By Josh Fate
Timing Test Results
|The Nikon CoolPix S6100 is a compact digicam loaded with features. It has very good performance but the images show a lot noise for all of the ISO settings.|
Pick This Up If...
|You are looking for a versatile compact camera with great features that is as much a conversation piece as a camera.|
Fitting nicely into a pocket or purse, this compact digicam is very easy to carry with you most of the time. While it isn't too hard to operate with just one hand, using the two-handed "pinch" technique is far easier; especially when making changes on the Touch LCD screen. Since all of the controls are done on this 3.0-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen, it will help if you are familiar with a Touch screen device; or be prepared to be very patient. While the menu system is very simple and easy to use, the screen is not near as sensitive as a touch screen cell phone and does take a little time to get used to. Framing and viewing your images on this high-resolution screen is a pleasure, as it shows a great deal of detail and is easy to see in all lighting conditions.
The overall quality of our outdoor images is good, but not great. Exposures and colors are excellent, but the problem comes from the amount of noise that you find when looking at the image at 100%. Even at ISO 80, there is enough noise to soften the sharp edges within the image. While it won't make a difference in prints 8x10 and under, you will see it in larger prints. You will also find edge softness and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range. Speaking of zoom range, the lens found on the S6100 is quite versatile, with a 35mm equivalent of 28-196mm. This allows for great landscape and group portrait shots, while the telephoto end will get you much closer to your subject, or will allow you to single out an individual from a group.
Our indoor sample images show the same great colors and exposures at the lower ISO settings, but the noise we noted outdoors is also seen inside. From ISO 80 to ISO 200 the images are clear and fairly sharp. From ISO 400 on, the noise steadily increases and quickly becomes unacceptable. To help keep the ISO down when shooting inside and in low-light situations, Nikon has included a small TTL flash unit with a range of up to 14ft. at ISO auto. While this seems descent, keep in mind that you will want to stay as close as possible to keep the ISO and noise levels down.
Shooting portraits with the S6100 was easy as the camera does all of the work for you. It quickly detects faces within the frame and does an excellent job setting the white balance and exposure for the detected faces. With the Auto Flash setting, the camera did not produce any redness within the eyes in any of our people photographs.
HD video capture is easy and always available with the S6100. With a dedicated video recording button, the camera is always ready to record, no matter what shooting mode you are using. The video quality captured by the camera is good, especially for a compact point-n-shoot digicam. Captured videos play back smoothly both from the camera and from your computer. Capturing the sound for you videos is a small microphone built into the camera. This mic is very sensitive and picks up all of the sounds that are closest to the camera, including background noises that you might not notice at the time of recording. Be careful where you position yourself when recording to try to avoid these issues.
Powering the S6100 is a 3.7V, 1050mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Nikon claims that the battery is able to provide the camera with enough power to capture up to 210 images (CIPA) on a single charge. During our testing, we captured 130 images and various video clips on a single charge, and did not completely deplete the battery. Just capturing up to 210 images is not a very good battery life, so we highly recommend you add a spare pack to your purcahse to have on hand at all times.
Bottom Line - The Nikon Coolpix S6100 is an appealing compact digicam with 16-Megapixels, a 3.0-inch touch screen and a 7x Nikkor optical zoom lens. While this sounds like a great combination, the 16-Megapixel imaging sensor produces too much image noise at all of the ISO settings, and the Touch LCD screen takes some getting used to; along with it being a big drain on the battery. With a MSRP of US$199.95 US, the Nikon Coolpix S6100 is a very affordable touchscreen camera. However due to its image quality downfalls, a camera like the Canon PowerShot A3300 IS with similar features (no touchscreen) might be a better investment; at about $179.95 US.
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