Nikon Coolpix S6150 £159
3rd Oct 2011 | 16:06
Touchscreen control and 7x zoom in a compact camera body
The Nikon Coolpix S6150 sits towards the top of Nikon's Coolpix Style range of compact cameras, and accordingly it packs a rich feature set in a slim, high-class camera body – all for under £160.
At its core is a 16MP CCD sensor and Nikon's EXPEED C2 image processing system that promises enhanced 720p HD video recording and high sensitivity performance.
Motion detection and lens-shift vibration reduction help to compensate for camera shake throughout the 7x zoom range, which offers a useful equivalent focal length of 28-196mm. Meanwhile Nikon's Best Shot Selector automatically selects the sharpest image from up to 10 sequential ones.
ISO can be squeezed to 3200 if you really need to reduce the risk of blurred pictures, but naturally this comes at the expense of detail and colour saturation.
The emphasis is on automatic operation – 19 scene modes and scene auto selector ensure that this Coolpix compact camera will appeal to those who don't want too much asked of them, technically.
A standalone Smart Portrait mode features a range of useful features, such as skin softening, blink warning and the ubiquitous smile shutter.
You can further improve pictures in-camera via the Retouch menu – Nikon's D-Lighting contrast adjustment is probably the one you'll reach for the most.
If you really must, you can draw on your photos and view them in a music-accompanied slideshow, complete with cute animated characters.
Build quality and handling
The Nikon Coolpix S6150 arrives just six months after the launch of the Coolpix S6100 and is near-identical in terms of specs. It's a point-and-shoot camera, with a 3-inch 460k-dot LCD touchscreen being used for the majority of operations.
Scene selection, playback and video recording still have their own dedicated buttons below the thumb grip, and this combination does speed up operation.
The responsiveness of the Nikon Coolpix S6100's touchscreen (or rather, the lack of it) has come in for some criticism, and there are still issues with the S6150's.
In terms of layout, it's well thought out, with controls separated into two distinct menus. A stab on the left of the screen brings up frequently changed functions, including flash mode and exposure compensation, with secondary features accessed by tapping the bottom of the screen.
We would have liked to have seen ISO appear in the quick adjustment menu, but that's nitpicking. The icons used to represent each function are clear and logically laid out, and it doesn't take long to memorise them.
However, the placement of the menu tabs at the edges of the screen can make it awkward for the sausage-fingered among us (and we include ourselves here) to access them cleanly at times. Nikon includes a plastic stylus in the box, and this does speed up the selection process significantly.
The lack of responsiveness is particularly frustrating when you're stroking the screen to browse your pictures during playback. Perhaps we've been spoiled by the feather-light finesse of the Apple iPhone's interface, but if you're going to rely on a touchscreen for the majority of interactions, it needs to be slicker than what Nikon's offering here.
As you'd expect from Nikkor ED glass, the versatile 5-35mm zoom on the Nikon Coolpix S6150 compact camera delivers sharp images with plenty of detail. Images exhibit a hint of grittiness even at the lowest ISO settings when viewed at 100%, although you won't notice it unless printing is pushed to extremes.
Like many compact cameras we've tested, the Nikon Coolpix S6150's noise only becomes significantly degrading when you hit ISO 800. Our bench tests indicate that it holds its own up against the S6200, one step up the Coolpix food chain, until ISO 200.
Colours are generally accurate, occasionally erring on the warm side. The reds in particular look a little hot on the LCD monitor, but appear more subdued in the downloaded files.
720p movies from the Nikon Coolpix S6150 are equally as good, appearing smooth and finely detailed. Filming controls are limited, though – you can only change autofocus and white balance, and switch on wind-noise reduction – and the stereo mic has a tendency to pick up the sound from the zoom.
If you opt for continuous focus it also struggles to keep up when zooming, resulting in blurred footage as the camera hunts for a lock. Exposure stepping is also noticeable when you zoom and pan across brighter/darker areas, too.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon Coolpix S6150, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Nikon Coolpix S6150 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 80, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 100, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 20x (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 16 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 12 (see full image)
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them please click here to read the full article.
Noise and dynamic range
These graphs were produced using data generated by DXO Analyzer.
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using the DXO software.
Signal to noise ratio
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
JPEG images from the Nikon Coolpix S6150 are on a par with those from the Nikon Coolpix S6200, and produce a better signal to noise ration between sensitivities of ISO 100 and 800 than the Samsung WB700 and Canon IXUS SX220 HS.
This chart indicates that the Nikon Coolpix S6150's JPEGs dynamic range is similar to the Samsung WB700 and Nikon Coolpix S6200.
For a full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests, please click here to read the full article.
The Coolpix S6150's Nikkor lens focuses down to 50cm, while the Macro close-up mode allows you to move as close as 3cm.
Auto white balance is pretty reliable, although it has stripped some of the warmth from this scene. You'll still need to hit the presets for more consistent results.
Fringing creeps in along high-contrast edges, such as on the window framework towards the edges of the frame.
You can't change the metering pattern, but you can lock the exposure and focus together with a Touch AF/AE touchscreen option for more precise readings in tricky lighting.
A fixed range auto ISO setting enables you to choose the automatic ISO adjustment from two ranges: ISO 80-400 or ISO 80-800. This means you can make the most of the lower sensitivities while still maintaining the flexibility that automatic selection offers.
There's a typical range of post-shoot creative filters you can apply, including the familiar fisheye and miniature effects, as seen here.
Zoom at 5mm (28mm equivalent)
Zoom at 35mm (196mm equivalent)
For the most part, the Nikon Coolpix S6150 is easy to live with. Start-up times are sharp, and its slim, but sturdy build, rubberised finish, raised lens mount and thumb rest result in confident, assured handling.
The touchscreen, ironically, is less tactile – although it does make pictures glorious to look at.
Image processing time occasionally slows shooting down too, but navigating the menus is a breeze and the zoom travels rapidly through the range. Most importantly, the Nikon Coolpix S6150 is capable of pleasingly detailed, well-balanced images.
The 7x zoom delivers a practical everyday reach, taking in everything from family portraits to tree tops – and the decent image quality comes wrapped up in a solid, good-looking body that's intuitive to use.
The disappointing touchscreen interface could end up frustrating more committed photographers. At 210 shots, battery life isn't class-leading, and the lengthy charge time for a flat cell, coupled with USB-only camera charging, means that you'll probably want to factor a spare battery into the cost.
Overall then, this Coolpix update offers an attractive slice of camera technology for the money. If you're not in the market for more manual control options but want a feature-packed digital camera in the £150 price range, the Nikon Coolpix S6150 certainly represents one of the best value compact cameras around, however the disappointing touchscreen certainly lets it down.