Nikon Coolpix S60 review: Nikon Coolpix S60

3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Optical image stabilization; 3.5-inch touch-screen LCD; pretty; fun features.

The Bad Comparatively slow interface; relatively slow for its class; soft images; all but the power and shutter are touch-screen controlled.

The Bottom Line Fun features and chic styling make the Nikon Coolpix S60 a tasty choice for casual point-and-shoot use. However, if you need speed or snapshot perfection, this isn't your camera.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Image quality 7.0

If you're looking for a night-out-on-the-town camera--assuming said night is well lit--where superb picture quality and lightning-fast performance take a back seat to looking good and having fun, then the 10-megapixel Nikon Coolpix S60 may slip nicely into your lifestyle. File the S60 in the "ooh-ahh" category of ultracompacts: its high-gloss metallic finish comes in six colors, with chrome accents, a metal wave body design, and a 3.5-inch touch panel covering its backside in glassy glory.

I'm sure that screen adds some weight to the 5.7-ounce body, too. It just barely classifies as an ultracompact, with dimensions of 0.9 inch deep by 2.4 inches high by 3.8 inches wide. The 5x f3.8-4.8 33-165mm-equivalent internally zooming lens sits in the top-left corner on front, making it very easy to put your finger in the shot.

There's no shortage of touch-screen point-and-shoot cameras around, but most of them have at least some physical controls. The Nikon Coolpix S60, however, provides the bare minimum: a power button and a shutter button. While this helps maintain the S60's fashionable look, it also means that any operation besides turning it on and taking a picture requires touching the screen, and unfortunately, the S60's interface proves that not all touch screens are created equal. Those expecting the snappiness of Apple's iPhone will be disappointed; this camera just doesn't respond as quickly. I never had any problem getting it to register my taps, either with my finger or when tapping with the included stylus, but the interface frequently lagged in the menu and setting screens. This will frustrate those who regularly change settings; those who usually just point and shoot probably won't care. Also, when playing back photos you can drag your finger across the screen to the right or left to move to another photo. Just flicking your finger across the screen a la iPhone doesn't always do the trick and will occasionally cause an image to hang or zoom instead.

However, the onscreen shooting controls are as responsive as other touch screens I've tested. Changing between shooting modes (Auto, Scene, and Video) for example is generally fast, as is selecting the flash mode, activating the timer or Smile Shutter, or switching to macro. The one thing Nikon should not have made touch controlled is the zoom. It's responsive, but can be difficult to control and it's too low on the display, making it difficult to take one-handed shots and a bit too easy to switch into the Home menu system.

Now for the fun stuff you can do with the touch screen. If the camera isn't focusing on the subject you want, simply tapping on the subject in the screen will correctly activate the autofocus and it will track the subject and adjust for proper exposure. In the Portrait or Night Portrait scene modes, a one-touch zoom icon appears, letting you quickly zoom focus from waist up to bust up to face only (depending on the distance you are from the subject). You can handwrite and draw on pictures, too, which is not new for touch-screen cameras, but amusing nonetheless and has practical uses as well.

Other notable features include distortion control to correct for distortion (common with compact cameras), optical image stabilization, a rather overzealous warning that pops up if it thinks someone in the photo blinked, auto scene selection from one of seven options, in-camera contrast enhancement and perspective control, and a mini-HDMI port for connecting directly to an HDTV for slide-show playback. Absent are manual controls, with the exception of exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity--not exactly surprising, given the target user.

The S60's performs adequately, but lags in its class. It takes 0.6 second to focus and shoot in bright conditions and 1 second in dim light. Shot-to-shot time falls slightly below average at 2 seconds, but turning on the flash added only 0.2 second to the wait. In burst mode, it captured 1.3 frames per second, which isn't great, but I was able to get some impressive action shots all things considered. The only real downer is its 2.4-second time from power on to first shot.

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