Nikon Coolpix S6200 Review
The Nikon Coolpix S6200 is a new travel-zoom camera featuring a 10x zoom lens with a versatile focal range of 25-250mm. Key features of the S6200 include a 16 CCD sensor, 2.7 inch LCD screen, 720p high-definition movies with stereo sound, lens-shift vibration reduction, a range of special effects, 1.2fps burst mode, and advanced Night Landscape and Portrait modes. Available in red, pink, silver, blue and black, the Nikon Coolpix S6200 costs £179.99 / €209.00 / $229.95.
Ease of Use
The Nikon Coolpix S6200 compact camera has a conservative yet still appealing design, with the all-plastic body finished in a glossy black coating that's helpfully rubberised on the front half, aiding your grip on the camera. At 25.4mm thick the S6200 is pretty slim for a camera with a 10x zoom lens, but note that the camera does measure over 60mm deep when the zoom is fully extended. At 160g it's also a light camera, and easily fits in both the palm of your hand or a shirt pocket.
The 10x lens dominates the front of the S6200, offering a versatile focal range of 25-250mm, wide enough for city and landscapes and long enough for close up and personal candids. The lens has a fairly fast maximum aperture of f/3.2 at the wide-angle end but a rather slow f/5.8 at full telephoto. The slim built-in flash positioned to the top-right, looking from the front. An AF assist lamp completes the front of the S6200
The S6200's is pleasingly quick in operation. Start-up time is almost instant, with the camera ready to go in less than a second, and it's also something of a speed demon when it comes to focusing on your subject, with a claimed focusing time of just 0.28 second. In practice the Nikon S6200 is quick to find focus regardless of the lighting conditions or which end of the zoom range you're using. In addition, the subject tracking scene mode successfully detects, tracks and focuses on the main subject, making it easier to capture fast-moving subjects successfully.
Nikon have included their excellent VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilisation system to help prevent camera-shake, an essential feature nowadays, which is turned on and off in the Setup main menu. In practice the VR system makes a noticeable difference to the sharpness of the images, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page, but don't expect to get sharp results every time at the longer focal lengths without the use of a suitably fast shutter speed. Thankfully leaving the anti-shake system on didn't reduce the battery-life too much, with the camera managing just under 250 shots using the supplied Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The S6200 can be charged using the USB socket on a computer or via the main power using the included AC adapter.
In addition, there are a range of other functions and modes that also help to prevent camera shake. High ISO light sensitivity up to ISO 3200 at full resolution throughout the range reduces the risk of blurred images, while the Motion Detection option automatically detects and compensates for both camera and subject movement. The Best Shot Selector (BSS) mode automatically selects the sharpest of up to 10 sequential shots.
The Night Portrait mode takes consecutive shots which expose the portrait subject and background separately, then immediately combines the exposures to create a blur-free portrait. The Night Landscape mode combines a series of five consecutive shots taken at a fast shutter speed into a single image with reduced noise, useful when taking handheld shots. The Backlighting mode offers an in-camera high dynamic range (HDR) function, merging several images of the same scene to achieve a single image with a broad range of tonal detail. All of these options and the Vibration Reduction system can be used at the same time if so desired.
There aren't too many external controls and buttons (just 10 in total) on the Coolpix S6200, reflecting the fact that this is a point and shoot camera with no real manual controls. On top of the camera are the left and right stereo sounds mics, small recessed On/Off button, shutter release button and tactile push/pull zoom lever.
On the bottom the S6200 has a memory card slot allowing the use of either SD, SDHC or SDXC cards, and there's also 32MB of internal memory, which can store 7 images at the highest quality level. The memory card slot is shared with the battery compartment. There's also a plastic tripod socket which is inconveniently located in the far-left corner of the camera.
The rear of the S6200 is quite traditional in design, with all of the controls located to the right of the large LCD screen. The 2.7 inch LCD monitor has a standard resolution of 230k dots, with five levels of brightness, an anti-reflection coating and a fairly wide viewing angle.
To the right of the LCD screen is a handy dedicated button for starting and stopping movie recording. The Nikon Coolpix S6200 can record 720p HD quality video complete with stereo sound. It offers 1280x720, 960x540 and 640x480 pixel movies all at 30 fps and saved in the Quicktime .mov format. An HDMI Mini port allows the S6200 to be easily connected to a HDTV, although no suitable cable is supplied in the box. You can also use the 10x optical zoom lens during recording, complete with the optical vibration reduction system and autofocusing, although the lens is painfully slow in operation, presumably to avoid recording the noise of the zoom mechanism.
The Scene/Camera button on the rear provides access to the various shooting mode. In addition to the default Auto mode, there are 19 scene modes to choose from, including the clever Scene Auto Selector, which automatically recognizes the scene in your picture from 6 presets (Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Closeup and Backlight) and adjusts the camera settings accordingly. New to the S6200 is the Effects mode, which shoots both still images or movies using a special effect, such as Soft Focus and Nostalgic Sepia. You can also use one of the in-camera filters to enhance your photos after you have taken them, with filters including Cross Screen, Fisheye and Miniature Effect. Alongside the Scene/Camera button is the self-explanatory Playback button.
There's a round navigation wheel with a central OK button on the rear, a nice touch that can be used to scroll through menu settings and pictures, but which doesn't really serve any other purpose. The four corners of the wheel also double up to access the flash, exposure compensation, macro and self-timer settings (starting at 12 o'clock and going clockwise). Below the navigation wheel are the self-explanatory Menu and Delete buttons. Unfortunately there's no quick way to change the ISO speed or other key settings, forcing you to delve repeatedly into the mostly intuitive menu system.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
D-Lighting is a long-standing Nikon technology that brightens the shadow areas of an image, and on the S6200 it can be applied to an image after it has been taken. Face-priority Autofocus can detect up to 12 faces in a scene just so long as they're looking directly at the camera, whilst In-Camera Red-Eye Fix automatically processes the picture to remove red-eye. Blink Warning alerts you if someone in the frame had their eyes closed, and the Smile Timer automatically takes the picture when a smile is detected. The Skin softening function magically makes your subject look 10 years younger by smoothing out any perceived imperfections, and the Creative Slider instantly adjusts the brightness, saturation and colour tone of an image.
The standard continuous mode can shoot at 1.2fps at full 16 megapixel resolution, which is a rather average performance for this class of camera. There is also a Multi-shot 16 mode that quickly takes 16 low-resolution photos and arranges them into a single image.
Once you have captured a photo, the Nikon Coolpix S6200 has quite a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 16 onscreen at the same time), zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, apply D-Lighting, the Skin Softening feature, 4 different Filter Effects and Quick Retouch (improves the contrast and saturation), set the print order, view a slide show, delete, protect, rotate, hide and copy an image, plus create a smaller version and choose your favourite images.
The Monitor Settings menu option toggles between various views, including showing detailed settings information about each picture, such as the ISO rating and aperture/shutter speed, framelines and no information. Unfortunately there is no histogram available during either composition or playback. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the well-written and easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Nikon have bucked the recent trend of not providing hard-copy manuals by supplying it in printed format.