The Nikon Coolpix S6300 is a nice little camera, offering decent operational speeds and good color accuracy. This camera does have a few drawbacks -- after all, it's not a Nikon dSLR model -- but it's tough to argue with the sub-$200 price.
The Coolpix S6300 will produce some great-looking photographs, as long as you don't attempt to make really large prints. This model has some issues with a slight focus softness, which means that large prints likely won't be as sharp as you'd like to see. As long as you stick with small-sized prints, however, you probably won't notice the softness. This undoubtedly will represent a significant source of frustration for many photographers, as some of them will likely select the S6300 based on its 16-megapixels of resolution, expecting to have plenty of resolution to make large prints.
This unit is squarely aimed at beginners, as it has extremely limited manual-control features. You can set the white balance, exposure valuation, and ISO manually, but there aren't a lot of other options for manually controlling the shot. Consequently, this Nikon model is very easy to use. The S6300's movie mode is not complicated either, as you just press the movie button on the back to start and stop the video recording, which can be shot at a few different resolutions, up to full 1080p HD.
One of the best features of the Coolpix S6300 is its 10x optical zoom lens, which moves through its zoom range pretty quickly for a low-priced model. This camera doesn't start-up as quickly as I'd like to see, but it does respond pretty fast between shots and when using the autofocus -- as long as you aren't using the flash, that is.
The S6300's ability to work quickly shouldn't be too surprising, considering how many different high-speed continuous shooting modes it makes available. Shooting at up to 120 frames per second, even at a limited resolution, can give you some unique photography options that you typically won't find in a beginner camera. You also can shoot at a few different burst modes at full 16-megapixel resolution.
It has a few different special-effect modes that you can use too, such as high-contrast monochrome, nostalgic sepia, and selective color. There's an easy-to-use panoramic mode that allows you to shoot scenes of either 180 degrees or 360 degrees. The photos created in panorama mode aren't always perfect, but it's a fun mode to use.
All of these are handy features that allow you to shoot good-looking photos. In fact, the color accuracy and brightness from the S6300's images are among the best I've seen for a camera in this price range. It's just unfortunate that the S6300 doesn't have a sharper focus for large prints.
The layout of this camera is really easy to use, and I liked the size and positioning of the buttons on the back of the camera. Having a spin ring as part of the four-way button is really handy and should be part of every camera, especially those that don't have a mode dial (which includes the S6300). Because you have to select all of this camera's commands through on-screen menus, you'll appreciate having the spin ring.
Unfortunately, everything about the S6300's layout isn't perfect. Although having a large panel of control buttons on the back of the camera is nice, it does limit the size of the LCD, which measures only 2.7 inches diagonally and which has limited resolution. You may even notice a few problems with glare on the display screen when using this camera outdoors. The LCD is a disappointing aspect of this model
It's difficult to shoot extreme close-ups, as the minimum focusing distance for the lens, even in macro mode, is about 4 inches. This is surprising for a Nikon camera, since they are known for offering excellent macro capabilities on their point-n-shoot cameras.
The position of the built-in flash unit on the S6300 is also problematic. It's located near the upper right corner of the front of the camera, which means you could block the flash unit with fingers from your left hand when holding the camera during normal operation. With the location of the flash, you may see some slight shadows in your images too, as the light from the flash may be blocked a bit by the lens when it extends away from the camera body. You can see this in a few of our sample photos shot at different ISO settings where there's occasionally a slight shadow in the lower right corner of the image.
Having said that about the flash, when you can avoid a shadow from the lens, your flash photos really will look pretty nice -- outside of the soft focus problem, that is. The S6300's ability to create vibrant colors will be evident in your indoor photos shot with the flash. If you choose to bump up the ISO in your low light photos, rather than use the flash, the results will be acceptable up to ISO 400 and ISO 800. The noise in the images becomes pretty significant at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, however, so you may want to avoid these settings unless you have no other options.
Although this may sound like a very minor problem, another design issue is the power button along the top panel of the camera. Rather than being slightly raised, the power button is actually depressed below the level of the top panel. This design ensures that you won't accidentally turn on the camera, but it also makes it very difficult to turn on the camera when you're in a hurry. Futilely stabbing for the power button with your finger while your child is doing something cute -- coupled with the S6300's slow start-up performance -- almost certainly will cause you to miss a few spontaneous photos, which will be frustrating. I'd prefer a larger power button that's easier to turn on in a hurry versus one that likely won't be turned on accidentally.
Somewhat surprisingly for a budget-priced camera, Nikon has included a few better-than-expected features with the S6300. This might not sound like an important thing, but Nikon provided a 5-foot USB cable with this camera, which is really handy when trying to download photos or when charging the camera. It gives you quite a bit of flexibility for positioning the camera and the computer, which is really nice on a cramped desk. Most low-priced models have only a 2-foot USB cable, which limits your options space-wise when connecting to a computer. In addition, this camera has an HDMI slot, making it easier to display your HD movies at their prime resolution; no HDMI or AV cable is included however.
The S6300 is a colorful camera, which also should appeal to beginners. This unit is available in solid blue, red, black, or silver on the front panel and blue or black on the back panel. The lens fully retracts inside the camera, which is a nice feature, as the lens glass is protected when carrying the camera inside a pocket.
Bottom Line - Even though there are a lot of things to like about the Coolpix S6300, when one of the primary drawbacks is soft image quality, it's a tough hurdle to overcome; even for an inexpensive camera. Still, there are enough other nice features with the S6300 that it will work well for some types of beginner-level photographers. The 10x optical zoom lens, easy-to-use features, and bright, realistic colors in images all are great features for beginners. As long as you aren't expecting perfect print quality, the S6300 will give you some nice results. This nice all-around camera would work well for the photographer who simply wants to shoot bright photos with little worry about settings, and who plans to only share the photos on Facebook or via e-mail, rather than making mid- to large-sized prints.