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Nikon Coolpix S60

Elegant 10 megapixel Coolpix with 3.5-inch touch screen and internal 5X zoom
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Nikon introduced the Coolpix S60 as part of its Fall 2008 lineup. From the front it looks very much like the 9-megapixel Coolpix S52 unveiled earlier in 2008, but turn it around and you find the backside taken up entirely by a LCD display and nothing else. All the typical controls of a digital camera -- zoom rocker, navigation disc, function buttons -- have been replaced by a touch screen. Though the 10-megapixel camera is small and sleek, the wide-format display measures a huge 3.5 inches diagonally. And though the camera is just 0.9 inches thick, it has a 5X optical zoom that is fully internal. And, needless to say with a new camera in 2008, the S60 is chock full of electronic tricks and features.

How does the S60's touch screen work?

Apple set a trend with the iPhone by replacing almost all physical buttons with a large touch screen. Nikon follows that trend and the website promo materials even call the display "multi-touch," invoking the iPhone display's ability to zoom in and out by "pinching" the display with two fingers. The S60's display cannot do that, but its interesting nonethelesss.

What you get here is a large LCD display (it measures the same diagonally as the iPhone) with the 16:9 aspect ratio used in high-definition TVs. The display has a wide viewing angle, which means you can look at it from all sides at almost any angle and still see what is on the screen. It also has anti-reflective coating so that the display doesn't wash out when the camera is used in broad daylight and in the sun. Anti-reflective coating offers beetter sunlight viewability by increasing the effective contrast ratio (the ratio between the display's backlight and reflected sunlight).

Without physical controls, you use the touch screen to operate the camera. The main screen has four icons: shoot, scene, movie and play. Two smaller icons bring up the menu and the setup screen. When using the camera, you generally see a standard 4:3 aspect ratio picture flanked by two vertical menu bars. What's displayed on the menu bars depends on what you're doing. When you take pictures, the right side will display icons representing a zoom rocker and the left side icons that let you set shooting mode parameters such as macro, flash, self-timer, i.e. what you usually use the navigation diamond buttons for. In playback mode you get icons to zoom and pan, or manipulate the picture.

The pictures in the righthand column show how it all works.

Despite its small size, the S60 has, for digital camers, a giant high-resolution LCD. It measures a full 3.5 inches diagonally and its total of 230,000 pixel make for a very sharp display that is a pleasure to use and makes it easy to see if pictures are blurred or not. Since there are no manual controls, the menus on the display must be clearly visible at all times. Nikon seeks to achieve that with anti-reflective coating increase for enhanced outdoor viewability. In addition, Nikon claims a very wide viewing angle of 160 degrees, which means pictures can be viewed at just about any angle.

The front of the S60 is flat and very clean. All you can see is the tiny flash and the AF-illuminator light sitting alongside the lens. Since the S60 has an internal zoom mechanism there is no lens barrel that motors out as you turn the camera on. There are lots of arguments pro and con internal folding zoom mechanisms. Personally, in a stylish camera like the S50, we think a fully internal zoom is a very good thing.

Advanced technology

In addition to the glorious 3.5-inch LCD, the S60 offers a variety of other goodies:

The likelihood of blurred pictures is reduced via lens-shift style optical VR Image Stabilization that minimizes the effect of camera shake. This is enabled or disabled in the Setup menu. If it is enabled, the lens-shift optical technology that detects horizontal and vertical shift and tries to compensate for movements perpendicular to the direction of the panning.

Nikon makes good use of the touch interface in a number of ways. For example, you can lock the autofocus and exposure on a subject by touching the corresponding location on the screen. The S60 automatically sets the focus, exposure, and then tracks the subject for sharp, optimally exposed pictures.

For great portraits, the S60 has a new portrait "One-Touch Zoom" function where the camera automatically zooms in on a face and captures a subject with proper framing and focus.

There is also a special "Draw" function that lets you write notes or add drawings on images, and a "Paint" function where you can add frames and stamps to images.

Perhaps a bit whimsical is "Pictmotion," a feature that the older S51c already had but which is enhaanced in thew S60. It is supplied by muvee and lets you create slide show movies with custom transitions and background music right in the camera! To do that, you tap the Mode button and then select music with the rotary multi select dial. You can then have the camera pick the 30 most recent pictures or select them yourself. You then select from five included mussc tracks or ten user-defined ones. So there -- instant VGA-resolution slide show movie with sound, right out of the camera. Combine Pictmotion with the HDMI connectivity of the COOLPIX S60 and you get high-quality playback of images and slide shows on an HDTV.

A feature that's new to the COOLPIX line is a Scene Auto Selector Mode that automatically decides which is the right scene mode for an image, sort of extending automatic point & shoot capabilities. You can, of course, pick the modes yourself. There are 17 all in all: Handwritten Memo, Food, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Panorama Assist, Museum, Fireworks, and Copy or Back Light. 

Like other 2007 and 2008 Coolpix cameras, the S60 incorporates a series of "Nikon In-Camera Innovations." They include In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, D-Lighting, and Face Priority AF. In-Camera Red-Eye Fix automatically detects and corrects red eye, a common condition that happens when you use the flash. In playback mode, D-Lighting compensates for excessive back-light or insufficient flash in images. What happens with D-Lighting is that the camera software creates a copy of a picture with enhanced brightness and contrast where it tries to boost dark and underexposed areas.

Face recognition, or "face priority," has been a must-have feature for virtually every consumer camera introduced since 2007 and the Coolpix S60 is no exception. The camera offers a "Face Priority" mode that makes sure the camera exposes faces properly. What that means is that the camera has the ability too find a face in a picture and then make sure that it is in focus and properly exposed. With the S60, you know face priority works when a double border around the face glows green. In playback mode, the camera can automatically zoom in on the face in a picture shot in face priority mode.

The S60 also has a "Smile Mode" that automatically triggers the shutter when a subject is smiling, and also "Blink Warning," which displays a message when it thinks that a subject has blinked.

Long zoom

You wouldn't expect it in so small a camera, and certainly not in one with a folding internal zoom, but the S60 has it -- a glorious 5X optical zoom. It goes from 33 to 165mm in 35mm film equivalent, which mean you start out "normal" and then bring subjects up to five times closer. The optical image stabilization come sin handy here, but a tripod is advisable as well, especially when you make use of the S60's ability to shoot at up to 3200 ISO sensitivity (3200 is only availabe in image size settings up to 5 megapixel).

Overall

The Coolpix S60 is an elegant, small and handy camera with a fully internal 5X optical zoom and a unique touchscreen interface that replaces almost all hardware controls. The camera is small enough to fit anywhere, yet has a very large and sharp 3.5-inch LCD that remains quite readable outdoors thanks to an anti-reflection coating. The design is clean and uncluttered, though the touchscreen requires a bit of getting used to.

The S60 is a speedy point & shoot camera without manual control. It offers full voice recording, VGA movies with sound, has active lens shift vibration reduction eliminates most blur when you zoom. It also includes a wealth of Nikon's in-camera goodies and technologies. With a list price of US$349.95, the S60 is not inexpensive, but between the large, terrific display, the many features, and its internal 5X optical zoom, it definitely offers enough to warrant a somewhat higher price.

We like:

  • Terrific hi-res 3.5 inch touch screen
  • Internal 5X optical zoom
  • Elegant metallic design
  • Optical lens-shift image stabilization
  • Face recognition mode with smile and blink detection
  • Voice recording
  • Full speed VGA movies with sound
Not so much:
  • No optical zoom during movies
  • Touch screen has learning curve
  • Costly
Specifications Nikon Coolpix S60
Status Added 08/2008
Camera Type Ultra-Compact
Size 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.9
Weight (oz.) 5.1 without batteries
Colors Espresso Black, Arctic White, Burgundy, Champagne Pink, Platinum Bronze and Crimson Red
Effective Pixels 10.0 mp
CCD Type 1/2.3
Max pixel size 3648 x 2736
File formats JPEG, WAV, AVI
Compression fine, normal, basic
Movie recording (best) til full, with audio
Max movie pixels "High Quality TV Movies with Sound" til full
Voice recording til ful + voice clips up to 20 seconds
Lens 12 elements, 10 groups
Focal length 5.9-29.5mm (33-165mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 5X/4X
Image stabilization Optical (Lens shift)
Aperture f/3.3 - f/4.8
Focus modes auto, center, manual, and AF-assist illuminator
Focus minimum/macro 2.0 feet, 3.5 inches
Shutter speed 1/2000 to 1 sec (4 sec om Firework mode)
Sensitivity (ISO) auto;64/100/200/400/800/1600/3200
Autofocus system Contrast-detect AF
Metering 224-segment matrix center-weighted
White-balance modes auto/6 presets (manual, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, flash)
Shooting modes auto, high-sensitivity, 15 scenes (Handwritten Memo, Food, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Panorama Assist, Museum, Fireworks Show, Copy or Back Light)
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 3.5" LCD (230k) 16:9 aspect ratio wide-viewing angle touch screen
LCD type outdoor viewable, anti-reflection coating
LCD construction fixed, touch screen
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 19.7 feet
Flash modes 5 (auto, red-eye, off, fill, slow sync)
Camera internal memory 20MB
Storage Medium SD/SDHC Card
I/O High-speed USB
Battery type EN-EL10 Li-Ion pack
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 140 images
List Price US$349.95
Contact www.nikon.com
Nikon S60 interface

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