Nikon release a new batch of "Style" compacts on an unassuming world and the S610 is part of them. Featuring 10Mp, a 4x optical zoom and wireless connection, all in a teeny tiny body.
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Nikon Coolpix S610c: Specification
- Zoom: 4x optical (28-112mm)
- Resolution: 10.0Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.33in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Image size: 3648x2736
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO100-3200
- Storage: Internal, SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Single, full time AF (continuous)
- Normal focusing: 50cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 3cm-infinity
- Metering types: Matrix, centre-weighted
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 4sec-1/1500sec
- Flash: Built-in
- Monitor: 3.0in TFT LCD
- Interface: USB2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 96.5x57x22.5mm
- Weight: 130g excluding battery and card
Paying out £214 will give you 10Mp, 4x optical zoom and wireless connectivity. You also get a wide angle 28mm lens and 3cm macro capability.
For an extra £5, you could upgrade to the higher specification, albeit older, P5100 with 12.1Mp, 3.5x optical zoom, 4cm macro and magnesium alloy construction. Looking at other companies, the Sony Cybershot DSC-W300 at £211 has 13.6Mp, a 3x optical zoom from a Carl Zeiss lens and 5cm macro focusing distance. It's also made from a scratch proof titanium casing.
The rear has the usual functions but are arranged in a different way.
The Wifi system is in the top right shoulder of the camera.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Features
Basing my ideals of how a camera should be styled on how they've always been styled, the Nikon Coolpix S610c must be the runt of the litter. Its lens sits too close to the bottom of the camera as do the controls on the rear which leave a big gap between them and the lonesome zoom rocker.
Of course, my opinion of camera design isn't founded on these principles and that means I see it in a completely different light. The lens is sat towards the bottom to accommodate the flash which won't get covered with fingers and is as far away from the lens as possible, displacing direct light to avoid red-eye.
The top plate has been left pretty much alone and only accommodates the power and shutter release buttons. A large 3in screen occupies most of the rear and the gap between the zoom rocker and mode buttons is to allow you a place to put your thumb when not zooming in.
With that in mind the styling isn't bad at all and because this is part of the Style range, they've had to go trendy. These days trendy means minimal which is why there's large expanses of camera with nothing happening on it.
Continuing with the minimalistic approach, the S610c has added a new feature which could spell the end for scene modes. The scene auto selector works by analysing the scene in the frame and selecting the best possible scene mode to work for that picture. It only has the most popular scenes set into it at the moment such as portrait and landscape but if this proves a popular method, we could see a gradual decline in the scene modes.
The wheel manipulates the on-screen virtual command dial. The discreet exposure compensation button can also be seen on the side of the camera.
More and more features are being added all the time to ensure your images are as perfect as possible. The S610c has also had active child mode added for when the kids are playing and you want to ensure you get a crisp image. There are also tried and tested modes still available such as smile and blink detection as well as an expanded face detection which now recognises up to 12 faces in a frame.
The lack of a command dial means that, like The A-Team, it must go underground and help you without being seen. It's accessed by pressing the mode button and a virtual dial appears on screen. The dial can be rotated through by using the navigation wheel and has eight options such as video, set-up mode, scene selection, smile and active child modes. You can also access the basic shooting function and the scene auto selector from here.
Some of the more frequently used features are still accessed on the back of the camera with dedicated buttons such as macro, self timer and flash. These are activated by pressing the navigation wheel while other features such as delete, playback and main menu have stand alone buttons.
Wireless settings in the menu sets the camera up for wireless interactivity.
At first glance, you'd be forgiven into thinking that the S610c doesn't have an exposure compensation feature and it wasn't until I spotted the small icon on the side of the camera that I realised that they'd had to put it there because the dial is so close to the edge. Of course, the S series of cameras aren't high enough in the pecking order to get embossed buttons.
Of course, the S610c has WiFi capability and works in a similar way to the previously reviewed S52c but has a slightly different way of going about it. You can set the camera up to recognise the signal from your wireless router by choosing the correct network profile or you can manually hunt for one.
Manually hunting means you could use a signal that you're not authorised for but these are generally secure unless they're designed for public access.
Once you've found the signal, your pictures can be uploaded onto MyPicturetown (Nikon's version of Flickr) by pressing the envelope button on the side of the camera.
The lens is a standard Nikkor f/2.7-5.6 with optical image stabiliser.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Build and handling
An aluminium case covers the chassis meaning for a lightweight and durable camera. There's a little motion blur on the screen while panning quickly and that could aggravate the Active Child mode but there's no purple banding when it crosses a window or open door.
The buttons are firm as you'd expect from Nikon and the dial is easily moved meaning it's comfortable to operate but could shift easily if caught.
I've had a problem with Nikon battery doors in the past and this one is one of the flimsiest I've looked at. It wobbles and bends with the slightest movement which I don't like.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Performance
One of the main features of the Coolpix S610c is the worlds fastest start up time. Nikon record it at 0.7sec but that time is compared against other similarly specified cameras with 28mm lens, 3in screen and optical image stabiliser. My own test gave a result of 0.695sec.
That being said, it's all very well having a fast start up time, but it's useless if you can't do anything with it. I started the camera up and the screen was up very fast. But it took six seconds for the camera to register I wanted to take a picture, focus and take a shot, which is pretty slow.
In the burst test, the continuous shooting mode managed to fire seven shots in around ten seconds. It shot them in groups of three with a brief download in between to empty the buffer. The good thing is you don't have to release the button and press it back down, the camera will keep taking pictures as long as you hold the shutter release down.
There's also a BSS (Best Shot Selector) mode which will take ten sequential shots but only chooses the best one from them.
The colour chart results are pretty good with a definite boost being given to the warmer tones such as red, orange and yellow. Blue has also been saturated and the earth tones look rich.
The mono tones are balanced but I feel that the skin tone tile looks off colour.
I took two of the landscape images using the standard landscape mode and then the BSS mode to see if it recognised a landscape and gave a similar image.
Looking at the two, the BSS shot has a higher dynamic range showing more detail in low key areas.I actually prefer the original landscape image as I think the BSS image looks too much like a HDR shot with the ethereal look to the trees on the right of the frame.
The white bars sport a lovely thick purple line of fringing which is unfortunate as the day wasn't exactly bright. Still, there's good detail in the grass which is accentuated by the ground frost.
If the BSS image is the best shot from the scene, then why is it so radically different from the landscape image? Surely if the BSS mode is getting the best possible image from a scene, then the landscape one should be doing the same thing? Otherwise choosing that mode means you're settling for a potentially inferior image. Something that a photographic company shouldn't allow.
The landscape image has given an ok result but fringing is appearing even on a low contrast day.
Best Shot Selection chose this as the best shot of ten taken in consectutive succession.
Portrait mode is pretty good if not a little under exposed.
I also took two portrait shots, although refrained from using BSS in this test. Instead I used program mode so i could set the white balance and ISO, then took a shot in portrait mode to see what a difference it made.
The portrait mode shot has a warm tone to it with a balanced skin tone and a decent white balance output. In contrast, the program mode image has a cold cast thanks to the white balance setting even though it was set to daylight as it wasn't a cloudy day. Using flash has given a more balanced image, brought some more defined catchlights into the eyes and given a more even light over the face. There's a risk of bleaching on the forehead, but Nikita's quiff managed to keep it at bay.
Daylight white balance is a bit weak as a blue cast has appeared on the program mode portrait shot.
The image looks more balanced out when flash is used but beware of bleaching.
For those of you who will take the camera out and about when having fun or if you have children that smile fleetingly, the smile detection will take a photograph as soon as it recognises a smile regardless of whether you press the button or not.
The 3cm macro facility allows you to crop in quite closely which is great for shots such as these nail clippers. I found that using flash got an arc along the bottom of the shot where the lens barrel had got in the way.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Focus and metering
The features of the S610c aren't supposed to confuse you which is why some of the more laborious modes have been simplified or, in the case of spot metering, removed altogether.
The S610c does have single AF mode and a continuous AF (full-time) which will constantly work to keep the locked subject in focus. This is great for moving subjects but will ultimately use up more power so don't leave it on if you like to preserve power.
You can adjust the focus area between auto, manual, centre and face detection which has been improved and now registers a maximum of twelve faces in one frame.
There are only two metering modes with the removal of spot metering but that may not be such a bad thing. Ask yourself if you're interested in this camera: Will you need to get a precise exposure reading from the exact centre of the image? Or are you just going to take pictures of days/nights out, holidays and celebrations and stick the flash on if it's too dark? If you're the latter then you don't need spot metering.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Noise test
ISO100 shows a nice, clear image with plenty of detail in the petals although at close quarters, magnified to full size, a slight amount of noise appears to be poking through in the grey area.
Even at ISO200, there seems to be a slight acceleration in noise growth and this is exacerbated at ISO400 as noise bleeds onto the orange petals. From ISO800, the image starts to decline drastically and detail in the petals starts to disappear as noise reduction software kicks in.
The ISO3200 image is one of the worst noise images I've seen (from a Nikon camera) with detail all but gone from the flower and coloured noise leaking all over the image.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO3200 test.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Verdict
For the right type of person, this camera is perfect. That person has to enjoy a good looking camera that produces nice colours. That person also needs to have a lot of patience to cope with the lack of responsiveness from the buttons. The wheel won't be a problem though as it's fast and smooth. That person also needs to not want to take pictures in the dark without using flash.
If I just described you then take a serious look at this camera because you won't be displeased.
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Plus points
Easy to use
Wide angle lens
Nikon Coolpix S610c: Minus points
Slow to resond to commands
Flimsy battery door
Noise at low ISO levels
The Nikon Coolpix S610c costs around £214 and is available from Warehouse Express. Click the link for more information: Nikon Coolpix S610c.