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Face recognition seems to be the fad that all the cool kids have got to have at the moment. It’s impressive technology to be sure, however personally I don’t think it’s all that useful, especially on a camera aimed at enthusiasts. Is it really that difficult to focus on and expose for the face of the person you’re shooting? Isn’t that what spot metering and AF lock is for?
As well as its new high-tech features the S6500 has a full range of manual exposure options, metering modes and AF options, and more importantly it can record in RAW mode, so you can avoid the quality problems of image compression altogether. The big 13MB RAW files will eat into your memory card, but it’s worth it for the extra quality.
The year-old S9500 currently retails at around £370 on the high street, or around £280 online, which is a bargain for a camera that good, while the S6500fd was launched at the end of July with a high street price of £349.99, and is already available online for £269.79, so there’s not a lot to choose between them in price. Given the similarity in appearance and features, the big question is whether anyone will buy it, when for just £10 more they can have the superior S9500 while it’s still available. I have yet to review the S9600, the eagerly awaited replacement for the S9500, so it will be interesting to see how that camera compares.
That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the S6500; quite the contrary. Despite being somewhat overshadowed by the reputation of the S9500, the S6500 is a very capable camera in its own right.
It has a tough but lightweight polycarbonate body, with excellent build quality. The large and comfortable rubberised handgrip and well designed controls give it superb handling. Overall performance is very good, with a start-up time of two seconds. In long-period continuous shooting mode it can manage a frame every 1.7 seconds until the card is full, and also has two 3-frame burst modes, recording either the first three or last three frames, shooting at three frames a second.
The S6500 runs on four AA batteries, so duration will depend on the type and brand you use, but it seemed to be above average using NiMH rechargeables. The camera only accepts xD-Picture cards for storage, rather than the CompactFlash cards used in the S9500. In maximum quality JPEG mode files average around 3MB each, so a 1GB card should be enough for about 330 shots. It also has a good movie mode, capable of VGA (640 x 480 pixel) resolution at 30fps. The zoom lens can also be used while filming.