When a 5x zoom isn't enough and a 10x zoom is too much (either in size or price), there are the likes of the 7x zoom Nikon Coolpix S6000. Combined with its 28mm-equivalent wide-angle starting point, you get an extra bit of flexibility in a pocketable body that does make a difference, especially when there's just no physical way to get closer. Add in this camera's relatively speedy shooting performance and you have a decent, well-priced compact camera for shooting from the sidelines. It's still a compact point-and-shoot, though, so despite its high resolution and Nikkor ED glass lens, the photos are best enjoyed at smaller sizes as prints or for online sharing with little to no cropping or enlarging.
|Key specs||Nikon Coolpix S6000|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9 x 2.2 x 1 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5.5 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||7x, f3.7-5.6, 28-196mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/H.264 (.MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,280x720 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 210 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes; by computer or wall adapter|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC memory cards|
|Bundled software||Software Suite for Coolpix (Windows/Mac)|
The S6000 is basically a slightly smaller version of its linemate, the 10x S8000. It has the same squarish all-metal body with a smoothly flared lens surround. Also like that model, the S6000's flash is poorly located at the top left, easily blocked by careless fingers. The controls and menu system are fairly uncomplicated, so out-of-the-box shooting shouldn't be much a problem. The menu system is broken into three tabs: Shooting, Movie, and Setup. The layout keeps you from doing too much hunting through settings.
Squeezed between the large thumb rest and the screen, is a record button for movies. Below that is a shooting mode button labeled "Scene" with a playback button to its right; a four-way control pad/wheel with an OK button in its center (Nikon calls it a Rotary Multi Selector); and then Menu and Delete buttons at the very bottom. The control pad is used for menu and image navigation as well as setting the self-timer, adjusting flash and exposure compensation, and turning on macro focus. Should you want to move faster through menus or images and videos, you can spin the wheel instead of doing single presses with underlying control pad. Although the wheel moves easily, you can feel stops. All in all, it's a pretty standard digital camera arrangement.
The S6000 is powered by a lithium ion rechargeable pack that is rated for a measly 210 shots; this was supported in testing, though it was a mix of stills and movies. The battery is charged in the camera by connecting via USB to a computer or the included wall adapter. Using the wall adapter, it takes roughly 4 hours to charge a completely drained battery; longer if charging by computer. The battery and card compartment are on the bottom behind a locking door. Next to it is a Mini-USB/AV port. A covered Mini-HDMI port is on the right side of the camera for connecting to an HDTV or monitor; you'll need to buy a cable, though.
|General shooting options||Nikon Coolpix S6000|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom|
|Recording modes||Auto, Scene, Scene Auto Selector, Smart Portrait, Subject Tracking, Movie|
|Focus modes||Face, 9-point AF, Center, Selectable (99 focus areas), Tracking AF, Macro|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average|
|Color effects||Standard, Vivid, Sepia, Black & White, Cyanotype|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||10 photos|
Shooting options are geared for point-and-shoot users. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Scene Auto Selector, which is the first option in the camera's Scene mode. It adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn't match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Then there is an Auto mode, which is like the program AE modes on other point-and-shoots. You can change ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation as well as light metering, autofocus area and mode, and continuous shooting modes. There are also 14 selectable scene modes. All of the scenes are standards like Portrait and Landscape, and there is a Panorama Assist for lining up a series of shots that can be stitched together with the bundled software.
Nikon's Smart Portrait System gets its own spot in the shooting-mode menu. Basically, it combines blink detection, smile-activated shutter release, red-eye fix, skin softening, and Face Priority AF features into one mode. The System works well, in particular for self-portraits, allowing you to take pictures without pressing the shutter release or setting a timer. The blink detection will fire off a second shot if the camera thinks someone blinked (though squinting had the same effect) and skin softening helps smooth out skin tones and can be set to low, normal, or high. Plus, the smile and blink detection and skin softening can be shut off entirely.
The last of the shooting modes is Subject Tracking, and the name pretty much says it all. Place the focus area box at the center of the frame on your subject, hit OK, and the camera will move the box with the subject. If the subject moves out of frame, the camera will do its best to pick up the subject when it reenters the frame. The camera can be set to focus once or continuously and it can prioritize tracking faces, but otherwise everything else is handled automatically. The mode mostly works as promised, but it should really just be an AF area option instead of a whole mode.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the S6000 has a few ways to enter Macro mode. It will automatically switch to it if you're using the Scene Auto Selector mode. You can also select a Close-up mode from the camera's Scene options. And if you're in Auto mode, you can switch to macro focus via the control pad. You can focus as close as 1.2 inches from your subject. Due to the overall softness of the S6000's photos, don't expect a lot of sharp fine detail if you crop and view photos at 100 percent.
Nikon promises fast shooting performance from the S6000 and compared to others in its class, the camera is quick. From off to first shot takes only 0.8 second, though how in focus your subject will be is a different story. Regardless, that time is impressive as is its shutter lag at 0.4 second with high-contrast subjects and 0.7 second in low-lighting conditions. Its shot-to-shot time without flash averaged 1.7 seconds, which is very good for its class; turning on the flash, though, drives that up to 3.1 seconds. The camera has a good full-resolution continuous shooting speed at 1 frame per second for up to 10 shots, but also offers a burst of 3-megapixel photos at 3fps for up to 45 shots. The shots look like still grabs from video and aren't great for large prints or heavy cropping. But you'll be able to get something suitable for Web use or small prints as long as you're not overly critical.
The photo quality from the Nikon S6000 is good to very good, but it really depends on how you intend to use the photos. The biggest issue is regardless of ISO sensitivity, the photos are soft, meaning you'll never get very sharp fine detail directly from this camera. As the ISOs go higher, the photos get softer from noise reduction. It can be improved by sharpening with software, but that adds its own problems. On the other hand, this Nikon's noise reduction retains detail in exchange for a painterly appearance, so at smaller sizes subjects will look detailed--even at ISO 800. And while I wouldn't recommend using its highest sensitivity of ISO 3,200, ISO 1,600 is usable in a pinch. In the end, if you're looking to regularly make prints larger than 8x10 inches or typically do a lot of heavy cropping or enlarging before printing, the S6000 is not a good choice. For 4x6-inch prints, the occasional 8x10, and for Web use, though, it can produce very good photos for its price and class.
At its widest, the lens exhibits slight barrel distortion. There's a hint of it at the telephoto end as well. Center sharpness is good, but drops off to the sides and in the corners. You'll want to keep your subject in the center of the lens to get the sharpest results. Also, this camera creates bright, visible purple fringing around high-contrast subjects. If you're not careful about what you're shooting, you could end up ruining photos because of it or end up doing a lot of editing to get rid of it. It's typical of this class of camera, but particularly bad on this model.
The S6000 produces bright, vivid colors. In our lab tests they weren't accurate--particularly reds, oranges, and pinks--but my test shots were pleasing without looking unnatural. White balance is overall good, but a little too yellow/green indoors. Exposure was generally good, too, if occasionally underexposed. If it's not to your liking, though, Nikon's D-Lighting feature in this camera's playback editing options will help rescue detail lost in shadows. Like most compact cameras, however, highlights tend to blow out.
Movie quality is on par with a pocket video camera; it's good but juddery when the shooter or subject is moving. Low-light video is predictably loaded with noise. There is no use of the optical zoom while recording, but a stepped digital zoom is available and there is a continuous AF option. There's a stereo mic in front, too.
The Nikon Coolpix S6000 is a nice camera for its price. It has all the features I'd expect to find for its class including optical image stabilization, HD video capture, and a healthy selection of shooting options. And it's fast, which is definitely a stumbling block for sub-$250 cameras. The S6000's photos are soft, definitely benefiting from sharpening with editing software once they're on your computer. It does limit how large you can print or how much cropping you can do, but if that doesn't bother you then again, it's a nice camera for its price.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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