On paper, the Nikon Coolpix S6300 looks like an incredible deal -- a long 10x zoom, full 1080p HD video and high-speed burst shooting, all for less than $150.
But blurry photos, dawdling speed and build-quality problems drag the S6300 down. Reviewers prefer the more consistently solid Canon PowerShot A4000 IS (*Est. $130) for this price, or the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 (*Est. $220) if you can afford to spend more.
Chunky, but still pocketable and easy to use. It's slightly thicker and heavier than other pocket cameras -- about 1 inch thick and almost 6 ounces -- and the Nikon Coolpix S6300 feels boxy and dated to some reviewers.
"When it arrived I was floored at how clunky it looked," writes one customer at Amazon.com. "It is way thicker than I expected from the pictures." Another says, "For a newly released camera , this one was way too big and chunky, and the screen was tiny."
CNET's Joshua Goldman agrees that it's chunky, but "still easy to pocket and very lightweight." The LCD screen is 2.7 inches -- smaller than most cameras' 3-inch screen. One source rates the screen good, but Steves-Digicams.com says it's "disappointing," with "limited resolution. You may even notice a few problems with glare on the display screen when using this camera outdoors."
Still, experts unanimously find the Nikon S6300 simple to use -- "easy enough that the whole family will be able to use" it, says Matt Grayson at PhotographyBlog.com. Goldman especially likes the one-touch video record button, which makes it easy to start shooting movies.
Like most cheap cameras, the user doesn't really have to do anything but point and shoot; the camera does all of the work. There are very few buttons to deal with, and very few manual controls.
Sluggish, with flaky autofocus. Photos generally look fine, "suitable for prints up to 8x10 and Web use," CNET's Goldman says -- except for one thing. In a couple of expert tests, the Nikon S6300 has problems focusing properly.
"The autofocus is temperamental," says Goldman, who recommends the S6300 -- but "with reservations." Steves-Digicams.com testers hesitate for the same reason: "When one of the primary drawbacks is soft image quality, it's a tough hurdle to overcome."
Several owners complain about the autofocus, too. "Almost every picture I've taken with this camera is fuzzy," says one owner at Amazon.com. "I don't know if it's the lens or the autofocus system or what, but I rarely get a sharp photo from this camera. I haven't had this problem with any previous digital camera I've owned." Another says, "Try an action shot with the zoom, the auto focus simply does not work ... AT ALL. It continuously hunts and blurs in and out of focus."
Like most cheap cameras, the 16-megapixel Nikon S6300 can't handle dim situations. Low-light photos above ISO 400 are "disappointing," Goldman says, and some owners agree. Turn on the flash, though, and one source says photos turn out very well, as long as you stand close enough to your subject (cheap cameras almost often have weak flashes).
Sluggish speed is a problem. Some owners complain that they miss shots because the Nikon S6300 drags its feet at startup and between shots.
At PhotographyBlog.com, Grayson gets the S6300 to start up and shoot in a reasonable 2.5 seconds -- but "the camera wasn't always hitting focus during that time. To ensure a sharp picture, you have to wait anything up to 3.5 seconds." Another source says shot-to-shot times are "much slower than most models ... which means you'll most likely miss important shots when shooting fast-moving or unpredictable subjects."
The S6300 can shoot a rapid-fire burst -- six photos in one second -- but only for seven frames. After that, "you'll be waiting several seconds for the camera to process and store the photos before you can shoot again," Goldman says.
Video shoots in full 1080p HD -- rare in an under-$250 camera. Footage looks good, one source says, but no better than some cameras that shoot in 720p, and the audio is only fair. You can use the optical zoom while you film, but you'll hear the zoom motor's noise on your soundtrack.
Battery life is rated at 230 shots per charge, "but I never got that far before it needed charging," Goldman says. "That's mainly because doing anything other taking automatic shots drains the battery faster. The small pack charges via USB cable, too, so if you buy the S6300, expect a full charge to tie up your camera for about 3 hours."
Experts find build-quality quibbles -- and several owners report real problems. "The build quality is good enough for the use the Nikon Coolpix S6300 will see," says Grayson at PhotographyBlog.com. "It's not going to cope with extreme weather, or rough play from the kids, but it feels solid enough."
However, he says the plastic tripod mount "shows a drop in build quality," although most buyers will probably rarely use it. "Other areas of the camera seem well built."
CNET's Joshua Goldman has problems with the battery/SD compartment door. It "regularly opened accidentally while shooting and would frequently slide closed incorrectly."
Although most owners report no problems, several say the camera malfunctioned -- two the very first day they used it. Nikon allowed an exchange for the same model, one says, but "I treat the camera as if it were made of crystal. It just does not feel solid."
Long zoom and lots of scene modes, but panoramic feature flunks one test. Long 10x zoom is the Nikon S6300's best feature -- rare on an under-$150 camera. An excellent image stabilizer keeps zoomed-in shots steady, even when your hands shake, one test finds.
You get a ton of scene modes, too -- 20 of them -- that tell the camera to pick the right settings for things like firewords, sunny days or dim indoor settings. You can shoot 3D or panoramic shots, too, although the panoramic feature "isn't particularly well executed," says Amy Davies at TechRadar.com. Like many Sony and Panasonic cameras, the Nikon lets you sweep the camera across the scene while it shoots, then stitches the images together into a panoramic shot. "The low-resolution image looks reasonable when viewed at web sizes, but when increasing even slightly, you can see many examples of smoothing and loss of quality. It also fails to stitch correctly on occasion."
Unlike most under-$150 cameras, the Nikon S6300 has a mini HDMI jack, "making it easier to display your HD movies at their prime resolution" on an HDTV, say editors at Steves-Digicams.com. You have to supply your own HDMI cable, though. The camera does come with A/V and USB jacks and cables.
Review Credibility: Very Good Testers here are bothered by soft focus problems from the Nikon Coolpix S6300. Still, its other features -- including its long zoom -- are good enough to earn it a spot on this website's Recommended list.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S6300 Review, Editors of Steves-Digicams.com, Aug. 20, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good "Recommended with reservations," Joshua Goldman concludes after testing the Nikon S6300. He runs into autofocus problems, too, but he likes its long-zoom lens and ease of use.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S6300 Review, Joshua Goldman, Sept. 13, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Experts here fully test more than 150 point-and-shoot digital cameras, including the Nikon Coolpix S6300. Testers rate each camera's photo and video quality, flash photo quality, LCD quality and ease of use before ranking the cameras from best to worst.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S6300, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Undated
Review Credibility: Very Good With its long zoom and close-up macro mode, the Nikon S6300 earns 3.5 out of 5 stars in tests here. Its panoramic shots and special-effects filters aren't great, but photos generally look good.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S6300 Review, Amy Davies, Oct. 18, 2012
Review Credibility: Good Small, light and simple, with a long zoom, the Nikon S6300 is a good value, Matt Grayson says after a full test. At this price, you don't get the latest features, but photos look good.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S6300 Review, Matt Grayson, Aug. 27, 2012
Review Credibility: Good More than 80 owners review the Nikon S6300 here, and most like it. But one-third of reviewers rate it mediocre or lower, usually because it broke or takes blurry photos.
Review: Nikon Coolpix S6300 16 MP Digital Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of December 2012