A Review Of The Nikon Coolpix S600 CCD Compact Camera

I'll be the first to admit that I may be suffering from confirmation bias or nostalgia, but the images produced from the Nikon Coolpix S600 are simply beautiful. The colors from the camera's CCD sensor are distinctly different from a modern CMOS sensor, and I prefer this look for casual pictures.

A Review Of The Nikon Coolpix S600 CCD Compact Camera
© Nicklaus Walter

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My first camera ever was a Nikon Coolpix 4100 back in 2004 that I received for my 17th birthday. I enjoyed learning the basics of photography with it and I took it with me everywhere. By day I'd be capturing my friends skateboarding as they'd willingly risk their bodies to get an epic photo, and by night I'd use my Coolpix to shoot cityscapes in my sleepy hometown. I loved using that camera, but I longed for a more professional body that offered full manual controls and interchangeable lenses. Feeling constrained by the camera's limitations, I eventually upgraded to a film SLR, the Canon EOS Elan 7N and off I went never to think about that little Nikon point and shoot ever again. Time is a funny thing though.

In the past couple of years, I've started to look back at those humble 4 megapixel images that I took 20 years ago during a trip to Italy on my old Nikon Coolpix 4100, and it's remarkable how nice those images still look today. Yes, the resolution is on the low end and the dynamic range is lacking, but the photos don't seem to be lacking in their character. The pictures are plenty sharp, the colors are distinctly different from film but still pleasing nonetheless, and the skin tones are exceptionally flattering. I've come to a strange realization that the images I was capturing with a basic point and shoot two decades ago are somehow nicer to look at than any smartphone produces today in my eyes. With this new epiphany, I decided to seek out the Nikon Coolpix S600 to see if I'm just looking back at the past through rose colored glasses, or if there actually is something special about those older compact point and shoot cameras.

© Nicklaus Walter

The Nikon Coolpix S600 is a compact point and shoot digital camera that was released all the way back in 2008. It features a 10 megapixel CCD sensor, which is notably different from the modern CMOS sensors used in digital cameras today. Its lens is a useful 28mm-112mm equivalent in 35mm full frame terms, and has an aperture range of f2.7-f5.8. The lens includes optical VR image stabilization which is extremely helpful for capturing images handheld in low light or at longer focal lengths without camera shake. The camera takes SD cards, and also includes 45mb of internal memory storage which is rare for cameras today.

Being a point and shoot camera, the Nikon Coolpix S600 has no manual controls. You can see the shutter speed and aperture prior settings on the LCD screen prior to the picture being taken, but the camera determines the best settings at any given time. It does however, include an exposure compensation function that allows you to change the exposure by up to 2 stops in either direction. It's a quick button press followed by turning the dial on the scroll wheel, and is nicely implemented for those who want some sense of control over their exposures. There's also no viewfinder, no hotshoe, and no RAW image functionality. Yes, this is a jpeg only camera.

© Nicklaus Walter

In lieu of manual controls, the Nikon Coolpix S600 uses a wide variety of scene modes for the user to choose from in order to change the camera's settings. There's sports mode for fast shutter speeds and continuous shooting, active child mode for subject tracking, night portrait mode, high iso mode for low light up to iso 3200, night landscape mode for longer exposure times, and the list goes on. For experienced camera enthusiasts this might sound somewhat annoying, but in practice I actually found it to be quite liberating. Especially because the automated settings actually produce a great looking photo the vast majority of the time. As you might expect from an automatic camera, the menu is quite simple and easy to navigate. It only takes a couple of minutes to get used to the settings, and there's no need to look at the manual if you're relatively familiar with digital cameras.

The lens on the Nikon Coolpix S600 is satisfyingly sharp and the autofocus almost never misses its mark. In fact, I rarely found myself with an out of focus image due to the smaller sensor size of the camera. It's difficult to achieve any kind of background blur subject separation as a result of the smaller sensor, but that's par for the course with compact digital cameras from this time period. Also of note, the lens has an effective macro mode that's both effective and simple to use. The camera features various flash modes that are easy to operate, and the flash itself is very close to the lens resulting in effortlessly flattering portraits.

© Nicklaus Walter

For a camera that was released so long ago, the Nikon Coolpix S600 still feels remarkably tactile with its all metal body. My copy has visible wear and tear including many instances of paint missing, but the buttons, dials, and battery door are all still solid. I wouldn't want to drop this camera and it's not weather sealed, but it is undeniably well built for what it is. Something that hasn't aged as well is that the Nikon Coolpix S600 is fairly slow to operate by today's standards. This camera wasn't built for speed, rather it was built for casual use and it shows. It's reasonably quick to start up initially, but there's definitely a noticeable delay in between taking photos. I recommend half pressing the shutter to confirm focus prior to taking a picture in order to reduce the lag time. Once you get used to the rhythm however, it becomes a lot easier to capture moments.

For years now, photographers have been reporting that the older CCD sensors have a unique look that modern CMOS sensors don't have. At the same time I've been hearing more complaints lately about how smartphone cameras make people look terrible in portraits, especially selfies. In my time using the Nikon Coolpix S600, I can clearly see a more flattering and / or pleasing image coming out of this camera than I've seen with any smartphone. It's not just the colors though. Skin tones and faces look more pleasing as well. This is where small CCD sensor compact cameras such as the Nikon Coolpix S600 excel. While it's certainly not a camera for professional use, it generally achieves an overall nicer image than a smartphone.

© Nicklaus Walter


  • Truly pocketable form factor. Substantially smaller than a smartphone and you won't even notice that you're carrying it.
  • The CCD sensor really does have it's own unique look and appeal.
  • Colors and skin tones look just right, very tasteful.
  • Nothing is over sharpened and no harsh contrast.
  • The simplicity of this camera makes it thoroughly enjoyable to use.


  • No complete manual overrides.
  • Long exposures aren't as long as I would like.
  • General lag time when taking a photo can be disorienting at first.
  • Dynamic range is limited.
  • Subject separation with background blur is difficult to achieve due to small sensor size.

I'll be the first to admit that I may be suffering from confirmation bias or nostalgia, but the images produced from the Nikon Coolpix S600 are simply beautiful. The colors from the camera's CCD sensor are distinctly different from a modern CMOS sensor, and I prefer this look for casual picture taking. Yes, it's a unquestionably a digital look, but it also has an intangible charm that modern digital images don't seem to have. The best use cases for this camera in my experience are candid portraits, travel photography, and cityscapes at night. I wholeheartedly recommend the Nikon Coolpix S600 for anyone looking for a simple and fun to use everyday carry. And since it only shoots great looking jpegs straight out of the camera, there's no editing needed.

© Nicklaus Walter