Nikon Coolpix S600 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 10/07/08
The Nikon Coolpix line of digital cameras continues to grow sleeker and more stylish, and the S600 is one of the smaller models currently available. The Nikon Coolpix S600 has a 10 megapixel imager, 4x optically stabilized, wide-angle zoom lens and a 2.7-inch LCD display. The Nikon S600 derives its power from a custom lithium-ion battery, and images are stored on SD cards plus 45MB of built-in memory.
Measuring 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (89 x 53 x 23 millimeters), the Coolpix S600 is pocket friendly and practically free of protrusions when the lens is stowed. This very pocket-friendly digital camera offers a 10-megapixel CCD for high resolution images, and a good quality 4x wide-angle zoom lens covering the equivalent of a 28-112mm zoom on a 35mm camera. A selection of preset Scene modes rounds out the standard Auto exposure mode, and the user has control over important features such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Color, ISO, and Metering.
The Nikon S600's photographic arsenal also features Face-Priority AF, Vibration Reduction, D-Lighting, and Red-Eye Fix. The camera's large and bright 2.7-inch color LCD monitor is great for composing and reviewing images, with accurate framing. Camera controls are minimal and easy to understand, making the Nikon S600 quick to learn and simple to operate, and well-suited to just about any experience level. Retailing at an MSRP of around $300, the Coolpix S600 appeals to a wide audience.
Nikon Coolpix S600 User Report
by Stephanie Boozer
Sometimes nothing but a pocket camera will do, but finding one that's small, inexpensive, uncomplicated, and yet delivers reasonable quality images can be a challenge. With its slim profile and dark, graphite exterior, the Nikon Coolpix S600 is both sleek and attractive, and meets most of the basic requirements for the average shooter. If you're looking for the excellent quality you can get at higher prices, the Nikon S600 isn't the right choice, but if you're content with good quality in a nice little camera that won't break the bank, read on.
Look and feel. The Coolpix S600's thin, sleek body is quite compact and pocket-friendly, with only minimal protrusions when the lens is stowed, meaning it slips in and out of pockets easily. Measuring 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (89 x 53 x 23 millimeters) and weighing about 5.3 ounces (149 grams) including battery and card, the Coolpix S600 comes with a tiny wrist strap to keep it securely attached in precarious situations.
Though small, the Coolpix S600 fit my medium-sized hand well, and despite the lack of a front-panel finger grip, I found it comfortable to hold and shoot one-handed. Even adjusting camera settings was fairly simple one-handed, as the Coolpix S600's main controls rest right under the thumb.
Controls. Control placement was good, I liked the Nikon S600's new design of the top shutter and power buttons with their tapered edges, and the rear buttons gave a nice, firm click when pressed. I did find that it was quite easy to accidentally turn the rotary multi-selector while holding the camera, but since it doesn't call up any settings when turned outside of a menu screen, this really wasn't a problem. You have to actually press on one of the dial's sides to enable any adjustments.
The only major potential problem is for an amateur to press the right side of this wheel, which brings up the EV adjustment tool. You rotate the dial to make adjustments to the exposure, and it could ruin many shots with an accidental activation. The icon for the EV adjustment doesn't face the user in normal use, unfortunately; instead it's hiding on the Nikon S600's right side.
I also noticed a tendency for my thumb to slip over the top right corner of the Nikon S600's LCD display resulting in a few extra thumbprints on its shiny surface.
LCD. The Nikon S600's large, 2.7-inch color LCD monitor is bright and clear, though its shiny surface did make framing in bright sunlight a little more difficult. Through the Setup menu, you can control the amount of information displayed on the LCD monitor, as well as the overall brightness. If "Show Info" is selected, the camera reports the chosen aperture and shutter speed when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. So, while you cannot directly control the Nikon S600's exposure, at least you have some idea of what the camera is doing.
4x Digital Zoom
Lens. The Coolpix S600's 4x lens is of good quality, made up of glass with seven elements in six groups. The 5 to 20mm zoom range equates to a 28 to 112mm zoom on a 35mm camera. To combat minor blurring from slight camera movement, Nikon included Optical VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilization technology, which is a true lens-shift design in still photography mode.
Interface. The Nikon Coolpix S600's interface is very user-friendly and easy to learn. Instead of a Mode dial, there's a Mode button on the rear panel which calls up a virtual dial on the LCD monitor. Once you get used to making mode changes through the virtual dial, overall camera operation is simple. The Power and Shutter buttons are well-placed on the top panel, and the rest of the controls neatly arranged on the rear panel. I liked the Nikon S600's rotary multi-selector, which not only spun like a mode dial, but also actuated up and down, left and right, simulating arrow keys.
Pressing the Menu button calls up the settings menu for the mode in use, and the rotary controller cycles through the available options quickly and efficiently. There are really only a handful of controls on the rear panel to learn, and likewise only a small selection of menu items to scroll through. Thus, most users should be able to snap images with the Nikon S600 right away, without needing to read the manual cover to cover. Even for more advanced functions, the camera manual is hardly needed.
Modes. The Nikon Coolpix S600 keeps exposure under automatic control, and really only offers one standard Program AE still photography mode. The dial on the rear panel acts as a virtual dial, in that it doesn't directly change camera modes until you press the Mode button and the virtual mode dial appears on the LCD monitor. Here, you can choose between Shooting, High Sensitivity, Scene, Voice Recording, Movie, and Setup modes by turning the rotary multi-controller, then pressing "OK" to select. Shooting mode is the Nikon S600's Program AE option, which provides a few shooting options for the user's control, but keeps aperture and shutter speed under automatic control. The camera reports its selection when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. You can control metering, white balance, AF mode, color mode, ISO, exposure compensation, flash, and the type of shooting (continuous, single-shot, etc.). The High Sensitivity mode essentially raises the ISO setting for darker conditions, with a maximum of 2,000 ISO in an effort to control image noise.
The Coolpix S600's Scene mode offers 14 preset modes, which include Active Child, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Museum, Copy, and Backlight. Each of the modes is pretty self-explanatory, designed to optimize the camera for special conditions. In Active Child mode, for example, the camera employs a faster shutter speed and disables the flash (though you can re-enable it) to freeze a running child, while Museum mode uses a slower shutter speed and higher sensitivity setting for natural-looking indoor scenes where a flash is not allowed.
For moving subjects, the Coolpix S600 features a Continuous Shooting mode, as well as a Movie mode. Within the Continuous options are standard Continuous and Best Shot Selector (BSS) options. BSS mode captures as many as 10 images, then automatically selects and saves the sharpest image -- an excellent idea for trying to photograph kids. Within the Movie menu, you can choose from 640 x 480 or 320 x 240-pixel resolutions, both of which record at about 30 frames per second. There's also a Voice Recording mode, for recording audio files for as long as there is available memory space.
Nikon Coolpix S600 Special Features
The Nikon S600 also features Nikon's D-Lighting adjustment, which enhances contrast and brightness in dark images. Accessed through the Playback menu as a post-capture editing tool, D-Lighting comes in quite handy when you've snapped a portrait in less-than-ideal conditions, and forgot to switch over to one of the scene modes, or didn't have a tripod around for a longer exposure. Also available through the Nikon S600's Playback menu is a Red-Eye Fix, for removing any red-eye if you forgot to switch the flash over to Red-eye Reduction mode.
The Coolpix S600 has Face-Priority technology for better results in both focus and exposure when shooting portraits. Automatically enabled in any of the Nikon S600's portrait modes, Face-Priority seeks out the face in the image and bases focus and exposure on that portion of the frame. You can also choose Face-Priority as an AF Area mode through the camera menu. In this mode, the camera places a yellow border around any detected face or faces, and can detect as many as five faces in a frame. If you have multiple faces, focus is based on the closest one.
Storage and battery. The Coolpix S600 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and comes with a charger. A separate AC adaptor is available as an optional accessory, and might be useful for more time consuming tasks like downloading images or utilizing the camera's Playback editing functions. Nikon estimates that a fully-charged battery will capture about 190 frames, which is moderate battery life for this type of battery. Thus, we always recommend picking up an additional battery and keeping it freshly-charged and on-hand for longer outings.
For image storage, the Nikon S600 offers about 45MB of internal memory, but also has an SD card slot. No card comes with the camera, however. The internal memory will hold about nine full resolution images, which is a paltry amount. Compare this to about 194 full resolution files on a 1GB memory card. We recommend picking up a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card pretty quickly so you don't get caught trying to erase files to make room for new ones on the spot.
Shooting. Overall, shooting with the Coolpix S600 was fun and straightforward. Zoom speed through the optical zoom range was pretty good and fluid, though zooming past full telephoto and into digital zoom was more sluggish. Overall timings were good to just a little slower than average, depending on the camera task. Shutter lag was better than average, but cycle times were just a little slow (2.08 seconds between large/fine JPEG shots). AF performance seemed pretty good as well, though I did get some blurry images when shooting at full telephoto without the Vibration Reduction setting enabled, even in bright daylight while standing braced against a dock railing. Still, my overall experience with the Nikon S600 was quite good.
The LCD monitor was fairly bright out in the sunshine. However, as with most LCD monitors with a shiny surface, reflections do make it a little more difficult to see tiny details in the frame, and I found I needed to shield the display with my hand to more accurately see what I had in the frame. For image review, the Nikon S600's LCD monitor was bright enough, and it was fairly close to what I saw on my computer screen after downloading images.
I liked the camera's small size and control layout, and loved that I could easily slip it into my front jeans pocket. If I didn't need to make any adjustments or change mode settings, the camera's Auto settings streamlined shooting so that I could literally point and shoot. Overall the Coolpix S600 is an enjoyable, easy-to-use camera.
Nikon Coolpix S600 Image quality
The Nikon Coolpix S600 performed well in our testing, producing good overall color and exposure in a variety of settings. Details were sharp and clear in most cases, with minor blurring in the corners of the frame in a few shots. Color saturation is good, though strong reds were a little oversaturated, and greens and yellows a hint undersaturated. Still, overall color saturation and hue accuracy were quite good, as we've come to expect from Nikon digital cameras.
The Coolpix S600 had a lot of trouble with certain types of detail, especially low-contrast detail, as in the crop above. Low-contrast and dark areas are either mistaken as noisy, or else they're fraught with noise. Both factors conspired to mush out the detail in the image of the tiles on the bottle in our Still Life shot. Green trees and bushes also lost definition in the leaves in our outdoor FAR shot, and shadow areas frequently turned into areas of blur.
In our indoor shot, designed to test a camera's abilities with common indoor light sources, the Nikon Coolpix S600 produced moderate to high noise even at its lower sensitivity settings, with visible image noise obscuring fine detail already at ISO 100. At ISO 400, fine detail is lost; and at ISO 800, details are very blurry. At the higher settings of 1,600 and 3,200, noise grain becomes more pronounced, and color balance shifts toward a cool cast (strongest at the 3,200 setting).
Strong detail to
1,500 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical
When the detail was of high contrast, however, the camera did better. Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,500-1,600 lines per picture height in both directions.
Appraisal. Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S600 is an okay performer. It captures good-looking images under a variety of conditions, indoors or out, with good results from its post-capture image correction tools as well. Noise performance could be better, and the camera's images sharper, but results are reasonable considering the camera's price point and compact size. With its Face-Priority AF mode, adjustable metering, white balance, color and useful post-capture tools, the Nikon S600 has some good features for travelers and family photographers, whether novices or advanced amateurs. Pocket and user friendly, the Coolpix S600 is a good, economical offering from Nikon.
Nikon Coolpix S600 Basic Features
- 10-megapixel CCD delivers image resolutions as high as 3,648 x 2,736 pixels
- 4x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 28-112mm zoom on a 35mm camera
- As much as 4x digital zoom
- 2.7-inch color LCD monitor
- Automatic exposure control
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,500 to 1 second
- Two-step aperture range from f/2.7 to f/5.8
- Built-in flash with five modes
- Dual USB / AV jack for connection to a television or computer
- Power from one custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, charger included
- Images stored in 45MB internal memory or to SD/SDHC memory cards (not included)
Nikon Coolpix S600 Special Features
- Optical Vibration Reduction
- Adjustable AF area with manual 9-point selection and Face-Priority options
- 14 preset Scene modes
- Movie mode with sound
- 224-segment Matrix and Center-weighted metering
- User adjustable white balance setting with seven modes, including a manual option
- Continuous and Best Shot Selector shooting modes
- ISO settings from 100 to 3,200 equivalents
- High Sensitivity shooting mode (maximum of ISO 2,000)
- Color menu option for special effects
- D-Lighting and Red-Eye Fix image correction tools
- Soft leather case
- Additional battery pack
- AC adaptor
- A large capacity SD/SDHC memory card
Nikon Coolpix S600 Conclusion
With its tiny size and useful features, the Nikon Coolpix S600 is a well-rounded trim-compact digital camera. Though exposure is automatic, users can adjust everything else from metering mode to white balance, with useful post-capture editing capabilities as well. The Coolpix S600 captures good-looking images under a variety of conditions, thanks to its range of preset Scene modes, and options like Face-Priority AF improve portraits. The Nikon S600's 10-megapixel CCD underperforms when compared to other sensors of this size, however, producing acceptable 11x14-inch images that actually look better printed at 8x10. If that's all you'll print, the Nikon S600 will serve just fine, and it's not a bad deal if you can get it for under $200; but there are better cameras out there, even in the 8-megapixel range, that produce more detail at higher print sizes, so we recommend looking around a bit before settling on the Coolpix S600.