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Nikon Coolpix S6500 Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted 01/07/2013

With the Coolpix S6500, Nikon makes a return to the Wi-Fi-capable compact camera market, after a lengthy absence. It's been four years or more since the last regular Coolpix compact with Wi-Fi was announced, so the Nikon S6500 ends a long drought. (OK, technically the Android-based Coolpix S800c has Wi-Fi, but that camera is so different to anything else in Nikon's lineup that we're not counting it.) Nikon's return to Wi-Fi-equipped cameras isn't surprising, given the recent uptick in cameras that promise quick sharing with smartphones and tablets. If anything, the surprise is that it's been so long coming.

The Coolpix S6500 is closely-related to last year's S6400, to which it also bears more than a passing resemblance. Both lens and sensor look to be identical, and the most significant difference is the addition of the 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi radio, which allows images and movies to be shared with Android or iOS smartphones and tablets. You can also remotely capture images over the Wi-Fi connection, although we're not yet certain if this provides a live view feed, We do know that a free Wireless Mobile Utility app is required to use the Wi-Fi features, and that this will be available free of charge in the Apple iTunes and Google Play stores. The app is compatible with Android version 2.3 or later, and iOS version 6.0 or later.

Like the S6400 before it, the Nikon S6500 has a 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor that's paired with a 12x optical zoom lens. 35mm-equivalent focal lengths range from 25 to 300mm, and the maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 at wide angle to f/6.5 at telephoto. As in the earlier camera, Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology is included, helping to fight blur from camera shake at lower shutter speeds.

On the rear panel, the Nikon Coolpix S6500 sports a 3.0-inch LCD monitor with 460K dots of resolution.

As well as the added Wi-Fi connectivity, the Nikon S6500 has some new firmware features that could be handy if you plan on sharing pics on social networking sites without first editing them on phone, tablet, or computer. The S6400 had a Glamor Retouch feature, but it offered only two options. One detected faces and then softened their skin tones, while the other did the same and then also made the faces smaller, and the eyes bigger. Now, there are a few more options. The S6500 lets you lighten skin tones, whiten teeth or eyes, soften dark circles beneath the eyes, and apply a blush-like effect in one of several colors -- orange, red, blue-pink and yellow-pink -- to cheeks.

As well as still imaging, the Nikon S6500 lets you record high-definition video clips. Like its predecessor, these include stereo audio, and at the maximum quality setting are captured at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, with a rate of 30 progressive-scan frames per second. That's commonly called Full HD, or 1080p30. Unusually, you can pause capture during recording, and then resume, letting you edit a movie together at capture-time, so long as you can shoot all the clips in your chosen order without powering the camera off in between.

The Nikon Coolpix S6500 ships in the USA from late January 2013, with retail pricing set at around US$220. Available body colors include silver, black, red, and orange.