The Bottom Line
The Nikon Coolpix S6300 offers a mixed bag of pluses and minuses.
The minuses include a slight softness in some images, a built-in flash unit that's oddly placed, a small LCD that suffers from glare problems, and a lack of manual control options.
However, when you consider that the colors in the S6300's photos are vibrant and bright, the camera is very easy to use, the control buttons are smartly designed, and you can pick from some fun special effect features, this model will work well for many beginning photographers.
The item that pushes the Coolpix S6300 into the realm of a slightly above average camera, however, is the inclusion of a 10X optical zoom lens in a low-priced and thin camera. With all of the advantages in this model, you're going to be more willing to put up with some of the minuses.
The S6300 isn't perfect, but it has enough pluses to make it well worth considering for a beginning photographer.
For a low-priced camera, the Coolpix S6300 does a pretty good job with image quality, at least at first glance. Even though this camera offers 16MP of resolution, you may not want to make extremely large prints with this camera, as the focus tends to be a bit soft.
If you're only sharing images on social networking sites or via e-mail, you shouldn't notice the softness. It also shouldn't be a problem for small and intermediate-sized prints. Just don't expect to make a lot of large-sized prints with the S6300 ... or with most budget-priced cameras, for that matter, as a lot of similar models suffer from some image softness.
If you can avoid the soft focus problems, the overall image quality in the S6300 is among the best you're going to find in this price range. Colors are very accurate and vibrant.
Finding a 10X optical zoom lens in a camera of this size and price range is a really nice feature. You'll be surprised at just how many more photo options you have in a 10X zoom if you've previously owned cameras with 5X or smaller zoom lenses.
Nikon caps this camera's strong image quality performance with some fun special effect features. There's a 360-degree panoramic feature, which is fun to use, as well as options for creating photos with selective color and high-contrast monochrome.
Flash photos are a bit of a problem with this camera. The position of the built-in flash makes it easy to block with the fingers on your left hand. In addition, because the lens extends quite a ways from the body of the camera when shooting, you can end up with shadows in your photos quite often when shooting with the flash, depending on the angle at which you're aiming. You'll have to keep an eye on this so the shadow doesn't ruin one of your images. If you can avoid these problems, the flash photos actually are bright and vibrant, but these problems with the flash crop up more often than I'd like to see.
As with most cameras in this price range, the Coolpix S6300 has a couple of performance issues when it comes to operational speeds. Start-up is pretty slow, so don't expect to capture every spontaneous photo if you don't have the camera already powered up and ready to go. In addition, the size and positioning of the power button is a bit awkward, making it difficult to press firmly each time, which compounds the slow start-up issue.
Shutter lag is hit and miss with this low-priced point-and-shoot camera. You'll notice some significant delays when using the built-in flash. When shooting outdoors in good light, though, shutter lag is minimized. Shot-to-shot delays are problematic when using the flash, too.
Because the S6300's zoom lens moves through its range pretty quickly, you'll make up for some of the camera's other drawbacks in speed. You'll also have the option of using one of several different burst modes with this camera, including one where you can shoot up to 120 frames per second (at a limited resolution).
As with most cameras in the sub-$200 price range, you aren't going to find many manual control features of significance in the Coolpix S6300. You can set the white balance or the ISO with this camera, for example, but little else.
Honestly, having a limited number of manual control settings shouldn't be a major problem for those using the S6300, because the camera's automatic mode works so well. This model is extremely easy to use.
The macro mode on this camera is a bit of a disappointment, as you cannot shoot any closer than 4 inches from the subject.
Unlike some other budget-priced models, Nikon did a really nice job with the control buttons on the back panel of the Coolpix S6300. The buttons are a large size, and there's a dedicated movie button, which greatly simplifies the process of shooting video. There's also a spin ring as part of the four-way control button, which is a great feature for moving through menu options more quickly. A spin ring should be a part of every camera, in my opinion.
One drawback to the S6300's design helps to explain why the control buttons are of a comfortable size to use: This camera's LCD screen only measures 2.7 inches diagonally. That size is below average in today's digital camera market. The Coolpix S6300 LCD isn't as bright and sharp as it could be, either, and you'll find some glare problems when shooting outdoors in sunlight.
If the LCD was of a better quality, it would be easier for me to give the Coolpix S6300 a higher star rating. However, with a point-and-shoot camera that relies on the screen for so much of its operation, including the framing of all photos, having a low-quality LCD screen can cause the camera to be frustrating to use. The S6300's LCD quality isn't quite that bad, but it does hold this model back just a bit.