When the Nikon Coolpix S6300's predecessor, the S6200, came out, it was one of the smallest, least expensive 10x zoom cameras available. It was a good camera for what it was, but not exceptional.
For the S6300, Nikon kept the body and lens of the S6200, but swapped out the CCD sensor for a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. The change allowed Nikon to add some new shooting options including full HD and slow-motion movie capture and high-speed burst shooting -- up to 6 frames per second at full 16-megapixel resolution. It didn't do much to improve its low-light photo quality, though, which is disappointing.
And, unfortunately, every major manufacturer now has a similar camera in its lineup, so the S6300 has a lot of competition. The S6300 is definitely worth considering over similarly priced models with CCD sensors and it is still a small, lightweight way to put a 10x zoom in your pocket. But, Panasonic's SZ7 and Sony'x WX150 are better bets if you can afford them.
Overall photo quality from the S6300 is above average for this class of camera, suitable for prints up to 8x10 and Web use. At full size they don't look good, though, so its 16-megapixel resolution isn't a reason to buy. Though its sensitivity settings run from ISO 125 to ISO 3200, the S6300 is best used with plenty of light to keep sensitivity below ISO 400.
Regardless of sensitivity, photos appear somewhat soft and benefit from sharpening with photo-editing software. There's a Fixed Range Auto option that will limit you to ISO 125-400 or ISO 125-800; I recommend using the former outdoors and latter indoors when possible. The two highest ISOs -- 1600 and 3200 -- should only be used in emergencies, mainly because the colors get very washed out and the noise reduction makes subjects appear smeary, and actually, colors are so bad at ISO 3200 you probably shouldn't use it at all. (You can read more about the photo quality as well as view full-size samples in the slideshow above.)
Video quality is on par with a basic HD pocket video camera or smartphone; good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. The zoom lens does function while recording and while it moves fairly quietly, it shakes a bit as it extends and collapses. Also, it's not particularly quick to focus when zoomed in.
Editors' note: We recently updated our testing methodology to gauge slightly more real-world performance, so the results aren't necessarily comparable with previous testing. Until we're finished refining our procedures, we will not be posting comparative performance charts.
The change from CCD to CMOS sensor has made a significant difference to this camera's performance. Again, this is essentially the same camera as the S6200, which was pokey at best. The S6300 doesn't start particularly fast, taking on average 2.9 seconds from off to first shot, the rest of its performance was respectable. Shutter lag -- from off to first shot without prefocusing -- in bright conditions was 0.3 second, but in more challenging light, that went up to 0.9 second. Shot-to-shot times averaged 1.5 seconds without flash and 2.3 seconds with.
Worth noting is that the camera's autofocus system is a bit temperamental and wouldn't always be in focus even when the camera said it was. This happened most frequently with the lens extended. It can mostly be avoided by prefocusing by half-pressing the shutter release, but if you're not the type to do that, you might want to cross this camera off your list.