Nikon Coolpix S600|
Advanced 10-megapixel ultra-compact with 4X zoom and optical vibration reduction
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
The Coolpix S600 is one of two 10-megapixel cameras introduced by Nikon in January of 2008 as part of its Spring lineup. Why two 10-megapixel cameras that, at first look, are very similar? Because there are significant differences, enough to describe them separately.
The S600 is an elegant and very compact camera with high-end features. It has a large and high resolution 2.7-inch display with a wide viewing angle from all sides. And it comes with a wide angle 4X lens that also lets you get as close as 1.2 inches. Most importantly, it comes with optical vibration reduction image stabilization. As a result, it lists for US$299, a good bit more than Nikon's other new 10-megapixel camera, the S550. Depending on your picture taking preferences, it may be money well spent.
Wide angle zoom and high end features
With digital camera prices getting ever lower, camera makers are having a hard time differentiating their offerings and justifying price differences. In an effort to be price-competitive, they usually include something special in a model, but usually at the expense of something else. Or you get all the goods and pay more. With the new S600, Nikon chose to let you have your cake and eat it, too, but you pay US$70 more than for the also new 10-megapixel S550.
10mp gets you 3648 x 2736 pixels to play with. That's enough for very large prints and enough to crop pictures and still have enough resolution. Nikon chose a 4X 28-112mm optical zoom for this camera. That means it starts wide and allows wide angle photography, and then magnifies about as much as a standard 3X optical zoom. So those who like to get close may be better off with the S550's 5X zoom that goes from 36 to 180mm. However, wide angle shooting is not this lens's only forte; you can also go as close as 1.2 inches in macro mode.
The S600's LCD display is about as large and good as it gets in this class of camera. It measures a gratifying 2.7 inches diagonally and has reflective coating for optimal outdoor viewing. It is also very sharp with 230k pixel resolution. This makes not only for a more pleasant picture, but you can also see if an image is really sharp when you zoom in.
From a design point of view, the stainless steel-bodied S600 is a little marvel of a camera. It measures a just 3.6 x 2.1 inches and is 0.9 inchs thick. Even with its battery installed, it weighs barely five ounces. It is a clean, elegant design that however gets a bit more complex when it comes to the controls on its backside. Like the Coolpix S510 and the 12-megapixel S700, the S600 has a "rotary multi selector" that combines the functionality of a mode dial with that of a navigation disc into an unmarked multi-function selector disc/ring. This requires a bit of getting used to.
You can use the multi selector ring like a standard navigation disc. You can also use it to toggle through flash, self timer, exposure compensation and macro mode settings by pressing down on its four sides. And to select various options you can rotate it like a mode dial to select various options both in record and playback mode. Sometimes an onscreen representation of the multi selector appears on the LCD, providing labels so you can rotate until you get to the selection you want. The multi selector works well, it's just that it is a bit different from what most digital photographers are used do. The illustration below is from the S700's manual and shows how the selector works when the camera is in recording mode.
Like all recent Coolpix cameras, the S600 benefits from Nikon's EXPEED image processing system that optimizes noise reduction and improves the signal-to-noise ratio. The S600 also has an enhanced face-priority auto focus mode that can now detect and focus on up to 12 faces in a single picture. Red-eye fixing is built into the camera, and there is D-Lighting that compensates for excessive backlight or insufficient flash in images.
Nikon uses optical VR Image Stabilization technology in the S600. Still pictures use an optical vibration reduction which Nikon calls image-sensor shift. This is an active optical shift anti-shape technology that senses movement perpendicular to the panning. So if you pan horizontally, the VR mechanism will reduce vertical shake; if the camera pans vertically, horizontal shake is smoothed out. This can be enabled or disabled in settings.
The S600 has no manual modes. It's either auto or one of the scene modes: Active Child, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close Up, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Back Light, and Panorama Assist.
The elegant stainless steel Nikon Coolpix S600 is a high-end 10-megapixel camera with a terrific 2.7-inch high resolution display that can be seen from all sides and is sunlight-readable. It is very fast both in startup and shutter relase. Its 28-114mm 4X zoom lens allows for wide angle shots, and it also lets you get as close as 1.2 inches in macro mode. Optical vibration reduction results in far viewer blurry pictures. Very high ISO 3200 sensitivity allows shooting in low light conditions. Add to that an advanced face-pririty mode, in-camera red eye fix, an "active child mode" and other goodies and you have a point & shooter that's ready for anything.
Not so much:
- 4X optical wide angle zoom
- Optical image stabilization
- ISO 3200 sensitivity
- Macro as close as 1.2 inches
- Very good sunlight-visible hi-res 2.7 inch screen with wide viewing angle
- Elegant design with brushed metal body
- Small, light and handy
- Full speed VGA movies with sound and time lapse movies
- Rotary mode selector a bit cumbersome