The Coolpix S6300 is available now, in black, silver, blue, and red, for a MSRP of $199.95.

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Box Photo

The S6300's lens offers a useful 10x zoom range, similar to 25-250mm in film terms. It has a relatively narrow aperture, meaning pretty much everything will be in focus all the time. The lens does feature vibration reduction, which will help counteract camera shake and prevent blurred images when shooting at low shutter speeds.

The sensor is a 16-megapixel backside-illuminated model, though it's just 1/2.3 inches on the diagonal. That makes it one of the smallest sensors out there today, and makes packing 16 megapixels a dicey proposition with regard to image noise.

At 2.7 inches on the diagonal and a display resolution of 230,000 dots, the S6300's LCD is a pretty weak effort. The low resolution makes it difficult to determine the sharpness of your shots, or the exact area in focus, though as we've suggested pretty much everything will be in focus with this sensor/lens combo. The screen is bright enough, but it's difficult to see in bright outdoor light, and in dimmer lighting it tends to struggle to keep up with motion.

The built-in flash is a tiny, weak unit, but it should nevertheless be good enough for party snaps. Nikon claims the flash should cover everything from about 1.5 feet to 18 feet on the wide end and just over 3 feet to 10 feet on the telephoto, and in our experience that was pretty much correct.

Flash Photo

The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.

Unexpectedly for a bargain basement camera, the S6300 includes both USB and mini-HDMI ports, meaning you can play video clips directly to your HDTV or computer monitor (assuming it, too, has HDMI input). A mini-HDMI cable is not included, so be sure to pick one up if you're interested in making use of the port.

The S6300 uses a proprietary lithium ion battery pack: model number EN-EL12. This cell is compatible with many of Nikon's current and past Coolpix models, so if you're upgrading from an earlier Nikon, you might want to check out their compatibility page. You might just have an extra battery already!

Battery Photo

Like most digital cameras these days, the S6300 is compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. It does not ship with one (though it does have a measly 25mb of internal memory), so be sure to order one or pick it up in-store when you get the camera.

Memory Photo

The K2000 accepts inexpensive, easy to find SD cards.

Media Photo

Despite its 16-megapixel sensor and 10x zoom range, the images the S6300 produces are decidedly mediocre. Sharpness is best at full wide angle, but it's never great and it relies heavily on in-camera oversharpening. Chromatic aberrations are a real problem, leaving any high-contrast object with annoying purple or cyan fringing. The 10x zoom is certainly useful, but sadly image quality is the worst at the long end of the range. In bright light, a tendency toward overexposure can ruin many shots. Low-light shooting suffers from over-aggressive noise reduction. Video is actually pretty good in bright light, but when it gets dim, things get grim.

At its widest focal length, the Coolpix S6300 produces pretty sharp results, albeit with moderate-to-strong in-camera software sharpening applied (up to 35% above "normal"). As you zoom in toward middle focal lengths, resolution figures start to drop pretty sharply. The edges in particular are awful, though the center holds up fairly well. By the time you get to the maximum 10x zoom position (250mm film equivalent), sharpness is pretty dire across the entire frame. This is probably due to a combination of compromised lens design, diffraction, and in-camera distortion correction, which tends to lower resolution in the corners. More on how we test sharpness.

In terms of color accuracy, the Coolpix S6300 is a bit of an oddball: its "Vivid" color mode is actually more accurate than its "Standard" mode, if only by the slimmest of margins. Neither color mode is very good, accuracy-wise, though we've seen worse. The Vivid mode returned an uncorrected color error score of 3.27, while Natural earned a 3.28. Saturation was virtually even between the two as well, 117.3% to 117.2%. We were so surprised by this result that we tested it twice, but the results were the same.

Typically, when we see two color modes score roughly the same uncorrected color error, they still differ in which colors are furthest off. But in the case of the S6300, there's virtually no difference here, either. Ultimately, you can shoot with Vivid or Standard settings and not notice much of a difference. One less decision to make! More on how we test color.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

The S6300 is beaten soundly in color performance by most of the cameras in its comparison group, with the exception of the Sony WX150, which is only a little better. If accurate colors are important to you, we'd strongly suggest choosing a better camera, like the Canon ELPH 110 HS.

There are only two real color modes on the S6300: Vivid and Standard. As we've indicated above, you can just flip a coin to pick one—they're the same. There are also sepia, black and white, and cyanotype options, if you want to get a little artsy.

White balance performance from the S6300 was actually quite good, which is surprising since its big, big brother the P7700 has some of the worst white balance performance we've seen lately. That camera also has some of the best color accuracy we've seen, so maybe Nikon's just incapable of getting both color accuracy and white balance right and has to pick one or the other. But we digress...

Automatic White Balance ()

When using automatic white balance, the S6300 performed better than many of its peers under tungsten light, with an average color temperature error of 1188 kelvin. This is still quite a significant error, leaving a distinct orange tint on white areas and giving everything a generally "warm" color cast. Under compact white fluorescent light—far more common these days than tungsten—the camera did much better, just 38 kelvin off on average. It actually did slightly worse in daylight, but still well within an acceptable margin of error, producing generally accurate color temps with an error of just 81 kelvin.

Custom White Balance ()

Using custom white balance, errors were under 130 kelvin in all lighting conditions: 46 kelvin under tungsten, 126 in CWF, and 15.5 when shooting in daylight. We've seen more accurate results, but these are pretty good.

In addition to automatic and custom (here called "Preset manual") white balance options, the S6300 offers five presets. These include: Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Flash.

Setting a custom white balance is pretty simple. You only need to go into the main menu, select the white balance submenu, choose Preset manual, and select "Measure." Hold up a white or grey reference object, hit the shutter release, and you're done.

The Coolpix S6300 produced very good noise reduction numbers in our lab, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Up to about ISO 800, the S6300 hangs in there quite well with the Canon 110 HS. The Canon produces a punchier image by default, as their cameras usually do, but detail and noise suppression seem to be pretty comparable. (Though if you look at Rosie's eyelashes, for instance, you can see the the 110 HS is doing a slightly better job at retaining fine detail.) At ISO 1600 and 3200, there's not really any comparison—the 110 HS mops the floor with the S6300. Nikon's noise reduction results in splotchy, blobby areas of color, while Canon manages to present a pretty clean, well-defined image at the same ISO setting.

So why is the S6300's score so much higher? Well, its noise reduction engine is kicking in much harder and simply getting rid of all that noise. The unfortunate side effect is that when you ditch the noise, you also ditch much of the detail. The 110 HS, has a less noisy sensor to begin with, but also applies less aggressive noise reduction; so while its noise levels are higher, the resulting image still looks better. More on how we test noise.

An entry-level camera, the S6300 doesn't provide 1/3-stop settings for ISO sensitivity. Your available options are ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200. There's also an Auto ISO mode, which uses a range of 125-1600, and a Fixed-range Auto ISO mode, which lets you choose either ISO 125-400, or 125-800.

Generally speaking, the S6300 is pretty atrocious in low light. On the plus side, colors remain reasonably vibrant even at the highest ISO settings, but aggressive noise reduction and poor sensor performance combine to produce muddled images with little discernible detail. There is also visible blotching in solid color areas, giving the shots an ugly look even when sharpness and detail retention aren't taken into consideration.

The Coolpix S6300 produced very good noise reduction numbers in our lab, but that doesn't really tell the whole story. Up to about ISO 800, the S6300 hangs in there quite well with the Canon 110 HS. The Canon produces a punchier image by default, as their cameras usually do, but detail and noise suppression seem to be pretty comparable. (Though if you look at Rosie's eyelashes, for instance, you can see the the 110 HS is doing a slightly better job at retaining fine detail.) At ISO 1600 and 3200, there's not really any comparison—the 110 HS mops the floor with the S6300. Nikon's noise reduction results in splotchy, blobby areas of color, while Canon manages to present a pretty clean, well-defined image at the same ISO setting.

So why is the S6300's score so much higher? Well, its noise reduction engine is kicking in much harder and simply getting rid of all that noise. The unfortunate side effect is that when you ditch the noise, you also ditch much of the detail. The 110 HS, has a less noisy sensor to begin with, but also applies less aggressive noise reduction; so while its noise levels are higher, the resulting image still looks better. More on how we test noise.

An entry-level camera, the S6300 doesn't provide 1/3-stop settings for ISO sensitivity. Your available options are ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200. There's also an Auto ISO mode, which uses a range of 125-1600, and a Fixed-range Auto ISO mode, which lets you choose either ISO 125-400, or 125-800.

Focus is good in bright light—not the fastest we've seen, even in this class, but good enough—though in low light it becomes quite unreliable. Not only will it frequently fail to find focus (producing a red focus box on the screen), it will also often claim to have found focus when it clearly hasn't. Both failures are troubling, but the latter is a real disappointment.

The S6300 was able to maintain white levels of 50 IRE (a broadcast standard for minimum brightness in a video image) down to about 15 lux of illumination, which compares quite well with its peers, many of whom are unable to go below 30 lux and maintain a visible image. However, despite this success, video shot in such dim lighting isn't exactly pleasant to watch.

Chromatic aberration typically shows up as purple, red, or cyan fringing around objects, particularly in high-contrast situations (think dark leaves against a bright noonday sky). It's primarily a property dictated by the camera's lens, though sensor design can also come into play.

The Nikon S6300 displays significant and distracting chromatic aberration throughout its entire zoom and aperture range, even when there aren't high-contrast objects in view. As with sharpness, it's worst at the full 10x zoom setting, still bad at middle focal lengths, and best at full wide angle.

Geometric distortion (the bending of straight lines) is fairly well controlled. Typically, you see barrel distortion at the wide end of zoom lenses, transitioning to pincushion toward the longer end of the focal range. With the S6300, pincushion distortion is in evidence throughout the entire zoom range, ranging from 0.61% at 4.5mm to 0.24% at 45mm. It's an extremely unusual result, leading us to suspect that the camera is doing significant in-camera correction.

In bright light, the Coolpix S6300 produces vibrant video with good smoothness, though there is visible trailing and artifacting—not unexpected for video from such a tiny sensor. We did notice some odd "tearing" in the black and white striped pinwheel in our motion scene, but only when viewing the file in Quicktime 10.1. In version 10.0, it rendered the motion there normally. We suspect this to be a codec issue, and it shouldn't be a problem for most users. When uploaded to YouTube, the video also renders properly. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Sharpness was acceptable for a camera in this class. We measured 625 lw/ph of sharpness on the horizontal and 600 lw/ph on the vertical in bright-light testing, which puts it on a reasonably even footing with rivals from Canon et al. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

In low light, sharpness drops off significantly. In our lab testing, we recorded 400 lw/ph of horizontal sharpness and 375 lw/ph of vertical sharpness when video was shot at 60 lux of illumination. Again, this is pretty much on par for the class, and compares favorably to its rivals, but it's not a good result. Video shot in this kind of lighting is muddy and unattractive.

The S6300 was able to maintain white levels of 50 IRE (a broadcast standard for minimum brightness in a video image) down to about 15 lux of illumination, which compares quite well with its peers, many of whom are unable to go below 30 lux and maintain a visible image. However, despite this success, video shot in such dim lighting isn't exactly pleasant to watch.

The Coolpix S6300 is about as simple as they come. There's a full auto mode, some scene and special effects options, and that's pretty much it. The main menu is brief and mostly to the point. All you can really do with the thing is, well, point... and shoot. Once you get to the shooting, it's a bit of a mixed bag. Shutter lag is minimal, but the camera is slow to process files and the underwhelming screen makes it difficult to properly review shots once they've been taken. Shot-to-shot times are acceptable, but the anemic buffer could do with some improvement.

Shooting with the Coolpix S6300 is a strictly automatic affair, and given the target market that's not a surprise. The camera does everything for you here, though you can change the focusing distance (to allow for macro shots), set the self-timer, change flash options, and adjust exposure compensation by plus or minus two stops.

The S6300's button layout is about as minimal as you can get without resorting to touchscreen control. Up top are the on/off button as well as the zoom ring and shutter release. On the back you'll find several more buttons. The uppermost button provides direct access to video recording. Below it are shooting mode and playback buttons, and below that is the four-way control pad/rotary command dial, which surrounds the OK button. The four directional buttons double as direct controls for flash, timer, macro, and exposure compensation. Finally, below this cluster are the main menu and trash buttons.

There are a total of 19 scene modes included with the S6300, ranging from traditional options like portrait and landscape to more esoteric choices like food, fireworks, backlighting, panorama, and 3D photography. The latter isn't true 3D, but simulates it by taking two photos at slightly different angles, replicating the positioning of the human eyes. The images must be played back on a 3D-compatible HDTV or monitor. In addition to the 19 scene modes, there's a "Scene auto selector" mode that tries to intelligently pick the appropriate scene mode by analyzing your subject.

There are also six art filters, including a soft focus effect, sepia, high-contrast monochrome (black and white), high key, low key, and selective color. The chosen effect is previewed in real time as you compose your shots.

The main menu is divided into three tabs: Shooting, Movie, and Setup. Each tab contains a vertical list of adjustable settings, and the submenu for each of these can be reached either by pressing right or hitting OK. Generally speaking, the menus are simple to use and well laid out. Visually they're a bit dated, but at this price point you really can't be too picky.

If you've ever handled a bottom-rung compact digital camera before, you know what the S6300 feels like. On the plus side, it's tiny enough to easily fit in a tight jeans pocket. The downside is that it's not terribly comfortable to hold. The body is glossy and slick, and the braille-style rear thumb grip doesn't really give you a ton of traction. Still, its light weight and button layout mean you can do everything with just your right hand.

Handling Photo 1

The buttons are raised above the surface of the camera, making them easy to feel and press even in total darkness, with the exception of trash and video recording. These two are left flush with the body, making it less likely that you'll inadvertently hit them and accidentally delete a cherished photo or record a useless movie.

Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3

The S6300's button layout is about as minimal as you can get without resorting to touchscreen control. Up top are the on/off button as well as the zoom ring and shutter release. On the back you'll find several more buttons. The uppermost button provides direct access to video recording. Below it are shooting mode and playback buttons, and below that is the four-way control pad/rotary command dial, which surrounds the OK button. The four directional buttons double as direct controls for flash, timer, macro, and exposure compensation. Finally, below this cluster are the main menu and trash buttons.

Buttons Photo 1
Buttons Photo 2

At 2.7 inches on the diagonal and a display resolution of 230,000 dots, the S6300's LCD is a pretty weak effort. The low resolution makes it difficult to determine the sharpness of your shots, or the exact area in focus, though as we've suggested pretty much everything will be in focus with this sensor/lens combo. The screen is bright enough, but it's difficult to see in bright outdoor light, and in dimmer lighting it tends to struggle to keep up with motion.

The S6300 doesn't really offer much in the way of shooting modes beyond the standard Automatic mode. There are a variety of scene modes and art filters (Nikon calls them "Special effects"), and there's also a "Smart portrait" mode that automatically takes a shot whenever the camera detects a smiling face. In this last mode, you can also set the camera to use the skin-smoothing feature by default. Finally, there's a subject tracking mode that attempts to keep your target in focus as you follow them around. In theory, this mode should be great for shooting pets, sports, and other fast-moving subject (airplanes?), but in our testing we found that the software got confused pretty easily.

Focus is good in bright light—not the fastest we've seen, even in this class, but good enough—though in low light it becomes quite unreliable. Not only will it frequently fail to find focus (producing a red focus box on the screen), it will also often claim to have found focus when it clearly hasn't. Both failures are troubling, but the latter is a real disappointment.

There are a total of seven quality and size options available on the S6300. Two of these are different compression options at the maximum 16-megapixel size. Several more are reduced-res, high-compression versions of the same aspect ratio: 8, 4, and 2 megapixels, as well as VGA (640x480px). The last is a large 16:9 widescreen format, though it is still highly compressed.

For a cheap compact, the Coolpix S6300 has a surprisingly high number of continuous shooting modes. In fact, there are a total of seven. Only two are traditional full-resolution burst modes, and these come in the usual high and low varieties. Continuous High records up to 7 shots at about 6 frames per second, while Low captures up to 6 images at roughly 1.9fps. Those low shot limits indicate a tiny buffer, and when you're shooting 7 shots at 6 fps... yep, that means you don't get more than about one second of shooting. In other words, your timing had better be great if you want to capture that one precious moment. In general, we found the stated burst speeds to be accurate, though in our test trials the Continuous H mode rate wavered anywhere between 5.5fps and 6fps.

Less traditional continuous modes include two reduced resolution modes that shoot at up to 120 or 60fps, respectively. Also present is Multi-shot 16, which takes 16 exposures and arranges them in a 4x4 grid in a single photo, sort of like a film strip. Further oddballs include BSS (Best Shot Selector), which takes up to 10 shots and chooses the sharpest one, and pre-shooting cache, which starts shooting when the shutter release button is only half-pressed.

Self-timer options are extremely limited, with only 2 and 10-second choices available.

Focus is good in bright light—not the fastest we've seen, even in this class, but good enough—though in low light it becomes quite unreliable. Not only will it frequently fail to find focus (producing a red focus box on the screen), it will also often claim to have found focus when it clearly hasn't. Both failures are troubling, but the latter is a real disappointment.

While it's a pretty stripped down model overall, the S6300 does offer a few extras you wouldn't necessarily expect to see on a low-end compact camera. On the video front, it has a total of eight different compression and resolution settings, including 1080 and 720P, iFrame 540, VGA, and several high-speed and slow-motion modes. When it comes to continuous shooting it's similarly stacked, with two primary burst modes backed up by an array of reduced-resolution options that record at insanely high speeds, 120 and 60fps being the most notable.

The S6300 provides a total of five video compression and resolution options. Two of these are at the highest 1080P, 30fps setting, with two different bitrates (compression levels). The third is a 720P, 30fps option. The last two are iFrame 540, which records at a resolution of 960x540px and should be easier to edit in Mac video programs, and VGA, which is a low resolution option suitable for playback on standard-definition TV sets. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

The only controls available to you when shooting video are exposure compensation, white balance, and color mode. You can also apply Nikon's special effects to videos, and macro mode can be enabled for shooting close-up movies. Finally, the self-timer can also be employed. None of these settings can be altered once recording has begun, so make sure you set everything up ahead of time.

Zoom

You can zoom while recording video, including both optical and digital zoom. Do note, however, that the noise of the lens zooming, focusing, and employing vibration reduction will be picked up by the on-board microphone as distracting clicks, clacks, and whirs.

Focus

Full-time autofocus is available during video recording, though it's slow and not very reliable (particularly in dim lighting). Alternatively, you can set the autofocus mode to AF-S (single AF) and pre-focus before beginning recording. Given the camera's deep depth of field, you may not require active autofocus in many cases.

It's probably unfair to judge a camera like the Nikon Coolpix S6300 too harshly. It's a cheap, near-disposable compact digital camera—typically around $130 from reputable online merchants, despite its $199.95 MSRP. Its optical zoom and physical controls give it an edge over even the best smartphones, and you can't really argue with the price. But the truth is, it's just not very good.

Let's start with the outside. The S6300's body feels cheap. It's plasticky, coated in a glossy paint that scratches easily, and generally feels toy-like. The buttons have a pleasingly tactile response, but we're not optimistic about their durability. How about that LCD? At 2.7 inches it's on the smaller side these days, and its 230,000-dot resolution is half (or less) of what some of its competitors offer, making it a real pain to try to gauge your work in-camera.

The internals are hardly any better. The 10x zoom is generous for a camera in this class and price range, but the sad fact is that image quality gets progressively worse the more you zoom in. At full zoom there's hardly any resolution to speak of, chromatic aberrations have reached truly annoying levels, and the vibration reduction system can't always keep up. The 16-megapixel BSI sensor looks good on a spec sheet. And indeed, images in bright light can come out looking pretty good so long as the camera exposes properly, but unfortunately it has a distinct tendency towards overexposure. If you need to crank up the ISO in low light situations, you're not going to be pleased with the results—aggressive noise reduction compounds poor native noise characteristics and you're just left with a muddy mess.

In general, the S6300 provides more features than we'd expect, but the camera's performance and image quality often fails to back them up. It's nice to have eight different movie formats at your disposal, and in bright light we were pleased with the S6300's video. But unfortunately, videos shot in dim light are just as underwhelming as photos shot in the same conditions. Seven continuous shooting modes are totally rad, but what's with the 6-shot buffer?

You can do worse than the S6300 if you're shopping for an inexpensive compact camera, but that's more of an indictment of the class than an endorsement of this particular model. And you can definitely do a lot better. The superior Canon ELPH 110 HS (our Best Value P&S of the Year) has already dipped into the same street pricing bracket this holiday season, making it a far more tempting option if $130 is your upper limit. If you can't get your mitts on the Canon, we can see S6300 making a good stocking-stuffer for a young niece or grandson. For yourself, or anyone else, you should probably shop around.

Meet the testers

Ben Keough

Ben Keough

Contributor

@ben_keough

Ben is an experienced industry journalist who formerly served as Senior Editor of News and Features at Reviewed. He now contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Most recently hailing from the vast wilds of the American southwest, he is an avid photographer who is deeply disturbed by the lack of wide open landscapes in Boston.

See all of Ben Keough's reviews
Ben Keough

Ben Keough

Contributor

@ben_keough

Ben is an experienced industry journalist who formerly served as Senior Editor of News and Features at Reviewed. He now contributes as a freelance writer and editor. Most recently hailing from the vast wilds of the American southwest, he is an avid photographer who is deeply disturbed by the lack of wide open landscapes in Boston.

See all of Ben Keough's reviews

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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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