With Nikon still showing the S600 (a camera that reached market in March 2008) on their U.S. website, a quick look at the specs of it and the new Nikon Coolpix S610 leads to the conclusion that this model appears to be a refreshed-for-the-market S600 with a 3.0 inch monitor. Aside from the monitor, a differently contoured metal body and a lower price, the specs of these two read amazingly alike.
One clue may be that Nikon has also launched a Wi-Fi equipped version of this camera, the more popular S610c. But lacking this unique file transfer functionality, is our standard S610 a slightly re-packaged S600, or has Nikon broken some new ground that's not readily apparent? Let's find out...
The S610 features a 10 megapixel sensor, 3.0 inch LCD monitor, optical Vibration Reduction (stabilization), a nominal ISO sensitivity range from 100 to 3200 and a 4x optical zoom lens that provides a 28 to 112mm focal range. Here's what that focal range looks like in the real world:
In addition, there's also automatic in-camera red-eye correction, face-priority auto focus and Nikon's post-processing D-Lighting tool. The camera has Nikon's new EXPEED processor technology and there are approximately 45MB of internal memory – SD/SDHC memory media can also be accepted. Here are before and after shots using D-Lighting.
Nikon includes a USB cable, A/V cable, wrist strap, rechargeable battery and charger, and CD-ROM software with each camera.
There are six primary shooting modes:
Finally, as noted in the introduction, the S610 shares its basic platform with a Wi-Fi enabled version – the S610c. Our test unit for this review, however, was the standard, non-wireless version.
For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.
Styling and Build Quality
The S610 is a typical compact digital, sized about the same as a pack of cigarettes or a small deck of cards.
The rectangular metal S610 body is a bit more angular than the 600 but generally shares the overall rounded edge shape of the earlier model.
Overall, the camera feels solid and appears well-built.
Ergonomics and Interface
Even with the addition of the larger monitor, the camera back is not cluttered and there is ample spacing between the few controls found here.
Flash, exposure compensation, the self timer and macro shooting mode may be accessed via the rotary multi-selector on the camera back; other functions require the user to proceed via internal menus.
The 3.0 inch LCD monitor is of 230,000 dot composition and adjustable for five levels of brightness. It was a bit better than most monitors in the class with bright outdoor lighting conditions (probably due to its size), but still was not easy to use in that light.
There's no problem with image composition or review in good lighting conditions. Coverage is listed as 100 percent for both image capture and playback.
There is no optical viewfinder.
The S600 offered a mixed bag of results in our performance categories, so I was hoping to see better results with the newer camera. Unfortunately, the hoped-for improvements didn't materialize across the board.
Timings and Shutter Lag
The S610 monitor becomes active about 0.7 seconds or less after power-up, but it takes a bit over two seconds for the focus area icon to come on screen, so the soonest I was able to acquire focus ran about 2.7 seconds. My quickest time for getting off a shot after power-up was about 3.4 seconds. Single shot-to-shot times (shoot, write, acquire focus and shoot) ran about 3.3 seconds.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||0.02|
|Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
|Nikon Coolpix S560||0.04|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.05|
|Nikon Coolpix S610||0.09|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||0.23|
|Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
|Nikon Coolpix S610||0.35|
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||0.42|
|Nikon Coolpix S560||0.61|
Focus acquisition in good light ran about 0.35 seconds, better than the old camera. The S610 is quite quick to AF in good conditions, but then it gives some time back with a long-ish shutter lag of about 0.09 seconds, slower than before. Shooting the S610 along with the S560 became an exercise in consciously having to remember to hold the 610 steady longer – with the 560 you could full push and move on because the shot was taken. Not so with the S610. The disparity was most apparent because I was switching back and forth between the two cameras – an S610 by itself shoots fairly quickly, but not in the same league with the S560 (and some competitors). Given how similar the specs on these cameras seem, it's to see how different they feel in the field: clearly, not all of that technology "under the hood" is as similar as it seems.
|Fujifilm FinePix F60fd||3||2.5 fps|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700||10||1.6 fps|
|Canon PowerShot SD880 IS||∞||1.4 fps|
|Nikon Coolpix S610
|Nikon Coolpix S560||5||0.7 fps|
Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.), as tested in our studio. "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Nikon claims a continuous shooting rate of "up to one fps" at the 10 megapixel "normal" image quality setting – I got 11 such images in eight seconds using a Lexar 133x memory card. In our lab test at the highest quality setting, the S610 was able to do better than expected, cranking out ten frames in just under nine seconds with a high-speed card before needing a break.
There are four AF area options available in the S610 – face priority (the default) which will focus on a face it detects (or the closest face in the event of multiple faces); auto, which selects the closest subject from 9 focus areas; manual, in which the user selects one of 99 focus areas, and center, with the camera focusing on the center of the frame. Single (default) or continuous AF modes may be designated by the user – single focuses when the shutter button is pressed halfway and locks at this position during shooting; continuous focuses continuously until focus is acquired and locked.
There is an AF assist illuminator with a range of about nine feet, ten inches at wide angle and five feet at telephoto, both with auto ISO; AF assist is not available with certain scene modes.
Lens and Zoom
The 4X zoom on the S610 covers a 35mm film equivalent focal range of 28 to 112mm – fairly wide and fast on the wide end (f/2.7), and covering the 105mm focal length that many 35mm shooters favor for portrait work. There's not enough lens at the telephoto end to make a difference with distant subjects, but the camera fits the general template of a good basic shooter. The lens will focus as close as 20 inches at wide angle and 24 inches at telephoto, although my experience seemed to show the lens doing better than advertised at the wide end. Macro distance is 1.2 inches.
There is a 4x digital zoom that may be disabled via internal menu.
The S610 flash is rated for distances as far as 26 feet at wide angle, and just over 11 feet at telephoto, both with auto ISO, which can set ISO sensitivities between 100 and 1600. Color rendition was good with the flash, and recycle times with a fully charged battery are not bad – as quickly as about three seconds at wide angle with a nearby subject, and in the six to seven second range with telephoto and dim conditions leading to a full (or nearly full) discharge.
The S610 features optical stabilization (VR) that is available for both still images and movies. VR may be disabled via internal menu.
The camera is also equipped with "motion detection" for still image capture, but this feature is best left disabled since it operates principally by ramping up ISO sensitivities to keep shutter speeds higher (at the expense of increased ISO noise in the images).
Nikon rates the S610 battery for 290 shots, but my experience suggested that figure might be a bit high. It would be prudent to carry a spare for all-day sessions – a nearly discharged battery takes a couple of hours to fully charge.
Both the S560 (which I tested concurrently with the S610) and the S610 demonstrated a nice balance to their images right out of the box. Some Nikon compacts (and other brands as well) have at times produced shots that just seemed a bit off from what my eye considered optimum, and with these primarily automatic cameras limiting user inputs, there wasn't much in the way of in-camera adjustment to fix the perceived deficiencies without post processing in a computer. There's not much I'd change with the image quality of either of these cameras.
Exposure, Processing, and Color
The S610 offers matrix or center weighted metering options for exposure calculation, with matrix the default setting. I used matrix for the shots in this review, and it proved suitable for a wide variety of lighting conditions. Like most cameras in this class, the S610 can lose some highlights in high contrast light/dark images, but overall it performed quite well with difficult exposure situations.
Colors in the S610 were generally rendered accurately, and like the S560 there was not much difference in the Standard (default) and Vivid color settings. The Pastel and Cyanotype color options are two variants you don't run across every day.
Auto white balance worked well for most light conditions, but predictably produced a warm image under incandescent lighting.
The camera also provides preset daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy and flash white balance settings, as well as a custom setting that can be user-tailored to existing conditions.
Overall lens performance in the S610 was good – there is barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from center of image) present at the wide angle end, but no pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward center of image) at the telephoto end. There was some softening of the images in the corners at wide angle, and less so at telephoto, but the edges stayed quite sharp in relation to the image center. There is also some chromic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast boundary areas) that was fairly pronounced in some instances – a shot of tree limbs and leaves against a blue sky, for example – while other shots looked fairly clean. Not the worst performance I've seen, but not as good as the similar Coolpix S560.
Sensitivity and Noise
Nikon has broken no new ground here, nor would we expect them to given the specs for the sensor. ISO 100 and 200 crops are fairly close, although 200 shows a bit more noise. ISO 400 shows a bit more degradation, but 800 sees a definite downturn and 1600 continues the slide. ISO 3200 is best left for those instances when nothing else is viable.
ISO 100, 100% crop
ISO 200, 100% crop
ISO 400, 100% crop
ISO 800, 100% crop
ISO 1600, 100% crop
ISO 3200, 100% crop
Full frame shots look better across the board and demonstrate that while the crops may tell the story under a microscope as it were, the real world images can tolerate the higher ISOs much better, particularly if image size is being kept on the smaller end of the print spectrum.
All in all, the S610 performs like most cameras in the class with regard to noise performance.
Additional Sample Images
Looking at the spec sheets of the S610 and the camera it followed (at least in the numerical sequence), it seemed perhaps Nikon wanted to offer a 10 megapixel compact S-class camera with a 3.0 inch monitor for this market segment – to provide a platform for its wireless camera development if nothing else. The S600 isn't a year old on the market, and aside from the larger monitor and a couple of shooting modes it pretty much matches hardware with the S610. Whatever the reason(s) for it coming out, the S610 offers good image and color quality and a fast AF acquisition time in good light, along with ISO performance on a par with most competitors in the class. This is tempered by shutter lag that is a disappointment – it's not overly bad, but as the S560 demonstrates, it could be much better.
Nikon has clearly fashioned another compact for folks who don't want to sweat the details of image capture. There are some user-defined settings available for those who care, and for those who don't the camera does an admirable job right out of the box. There probably aren't enough changes incorporated into the S610 to attract a lot of S600 users, but someone looking for their first compact or moving into a larger resolution camera could do worse than the S610.
|Sensor||10.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD|
|Lens/Zoom||4x (28-112mm) zoom, f/2.7-5.8|
|LCD/Viewfinder||3.0", 230K-dot TFT LCD|
|Shutter Speed||4-1/1500 seconds
|Shooting Modes||Auto, Scene, Auto Scene Selector, Active Child, Smile, Movie
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-Up, Food, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy, Backlight, Panorama Assist
|White Balance Settings||Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Preset Manual, Auto, Daylight, Cloudy|
|Metering Modes||Matrix, Center-Weighted
|Focus Modes||Auto, Center, Manual, Face Priority
|Drive Modes||Single, Continuous, Best Shot Selector
|Flash Modes||Auto, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced Off
|Self Timer Settings
||10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
|Memory Formats||SD, SDHC
|File Formats||JPEG, AVI
|Max. Image Size||3648x2736|
|Max. Video Size
||640x480, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||No
|Battery||Rechargeable lithium-ion, 290 shots|
|Connections||USB 2.0, AV output, DC input|
|Additional Features||Vibration Reduction image stabilization, D-Lighting, In-Camera Red-Eye Fix|
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