Nikon Coolpix S6500 Review

August 9, 2013 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S6500 is a wi-fi enabled digital compact camera that has a 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and EXPEED C2 processor inside its square frame. It also benefits from a 12x optical zoom, Full HD video, built-in wi-fi, Auto HDR mode, 10 frames per second burst shooting and a smart portrait system. Available in black, silver, orange, white, blue and red, the Nikon Coolpix S6500 costs around £199 / $220.

Ease of Use

Let's start this off by saying that the Nikon Coolpix S6500 is a good looking camera. So it's no surprise that it fits in to the Style range of their models. It's a flat edged rectangle of a camera with slightly curved edges to soften it up a bit. All sides apart from the back are covered in a gloss plastic finish that's aesthetically pleasing. There's nothing about the layout that sets the camera apart, though. Everything is where it is (and some would say where it should be).

The 12x optical zoom bulges out slightly from the body, but that's to be expected unless they use a physically smaller lens element to allow for more telescopic barrels. The lens starts at 25mm at the widest setting. This means it can then zoom out to a belly busting 300mm.

Of course if it can zoom out that far, then that could cause complications with the amount of light able to fall on the sensor, due to the restricted field of view. One attempt that Nikon have made to combat this issue is to fit the S6500 with a back-illuminated sensor. If you're unfamiliar with what these are, they're not actually what the name suggests. If anything the term “back-illuminated” is a nick-name because the back of them isn't actually illuminated.

Nikon Coolpix S6500 Nikon Coolpix S6500
Front Rear

A traditional sensor is designed with all the pixels on the front of the sensor. Each pixel is surrounded by the circuitry needed to send the information from the sensor to the processor which converts the information into a photograph. The downside is that the micro-circuitry blocks some of the light that could pass onto the pixel. A back-illuminated sensor has the circuitry placed on the back of the sensor which then allows more light to fall on each pixel and make it more responsive to light. If you were to compare a traditional sensor next to a back-illuminated sensor, it would look like it was mounted back to front, so all the light would be illuminating the back; hence the name. 

If anything it should be called a “Rear Mounted Circuit” sensor, or something else equally as boring. The fact is that this way, it sounds funnier and we get to use terms such as “it's lit up from the back-side”. It also means you get a camera that can cope better when it gets dark and retain lower ISO settings to get cleaner images than comparable traditional sensors. The full ISO test will confirm whether it's the case or not.

Nikon Coolpix S6500 Nikon Coolpix S6500
Front Top

There's references all over the S6500 page on the Nikon website as well as the manuals about an AutoHDR mode. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It expands what the camera can “see” by taking multiple exposures and combining them together to create one shot. The result is a shot that uses an over exposed image to bring out detail in dark areas, a perfectly exposed image for the mid-tones and an underexposed image to prevent bleaching on light areas, such as the sky. The S6500 only does this on the Backlighting scene mode and it also only uses two pictures. It takes one picture to compensate for the bright background (the subject would normally be silhouetted) and one to illuminate the subject (which would burn out the background). It then combines the best bits of both to get the best results.

One of the little used features on a digital compact camera is the subject tracking AF. To start it up, you have to select it in the Main menu under AF area mode. You then find the subject and place them in the AF square. Press ok on the back of the camera and the focus system will lock on the subject regardless of whether you move the camera or whether it moves. Press ok again and it releases the lock. This is great for moving subjects such as wildlife, kids or transport photography. However, we're unsure on using the ok button to lock it. A simpler system for the end user would be to use the focus lock on the shutter release as the subject lock. The camera then tracks as long as the subject is in the frame. You take a picture as normal and if you give up, just point the camera away from the subject to release the lock. Still, it works well enough and seems to keep up with all but the fastest movement.

Nikon Coolpix S6500 Nikon Coolpix S6500
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Speaking of speed, the Nikon Coolpix S6500 starts up and takes a picture in around 2.5sec which is about standard for a digital compact camera. There are two continuous burst modes (High and Low) as well as a few alternatives such as pre-shoot cache, Best Shot Selector, Multi-shot 16 and two ultra high speed continuous modes which record at 120fps or 60fps (frames per second). These latter two options will drop the resolution severely, so keep an eye on that.  Now Nikon say that the camera records at a rate of 10fps. This is where it gets a little confusing. You see only seven images will be recorded. But they're recorded at a speed of 10fps. Only getting seven pictures can make you think it's working slower, but it records them in 0.7sec. If it continued to the tenth frame, it would do it in one second and that's the important part to keep in mind.

Playing back the pictures can be done regardless of whether the Nikon Coolpix S6500 is on or not. Press the blue arrow and the pictures you've taken will come up on the screen. You can zoom into them using the zoom switch or zoom out and view them as thumbnails. Press the menu button and the Playback menu pops up on screen. You can perform some simple editing such as adding D-Lighting, perform and Quick retouch, start a slide-show or Glamour retouch if it's a portrait. If you've set up the Quick effects in the Main menu, pressing ok will take you into the editing screen. The picture will be displayed multiple times with various effects and all you have to do is select your favourite. The system is non-destructive, so will save an extra copy as well as the original.

In the box, you get a Basic start guide, software CD with View NX2 and the full manual on it. IN the main compartment with the camera is a lithium ion battery, USB cable and charging unit for the camera. You also get a small wrist strap to keep it safe while not in use or if the kids are using it.

Image Quality

Unless otherwise stated, all pictures were taken at full resolution at the highest compression rating, which is indicated by the star next to the resolution in the Main menu. A fine setting picture records between 7.3Mb and 7.7Mb. Knock it down to the normal recording setting and that will roughly halve.


After we tested and posted the Nikon Coolpix S6400 in May 2013, we expected the noise pictures on the S6500 to be about the same. We were looking for low ISO to be ok and high ISO to be awful. What we got was this: Low ISO shots on the S6500 are, in fact, excellent. There's absolutely no noise whatsoever and edge sharpness is exquisite. The results stay pretty much the same through ISO 200 with only a slight increase in noise reduction at ISO 400. On our test shots, the texture of the bellows on the old camera starts to get smoothed out and there's a very mild hint of salt and pepper noise.

Colour noise doesn't really start to come into the shots until around ISO 800 and then it's tolerable. This is all when viewed at full magnification. If it's viewed at a normal viewing distance, these changes aren't noticeable. Interestingly, we noted that the S6400 was “like using a different camera” at ISO 800 because the noise was so bad compared to ISO 400. There's no such problem here and these results are arguably better than what should be expected from a small sensor.

At ISO 1600, the edges are starting to deteriorate and details are all but gone from the image thanks to noise reduction. Red and green blobs are covering the darker areas, but the camera is managing to prevent it from leaking onto the mid-tones. It can't help the picture at ISO 3200, though and noise has started to cover the picture in the lighter areas too. Still it's a lot better than what we expected.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S6500 has a cool 12x optical zoom built in. That's equivalent to a 25-300mm zoom lens in 35mm terms.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S6500 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Fine (7.69Mb) (100% Crop) Normal (3.68Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_fine.jpg quality_normal.jpg


The improvements on the noise performance means that should you want to add a little sharpening to the pictures in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop, it won't ruin the picture. Previous models have simply had the noise exacerbated by the sharpen tool, so it's refreshing to see them actually improve.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

We struggled to find chromatic aberration in the Nikon Coolpix S6500's pictures. Instances we found it were faint lines on high contrast edges and at the extreme edges of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)



The close focusing facility of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 is only 8cm. That's pretty far away by today's standards. Saying that, there isn't really a “good” and “bad” macro distance. We've all simply grown to expect to have the glass of the lens touching the subject. Sometimes it's simply not viable. It will let you zoom in a little and still focus close, but it's not a lot. Image quality deteriorates towards the edges of the frame. The bonus is that barrel distortion is less likely as you get further away from the subject.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


There's a little vignetting at wide-angle which isn't removed by using the flash. Zooming in also still has a little vignette at the extreme corners, and the flash simply makes it easier to see it. The flash is pretty intelligent though, because it simply stabilises the light and makes it look natural which is what you need, not someone with a bleached out face.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (300mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (300mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

We didn't get any red-eye from the Nikon Coolpix S6500, even when it was turned off. It's funny because the flash is situated quite close to the lens and red-eye is caused by flash light bouncing off the back of the retina and reflecting back into the lens.


On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The night scene and auto modes both gave the exact same results in the night time test shot. The aperture, shutter speed and ISO were all identical. The added advantage of shooting in Auto is that if you desire, you can adjust the white-balance. WE did this by using the Manual set and it came out off kilter. It tried to balance the deep yellow of the street lights and came out a pale yellow. This is turn sent the blue dusk sky an even deeper blue.

If you shoot using the Night scene mode, you can choose between hand-held or tripod. The hand-held option will use a higher ISO and faster shutter speed to compensate you not stabilising the camera. The tripod mode will slow everything down to get a smoother shot.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)

night_auto.jpg night_auto1.jpg

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene1.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S6500 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 35 second movie is 76.7Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 / Lens Extended

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 / Shooting Mode Menu

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 / Shooting Menu

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S6500


Nikon Coolpix S6500

Bottom of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S6500

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S6500

Battery Compartment


When reviewing a new camera, we like to keep in mind the previous model (if applicable), what we expect from the technology it's using, and above all, the cost. The Nikon Coolpix S6500 is priced around £200 and we think that's an ok price for the features on the camera.

It's a lovely little camera to hold and use. The modes are clear and it has a functional user interface that new users will be able to use as well as seasoned photographers. The Nikon Coolpix S6500 is thin and nice to look at, but also has a few decent features to help you along the way such as the 12x optical zoom, FullHD video and wi-fi transfer.

The screen is so much better than the previous model and shows the pictures brilliantly. It's bright and sharp. We did find that, although we're fantastic at photography, the pictures didn't always come out as brilliantly as the screen suggested. This shouldn't be a problem unless you're somewhere that you'll never go again. You think you've got the shot then find out later you haven't.

The biggest surprise comes from the Nikon Coolpix S6500's image quality. We didn't expect anything as good as what we managed to get. It seems as though Nikon have been working tirelessly to improve the digital compact section of their range. Low to mid-range ISO results are great and, while they have their flaws, high ISO looks good too.

The Nikon Coolpix S6500 would be great for someone that wants an attractive camera with point and shoot simplicity, but a few nice bits of tech to get their teeth into. The built-in wi-fi system will allow you to transfer your pictures to the internet or to a computer while the 12x optical lens and improved image quality will make sure you get pictures worth transferring. Behind the scenes, the EXPEED C2 processor speeds up reaction times such as focusing which also benefits from a Subject AF track system.

There's enough on the camera to help you out in almost any situation with some other stuff to help improve the quality or look of the pictures after you've taken the shot. The Nikon Coolpix S6500 is a much improved camera and one that you should really take a look at.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix S6500.

Canon IXUS 255 HS

The Canon IXUS 255 HS (also known as the PowerShot ELPH 330 HS) is a small and stylish new point-and-shoot compact camera. The IXUS 255 HS' stand-out features include a 12 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 10x wide-angle zoom lens, full 1080p HD movie recording, 3 inch LCD screen and built-in wi-fi connectivity. Read our in-depth Canon IXUS 255 HS review to find out if this tiny camera is worth the £199.99 / $229.99 price-tag.

Canon IXUS 510 HS

The new Canon IXUS 510 HS is a stylish and well-appointed compact camera. Also known as the ELPH 530 HS, the Canon IXUS 510 HS offers a wide-angle 12x zoom, 10 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3.2 inch LCD touchscreen, built-in wi-fi and full 1080p HD movies. Read our in-depth Canon IXUS 510 HS review complete with full-size sample images and video.

Fujifilm FinePix T400

The Fujifilm FinePix T400 compact camera offers a 10x zoom, 16 megapixel sensor, 3 inch LCD screen and 720p movies, all for a street price of just £70 / $90. Read our Fujifilm FinePix T400 review to find out if it's a genuine bargain or one to avoid...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7 is a new mid-range travel-zoom compact camera. The stylish Panasonic SZ7 offers 14 megapixels, a 10x zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen, 10fps burst shooting and 1080p HD movies. Read our expert Panasonic DMC-SZ7 review now...

Pentax Optio S1

The Optio S1 is the first model in a stylish new range of compact cameras from Pentax. In addition to its dashing good looks, the Pentax S1 also offers 14 megapixels, a 5x zoom lens, 2.7 inch screen and 720p movies. Available for just £119.99 / $199.95, check out our Pentax Optio S1 review to find out if it's all style and no substance...

Ricoh CX6

The CX6 is the latest travel-zoom camera from Ricoh based around a 10.7x 28-300mm lens. New features for the 2012 model include an even faster hybrid auto-focus system, aperture and shutter priority modes, higher-resolution LCD screen and a 3fps burst mode with auto-focus. Read our expert Ricoh CX6 review to find out if it can keep up with the travel-zoom competition.

Samsung DV300F

The new Samsung DV300F compact camera brings together an innovative 1.5 inch LCD on the front, useful for composing self-portraits, and a wide range of wi-fi connectivity options. The 16 megapixel Samsung PL120 also features a 25mm wide-angle 5x zoom lens, 720p HD video, and a multitude of special effects modes, all for just £179.99 / $199.99. Read our in-depth Samsung DV300F review.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 is an affordable travel-zoom compact camera. A 20x zoom lens, 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting, built-in wi-fi, Full HD movie recording and 500 shot battery life are all on offer. Priced at around £250 / $300, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 review to find out if it lives up to its full promise.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S6500 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coolpix S6500 is a compact camera with a 12x optical zoom lens and built-in Wi-Fi. It comes in silver, black, red, blue, white and orange and is available for around £190.
Read the full review » »

Nikon's Coolpix S6500 combines Wi-Fi connectivity with a 12x optical zoom lens and a 16 million pixel sensor, all of which enable it to both compete against and complement a smartphone camera.
Read the full review »


Product name COOLPIX S6500
Type Compact digital camera
Number of effective pixels 16.0 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. type CMOS; approx. 16.79 million total pixels
Lens NIKKOR lens with 12x optical zoom
Focal length 4.5-54.0 mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 25-300 mm lens in 35 mm [135] format)
f/-number f/3.1-6.5
Construction 8 elements in 8 groups (1 ED lens element)
Digital zoom magnification Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 1200 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Lens shift
Motion blur reduction Motion detection (still pictures)
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range [W]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 1.5m (5 ft) to infinity Macro mode: Approx. 8 cm (3.2 in.) to infinity (wide-angle position) (All distances measured from center of front surface of lens)
Focus-area selection Face priority, manual with 99 focus areas, center, subject tracking, target finding AF
Monitor 7.5 cm (3-in.), approx. 460k-dot, TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating and 5-level brightness adjustment
Frame coverage (shooting mode) Approx. 99% horizontal and 99% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Frame coverage (playback mode) Approx. 99% horizontal and 99% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Storage - Media Internal memory (approx. 25 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
Storage - File system DCF, Exif 2.3, DPOF, and MPF compliant
Storage - File formats Still pictures: JPEG 3D images: MPO Sound files (Voice Memo): WAV Movies: MOV (Video: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, Audio: AAC stereo)
Image size (pixels) 16M (High) [4608 x 3456(fine)] 16M [4608 x 3456] 8M [3264 x 2448] 4M [2272 x 1704] 2M [1600 x 1200] VGA [640 x 480] 16:9 [4608 x 2592]
Shooting Modes Auto, Scene (Scene auto selector, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Black and white copy, Backlighting, Easy panorama, Pet portrait, 3D photography), Special effects, Smart portrait
Continuous Shooting Single (default setting), Continuous H (images are captured continuously at a rate of about 10 fps), Continuous L (up to 6 images are captured continuously at a rate of up to about 2 fps), Pre-shooting cache (frame rate: up to 18 fps / number of frames: up to 5 frames), Continuous H: 120 fps (50 frames are captured at a speed of about 1/125 s or faster), Continuous H: 60 fps (25 frames are captured at a speed of about 1/60 s or faster), BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16
Movie 1080(fine)/30p (default setting): 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 1080/30p: 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 720/30p: 1280 x 720/16:9/approx. 30 fps, iFrame 540/30p: 960 x 540/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 480/30p: 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 30 fps, HS 480/4x: 640 x 480/4:3, HS 720/2x: 1280 x 720/16:9, HS 1080/0.5x: 1920 x 1080/16:9
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 125-1600 ISO 3200 (available when using Auto mode)
Exposure - Metering mode Matrix, center-weighted (digital zoom less than 2x), spot (digital zoom 2x or more)
Exposure control Programmed auto exposure and exposure compensation (-2.0 - +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Shutter speed 1/2000-1 s 1/4000 s (maximum speed during high-speed continuous shooting) 4 s (Fireworks show scene mode)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-2 AV) selection
Range 2 steps (f/3.1 and f/6.2 [W])
Self-timer Can be selected from 10 s and 2 s
Flash - Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5-4.0 m (1 ft 8 in.-13 ft) [T]: 1.5-2.0 m (5 ft-6 ft 6 in.)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Data Transfer Protocol MTP, PTP
Video output Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
HDMI output Can be selected from Auto, 480p, 720p, and 1080i
I/O terminal Audio/video (A/V) output; digital I/O (USB) HDMI micro connector (Type D) (HDMI output)
Supported languages Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Power sources One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19 (included) AC Adapter EH-62G (available separately)
Charging time Approx. 3 h (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-70P and when no charge remains)
Battery life *1 - Still pictures Approx. 150 shots when using EN-EL19
Movies (actual battery life for recording) *2 Approx. 25 min when using EN-EL19
Tripod socket 1/4 (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 95.4 x 58.3 x 26.3 mm (3.8 x 2.3 x 1.1 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 153 g (5.4 oz) (including battery and SD memory card)
Operating environment - Temperature 0°C-40°C (32°F-104°F)
Humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL19 (with battery case), Charging AC Adapter EH-70P, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16, ViewNX 2 CD
Optional accessories Battery Charger MH-66, AC Adapter EH-62G
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) - Standards IEEE 802.11b/g/n (standard wireless LAN protocol)
Communications protocols IEEE 802.11b: DBPSK/DQPSK/CCK IEEE 802.11g: OFDM IEEE 802.11n: OFDM
Range (line of sight) Approx. 10 m (11 yd)
Operating frequency 2412-2462 MHz (1-11 channels)
Data rates (actual measured values) IEEE 802.11b: 5 Mbps IEEE 802.11g: 20 Mbps IEEE 802.11n: 20 Mbps
Security WPA2
Access protocols Infrastructure

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