Nikon S600 Review
Nikon Coolpix S600 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color and hue accuracy, with only slight oversaturation of some colors.
Saturation. The Nikon Coolpix S600 oversaturates strong reds, but actually undersaturates some greens and yellows. Pushing red tones is fairly typical among many consumer digital cameras, so the Nikon S600 isn't out of line. Undersaturation of yellows and some greens is really quite minimal, so overall results here are pretty good. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. The Nikon S600's skin tones look pretty natural, if a little on the pink side. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Nikon S600 showed a few color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, pushing cyan toward blue (a common technique to improve skies), orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green. However, overall hue accuracy was good. Hue is "what color" the color is.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good overall color with the Manual white balance setting; Auto and Incandescent were too red or warm. Above average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was a bit reddish in the Nikon S600's Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting had a warmer cast. Manual mode produced the most accurate color here. The Coolpix S600 required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, which is more than average for this shot. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting looks very good, though the red roses in the vase have a slight magenta tinge. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Good overall exposure and color outdoors, though high contrast under harsh lighting.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Nikon Coolpix S600 performed pretty well, producing generally good color and exposure. Contrast is a bit high, however, with limited shadow detail. The highlights, though pretty bright, managed to hold onto a lot of detail. The Coolpix S600's D-Lighting adjustment produced dramatically brighter and more even results on the outdoor portrait, though the highlights do appear slightly stronger. Still, D-Lighting will be a good fix for exposure like this.
High resolution, 1,500 ~ 1,600 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,500 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart showed that the Nikon S600 delivers sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,500 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,600 lines vertically. Extinction didn't really occur up to 2,000 lines. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images, though noise and noise suppression decrease definition. Some edge enhancement is visible on high contrast subjects as well.
Sharpness. The Nikon Coolpix S600 captured fairly sharp detail, though noise and some noise suppression definitely affected the amount of definition in the finer details. The crop above left shows some edge enhancement artifacts along the high contrast edges, as well as noise grain. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows the Nikon S600's fairly high noise suppression, making most strands of hair more like soft watercolor strokes, as well as some image noise pixels. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate to high noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with strong noise, excessive noise suppression, and blurring at the higher settings.
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,600||ISO 3,200|
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 practically 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).
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but high contrast and limited shadow detail. Minimal low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting.
|+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV||+1.3 EV|
Sunlight. The Nikon Coolpix S600 produced high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, which resulted in slightly hot highlights and limited shadow detail. The effects of both noise and noise suppression limit shadow detail as well. The camera required slightly above average compensation to get proper exposure of skin tones, at +1.0 EV. Skin tones are actually better at +1.3, but highlights are a bit hot. However, the Nikon S600's D-Lighting setting produced much better results, with a much more even exposure, though highlights are still a little hot. So while D-Lighting is a good option in situations like this, you should also consider using a fill flash or shoot in the shade when possible.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low light. Limited by its one second maximum exposure, the Nikon Coolpix S600 performed only marginally here, as its normal ISO settings were only capable of bright images under the equivalent of average city street-lighting at night. Boosting the ISO did result in brighter exposures at the lower light levels, but the trade-off is increased noise and loss of detail. Color balance was slightly cool with the Auto setting. The Nikon S600's autofocus system performed better than its exposure system, as it was able to focus on the subject almost down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted. Keep in mind that the slower shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Limited flash power with slightly uneven coverage up close. Exposure compensation adjustment has little effect on flash exposures in normal mode.
|28mm equivalent||112mm equivalent|
Coverage. Flash coverage was a bit uneven at wide angle, with dark corners and falloff at the edges as well. At full telephoto, the target was almost too far away for the flash to illuminate it well.
Indoor. In the Indoor test, the Coolpix S600's flash underexposed our subject a fair amount at its default setting, but the exposure compensation adjustment appeared to have no effect on the flash exposure. The Nikon S600's Slow-Sync flash mode produced brighter results, and EV compensation did boost brightness, though a very strong orange cast from the background incandescent lighting dominates the image.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, the Nikon S600's flash shots at ISO 100 remained fairly bright out to a distance of about 8 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At full telephoto and ISO 100, the target at 6 feet was already dim, and intensity continued to decrease from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 400
Auto ISO 400
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the wide angle shot above, the Coolpix S600 seems to perform about as Nikon says it will, though the camera had to boost ISO to 400 in both shots to get bright exposures. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, good color, good 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are better at 5x7.
The Nikon S600 had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14-inch prints, if a little soft on closer inspection. ISO 100 shots actually look better when kept to 8x10 or smaller, which is a little disappointing from a 10-megapixel digital camera at any price.
ISO 200 shots were a little softer at 8x10, but good; and ISO 400 shots were even softer, to the point of looking a bit hazy, but still usable. Contrast and saturation actually increase when the print size is dropped to 5x7, though, and detail is better. ISO 800 shots are good at 5x7, but ISO 1,600 shots are better at 4x6. Some low-contrast detail is completely lost at this point, especially hair detail. ISO 3,200 shots are actually not bad at 4x6, though they're a little more grainy in the shadows.
Though we weren't impressed with the low-ISO performance from the Nikon S600, most who won't print above 8x10 will be plenty happy so long as they keep the ISO to 400 or lower. Printed image quality actually surprised us as it rose into the 3,200 zone, however, producing usable 4x6-inch prints. Not the best performance when compared to other small 10-megapixel digital cameras, but good for a snapshot camera.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon Coolpix S600 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Nikon Coolpix S600 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.