Nikon calls its Coolpix S6200 an 'ultra-compact superzoom'. It's crossing into two distinct markets, there, but we reckon the specs justify the description. The S6200 is considerably smaller than its larger brother, the S8200, yet retains the 16-megapixel sensor, and, although the optical zoom doesn't match the S8200's monster 14x, it does stretch to a respectable 10x.
It's available now for around £170.
Sensitivity starts out lower than it does on the S8200, kicking off at ISO 80 and running through to ISO 3,200, with options to prevent it from straying beyond either ISO 400 or ISO 800 if you want to avoid noisy results.
Exposure compensation extends to +/-2.0EV in 1/3 EV steps. This is controlled by a neat wheel on the back of the case that sits where many lower-end cameras sport a four-way rocker. Scrolling it races through the menus, and in this case lets you run up and down the compensation scale with the results displayed in real-time on the LCD preview.
The menus are well considered and clearly organised. There are 19 scene modes to choose from, including the sweep panorama tool we've seen on each of Nikon's latest crop of digital snappers. This feature, also common to Sony Cyber-shot models, lets you literally mop up the scenery by moving your lens through the arc of the scene before you, with the camera itself handling the stitching and exposure correction. There are also six built-in effects, including soft, high contrast, and low and high key.
As well as the regular single-shot and burst-shooting modes (the latter of which lets you capture a maximum of six shots at 1.2 frames per second), there's an innovative multi-shot option that grabs 16 consecutive shots over half a second and compiles them into tiles in a single frame. It's a quirky way to capture movement in your scene, of either your subject or camera.
The S6200's aperture range is nothing out of the ordinary for a camera of this size, running from f3.2 to 5.8. What we find more disappointing, though, is the macro range, which only gets you to within 100mm of your subject. Still, when you're using the camera to take pictures of flowers and plants in the open air, this is enough to pull them forward from their backgrounds.
What of the results? We conducted our regular tests with the S6200 set as much as possible in full auto mode, allowing it to choose what it considered the best parameters for each situation.
Despite our criticism of the macro setting topping out at 100mm, it can produce some impressive results when used with care. In the image below, the spikes of the chestnut case are pin-sharp, with both the twig and leaves immediately behind it, and the nut in front of it, thrown out of focus.
Likewise, in shooting the teasel below, the S6200 retained excellent detail in the spikes that protect the pods and even the smaller, hair-like spikes that line their edges, while softening the projection at the front coming out towards the camera.
But the S6200 is suited to more than just macro work. When tasked with shooting general countryside scenes, the results are realistic and well balanced, with accurate colours and an excellent level of detail across the frame.
In the image below of grasses caught in the wind, the camera produced a perfectly balanced result despite the difficult shooting conditions. We were shooting towards the sun, which appears in the lower-left corner of the frame, yet, rather than ramping down the exposure to compensate and thus losing all of the detail in the grasses, the S6200 has produced a well-lit, detail-filled frame, with the individual seed husks highlighted by the oncoming light. The depth of field is shallow enough to draw the eye towards the main part of the image, despite the fact we were shooting outside of the macro mode.
Likewise, there's plenty of detail in the shot below of a nearby riverbank. Despite the sharp contrast between the well-lit upper half of this image and the shadow that dominates the lower portion, there's nothing lost in the shadow, despite the S6200 pinning the sensitivity at ISO 80 and the shutter speed at 1/640 second.
The S6200 performed consistently when presented with similar scenes throughout our tests, making a great job of balancing extremes of contrast.