Nikon Coolpix S6 Review
Review Date: July 5th 2006
Ease of Use
The Nikon Coolpix S6 is certainly a very eye-catching camera, with its slim, "wave-design" profile, non-zooming lens and massive 3 inch, high resolution LCD screen. The wave design basically means that the camera is thinner at one end than the other. At 10cms wide and 2cms deep, the Nikon Coolpix S6 is bigger than it looks in the glossy product shots, but it will fit into your trouser or shirt pocket without too much trouble. Most of the Coolpix S6 has an understated matt silver finish, with the sides of the body in a more glossy metal. The Nikon Coolpix S6's weight is about average for this class of camera when the battery and memory card are fitted (140g).
The Nikon Coolpix S6 is very well-made overall, although there are a couple of external controls that aren't particularly well designed. The On/Off button is very small and recessed, which may prevent the camera from being accidentally turned on, but also makes it difficult to operate. The Zoom lever is a little too small, making it fiddly to use when you're in a rush to take a photo. Otherwise the Nikon Coolpix S6 is designed very well - indeed, it even introduces an innovative feature in the form of the Rotary wheel, which allows you to select menu options simply by turning the wheel round. If you don't like it, you can still press left/right/up/down as well.
The Nikon Coolpix S6 is not overly complex in terms of the number of external controls that it has. I counted just 10 controls in total, which suits the small dimensions of the camera. The majority of the controls are clearly labeled and common to most cameras, although the Nikon-specific icons will have you reaching for the manual. As this is a style-focused camera, most of the key photographic options, such as ISO speed, exposure compensation and white balance, are buried within the menu system, rather than accessible via external buttons, which slows down the operation of the camera.
The large 3 inch screen is a joy to behold and perfect for this type of camera, with a high 230,000 pixel count and 170 degree viewing angle. It makes it easy to share your images with friends and family, and compared very well to the other cameras that we were also reviewing at the same time (Casio EX-Z1000 and Ricoh Caplio R4). The downsides are that Nikon have chosen a glossy, reflective screen, which can reflect overhead lights, but this is small price to pay for such a great screen.
|Rotary Wheel||Shooting/Play Button / Mode Button / Menu Button / Delete Button|
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Nikon have chosen to supply it in printed format (108 pages in English), rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you. The large 3 inch LCD screen is the only way of framing your shots, so if you have to have an optical viewfinder, look elsewhere now. The various icons used to represent the camera settings are clear and legible, although you can only toggle the information on and off via the Setup menu option.
Nikon have introduced a new menu system for their 2006 Coolpix's, and very good it is too. The main menu system on the Nikon Coolpix S6 is straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu button on the rear of the camera. You can choose either an icon or text-based system. The text menu for the Shooting mode has 2 screens with 5 options on each screen. The icon system shows all the options on a single screen and is the method that I preferred. Due to the large 3 inch LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to five (in the text version), the various options and icons are extremely clear and legible. There is also a built-in Help system, accessed by pressing the Telephoto zoom button, which gives a brief but useful explanation for each option.
As well as the basic menu system outlined above, Nikon have also added a Mode button to the Coolpix S6, which offers further options for both Shooting and Playback modes. These options are presented as a circle of icons which are then selected by turning the Rotary wheel on the rear of the camera. In Shooting mode, pressing the Mode button allows you to choose from the various scene presets, voice recording, movies and wireless connectivity. Playback mode options are listed further down this page. It's a neat system that is reminiscent of the Apple iPod and its jog wheel interface. The way in which you choose the 11 scene modes is a little tricky though - you have to press the Mode button and choose Scene, which returns you to the shooting display, and then press the Menu button to access and select the scene modes.
|Flash / Lens / AF-Assist Illuminator/Self-timer Lamp||On/Off Button / Shutter Button / Zoom Lever|
The Nikon Coolpix S6 offers the now well-established D-Lighting and Face Priority AF features. Do they actually work? Face Priority AF is accessed by selecting the Scene option on the shooting mode dial, pressing the Menu button and then choosing the Portrait (Face AF) option on the top row. It works well if the subject is looking directly at the camera and quite central in the frame, but in most other situations the camera hunts for focus for several seconds and then tends to focus somewhere other than the subject's face. I suspect that most users will quickly lose patience with this feature, as will the person who is being photographed! D-Lighting lightens under-exposed parts of the image whilst ensuring that correctly exposed parts remain the same (and are not also lightened) - more on this feature in the Image Quality section.
The The Nikon Coolpix S6 is one of the few cameras currently available to offer Wireless connectivity. It's a little complicated to setup, although the manual does a great job of explaining the process in a clear, step-by-step fashion. When everything is up and running, you can transfer photos directly to your computer, either as they are being taken, or afterwards, and print photos on a wireless printer. And that's about it. Although wireless works very well on the S6, I'd question the need for it for the average consumer. I'd personally prefer to use a memory card reader to transfer photos (many newer computers have them built-in), and you can then print to your wireless printer from the computer. Wireless connectivity does work on the S6, but you need to ask yourself if you will actually use it - if not, take a look at the Nikon Coolpix S5, which is identical to the S6 but without the Wireless feature.
|Battery Compartment||Memory Card Slot|
The start-up time from turning the Nikon Coolpix S6 on to being ready to take a photo is very quick at around 0.75 second. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest takes about 1.5 seconds. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera achieves focus almost all of the time indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the focus-assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 3 inch LCD screen are very good with little visible grain or lag. It takes about 0.75 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card, with a very brief LCD blackout between each image. The Nikon Coolpix S6 has a fairly good Continuous mode which enables you to take 2.2 frames per second at the highest JPEG image quality. Overall the Nikon Coolpix S6 is good in terms of operational speed.
Once you have captured a photo, the Nikon Coolpix S6 has a good range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails in four different sizes, zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, create a small version of an image and set the print order. You can press the Mode button to list all photos by date, view photos in a Calendar format, play back an audio file or create a new Pictmotion movie using your own photos and sound files. D-Lighting can be applied to a copy of an image via the One Touch Portrait button. Annoyingly you can't view detailed information such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is no histogram available during playback or when you are taking a photo. You can only choose between the detailed information, gridlines to aid composition and no information via the Setup menu.
In summary the Nikon Coolpix S6 is a very stylish, point and shoot compact digital camera with a fantastic LCD screen and the option of wireless connectivity if you need it.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Nikon Coolpix S6 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.