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The S600 offers some nice features in a sharp body such as 3cm macro and 28mm wide angle lens.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Specification
- Optical zoom: 4x
- Resolution: 10Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.33
- Sensor type: CCD
- Colour: Silver or Urban Black
- Focal length: 28-112mm
- Minimum focus distance: 3cm
- Max aperture:f/2.7-5.8
- Viewfinder type: Digital
- Movie mode: Yes
- Screen size: 2.7in
- Battery: EN-EL10
- Weight: 130g
- Size: 88.5x53x22.5mm
- Screen resolution: 230,000
- Connectivity: USB2.0
- Image stabilisation: Yes
- Speed: ISO100-ISO3200
- PictBridge: Yes
The Canon IXUS 860IS at £194 has only 8Mp, a 3.8x optical zoom and Image Stabiliser.
The Panasonic DMC FX30 at £215 has a much lower 7.2Mp but also has an image stabiliser and a 3.6x optical zoom that also starts from 28mm.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Modes and features
With the latest batch of compacts looking sleek and sharp, it seems that Nikon are starting to show an element of cool. We're not talking Apple here, but they're certainly upping the ante against their previous efforts.
The S600 looks nice from the front with the small lens sat down in the bottom right corner and a tiny slit of a flash right at the top. The only thing that lets the front down is the plastic lens cover. I would have liked to see shiny metal leaves covering the glass and instead it's a mid-tone grey that doesn't fit in with the décor of the camera.
The top also has little to look at with only a power button and shutter release adorning its surface. Surely then the back will be bristling with buttons, switches levers and pulleys? Well, no, apart from the zoom rocker in the top right and navigation pad with the OK button in the centre and only four buttons that will help you change features in the cameras menus.
The mode button brings up the virtual mode dial that is seen on the S52c that I reviewed recently with the menu button giving access to the core features of the camera. Therefore if you want to change simple features such as the scene modes or change the camera to video mode then this is done in the mode button, but changing more in-depth features such as the ISO, white balance or resolution has to be done in the menu.
Powering the camera on and the lens shoots out at a good speed with the screen bursting into life a split second later. It's a shame that the camera then needs another second to settle itself and be ready to shoot. The screen is really bright and suffers from no motion blur. There is some purple banding when the screen cuts across a window, but that happens with every camera.
The zoom is smooth and quiet and steps up in smaller values than I'm used to seeing which is great.
I took a series of images and went into the playback area to delete them. This should be a relatively easy affair but Nikon have found a way to make it difficult. Deleting selected images can't be done by pressing OK and moving to the next image and pressing OK there too. You have to go into the menu to tell the camera what you want to do. It then takes you to a special menu screen where you can select the images. The pictures are selected by pressing up on the navigation pad when you're on the picture you wish to delete.
The annoying thing about this is that the pictures are laid out like a contact sheet but you can't wander about it as you please because trying to go up the list will select the image you're on for deletion. What you have to do is scroll through sideways which takes more time. If I've got a list of 25 shots on the screen, I have to scroll through all 25, not just pressing down five rows to go onto the next page.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Build and handling
The metal case is a two tone affair with a shiny, lightly brushed effect on the front and the more recognisable dulled effect on the rest of the body. The lens is secure and although there is movement when the zoom is operated, it doesn't come out any further than when it's first powered up.
The buttons are firm but could do with being a little more responsive. If you leave the camera switched on and it goes into auto power down (where the camera is effectively on, but appears off) it can take several seconds for it to come back to life.
The battery bay also houses the SD card and the cover is quite bendy when flexed. The only other door on the camera is to cover the USB port and found on the right side of the camera towards the shoulder.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Flash options
The flash on the Nikon Coolpix S600 is very small but that doesn't really seem to be a problem as the range of the flash is 0.5-6.5m at wide angle and 0.5-3m at telephoto which is a really good performance.
The flash options are accessed by pressing up on the navigation pad and you get auto, flash with red-eye, flash off, flash on and night portrait to choose from. With the final option a tripod is necessary as the camera will select a slow shutter speed to give extra exposure to dark backgrounds.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Performance
In the burst test, the Coolpix S600 managed a result of 1fps which doesn't sound brilliant and there are certainly faster cameras around, but this performance is offset by the fact that it doesn't stop and that's the difference. Other cameras with a faster frames per second (fps) ability have to stop after a certain amount of shots to download the pictures to the memory card and could potentially not take as many photos in the ten seconds.
If my results from the shutter lag test are anywhere near accurate, then this camera has an appalling performance. I took several shots and all came out around the 0.2-0.3 time. Two or three tenths of a second sounds pretty good until you compare to other cameras that have a lag less than a tenth of a second.
A balanced result from the portrait mode apart from some slight under exposure on the right eye. Highlights aren't blown out, but could've been if the shadow areas had more light. The fill-in flash has given light to darkness and introduced some nice catchlights into the eyes.
Portrait with flash.
The colour chart test.
The landscape test.
The colour chart has produced a saturated blue and yellow with the greens also featuring prominently in the whole image. This is in-line with compacts these days as they're geared up for landscape shots primarily which means blue and green will be boosted the most.
The mono tones are nicely balanced but the skin tone looks a little off which is unusual as it doesn't show in the portraits.
The foreground of the landscape up to the lock and winch is nice and sharp. So why does it fall drastically out of focus from there? Looking in the EXIF data gives an indication. The camera used an aperture of f/2.7 despite being in landscape mode.
I can't understand why manufacturers aren't getting the landscape mode to default to a smaller aperture.
Fringing is barely noticable on the white markings on the wall, but it was a miserable day with minimal contrast.
The wide angle image.
The telephoto image.
The 3x optical zoom is only modest, but enough to cope with taking reasonable pictures of wildlife without getting in too close.
The macro image.
With a minimum focal distance of 3cm in macro mode, the S600 will be able to crop in comfortably to small images.
The image of the flower has a very shallow depth of field of f/2.7 which has thrown the petal in the foreground completely out of focus.
I really like the effect that this has given the shot, but it might not work on every photograph. Also, if I wanted to adjust the area that's in focus, I'd have to focus and recompose and it won't be easy to do on the screen.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Noise test
The image doesn't really start to break down until ISO400 and even then it's only the edges of the grey card that start to deteriorate as there is plenty of detail still in the petals.
ISO800 jumps up in amounts of noise with purple specks dotting the dark and mid grey areas. This seems to disappear at ISO1600 but at the expense of detail which has dropped dramatically from the petals.
Purple fringing around the petals and random blobs scatter the ISO3200 image with little or no detail in the petals results in one of the worst examples of noise I've seen in recent times.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Verdict
The styling suggests a camera designed for the happy snapper while some of the features such as the build quality and 3cm macro feature lean towards the user looking to get that bit extra out of a camera.
As a camera for family snaps, the colours are good and it shoots portraits well including when the flash is used. For more serious use, you have the 3cm macro feature with a great depth of field but it falls short on the landscape mode.
If you have a couple of hundred quid to spend on a compact and you want a good looking unit with decent features and a good brand name, then give this a try.
Nikon Coolpix S600: Plus points
Great macro performance
Good colour rendition
Nikon Coolpix S600: Minus points
Poor noise performance in noise test
Wrong f number selected in landscape
Don't like the plastic lens cover leaves
The Nikon Coolpix S600 costs around £210 and is available from your friendly neighbourhood ePHOTOzine shop here.