Nikon Coolpix S9100 review

13 Jan 2012

Great performance, great image quality, a huge zoom and an intuitive interface make this the king of point-and-shoot compacts

Price when reviewed 
180
5

The Coolpix S9100 isn't the smallest camera in the world, nor the most elegant. Frankly, it's nothing special to look at – and on paper its specifications don't look inspiring either. It has a small, 1/2.33in sensor and a narrow maximum aperture of f/3.5, both of which suggest distinctly average images.

But it's the pictures that count, and with the camera in fully automatic mode and the lens in the full-wide 25mm equivalent position, the Nikon Coolpix S9100 rendered a range of test images with impressive clarity and weight. Although distortion was visible at the extremes of the image, we saw no chromatic aberration, despite the harsh light in our outdoor scenes. Colours were perhaps a little on the cold side, but overall the atmosphere of a crisp morning was well captured.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 test photo (Image reduced for web.)

Zoom performance was just as persuasive. With the huge 18x lens (25-450mm) at its full extent, the Coolpix S9100 still managed to resolve bags of clean detail with solid contrast. And despite the fact that the lengthy zoom drove the frame deep into the shadows, requiring the shutter to slow to 1/40s, the resulting image was impressively clear, thanks to Nikon's combination of physical and digital stabilisation.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 test photo (Image reduced for web)

Inevitably, when we tried indoor, low-light party shots, the flash gave the subject's skin tones a certain pallor, but she wasn't completely washed out, and overall the colour balance looked natural, with the dark background appearing comparatively noise-free. Indoor macro shots came out pin-sharp, with a pleasingly neutral overall light.

Switching to video mode again yielded a clear picture with lovely colours, although we were bothered by the high-pitched whirr of the zoom mechanism.

Surprisingly, the Nikon Coolpix S9100's weakest suit was when we tried shooting a page of black and white text from across the room: here, letter forms were rendered quite unclearly. Evidently, the camera's apparent sense of fine detail comes from an image processor more at home with the tonal gradations of landscapes and portraits than with the stark contrast of black-and-white text.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 test photo (Image reduced for web.)

Details

Price ex VAT £150
Price inc VAT £180
Overall rating 6
Performance 6
Features & Design 5
Image quality 5
Value for Money 6

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 12.0mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 18x
Camera maximum resolution 4,000 x 3,000

Weight and dimensions

Weight 214g
Dimensions 103 x 34 x 62mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Battery life (CIPA standard) 270 shots
Charger included? no

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f3.5 - f5.9
Camera minimum focus distance 0.04m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 25
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 450
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/2,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 1s
Bulb exposure mode? no
RAW recording mode? no
Exposure compensation range +/- 2EV
ISO range 160 - 3200
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? no
Aperture priority mode? no
Fully auto mode? yes
Exposure bracketing? no
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SDXC
LCD resolution 921k
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Metal
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type micro-USB

Manual, software and accessories

Software supplied PC-PJTransfer, ViewNX
Accessories supplied Wrist strap