If you're looking for a night-out-on-the-town camera -- assuming said night is well lit -- where superb picture quality and lightning-fast performance take a back seat to looking good and having fun, then the 10-megapixel Nikon Coolpix S60 may slip comfortably into your lifestyle. File the S60 in the 'ooh-ahh' category of ultracompacts: its high-gloss metallic finish comes in six colours, with chrome accents, a metal wave body design, and a 89mm (3.5-inch) touch panel covering its backside in glassy glory. The S60 is available online now for £240.
We're sure that screen adds some weight to the 162g body, too. It just barely classifies as an ultracompact, with dimensions of 23mm deep by 61mm high by 96mm wide. The 5x, f3.8-4.8, 33-165mm-equivalent internally zooming lens sits in the top-left corner on front, making it very easy to put your finger in the shot.
There's no shortage of touch-screen point-and-shoot cameras around, but most of them have at least some physical controls. The Nikon Coolpix S60, however, provides the bare minimum: a power button and a shutter button. While this helps maintain the S60's fashionable look, it also means that any operation besides turning it on and taking a picture requires touching the screen, and unfortunately, the S60's interface proves that not all touch screens are created equal.
Those expecting the snappiness of will be disappointed; this camera just doesn't respond as quickly. We never had any problem getting it to register our taps, either with a finger or when tapping with the included stylus, but the interface frequently lagged in the menu and setting screens. This will frustrate those who regularly change settings; those who usually just point and shoot probably won't care.
Also, when playing back photos you can drag your finger across the screen to the right or left to move to another photo. Just flicking your finger across the screen as you would with the iPhone doesn't always do the trick and will occasionally cause an image to hang or zoom instead.
However, the onscreen shooting controls are as responsive as other touch screens we've tested. Changing between shooting modes (Auto, Scene, and Video) for example is generally fast, as is selecting the flash mode, activating the timer or Smile Shutter, or switching to macro. The one thing Nikon should not have made touch controlled is the zoom. It's responsive, but can be difficult to control and it's too low on the display, making it difficult to take one-handed shots and a bit too easy to switch into the Home menu system.
Now for the fun stuff you can do with the touch screen. If the camera isn't focusing on the subject you want, simply tapping on the subject in the screen will correctly activate the autofocus and it will track the subject and adjust for proper exposure. In the Portrait or Night Portrait scene modes, a one-touch zoom icon appears, letting you quickly zoom focus from waist up to bust up to face only (depending on the distance you are from the subject). You can handwrite and draw on pictures, too, which is not new for touch-screen cameras, but amusing nonetheless and has practical uses as well.
Other notable features include distortion control to correct for distortion (common with compact cameras), optical image stabilization, a rather overzealous warning that pops up if it thinks someone in the photo blinked, auto scene selection from one of seven options, in-camera contrast enhancement and perspective control, and a mini-HDMI port for connecting directly to an HDTV for slide-show playback. Absent are manual controls, with the exception of exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity -- not exactly surprising, given the target user.
The S60 performs adequately, but lags in its class. It takes 0.6 seconds to focus and shoot in bright conditions and 1 second in dim light. Shot-to-shot time falls slightly below average at 2 seconds, but turning on the flash added only 0.2 seconds to the wait. In burst mode, it captured 1.3 frames per second, which isn't great, but we were able to get some impressive action shots all things considered. The only real disadvantage is its 2.4-second time from power on to first shot.
Photo quality is mixed. The photos can be good to very good in well-lit conditions. On one hand, it exhibits accurate colour and exposure. In outdoor shots, colours are very good and natural. Indoors, as with many cameras, the auto white balance produces overly warm results; we recommend either using the camera's manual white balance or the appropriate preset.
However, the lens isn't very good. In addition to overall soft photos, there's quite a bit of pincushion distortion, making the distortion control setting pretty much mandatory (though it's not the default). And while noise is acceptable and fairly typical for its class up to and including ISO 200, at ISO 400 it looks like Nikon simply throws a strong blur across the photo and it gets progressively worse from there. Video quality was typical of its class: 30fps VGA is good for Web use, but not much else, and you can't zoom while shooting.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
There's no denying the Nikon Coolpix S60 is a hot camera design. It would be great if the touch-screen interface was a little snappier in areas and a physical zoom rocker or at least moving the onscreen one higher on the display would be welcomed. Finicky snapshooters will definitely find menu navigation frustrating and the photos not up to par with its price. Of course, if you're itching for a stylish pocket/purse camera for casual use, the S60 is just that.
Additional editing by Cristina Psomadakis