Nikon Coolpix S6300 £169.99
18th Oct 2012 | 15:20
10x optical zoom, Full HD video recording and a 16MP sensor
Introduced in February alongside the Nikon Coolpix S9300, as part of a duo of slim superzoom compact cameras, the Nikon Coolpix S6300's headline feature is its 10x optical zoom lens.
In 35mm equivalent terms, that sees the optic starting at 25mm at its widest point, rising all the way up to 250mm. That's quite a lot of bang for your buck, and should make this an ideal travelling companion for the casual photographer.
There's also a 4x digital zoom option available, which theoretically boosts its capability up to 1000mm in 35mm equivalent terms.
Along with that lens, there's a back illuminated 16 million pixel, 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor, which promises to deliver a lot of detail. Full HD video recording is available, along with sensitivity up to ISO 3200, both delivered by the EXPEED C2 processing engine housed inside the camera.
By default, the camera shoots in fully automatic mode. But there's also the option to select from 19 different scene modes, which includes panoramic mode and Auto HDR (high dynamic range) mode.
Creative photographers have also been catered for, with a selection of digital filters, including High Contrast Monochrome, Low Key and Nostalgic Sepia. Images can also be altered after the shot has been taken via the Playback menu. That includes retouching, adding another digital filter, cropping and rotating them.
A number of continuous shooting options are available, all designed to help capture difficult moments. You can choose to shoot at full resolution at up to 6fps in Continuous H mode, or for really difficult subjects, you can shoot at Continuous 120fps. Be aware that this reduces image resolution right down to VGA size, so it's not recommended for the majority of shooting scenarios.
Finally, you can shoot with Best Shot Selector mode enabled, which fires off a burst of images and saves what the camera considers to be the best. This feature keeps images at whichever resolution you wish to shoot at, all the way up to the highest 16 million pixels.
There's a 99-point autofocus system included on the camera. You can leave the camera to decide which to use for you, or unusually for a compact camera in this price bracket, you can manually choose a focus point for yourself.
In standard focusing mode, the lens can focus from as close as 50cm at the widest angle, rising up to around 1 metre at the telephoto at the lens. Using macro mode enables focusing as close as approximately 10cm at the wide-angle position.
Build quality and handling
The Nikon Coolpix S6300 has a very sleek and stylish design, with rounded edges adding to its overall polished look. It's a very slim camera, making it a good size for slipping into a pocket or a handbag. It's impressive that a 10x optical zoom lens is able to squeeze itself into the small body of the camera.
Start-up is relatively quick, with powering on and focusing all taking place within roughly a second. If left alone for a while, the camera will go into a 'sleep' mode. Rousing it from this can take longer than powering it on in the first place, so it's advisable to switch it off altogether if you think you won't be shooting for a few minutes.
Zooming is done via a ring-switch around the shutter release button. This feels reasonably sturdy, and the zooming action itself is smooth and quick. Digital zooming is a little slower, but this is something common of most cameras with this functionality.
The shutter release button feels pretty sturdy, and it's not so flimsy as to accidentally press it down when trying to half-press the shutter to lock focus. There's no finger grip on the front of the camera, but holding it one-handed still feels relatively secure, especially with a studded thumb rest on the back of the camera to aid grip.
There's not a huge number of buttons on the back of the camera, but those that are present are well laid out. A dedicated movie button sits next to the thumb rest in a handy position for quickly capturing films.
A scroll dial doubles up as four way directional arrows, which can be used for various functions. Commonly used settings, such as exposure compensation, macro mode and flash can be accessed by pressing the directional keys, while the scroll dial can be used for navigating through menus.
A camera/scene button is the place to access the different kinds of shooting mode. Here you can go from fully automatic, to scene modes, to digital filter modes, and so on.
For more extensive settings changes, you need to hit the Menu button. Only when shooting in fully automatic does this bring up the full menu - when using other settings, only the resolution of images can be altered via the Menu button.
The menu itself is not full of pages of hundreds of different settings, thankfully, and everything is pretty much where you'd expect it to be. Since the intended audience for this camera is very much novice point-and-shooters, there is very little in the way of manual changes.
You can select the sensitivity (ISO), exposure compensation, white balance, autofocus mode and AF area mode. Unusually for a compact camera at this level, you can elect to manually set the AF point. To do this, choose Manual from the AF area mode menu.
Once back in shooting mode, hit the central OK button to bring up a box that can be moved using the scroll dial or directional areas to correspond with the AF point you wish to use.
A number of editing options are available via the Playback menu, which can be accessed by pressing the menu button while looking at an image. Here you can perform a Quick Retouch, crop an image, soften skin or add filter effects.
It's handy to have these options here, and it potentially reduces the time you might spend at the computer editing images.
Overall, we have been very pleased with the images produced by the Nikon Coolpix S6300. Pictures appear sharp, with lots of detail and with vibrant colours that aren't overly saturated.
The 16 megapixel sensor is able to capture an impressive amount of detail, making it good for a variety of different subjects.
A 10x optical zoom is very flexible for a camera that fits comfortably in a pocket. Images shot at the telephoto end of the zoom lens are sharp, with lens shift vibration reduction seeming to do a good job of keeping blur from camera-shake to a minimum.
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There's a noticeable loss in quality when using the digital zoom to get even closer to a subject, but this is to be expected. We'd only recommend using the digital zoom if absolutely necessary.
Autofocus is quick and, in the majority of cases, accurate. When shooting with automatic AF point detection, the Nikon Coolpix S6300 does a reasonably good job of judging which area of the scene should be focused on. Having the ability to switch to manual AF selection is a fantastic addition, and is especially useful for shooting subjects such as macro or portraits.
Macro focusing is only promised from as close as 10cm, but we found on several occasions that the camera was able to focus closer than that, making this particularly useful for shooting frame-filling subjects such as flowers. When shooting macro images, an attractive shallow depth of field is achieved, with a smooth loss of detail producing very pleasing effects.
Generally, metering is very good, even when presented with mixed lighting conditions. There's no opportunity to change the metering mode, with the camera using 256-segment Matrix (sometimes known as evaluative, mixed or general metering) in the majority of situations, only changing to partial or spot metering when engaging the digital zoom.
Examining images from the Nikon Coolpix S6300 at 100%, or actual pixel size, does reveal some smoothing in areas where noise reduction has obviously been applied. However, given the unlikelihood of users of this camera wishing to make very large prints, we can't see this being particularly problematic. Loss of detail is hardly noticeable when viewing images at A4 or under, or at web sizes.
Many modern compact cameras include artistic digital filters, and the Nikon S6300 is no different. There's a couple of good filters here, a particularly effective one being High Contrast monochrome.
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Other manufacturers provide a more extensive range of filters, so unfortunately this camera is not particularly special in that respect. It's also a little surprising to see the almost ubiquitous Miniature effect missing from the shooting menu, since that seems to be a selling point of many other cameras.
For those not satisfied with the filters offered in the shooting menu, there are others that can be applied post-capture. These include Fish-eye and the aforementioned Miniature. With very little control over the parameters of these filters, don't expect anything too amazing to result from their use.
Panoramic mode is something that is starting to appear in more and more compact cameras. This enables an ultra-wide angle image to be produced by sweeping the camera across a scene. There are different ways this can be achieved. On the Nikon Coolpix S6300, a video is shot as the camera is moved across the scene, with the resulting wide image extracted from that.
Sony has been a pioneer of this technology, and we're sad to say that this Nikon version isn't particularly well executed. The low-resolution image looks reasonable when viewed at web sizes, but when increasing even slightly, you can see many examples of smoothing and loss of quality. It also fails to stitch correctly on occasion.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Nikon Coolpix S6300, 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 125 the Nikon Coolpix S6300 is capable of resolving up to around 18 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
ISO 125, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 16 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 14 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
Here we compare the Nikon Coolpix S6300 with the Nikon S6400, Sony W690 and Panasonic FS45.
JPEG signal to noise ratio
These results show that the Nikon Coolpix S6300's JPEG files have a stronger signal to noise ratio than those from the Nikon S6400, Sony W690 and Panasonic FS45, throughout the sensitivity range. The Sony produces the second best results at ISO 200-400, before tailing off later. The Panasonic is the next best, while the Nikon S6400 is the least impressive.
JPEG dynamic range
In terms of dynamic range, JPEGs from the Nikon Coolpix S6300 are again the strongest. Again, the Sony W690 produces similarly strong results at ISO 200-400, before tailing off. This time the Nikon S6400 is the nest strongest, and the Panasonic FS45 is weakest.
Lots of detail can be captured by the Nikon Coolpix S6300's 16 million-pixel sensor, while the 10x optical zoom offers lots of flexibility.
Macro focusing is promised from around 10cm, but we found many occasions where the camera was able to lock onto much closer subjects.
Colours captured by the Nikon Coolpix S6300 are bright and vibrant without being over the top. This was also shot in mixed lighting conditions, with the camera's metering doing a good job of providing a decent exposure.
Macro focusing enables you to create images with a pleasing depth of field effect. Since this is quite a basic model, you don't have the opportunity to adjust the aperture.
Here you can see a panoramic image mode. If you look at the full size image, you'll see there's quite a dramatic drop in quality, and there are places where the image hasn't been stitched together correctly.
Here we can see the full extent of the Nikon Coolpix S6300's zoom range. Starting at 25mm (equivalent), the lens can zoom in 10x, to 250mm (equivalent). Activating the digital zoom results in a loss of quality, but it does provide a whopping 1000mm equivalent focal length.
The Nikon S6300 provides a small number of filters to experiment with. These are applied to the image as it is taken, and as such cannot be removed.
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 125 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
The Nikon Coolpix S6300 is a good option for casual users looking for a versatile camera that can be slipped into a pocket.
Images are bright and colourful, and the 10x optical zoom is very flexible for shooting far away subjects.
There's nothing hugely wrong with this camera, though neither is it particularly groundbreaking. That back illuminated 16 million pixel, 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor does a reasonable job of capturing detail without pushing and boundaries.
The 10x optical zoom in a camera of this small size is great, making this a good option for holidays and nights out.
The digital filter effects could be a little bit more creative, but as it is they're a bit of a letdown.
Pushing aside a few minor niggles, mainly to do with options such as the panorama mode, the Nikon Coolpix S6300 is a solid performing compact camera that will please consumers. Images are generally well exposed, have natural colours straight from the camera and there's little sign of noise.