Nikon Coolpix S6
At a Glance
Nikon Coolpix S6 Compact Camera
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Thin model offers Wi-Fi, sharp 3-inch LCD, and an easy-to-use selector dial and thumb pad. But it lacks some common controls.
Nikon's Coolpix S6 presents an attractive package, in more ways than just its appearance. The price tag ($350 as of 6/15/06) is seductive for a pocket-size, 6.0-megapixel, Wi-Fi-equipped camera. And you have to love the roomy, 3-inch LCD: Its razor-sharp resolution and near-180-degree viewing angle make sharing photos in-camera a joy. (The only knock on the display is that it could be brighter, since in high sunlight its images can appear faint--a common problem with digital cameras.)
Equally notable is the S6's slick and innovative settings-selection dial. Though spinning the dial lets you skim though menu options or photos, the dial also doubles as a four-way thumb pad, the nearly ubiquitous control format for small cameras.
The built-in 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi allows you to make wireless photo transfers between the camera and your computer; while the feature is great for the compulsively connected sophisticate, it's probably unfathomable to the typical snapshooter. However, being able to periodically offload a batch of photos means you could take pictures all night at a party and never worry about filling up your media card (as long as you're within Wi-Fi range of your PC, of course).
In my simple tests the S6 required an average of 32 seconds to transfer five 6.0-megapixel photos directly to my Mac iBook G4, whether the camera was sitting 50 feet away (at the other end of my house) or right next to the iBook. The rated range is up to 67 feet, in line of sight. Though I could not get the camera to talk to the iBook through my aged 802.11b router, setting up the connection between camera and computer shouldn't challenge anyone who manages a simple home network, and for everyone else the instructions are nicely detailed. I don't think Wi-Fi is the most compelling reason to buy the S6, though the feature would be handy for when I am traveling with my iBook and have stupidly forgotten the darn USB transfer cable--which I confess has happened several times.
Otherwise, the S6 is a fairly typical pocket-size point-and-shoot. It has a modest collection of exposure controls, including manual white-balance (but no exposure bracketing of any kind), plus 15 scene modes. The only design glitch, as far as I'm concerned, is the tiny zoom switch, placed right next to the shutter release button, where it's easily hit when you trip the shutter.
My photos looked colorful and sharp--pleasing for the most part. The PC World Test Center gave the S6 an overall image-quality score of Good. The camera's marks for color fidelity and exposure accuracy were a bit above average, but it scored slightly below average for sharpness.
Battery life was below average, at 245 shots.