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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix S60


Nikon Coolpix S60 Review

Review Date: February 9, 2009

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Nikon Coolpix S60


The Nikon Coolpix S60 is a digital camera targeted to point-and-shoot photographers. It has 10-megapixel resolution on a 1/2.3 in. CCD image sensor, and a 33-165mm (equiv.) 5.0x optical Zoom-Nikkor lens, with a maximum aperture of F3.8(W)-F4.8(T). Sensor-shift image stabilization is provided using Nikon's Vibration Reduction (VR) technology.

We find the overall image quality of the Nikon S60 to be good at ISO 64 with good detail and low noise for a digital camera in this category. As is usual with point-and-shoot digital cameras, images at higher ISOs suffer from noise and detail loss.

5.0x Wide-anle Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 33mm Telephoto 165mm
Wide-angle 5.9mm
(33mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 29.5mm
(165mm, 35mm equivalent)

In the pictures above, we show the coverage for 33mm (equiv.) and then 165mm (equiv). It takes about 2.5 sec. to zoom from wide-angle to telephoto (I counted 15 steps).

The Nikon S60 has Programmed Auto mode which allows you to choose some of the most important exposure settings, such as ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. There are also easy-to-use Scene Modes to help obtain the best exposure in common challenging situations.

17.1mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern
1/8.7 sec., F4.8, ISO 592
Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod used

Macro can be as close as 9 cm (3.6 in.). You can zoom in macro mode.

AF is fast and works very well. It is instant in good lighting and pretty fast and precise in low-light. The Face Priority AF works extrememly well. In extreme low-light, the AF Illuminator automatically kicks in (if you've set it ON in the Menu) to help achieve focus when you half-press the shutter release button.

Best Shot Selector (Menu - Continuous - BSS - ON) is one of Nikon's most practical feature to use when you need to ensure you get a tack sharp picture. It 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.

The Nikon S60 provides two AF Area modes:

  • Face Priority mode is the default and automatically detects a face and focuses on it; great for portraits.
  • Center-focus area mode focuses at the center of the screen; for when your subject is smack in the middle of the screen.
  • In addition, no matter which AF Area mode you select, you can also tap the screen to position the focus area, in effect going into manual AF.

Metering mode defaults to 256-segment Matrix when you do not use digital zoom, switches automatically to Center-weighted if you use less than 2x digital zoom, and to spot if you use 2x or more digital zoom.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Preset WB
AWB Preset WB

The picture on the left shows auto white balance (AWB) indoors under artificial tungsten light. The Nikon S60 allows WB to be set manually via the Menu: Preset WB allows us to obtain accurate colors (picture on the right). AWB works well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 64
ISO 64
ISO 100 ISO 200  
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800  
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1600 ISO 3200  
ISO 1600 ISO 3200

You can set the ISO on the Nikon S60 from 64 to 3200. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 64 is under control. Noise starts to be visible at ISO 200 and increases quickly as the ISO goes higher. Images are usable at small prints and for Web display up to ISO 800. Aggressive noise reduction is apparent at ISO 800 when viewed full size. ISO 3200 is at 5M.

Like most other point-and-shoot digital cameras, the Nikon S60 gives its best results in well-lighted situations but finds it challenging indoors for non-flash photography. Images from ISO 1600 to 3200 exhibit too much noise and loss of detail for clean large prints, but might be acceptable for 4x6 in. size prints and for Web display.

Note that Auto ISO ranges from 64 to 800; High Sensitivity (Hi-ISO) ranges from 64 to 1600; and ISO 3200 is only available in manual ISO mode.

Chromatic Aberrations
5.9mm, Program AE, Multi-Pattern
1/688.7 sec., F6.4, ISO 64

CA is minimal in everyday shots. In the high contrast shot above, the corner delimited by the red square in the middle right, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom left, shows minimal purple fringing, not enough to be concerned with.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
5.9mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/2 sec., F3.8, ISO 400
Preset (manual) WB, Macro, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used, 100% Crop

The Nikon S60's slowest shutter speed goes down to 1 sec. in Program Auto mode, and 4 sec. in Fireworks scene mode. This allows some very limited night photography, and we would have preferred longer shutter speeds. Generally, with image sensors, noise becomes more prominent at slow shutter speeds.

I take an extreme low-light indoors shot. Light is from two regular household tungsten bulbs on the ceiling. To obtain a long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm under my desk in the shadows. I obtain focus lock easily since the Nikon S60 has an effective AF-assist Illuminator. Some experimenting and I find that I need to up the ISO all the way to ISO 400 to obtain a correct exposure. [I could not use the 4 sec. of Fireworks scene mode because Macro mode is not permitted in that scene mode.] To ensure sharp focus, I place the AF area frame on Bamm-Bamm's eyes. The noise reduction works well (though the presence of noise and detail loss at this high ISO is also quite visible).

The Nikon Coolpix S60 delivers good image quality at ISO 64. Using a high ISO means you might be able to take low-light pictures but be aware that the noise issue and loss of image detail will limit pictures taken at high ISOs to small prints and for Web display only.

The pictures in the Nikon Coolpix S60 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 3648x2736 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" or some other description 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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