Nikon Coolpix S6200 £180
12th Dec 2011 | 16:04
A stylish 16MP compact with a 10x zoom lens, 720p video and choice of five colours
The Nikon Coolpix S6200 sits near the top of the brand's Style range of digital cameras - between the Coolpix S6150 and the Coolpix S8100 - that aims to combine ease of use with compact, stylish designs.
Headline features include the 10x zoom lens, which has been squeezed into a body just 25.4mm deep, weighing just 160g. Behind this lens lies a 16MP CCD sensor, which feeds image information into a Nikon Expeed C2 image processing chip. This chip promises responsive handling, low noise at high ISO sensitivities and smoother 720p video recording than previous versions.
For low-light picture taking and action stopping high shutter speeds, the ISO can be raised as high as ISO 3200, although at this setting, there will be a loss of detail and colour saturation due to noise reduction.
Being aimed at consumers who prefer ease of use to manual operation, this camera comes equipped with a vast array of automatic scene modes. If choosing the appropriate scene mode sounds like a burden, then an automatic scene mode selector will take care of the hard work for you.
Additional modes for creating selective colour, high key and sepia effect photos are also included.
A smart portrait system aims to take the hassle out of shooting portrait images with blink detection, smile detection and skin softening features.
With such a large zoom range - equivalent to 25-250mm on a 35mm camera - on offer in a compact body, Vibration Reduction (VR) is an obligatory feature. The lens shift VR system is backed up by the high ISO and two additional modes for low-light shooting. The Best Shot Selector and Night Landscape modes both promise to aid achieving sharp shots in low lighting conditions.
Build quality and handling
As far as the design is concerned, there's nothing really groundbreaking on the Nikon Coolpix S6200. Tried and tested control methods result in a familiar user experience. A jog dial on the rear makes navigating menus a little quicker than via push-button methods, and although the buttons are small, they are well enough spaced to operate easily.
The slim body is constructed mostly from high-quality plastics. The white version we reviewed has a lacquered finish to the white front section, which can be quite slippery. Despite the light weight, this camera feels relatively durable. Even so, a protective case may be a sound investment, because the glossy finish will mark easily if placed in a pocket with keys or loose change.
Because there's no finger grip on the front to help secure a hold over the camera, handling can take a little time to get used to, especially if you prefer to use the camera with one hand. A small area to rest your thumb is provided between the screen and video recording button. This Record button is raised slightly, which effectively prevents it being pressed accidentally during use.
The speed of operation is good as far as the controls and menus are concerned. Menus are quick to load and easy to navigate, especially those for scene program modes, which are very clearly laid out.
However, picture-taking and autofocus leave plenty of room for improvement. Autofocus is slow at best, even in relatively good light, and especially at the telephoto end of the zoom. Many of the shots we took during lacked sharpness, with the camera confirming focus incorrectly. Although this happens with both stationary and moving subjects, it hampers the camera's ability to take sharp shots of anything that isn't static.
At 230,000 dots, the 2.7-inch screen isn't the highest resolution or largest on the market at the moment. Still, the screen is clear and reasonably easy to see in bright conditions.
By using a CCD sensor instead of the latest backlit CMOS sensors found in many of the latest compact digital cameras, the Nikon Coolpix S6200 isn't a trailblazer when it comes to producing quality images at high sensitivities.
Images at low sensitivities are chock full of detail, and although a little noise can be seen in the shadows, the image quality is still very good. Raising the sensitivity to ISO400 results in slight softening of fine details, but this is only noticeable on close examination, and images taken at this setting will still produce decent prints.
Increasing the sensitivity further results in increases softening due to noise reduction, but the noise doesn't begin to become intrusive until ISO1600, where colour saturation takes a noticeable drop, and the noise present becomes more granular.
Images taken at the highest setting of ISO3200 are really quite noisy and are probably best kept for sharing at small sizes on the web, or for those times when there is no alternative but to use such a high sensitivity.
Colours could be described more as vibrant than accurate, using default settings. Reds especially are very strong, whereas blues and green appear more subdued. There are different colour setting available for those who like their colours more or less vibrant than the default settings produce.
The 720p videos recorded by the Nikon Coolpix S6200 are clear, sharp and smooth. A mini HDMI port connection is provided, so footage can be watched on a high definition television (HD TV) straight from the camera.
Options for recording are limited, with controls for resolution, autofocus and wind noise reduction being the only options provided. Moving the camera from light to dark and dark to light areas shows up a lag in exposure adjustment, and the continuous autofocus setting struggles to keep up with the slowest moving subjects, especially if using the zoom while recording.
Image quality and resolution
The Nikon Coolpix S6200 showed good results for signal to noise ratio at the lower end of the sensitivity scale. However, at ISO 800 and above this performance drops steeply, making noise an issue.
Dynamic range, while on par with the Samsung WB700, is lower than both the Canon IXUS 220 HS and Nikon Coolpix S8200. However, the results upto ISO 400 still show that it can capture shadow and highlight detail well.
As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon Coolpix S6200, 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 S6200 is capable of resolving up to around 22 (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: 22 (see full image)
ISO 200, score: 22 (see full image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (see full image)
ISO 800, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 1600, score: 18 (see full image)
ISO 3200, score: 16 (see full image)
Noise and dynamic range
We used to Nikon Coolpix S6200 to shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using the DXO software to generate the date to produce the graphs below.
Signal to noise ratio
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
JPEG images from the Nikon Coolpix S6200 show that the camera handles noise well at lower sensitivities. At sensitivitis of ISO 800 and above the performance drops, with both the Nikon Coolpix S8200 and Canon Powershot 220 HSshowing better results from this value for signal to noise ratio.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them please click here to read the full article.
For a full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests, please click here to read the full article.
The Selective Colour mode creates a popular effect in-camera
The Selective Colour mode works well on close-ups as well as landscape scenes
The Selective Colour mode can be as subtle or bold as you like, depending on your shot
Exposures are generally well-balanced
Exposures are generally well-balanced
The 250mm equivalent telephoto setting is useful for picking out distant details
The 25mm equivalent wide angle is great for capturing wider scenes
Macro performance is reasonably good, and the results are sharp
The 10x zoom lens produces images that are sharp from edge to edge
When the lens is pre-focused, shutter lag is minimal
Colours are vibrant with the default settings
The Nikon Coolpix S6200 is a pleasant little compact camera with a broad range of features. The ease with which it can be operated will suit those looking for a convenient pocket camera that requires little setting up to take well-exposed, detailed pictures.
The 10x zoom lens covers a very useful range, equivalent to 25-250mm on a 35mm camera. This is wrapped up in a smart, compact shell that feels surprisingly robust and is easy to use.
Slow autofocus hampers our overall impression of the camera, as does the lack of a finger grip, which can make it difficult to hold the 10x zoom steady.
There are a few weak points, such as the slow and unreliable autofocus, that bring the overall impression of this stylish little camera down. But with a little patience and care to ensure the Nikon Coolpix S6200 is focusing properly, you'll be rewarded with colourful, detailed, well-exposed shots, much of the time.