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Nikon Coolpix S6 Wi-Fi Review
Date: July 8, 2006
The Nikon Coolpix S6 is a digital camera
targeted to point-and-shoot photographers. It
has 6.0 megapixel resolution on a 1/2.5 in. CCD
image sensor, and a 5.8-17.4mm (35-105mm, 35 mm
equivalent) 3x optical Zoom-Nikkor ED lens, with
a maximum aperture of F3.0(W)-F5.4(T), and a minimum
aperture of F8.5(W) (which is electronically-controlled
by ND filter selection).
We find the overall image quality of the Nikon
Coolpix S6 to be good to very good, with low noise
at ISO 50 and 100.
(35mm, 35mm equivalent)
(105mm, 35mm equivalent)
The Nikon S6 provides 3x optical zoom. In the
above pictures, we show the coverage for 35mm,
and then 105mm (35mm equivalent).
It has Programmed Auto mode and easy-to-use Scene
Modes, and lots of practical features to help
you get the best picture possible.
The Nikon S6 also provides exposure compensation
(no Auto Bracketing), Preset (custom/manual) White
Balance, and manual AF Area mode. There is no
histogram. Though there are different types of
metering (256-segment matrix, center-weighted,
spot and spot AF), they are however not manually
selectable. In Shooting mode, shutter speed ranges
from 2-1/500 sec. In Fireworks Show scene mode,
shutter speed is set to 4 sec.
10.1mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern
2 sec., F4.0, ISO 50, Preset WB (manual)
The Nikon S6 allows you to focus as close as
4 cm (1.6 in.) in Macro mode at wide-angle. AF
locks precisely and fast in bright light. In low-light,
since the AF works on detecting contrast changes,
subjects with low contrast might at times be difficult
to get a focus lock on. Putting some distance
between the subject and camera seems to help.
There is an AF-assist illuminator [SETUP - AF
assist = Auto] that helps focusing in low-light.
There are two AF modes: Center and Manual AF
area. Manual AF area allows you to select from
99 AF areas and is invaluable for off-center subjects,
especially in macro photography. Once you set
this option in the menu, it stays out of the way
until you call for it. Nikon has implemented a
very intuitive way to do that: anytime you wish
to invoke manual AF area mode, simply press the
OK button and use the arrow keys (and Rotary Multi
Selector, if desired) to move the AF area around
the screen to one of 99 possible positions. When
you're done, press OK to set it at its new position.
Some cameras make you go thru hoops to do what
the Nikon S6 does so elegantly.
The AF indicator dot and AF frame turn green
to indicate successful focus; a blinking red AF
indicator dot and blinking AF frame indicate focus
has not successfully locked.
Another practical feature that you will find
only in Nikon digital cameras is Best Shot Selector
[MENU - BSS = ON]. BSS works by taking 10 shots
in a row (as long as you keep your finger pressed
on the shutter release button) and then discarding
all except the one that comes out the sharpest.
Very cool feature (especially when you're using
a slow shutter speed and your pictures might suffer
from camera shake).
But wait, c'est pas fini! New is "Exposure
BSS" [MENU - BSS = Exposure BSS] which will
take 5 shots in a row (as long as you keep your
finger pressed on the shutter release button)
and then discarding all except the one that comes
out with one of three exposure [remember, this
is not about sharpness now] options you selected:
- [BSS = Highlight BSS] the smallest area of
- [BSS = Shadow BSS] the smallest area of under-exposure
- [BSS = Histogram BSS] the closest to optimum
Not sure if the P&S photographer will know
when exactly to use Exposure BSS, but more advanced
photographers may find a use for them.
|Blinking smily face
||Face found and AF locks
Face-Priority AF is available at the touch of
a button (top left, viewed from the back). You
use the blinking smily face displayed on screen
as a guide. When the subject's face becomes the
same size as the smily face, the camera recognizes
it and frames with a double yellow border. Press
the shutter release button halfway and the double
border turns green to indicate that both focus
and exposure have now been locked.
This face recognition capability is limited depending
on the shooting condition. Bottom line: it works
but it's not perfect: the subject must be facing
the camera; also, the camera may not be able to
detect faces that look away from the camera, are
partially hidden by sunglasses or other obstructions,
or faces that take too much or too little of the
As the above two pictures show, the auto white
balance (AWB) indoors under artificial light [I
have those special white light fluorescent] is
quite good. Best results, of course, are obtained
with Preset (manual) WB (accessed thru the MENU
button); being able to set White Balance manually
guarantees true colour reproduction under artificial
light. You won't find this feature in most entry-level
models. Outdoors, under natural light, the AWB
You can set the ISO on the Nikon S6 from 50 to
400. The 100%
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrate that noise at ISO 50 and 100 are under
control. Noise starts to be visible at ISO 200
but is usable. At ISO 400, the presence of noise
takes the form of coloured splotches.
We normally use a high ISO only when there's
not enough light, e.g. in indoors settings. That's
why our ISO Comparison sets are usually indoors
low-light images because that's when we need to
crank up the ISO. However, today we bring you
two sets of ISO images. Because the slowest shutter
speed on the Nikon S6 is only 2 sec., the "Indoors
ISO" shot at ISO 50 is under-exposed, so
we thought we'd also give you an ISO Comparison
set taken in bright light.
Image quality at ISO 100 is very good and, to
obtain the best results from this camera (including
better low-light capability), I therefore recommend
setting ISO 100 as your default.
1/6.9 sec., F4.8, ISO 50, Auto WB
CA is minimal to non-existent in everyday shots.
In the high contrast shot above, the area delimited
by the red square at middle left, and reproduced
at 100% crop at bottom right, shows no purple
|5.8mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern,
2 sec., F3.0, ISO Auto
Preset (manual) WB, Macro, Self-timer 10 sec.,
Tripod Used, 100% Crop
The Nikon S6's slowest shutter speed only goes
down to 2 sec. in Shooting Mode. Generally, with
CCD image sensors, noise usually becomes more
prominent at slow shutter speeds.
We take a low-light indoors shot. Light is from
two of those special "natural light"
fluorescent bulbs on the ceiling. To obtain a
long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm under my desk
in the shadows. Since 2 sec. is not long enough
to obtain a correct exposure in low-light at ISO
50, we have to switch to ISO Auto for the above
shot. We suspect the camera selected ISO 400.
Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S6 delivers
good to very good image quality in "sunny
outdoors" situations but is a bit challenged
in low-light situations. It does have many practical
features, such as BSS, D-Lighting (see User's
Experience) and Manual AF areas that help
you get the most in those challenging situations.
The pictures in the Nikon Coolpix S6 Photo
Gallery page provide a good sample of what
the camera is capable of. I have provided samples
at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100
in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 2816×2112
pixels original size (click on the image for the
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels
in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended
to the file name (though the original sized image
is, of course, not adjusted).
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious