Roughly the same size (though twice as thick) as the revolutionary iPhone, the appearance and ergonomics of Nikon’s Coolpix S60 ($349) will be reassuringly familiar to Apple aficionados. While the S60 comes equipped with a somewhat standard feature set, what makes it an easy, fun camera to shoot and show is its intuitive and responsive 3.5-inch touchscreen viewfinder.
The all-metal S60 is a handsome device (available in six colors), and its curved, trapezoidal body is easy to hold and to stand upright when placed on a flat surface. The internal 5X zoom lens is protected by a sliding metal flap. However, it’s too easy to accidentally put your fingers over the lens in upper left corner. A USB, video, and optional AC adapter port is on the bottom and an HDTV port is on the left side of the camera. Incidentally, the tripod screw socket is metal, not plastic like many other digital cameras.
Aside from the power and shutter buttons, all other controls are accessed and executed through the S60’s tap-and-slide touchscreen. While its 230,000-pixel resolution is less than half that of Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-T700’s 3.5-inch touchscreen, the S60’s display is sharp, colorful, and highly responsive, and its antiglare surface makes it viewable in all but direct sunlight. The menus are simple and intuitive, and the somewhat terse help captions adequately explain what a given function or scene mode does and when to use it.
Taking pictures and videos with the S60 takes only a tap or a swipe on the touchscreen to zoom, switch among shooting modes, and activate different settings. If you’re in playback, setup, or menu mode and you see a must-have shot, simply press the shutter halfway to return to the preselected shooting mode instantly.
Using the touchscreen, a slide of the finger pages through the images, a tap activates either a video or magnifies the picture, and running your finger over the screen correspondingly moves the enlarged image for closer viewing. However, the screen is so sensitive that you can accidentally enlarge the image when you intend to flip to the next one.
Besides the usual playback options, the S60 provides several built-in editing tools. You can draw or make notes, stretch or trim, enhance brightness and contrast, create frames or affix stamps, and either intensify colors or change them to sepia or monochrome. And you can correct perspective distortion. Unfortunately, there’s no virtual keyboard, which would be useful for editing image file names and adding printed captions.
The S60 offers 8 resolution/quality/aspect ratio settings, 19 scene modes, 4 video size/speeds, ±2-stop exposure compensation, ISO 64 to 3200 (plus Auto), various white balances and flash modes, smile and face detection, continuous shooting (1.2 frames per second), Best Shot Selector, 16-image Multi-shot, or time-lapse photography at intervals between 30 seconds and 60 minutes per frame. Instead of offering manual focus, the touchscreen focuses on wherever you tap the screen; it’s fast and surprisingly easy to use.
The S60 doesn’t have the wireless connectivity available on other Nikon models. While it features optical antishake for stills, video image stabilization is electronic, which tends to lower image quality. And although autofocus works while recording video, only the 2X electronic zoom can be used, not the 5X optical zoom. With an optional HMDI cable (sold separately), the S60 is capable of displaying pictures and videos on a 720p or 1080i HDTV, but its highest video resolution is only 640 x 480, so it can’t take full advantage of your HDTV’s picture quality.
The S60 lacks a number of options, such as selectable shutter speeds and f-stops (though they’re displayed when the shutter is pressed halfway), a histogram and flash compensation, burst mode and bracketing, and it has only a handful of sound alert and customizable startup options.
Image Quality and Speed
The S60’s images were very good: crisp, well exposed and detailed, with pleasing color and contrast. Although highlights sparkle, there was little detail in the blacks. High ISO shots were disappointingly noisy. Also, the S60 is no speed demon, taking almost 4 seconds to power up and 3.2 seconds between shots with flash enabled. Shutter lag was noticeable, as it is with most ultra-slim point-and-shoots.
At first we feared the power-hungry touchscreen would greatly reduce battery life. Nikon claims the S60 averages 180 shots per charge. Our battery test yielded 196 stills, plus approximately 10 minutes of video, on a single charge—more than enough juice for most users. And you can swap in a fresh, optional battery in seconds.
The $349 Nikon Coolpix S60 is an excellent, truly fun-to-use point-and-shoot camera that will appeal to the hipster crowd. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T700, which costs $50 more, has a 3.5-inch touchscreen with a much higher resolution and 4GB of built-in memory; however, it’s more sluggish than the S60, whose display is more responsive and iPhone-like. It may not be the fastest or the highest quality of its peers, but the Coolpix S60 makes good use of its touchscreen.