If you haven't recently been camera shopping, prepare for a surprise. The Nikon Coolpix S6150 offers a 16-megapixel sensor, a 7x zoom and a touch-sensitive display for a mere £160. Is this a case of getting what you pay for, or has Nikon served up a genuine bargain?
Performance and test shots
The Coolpix S6150 and more expensivematch each other pixel for pixel in the sensor stakes. What sets them apart is their lens arrangement and sensitivity. The S6150 has both a longer zoom and a lower minimum sensitivity, both of which are points in its favour that translate into better results. While you can get closer to your subject without changing your position with the S6150, we also noticed tidier pixels once we'd downloaded the results, as it had a tendency to stick with ISO 80 when shooting in bright, outdoor situations.
Edges were sharper than they were with the S100 in those photos, characterised by defined geometric patterns. Where light might otherwise have had a tendency to overload the sensor, the S6150 dialled down the sensitivity setting to minimise problems.
Examining our shot of a rack of London hire bikes, we were pleased to see that the S6150 produced well-rendered spokes, even at 100 per cent zoom, while the pattern of light coming in through the window in our Tate Modern shot closely matched the original shape of the windows.
When set the challenging job of shooting down through a dimly lit, 61m-deep spiral staircase, the camera produced a balanced, well-lit result. It had to maintain an aperture of f3.7 to achieve this at ISO 400, which naturally shortens the depth of field, but there was no obvious loss of detail towards the centre of the image where the depth was at its greatest.
In wider-angle exterior shots, skies were a realistic, vivid blue, and trees a lush green. The camera also coped well with areas of strong highlight in otherwise more muted scenes.
In this test shot of a Doric column built from Portland stone, detail was maintained within the bright stone surface, while the darker buildings at the extremes of the frame remained correctly exposed. The red markings highlight the very few burned out areas in the shot.
Switching to our internal test shot, we were very impressed by the sample taken under studio lighting, which demonstrated very sharp edges as the camera set its own sensitivity at ISO 80. With the lights switched off, it hiked the sensitivity to ISO 400 to make best use of the ambient light, and, although the results remained clean when viewed on the screen, zooming to 100 per cent revealed increased noise in some areas of high detail, such as the face of our thermometer and the writing on our spirit bottle.
The poorest results were those achieved using the built-in flash. Although the images were well lit in the foreground, they were too dark beyond the middle point of our image, perhaps due to the reflective objects at the centre of the scene affecting the metering.
The S6150 has a dedicated movie button beside the rear display that starts recording immediately. The maximum recording time is 29 minutes, regardless of your spare capacity, with best-quality results written as 720p AVI files. Video at a 640x480-pixel resolution is also available as a space-saving alternative.
Beyond this, there are few options at your disposal when shooting videos. You can switch on wind-noise reduction, set the white balance and, perhaps most importantly, change the autofocus mode. By default, this is set to take one single measurement when you start recording, but we'd recommend changing this to full-time autofocus so that it recalibrates as you change the frame composition.