Right now it seems as if Nikon can hardly put a foot wrong with its digital SLRs.

So when it turns its hand to a high-end compact to rival Canon's PowerShot G10, we should all sit up and take notice.

They're both aimed at keen photo enthusiasts and share similar though not identical specifications. The G10 is fat, heavy and slightly more expensive; the Nikon P6000 is lighter and slimmer and has slightly lower resolution (though 13.5 megapixels versus 14.7 is hardly a significant difference).

Image quality issues

Both have wide-angle zooms, but the Canon has a 5x zoom against the Nikon's 4x zoom. Both offer JPEG and RAW files, both have built-in anti-shake systems. On paper, there's little to choose between them. In the real world it's another matter.

The G10 suffers from the noise-reduction issues that plague all high-res/small-sensor compacts, but the P6000's problems are on another level again. Even at ISO 64, the minimum setting, the camera's noise-reduction system is hard at work, blurring away noise but also taking with it any patches of fine detail which show similar characteristics.

As the ISOs go up, the problems just get worse. This camera goes up to ISO 1600 (and ISO 6400 at reduced resolution), but by ISO 400 the smudging effect is starting to have a serious effect on image quality. We used to complain about the gritty-looking high-ISO shots of previous generations of compacts, but surely that was preferable to this 'mushing' which all the makers seem to have adopted instead?

Dull menus

This isn't the P6000's only problem. It also relies a little too heavily on its menu system for a camera in this class, and plodding through it is a pretty dull experience.Surely this would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce a Nikon D60-style graphical interface instead?

Operationally, the P6000 is pretty quick, though the G10 seems to focus just a fraction faster and is certainly quicker at saving RAW files.

Unique features

What the G10 doesn't have is the Nikon's in-built GPS and its LAN connectivity. The idea of the GPS is that each of your photos can be tagged with the location at which it was taken. It's a clever bit of technology, though you'd have to be a pretty forgetful traveller to need it.

The point of the LAN connectivity is harder to fathom. Some other CoolPix cameras are able to communicate wirelessly with an internet router and send images directly to Nikon's MyPictureTown website, where they can be shared with others.

With this one, the network connection must be made physically by cable instead – and it requires a fairly technical set-up process too. But how is this better than simply connecting the camera to an internet-enabled computer and uploading images straight from the memory card via a web browser?

Hit and miss camera

The Nikon P6000's high points include a distortion-correction option that works so well it should be compulsory; but low points include a continuous shooting speed of just 0.9fps. You can forget any thoughts of capturing next Saturday's goal-mouth action – crown green bowling's more this camera's level.

It's hard to understand Nikon's thinking. All the basics are in place – a well-made camera with good specs and all the manual controls that serious photographers would demand.

But then it's been spoiled by badly-judged image processing, a weak and uninspired control layout and innovative but complex technology which could only be of value to a very small proportion of users.

Via PhotoRadar