Check out an examination of the photo capabilities of Nikon's ultracompact 10x zoom point-and-shoot, the Coolpix S6300.
Overall photo quality from the Nikon Coolpix S6300 is above average for this class of camera, suitable for prints up to 8x10 and Web use. At full size they don't look good, though, so its 16-megapixel resolution isn't a reason to buy. Though its sensitivity settings run from ISO 125 to ISO 3200, the S6300 is best used with plenty of light to keep sensitivity below ISO 400.
Regardless of sensitivity, photos appear somewhat soft and benefit from sharpening with photo-editing software. There's a Fixed Range Auto option that will limit you to ISO 125-400 or ISO 125-800; I recommend using the former outdoors and the latter indoors when possible. The two highest ISOs -- 1600 and 3200 -- should only be used in emergencies, mainly because the colors get very washed out and the noise reduction makes subjects appear smeary, and actually, colors are so bad at ISO 3200 you probably shouldn't use it at all.
The S6300 can focus as close as 4 inches from a subject. This is a 100 percent crop of the inset image taken at ISO 125. Fine detail is good, but not great, and you can see noise and artifacts. Basically, don't expect to enlarge and heavily crop images and get great results.
The S6300 can shoot bursts at up to 6 frames per second for up to seven frames. Once you release the shutter, though, you'll be waiting a bit while the camera processes and stores the photos before you can shoot again.
The camera also has 60fps and 120fps bursts; the former captures up to 25 images at a resolution of 1 megapixel, and the latter grabs up to 50 VGA-quality shots at a press of the shutter release. There's a substantial wait while the camera stores all those photos, but if you're trying to capture a specific moment in time, this is your best bet with this camera. Also, with all of these modes, the focus, exposure, and white balance are set with the first photo. If you have a fast-moving subject, like someone running, there's a good chance your subject won't be in focus for all of the photos.
Colors produced by the S6300 are bright and vivid up to ISO 400, though it does start to decline at that sensitivity. Color quality tanks above ISO 800, becoming desaturated and muddy. Blown highlights were also an issue, but that is typical of point-and-shoot cameras.
There is some very slight barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top), but no sign of pincushioning when fully zoomed in (bottom). The lens itself has OK center sharpness, but gets noticeably softer off to the sides and corners. Also, expect to see a fair amount of fringing in high-contrast areas of photos when you view them at 100 percent. Only in extreme contrast areas (shooting through trees in front of a bright white sky, for example) is it very visible at small sizes.
This is an example using the Backlighting mode with the high-dynamic range feature (HDR) on. The mode takes a burst of shots with a single press of the shutter release and combines them into one image for improved shadow detail on backlit subjects (right). What's nice is the camera simultaneously captures a second photo with a regular exposure (left). When the HDR feature is off, the camera corrects backlighting using the flash, which is better for portraits or other close backlit subjects.
The S6300 has a Special Effects mode perfect for those who want to get just a little more creative with their photos. Settings include Soft, Sepia, High-contrast Monochrome (pictured), High Key, Low Key, and Selective Color.
Available in playback is a set of filter effects you can apply to a copy of your photos. That means you'll have to shoot first and then hope that your results will look right after you apply the effect. The included effects are Cross screen (top), Miniature effect, Painting, Fisheye, Selective color (bottom), and Soft.
Included in the scene options is an Easy Panorama mode. Just press the shutter release and pan the camera and the S6300 will capture either a 180- or 360-degree panorama shot. You'll want to save it for when your target isn't moving, though. View at full size to see what I mean.
This slide and those that follow are examples of the S6300's photo quality at full telephoto. A link is provided below each to view the images at full size. Note: These are large files and may take several seconds to load.