BUILD AND DESIGN
The first thing one notices about the S6000 is its attractive, burnished metal front section. All the parts seem to be of high quality, with excellent fit and finish. The camera, while small and lightweight, feels solid. After two weeks of inhabiting my pocket it did not seem the least bit worn.
The S6000’s buttons and dials work as they should. The camera has solid, tight-fitting coverings over its A/V and HDMI ports. Its wrist strap is well designed, as it is a good size (not too small) and loops over a solid metal ring built into the side of the camera. Its battery/memory card compartment cover, while plastic, seems firmly attached to the camera body, and is closed by a sliding latch. However, on one occasion when I pulled the camera out of my pocket, I noticed that the cover had opened on its own.
The only design issue I found was that, when the camera was in use for a while, the LCD would get slightly warm. I don’t know whether this is normal for Nikon cameras but I’ve never noticed it on any other camera I’ve used.
Ergonomics and Controls
The S6000 has the typical boxy shape of most small cameras. It can be used with one hand, and it has a useful thumb grip at the rear that helps, but most people will probably want to use both hands to get the sharpest possible picture. Also, the metal front of the camera is rather slippery, which makes one-handed shooting more of a problem.
The camera’s front is dominated by its lens, which retracts into the camera body when not in use. There is an auto focus assist/timer lamp next to the lens and a thin flash in the upper corner. Unfortunately, the flash is in a position where it is vulnerable to being blocked by fingers of a left hand steadying the camera. The camera’s front also contains holes for the microphone.
The sides of the S6000 are pretty barren, containing only the wrist strap ring, HDMI port and speaker pinholes.
The bottom portion of the S6000 contains a metal tripod socket, located at the far end of the camera. While placing the socket in the middle is best for proper balance on the tripod, the far end location should not be a problem here considering the light weight of the camera. The bottom also contains the A/V port, which is used for connecting the USB cable, as well as the compartment for the camera’s lithium-ion battery and a memory card. As mentioned, the compartment’s plastic cover, while sturdily attached, uses a sliding latch that doesn’t always keep the cover securely closed.
The top portion of the S6000 contains the on/off button and a good-sized shutter button with a wrap-around zoom lever. I prefer this type of arrangement of the zoom lever, as it makes it easy to operate the zoom just by using a forefinger, even while gripping the camera.
The camera’s rear contains the 2.7-inch LCD monitor. To the right of the monitor is, from top to bottom, a flash charging indicator, a dedicated movie recording button, side-by-side buttons for scene (shooting modes) and playback, a circular controller, and side-by-side menu and delete buttons. The controller rotates, to help moving through menu items and through pictures while in playback mode. The controller can also be used to select functions – pressing up for the flash, down for close-up macros, left for self-timer and right for EV compensation. In the center of the controller is an OK button for selecting menu items.
The S6000 has a limited number of controls, which is a good thing considering that its users are probably interested in a more simple camera, but the controls it does have are very useful and well-placed.
Menus and Modes
The S6000’s menu is activated by pressing the menu button. The menu has three sections, shooting, movie, and settings. The menu items are clearly laid out but do not contain descriptions. While some menu selections are obvious, others are not, so it’s a good idea to read the User’s Manual.
The S6000 allows you to select the shooting mode by pressing the scene button, which offers a choice of four shooting modes: auto, scene, smart portrait and subject tracking. The S6000 also has a movie mode and a playback mode. Here are brief descriptions of the various modes:
- Auto: This is more like a program mode, as it gives the user maximum access to the camera’s menu items. In Auto mode you can select, from the shooting menu, the size of the image (number of megapixels), white balance, metering, continuous shooting, ISO, color options (standard, vivid, black and white, sepia, cyanotype), auto focus area mode and auto focus mode. You also have full access to the movie menu and the settings menu. There is no independent control over aperture or shutter speed.
Black and White
- Scene: You can select from among 16 options, including Auto, in which the camera will automatically select the most appropriate scene mode from landscape, night landscape, backlight, portrait, night portrait and close-up. When not using Auto, you can select the above scene modes plus party/indoor, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, food, museum, fireworks, copy and panorama assist. When selecting from the 16 scene modes, you can only adjust the size of the image.
- Smart Portrait: Offers access to various image modes including skin softening (automatically smoothes the image), smile timer (sets off the shutter when the subject smiles) and blink proof (takes two successive photos and saves the one where the subject’s eyes are open). You can also adjust the size of the image.
- Subject Tracking: User can set the auto focus mode and turn on/off face priority tracking. Image size can also be adjusted.
- Movie: This mode is accessed by pressing the camera’s dedicated movie recording button. There are various options that can be entered on the menu while in Auto shooting mode. You can record movies at 1280×720 (HD), 640×480 and 320×240, all at 30 frames per second. Audio is recorded in stereo. Digital zoom can be used while recording movies, but not optical zoom.
- Playback: This mode is entered by pressing the playback button. In addition to sorting pictures in various ways it provides certain editing functions including D-lighting (adjusting for high contrast photos) and skin softening.
The built-in flash is tiny but does a creditable job. According to Nikon, its coverage is from 1 feet 8 inches to 16 feet (0.5 to 4.9 meters) at wide angle and 3 feet 7 inches to 11 feet (1.1 to 3.6 meters) at maximum telephoto. These figures seem reasonably accurate. The flash has five modes: auto, auto with red-eye reduction, off, fill flash (forced on) and slow sync (combined with a slow shutter speed to brighten the background). The available flash modes vary depending on the shooting mode in effect.
The S6000 has a 2.7-inch LCD monitor with 230,000 dots of resolution and an anti-reflection coating. It can be adjusted to five levels of brightness. The monitor can be set to display different levels of photo information and/or a framing grid. Like all small cameras released within the past year or two, the S6000 lacks a viewfinder. The LCD is reasonably fluid and does a good job, though it’s hard to see in the bright sunshine. The monitor provides very accurate color reproduction, which is not always the case with LCD monitors.