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Nikon Coolpix S9500 Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted 01/28/2013

A year ago, Nikon launched a camera for the globe-trotter who likes to travel light: the Coolpix S9300. The new Nikon Coolpix S9500 follows the same path trodden by that camera, but with numerous additions throughout -- and yet impressively it manages to hit almost the same body size and weight. Key among the changes is a new zoom lens that's more far-reaching, and there's also now built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. Nikon has also integrated the GPS antenna more seamlessly, changed the display technology, and boosted the image sensor resolution ever so slightly.

The new body is the most immediately-obvious change, though, because the clumsy hump on the top deck for the S9500's GPS antenna has vanished. The body still includes GPS support along with the new Wi-Fi connectivity, but the antennas for both are presumably neatly hidden amongst the camera's internals. (We're not quite sure why so many cameras have featured similar humps for their GPS antennas -- other gadgets like phones and dedicated GPS receivers managed to avoid similarly ungainly styling -- but regardless, we're happy to see a smoother integration in the Nikon S9500.)

Inside sits a new 18.1 megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor. Its upper sensitivity limit of ISO 1,600 equivalent is, unfortunately, rather lower than the ISO 3,200 limit of the earlier camera. That seems quite a price to pay for just an extra two megapixels of resolution.

The new optic covers a 22x zoom range from 25mm to 550mm equivalents, which compares favorably to the 25-450mm range of the earlier camera. That's everything from a generous wide angle to a powerful telephoto, impressive for a camera that's reasonably pocket-friendly. Maximum aperture starts from f/3.4 at wide angle, and falls to f/6.3 at telephoto -- not the brightest, but not unduly dim considering the reach and compact nature of the lens. Helpfully, Nikon has included Vibration Reduction to fight blur from camera shake, which will prove especially useful towards the telephoto end of the zoom range.

On the rear panel is a new display. Its size is unchanged from that in the S9300, with a diagonal of three inches, but where the earlier camera used a standard LCD, the Nikon S9500 features an Organic LED panel. Compared to standard LCDs, OLED screens typically offer better viewing angles, better contrast with deeper blacks, and greater saturation. They can also bring a worthwhile savings in battery life, because they don't need a backlight. Instead, each pixel provides its own illumination, meaning that when a pixel is black -- as in many menu backgrounds -- it consumes very little power.

On the top deck of the Nikon Coolpix S9500 is a built-in, popup flash. We're currently awaiting detailed information on exposure modes, but we do know the S9500 also includes an updated version of Nikon's Glamor Retouch function, providing more ways in which to tweak portrait photos, by softening a subject's skin for example. Nikon has also included a selection of Quick Effects functions that help get your creative juices flowing.

And you can shoot videos, too, of course. That's a given on most cameras these days, but not all of them will allow the Coolpix S9500's Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel; Full HD) high-definition video capture, nor its built-in stereo microphone. And Nikon clearly wants you to take advantage of the S9500's video capture capability, because it's gifted the camera with a dedicated video record button.

Nikon has included USB 2.0 High-Speed data connectivity, supplementing the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. The latter allows you to transfer images and videos directly via Wi-Fi to compatible smart devices, using a free Wireless Mobile Adapter Utility application that's available for Android and iOS devices.

Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. There's also a not-very-generous 23MB of internal memory, enough for a few life-saving shots if you accidentally leave the house without a flash card, but you'll need to pick those shots carefully.

Power comes from a proprietary EN-EL12 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, and both battery and charger are included in the product bundle. Nikon says that the Coolpix S9500 will be capable of capturing 230 shots on a charge, around 15% more than the earlier camera. That difference may well in part come thanks to the Organic LED display.

Available from February 2013, the Nikon Coolpix S9500 is priced at around US$350. Three body colors will be available: black, silver, or red.