Nikon claims that the S610c has the fastest start-up time of any current compact camera, at 0.7 seconds. If it were true this would indeed be an impressive performance, but unfortunately that figure is very misleading. When you turn the camera on the lens pops out and the monitor activates with impressive speed, but if you try to take a picture straight away nothing happens. In fact the camera isn’t ready to take a picture until just over two seconds have elapsed, which is merely average performance for a premium compact, and a long way short of the world record that Nikon is claiming. I really dislike this kind of disingenuous and deceptive marketing. A manufacturer of Nikon’s stature shouldn’t need to lie about its products in order to sell them, and I am very disappointed that it has chosen to do so.
Other aspects of the S610c’s performance are equally average. In single shot mode the shot-to-shot cycle time averages 3.3 seconds, which is actually pretty slow by comparison to other cameras in its class and price bracket, and is made even slower by occasional inexplicable pauses where the camera simply refused to either focus or shoot for several seconds. In continuous shooting mode it can manage just over a shot a second, but as with the S560 there is no audio cue to let you know when it’s taking a shot, and the rate is also quite variable.
The autofocus system is quick and accurate in good light, but does slow down a lot in lower light levels. It also hunts around a lot at longer zoom ranges. These are old problems for Nikon, and ones which I thought had been solved, given the decent performance of the S560, but it seems the S610c has slipped back a few steps.
The image quality is pretty good, but also not as good as I’d hoped. Exposure metering and colour rendition are generally good in decent light, but dynamic range is very limited, resulting in both featureless shadows and blown-out highlights in high contras shots. Overall image clarity and detail are quite disappointing, due in part to the rather harsh image compression, but also due to the lens, which while it keeps distortion to a minimum even at the 28mm-equivalent wide angle end, suffers from noticeable chromatic aberration and corner blurring.
Image noise is also not as well handled as the S560. There is noise visible even at the lowest ISO setting, and while shots at 800 ISO are quite well detailed there is a lot of colour distortion and visible noise especially in the darker areas of the frame. Images shot at the maximum ISO 3200 are at full resolution, but show poor saturation in the green channel and a lack fine detail.
While the overall build quality is up to Nikon’s usual high standard, the design of the S610c has a number of niggling flaws that make it a less than satisfying camera to use. It lacks some useful features found on other models in the range, and the performance is nowhere near the claimed level. Picture quality is generally quite good, although image noise control is not as good as the cheaper S560.The Wi-Fi feature does work well, but if you don’t really need that then you’d be better off looking for a cheaper alternative.