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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix S6 Wi-Fi


Nikon Coolpix S6 Wi-Fi Review

Review Date: July 8, 2006

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Nikon Coolpix S6 


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.

3x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 35mm Telephoto 105mm
Wide-angle 5.8mm
(35mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 17.4mm
(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 over-exposure

- [BSS = Shadow BSS] the smallest area of under-exposure

- [BSS = Histogram BSS] the closest to optimum overall exposure

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.

Face-Priority AF
Face-Priority AF Face-Priority AF
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 frame.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Preset WB
AWB Preset WB

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 works well.

ISO Comparisons (Indoors)
ISO 50
ISO 50
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

ISO Comparisons (Outdoors)
ISO 50
ISO 50
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

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.

Chromatic Aberrations
7.5mm, Aperture-Priority, Multi-Pattern
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 fringing.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
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 original version).

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 bandwidth. Thanks!


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