Nikon’s pretty little compact claims to make your photos more beautiful with inbuilt editing features, as well as Wi-Fi. In an age of smartphone cameras, can a compact really compete?
Nikon Coolpix S6500: On the plus side
The Nikon Coolpix S6500 is certainly a glamorous little compact camera. The review sample Nikon supplied me with comes in a very brilliant red colour that, despite my usual tastes in this kind of thing, I rather like. It’s fun, in a very ostentatious way.
Compact cameras at the S6500’s price point are pitched very much at entry level photographers, and in that aspect, the S6500 does well. Controls are well labelled, the 3″ LCD is bright and clear, and the integration of quick effects — ranging from the usual toy camera effects to high contrast and selective colour picking — is easy to understand.
The baseline specifications of the S6500 are decent. It has a 16 megapixel 1/2.3-in CMOS sensor with an f3.1-6.5 12x optical zoom lens in a camera body that weighs in at 153grams. It’s a compact camera, in other words. The S6500 is an evolutionary step for Nikon, with the key selling points being integrated Wi-Fi for mobile device compatibility and a variety of “instant” effects that can be applied right after you take a shot. In-camera effects can be a little on the hokey side — and there’s no shortage of after-market applications that’ll give you more control — but the popularity of Instagram proves there’s a pretty healthy market for automated solutions as well.
On the wireless side, the S6500 can set itself up as a hotspot for wirelessly sharing its shots, as well as allowing a smartphone or tablet (iOS or Android) to act as a remote shutter. Photo sharing works pretty seamlessly, but photo taking… I’ll get to that shortly.
Here’s some sample shots taken with the S6500, untouched from the camera:
Nikon Coolpix S6500: On the minus side
My biggest complaint with the S6500 is in the speed — or lack thereof — of autofocus. This is one slow little compact when it comes to grabbing focus, and that’s a problem for a camera that’s meant to be simple and fun. It’d be unrealistic to expect DSLR-level performance out of a camera at this price range, but far too often the S6500 was left wondering what it was I was trying to focus on for far too long. It’s perfectly feasible to take some nice shots with the S6500, but you’ve got to have patience.
The range of effects that can be added to photos is decent, but the price you pay there is again in speed. Selecting the effect you want is slow. Adding the effect is slow. You’re best off treating this as an absolute post-processing step rather than trying to shoot and alter on the fly… at which point, again, I start wondering if it wouldn’t be easier to fire up Photoshop (or in this price bracket, Photoshop Elements) and do it with more precision from there.
Smartphone integration is an interesting step, and while it adds remote shutter possibilities, it also rather rests on the idea that you’re going to want an optical zoom lens at some point, because the reality for a lot of people is that if you’ve got a smartphone in your pocket, that’s the camera that you’re likely to actually want to use. Unfortunately, the practical application of the S6500’s wireless utility is terribly limited. The companion app is free, and setting up the camera as its own WiFi hotspot is simple enough, but once you’ve done that, all you can do is take photos… which might sound like the point, except that you can’t change any settings on the camera aside from zoom level when remotely shooting. There’s no way to adjust flash, ISO or access any of the scene modes. Whatever mode it’s in when you connect remotely is the way that it’ll be for the entire shoot.
Nikon Coolpix S6500: Pricing
The S6500 retails in Australia at around $200-$250 depending on retailer.
Nikon Coolpix S6500: Alex’s Verdict
Compact cameras sit in an interesting spot at this point in time; largely it’s fair to say that their breakfast, lunch and most of their dinner’s been gobbled up by the inclusion of decent (but not always spectacular) optics in smartphones. They’re not the same thing, because outside of unusual products like Samsung’s Galaxy Camera and Galaxy Zoom, you don’t get niceties like physical zoom controls or indeed optical zoom on smartphones to speak of, but the market has rather solidly spoken. Chances are, if you see somebody taking a quick fun snap out and about, they’ll be doing it on a smartphone, not a compact camera.
That’s the market that the Nikon Coolpix S6500 has to compete with, and while it’s certainly capable of taking decent shots, and indeed altering them in interesting ways if you’re not keen on Photoshop or its alternatives, the slow focus issues meant that all too often while testing, I’d grab the S6500, struggle to take a shot, and give up and reach for a smartphone. That’s not a ringing endorsement of the Nikon Coolpix S6500.