DigitalCameraReview.com
Nikon Coolpix S610 Review
by Jim Keenan -  2/3/2009

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610


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...

FEATURES OVERVIEW
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
PERFORMANCE
IMAGE QUALITY
CONCLUSIONS
SPECIFICATIONS

FEATURES OVERVIEW
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:

Nikon Coolpix S610
Wide Angle

Nikon Coolpix S610
Telephoto

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 Coolpix S610
Original

Nikon Coolpix S610
With 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.


FORM, FIT AND FEEL

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

Overall, the camera feels solid and appears well-built.

Nikon Coolpix S610

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

Display/Viewfinder
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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

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.


PERFORMANCE
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)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 0.02
Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
0.03
Nikon Coolpix S560 0.04
Fujifilm FinePix F60fd 0.05
Nikon Coolpix S610 0.09

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700 0.23
Canon PowerShot SD880 IS
0.32
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.

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate
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
10 1.1 fps
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.

Auto Focus
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.

Flash
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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

Image Stabilization
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).

Battery
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.


IMAGE QUALITY
The S610 produced nice quality images at default settings, with good color rendition and pleasing sharpness.

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610
Standard

Nikon Coolpix S610
Vivid

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.

Nikon Coolpix S610
Pastel

Nikon Coolpix S610
Cyanotype

White Balance
Auto white balance worked well for most light conditions, but predictably produced a warm image under incandescent lighting.

Nikon Coolpix S610
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

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.

Lens Faults
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.

Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 100
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 100, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 200
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 400
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 800
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 1600
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Nikon Coolpix S610
ISO 3200
Nikon Coolpix S610
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

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610
Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610

Nikon Coolpix S610


CONCLUSIONS
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.

Pros:

Cons:


SPECIFICATIONS

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
Sensitivity ISO 100-3200
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
Internal Memory
45 MB
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