCD in a body which is 0.9" thick. The Nikon S600 is definitely one of the smallest ultra-compacts with a stabilized wide-angle lens.
Exposure on the S600 is entirely automatic. Aside from +/- 2 stops of exposure-compensation, exposure is always controlled by the camera alone. With a choice of center-weighed or evaluative metering, this camera shows little flexibility. One headline feature of the S600 is its high-sensitivity range which goes to ISO 3200. It uses SD or SD-HC cards for memory and a lithium-ion battery for power. This is pretty much standard among recent ultra-compacts.
|10 Megapixels sensor|
|4X Stabilized optical zoom, equivalent to 28-112mm|
|ISO Sensitivity from 100 to 3200|
|Shutter-speeds from 1/1500s to 4s|
|Automatic white-balance, 5 white-balance presetsDaylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy and Flash and custom white-balance|
|Evaluative and center-weighed metering|
|Single shot and continuous focus drive|
|Normal and macro focus modes|
|Auto, manual or center focus point selection|
|Exposure compensation, -2..+2 EV, 1/3 EV steps|
|10 Images at 1.1 FPS continuous drive|
|Self-timer, 2 or 10 seconds|
|640x480 30 FPS Movie mode, single or continuous focus mode|
|2.7" LCD 230K Pixels|
|Standard, vivid, b&w, sepia, cyanotype and pastel color modes|
Suitability - What is it good for?
This small ultra-compact distinguish itself by its wide-angle lens which makes it more suitable for landscape, architecture and close-quarter indoor shots than most digital cameras. With an equivalent to 28-112mm in 35mm terms, the S600 can render flattering portraits and a variety of close-by subject.
While the Nikon Coolpix S600 is a general purpose point-and-shoot camera, its feature set is rather limited. Aside from custom white-balance and 4 focus-point selection modes, its features appear on nearly all ultra-compacts. Notice the shutter-speed range of 1/1500 to 4s which is neither fast enough for high-speed action, nor long enough for night photography.
The 2.7" LCD makes it easy to frame images, although visibility can be an issue under bright light and there is no optical viewfinder to fallback on. Note that we only complain about the lack of an optical viewfinder when the LCD is inadequate under expected conditions. This is one of those cases.
The Coolpix also records VGA quality movies and audio only clips. Movies can be recorded in single-shot or continuous focus modes.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
As the S600 is one of the smallest cameras, its size is not without compromise. The build quality is excellent everywhere except for the flimsy but flexible battery-door compartment cover. Its nice but slippery surface lacks any type of grip and, on the rear, there is barely space for the tip of your thumb to rest. The provided wrist-strap provides security from accidental falls. One construction issue is that the plastic lens cover lets in quite a bit of dust. The tripod socket is poorly placed at one end of the camera casing.
The camera is powered by a recessed but easy to use button on the top-panel. Next to it is the shutter-button which has short travel but is responsive enough. Most other controls are easily accessible, almost all of them located around the combined control-dial and 4-way controller. Speaking of which, the control-dial is overly sensitive and prone to accidental changes.
The Mode button activates a virtual on-screen mode dial. Actually, it activates two: one for in Shooting mode and one in Playback mode. In shooting mode, the modes are: Shooting, Hi ISO, Scene, Voice-Recording, Movie and Setup menu. In play mode, the modes are: Play, Date List, Sound Playback, Setup. The Play button enters and exits playback mode. This is the one which triggers the virtual mode-dial to change. It is almost usable at all times. Note that the camera is not shooting priority, the Play button must used to enter and exit playback mode.
The Menu button obviously activates the current mode's menu. While this is typical for most cameras, there is normally a path from such menu to the setup menu. This is not the case with the S600. Instead, one must use the virtual mode-dial to enter Setup mode. Setup mode solely consists of a two-page menu system. The Delete button works both in Shooting and Playback mode. In Shooting mode it affects the last picture taken. In Playback mode it affects the currently displayed image. In both cases, it asks confirmation before deleting the target image.
The central control is the rotating 4-way controller. Each direction is assigned a function in Shooting mode. Up selects the flash-mode, Right activates exposure-compensation, Down toggles macro-mode and Left selects a self-timer. The dial rotation is used to change exposure compensation, camera modes and navigate between images.
The large 2.7" LCD is mostly exposure-priority. In low-light, it shows an excessively bright preview which can cause you to apply too much exposure-compensation. This is unfortunate as the preview in good light is quite accurate. In some rare cases, also in low-light, the white-balance is not previewed correctly. Visibility is good in low-light but the display is too reflective, thus causing difficulty in bright light.
The S600 uses SD or SD-HC memory cards, which are presently the cheapest and most common form of flash memory. Images are numbered in a standard form but the number keeps increasing even after changing the memory card. Not only is this rather annoying, there is also no menu option to reset the counter to zero. Then again, maybe only camera reviewers care about this.
The Nikon Coolpix S600 represent the typical modern ultra-compact with a wide-angle lens. A quick search revealed the existence of at least 10 such models with 10 or more megapixels sensors, with half of these also equipped with image stabilization. The point is that this little digital camera has a lot to compete against.
Overall, this ultra-compact delivers a performance which is good on image quality but behind in terms of speed. Good sharpness and a fine noise pattern deliver quite usable images up to ISO 800. Beyond that, noise and noise-reduction destroys colors and details. Speed is on the slow side when we look at the most important aspects: shutter-lag, focusing and shot-to-shot speeds.
While build quality and battery-life are good, other areas including white-balance in artificial light, handling, user interface and color over-saturation proved problematic, at least compared to its best competitors.
Based on this mix of above and below average show of performance, the S600 is awarded an Average rating. Its main competitors being the Fuji Finepix F100fd, the Sony Cybershot DSC-W170, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35 and the Casio Exilim EX-Z200. Having seen how good the F100fd is, it is hard not to recommend it over the S600.
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