Nikon S9100 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon Coolpix S9100
Resolution: 12.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 18.00x zoom
(25-450mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 160-3200
Shutter: 4-1/4000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.4 in.
(105 x 62 x 35 mm)
Weight: 7.5 oz (212 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $330
Availability: 03/2011
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon S9100 specifications
12.10
Megapixels
18.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Nikon Coolpix S9100
Front side of Nikon Coolpix S9100 digital camera Back side of Nikon Coolpix S9100 digital camera Top side of Nikon Coolpix S9100 digital camera Left side of Nikon Coolpix S9100 digital camera Right side of Nikon Coolpix S9100 digital camera

S9100 Summary

Fast to focus, the Nikon S9100 has one of the longest long zooms in pocket form, ranging from 25-450mm. Excellent controls and myriad modes enhance your ability to get a shot in varied conditions, while many special continuous modes let you slow things down so you can examine them later.

Pros

Backside-illuminated sensor for good low-light performance; Very long zoom; Good printed performance; Very fast autofocus.

Cons

Autofocus is not always reliable; Auto white balance renders skin tones a little red; Slow digital zoom.

Price and availability

The Nikon Coolpix S9100 started shipping in the USA from March 2011, priced at around US$330. Available body colors include black, red, and silver.

Imaging Resource rating

4.0 out of 5.0

Nikon Coolpix S9100 User Report

by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Posted: 07/18/2011

In the digicam battle against the insurgent cellphones, image quality hasn't been enough to turn back the tide. And the modest 3x zoom so popular for so long hasn't been enough either.

The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is one of several pocketable digicams packing a long zoom in its small frame, the sort of zoom you used to see only on bulky dSLR-like superzooms. At 18x optical, it reaches to a barely handholdable 450mm from a pretty generous 25mm wide angle that can see more of the room than most digicams.

Image quality hasn't been forgotten either, with a new 12.1-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor mated with Nikon's EXPEED C2 image processing engine.

And just for fun, there are a few tricks up the Coolpix S9100's sleeve, too. It's enough to make the Coolpix S9100 an interesting travel companion, or, in our case, something to bring to the ballpark.

Look and Feel. Compared to an ultracompact, the Coolpix S9100 is a thick 1.4 inches, but it still fits in a shirt pocket without rearranging your collar. That puts it in the same weight class as a lot of cameras these days, but it has one thing going for it I haven't seen recently: a grip.

Gripping these slick little cameras is work, so much so that there are even after-market grips you can attach to some of them to make the job a little easier. And that's where the Coolpix S9100's design really distinguished itself. The front of the camera is a soft molded rubber that won't let your grip slip. There's a raised bar as well, but it's the soft rubber that makes your grip feel secure. Well done, Nikon.

Another problem digicams this size have is flash placement. With the lens taking up most of the right front, the flash has moved to a crowded spot between the lens and your grip with a finger almost always too close for comfort to the flash.

But the Coolpix S9100 cleverly stored the flash in the top panel with a small release switch on the left side. And, unlike the Canon SX series, which features a similar solution, the flash does not pop up when you power on the camera.

On the Coolpix S9100, the flash doesn't raise much above the height of the camera, so you might think red-eye is still an issue, but I blinded myself proving that even at arm's length and zoomed in, there was no red-eye. I suspect some EXPEED processing at work there, but again, nicely done, Nikon.

Finally, let me point out another piece of engineering genius that has eluded most other digicams. The indispensable wrist strap enjoys one of the most intelligent eyelets yet seen by man. Rather than hide a hole with a pin in the body of the camera, the Coolpix S9100 actually has a protruding hook that is so simple to thread you could do it blindfolded with one arm tied behind your back and three monkeys chasing each other around your head.

The front panel of the camera, sporting that rubberized surface I loved, is home to the 18x lens, the self-timer/focus assist lamp and that nice bar grip. Nothing else.

The right side panel has the eyelet I praised and, just above it, a mini-HDMI out port.

On the left side, there's the flash's pop-up control near the top and nothing else.

The top panel hosts the usual suspects. From left to right, there's the flash, five grid holes for the speaker and stereo microphones, the flush Power button ringed with a green LED, the chrome Shutter button with a black top ringed itself with the Zoom lever, and the Mode dial, which protrudes just enough off the back to manage with your right thumb.

On the back panel, the 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD (yeah, 921K, not 230K like most digicams) sits to the left of the charge lamp and sparse controls, which include a Movie recording button to the right of some thumb bumps, the Playback button above the Scroll Wheel with an OK button in the middle, and the Menu and Erase buttons below the Scroll Wheel. Simple.

The bottom of the Coolpix S9100 is where Nikon hid the laundry. The metal tripod socket is way off in the left corner under the lens, allowing for easy battery and memory card changes while the camera is mounted on a tripod. Nice. And the USB port is tucked next to the hinge for the battery/card compartment so you have to put the camera on its face or back to connect. Ugh.

In the hand the camera does not feel hefty at all. But thanks to the good grip, you don't miss the weight when handheld.

Controls. All of the controls on the Coolpix S9100 were comfortable to use, which is something I don't say much.

While the Power button is flush with the top panel, making it hard to find, it's larger than most, so you really can just slide your finger off the Shutter button to press it without stabbing around.

The Zoom lever is two speed, so if you move it only slightly it slowly zooms and if you move it more, it zooms quickly. That's a big help in composing images but also when shooting movies.

The Shutter button is large with an obvious half-press detent. Very nice.

The Mode dial is easy to click with your thumb and holds its position. That may not sound like I'm saying much, but it's been an issue on other cameras.

One control I just didn't make friends with was the Movie button on the back panel. I always had to look for it because it's so close to the thumb pad that it has to be unobtrusive. You'd think you could just slide your thumb over to activate it, but that loosens your grip. Grumble.

The Playback button powers the camera on without extending the lens, but doesn't power the camera off.

The Scroll Wheel functions quite well as a navigator while still responding to the traditional arrow key presses. Up cycles through the Flash modes. Right accesses Exposure Compensation but that's not the half of it. Right really accesses the Creative slider with several settings (Hue, Vividness, Brightness [EV], Exit, and Reset). Down toggles Macro mode. And Left cycles through the Self-Timer modes (10s, 2s, Smile Timer, Off).

The 921K-dot LCD is just gorgeous whether you're flying through the Menu system, composing an image, or playing them back. Nikon really went above and beyond here and we're on our chair clapping.

Lens. The lens is what's going to draw you away from your cellphone. And your dSLR, for that matter. There's nothing quite like it apart from the megazooms of bulkier digicams.

It's very quick on the draw, even though it extends a good bit. It's a bit slower retracting but not much. It was never an issue for me. I just turned the camera on when I needed it and off when I was done. No sleeping necessary.

The 18x optical zoom features Nikkor Extra-low Dispersion glass to reduce chromatic aberration, a real help in a zoom this long. The focal range starts from a very wide 25mm (35mm equivalent) rather than 28mm or 35mm, and stretches to a barely handholdable 450mm. It consequently features Nikon's Vibration Reduction sensor-shift image stabilization system. But Nikon also uses what the company calls Electronic VR, where the camera does its best to eliminate the effects of camera or subject movement.

Digital zoom adds up to 4x more zoom to about 1,800mm in a 35mm equivalent. But once you tap into digital zoom, zooming is glacially slow.

Maximum apertures range from f/3.5 at wide angle to f/5.9 at telephoto. The S9100's lens does not use a multistage iris diaphragm, but instead uses a 2-stop neutral density (ND) filter to control the amount of light striking the sensor.

Focus ranges from 1 foot, 8 inches (50 cm) to infinity at wide angle and 5 feet (1.5 m) to infinity at telephoto. Macro mode in wide angle gets as close as 1.6 inches (4 cm) to infinity.

Modes. The Coolpix S9100 has an interesting Mode Dial. Green Auto mode is the primary shooting mode, buttressed by a number of Scene modes and other specialty options.

That was a little disturbing to me, but the simplicity lends itself to trying out some of the special features, which would otherwise be buried in some menu.

PROGRAM. Program Auto is the main shooting mode on the Coolpix S9100. The camera makes all the decisions, but you have the most options for refining those decisions.

AUTO SCENE. Scene with a heart. That's the icon. The camera selects the appropriate scene mode based on your composition. It's also known as Smart Auto or Intelligent Auto. And, yes, it can slip into Macro mode. Additionally, it knows about Landscape, Night Landscape, Backlighting, Portrait, and Night Portrait modes. If all else fails, it simply shoots Auto. No digital zoom or Smile Timer, though.

SCENE. Pressing the Menu button brings up some supplemental Scene modes including Portrait (the default), Landscape, Sports, Party/Indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Close Up, Food, Museum, Fireworks Show, Black and White Copy, Night Landscape, Night Panorama, and Pet Portrait.

Panorama has two options. You can select Easy Panorama or Panorama Assist.

Easy is, well, pretty easy. Just select 180- or 360-degree options from the Menu system, line up your first shot, press the Shutter button, let go of the Shutter button, and just move the camera in the direction you want to go. When the camera detects motion, it starts capturing images, indicating with a slider on the LCD how many it has taken of what it needs. Then it builds the composite image in the camera.

Panorama Assist is the traditional method of taking individual shots with the help of a partial overlay of the last shot for alignment. When you're done, you press the OK button. And stitch the shots together on the computer.

NIGHT LANDSCAPE. A menu setting sets Night Landscape to either Hand-held (the default) or Tripod mode. In Hand-held mode, the camera captures a series of images and combines them to reduce noise. In Tripod mode VR is off, digital zoom is disabled, focus is set at infinity, and the autofocus assist light is disabled (since focus is at infinity).

NIGHT PORTRAIT. If you have a human in the frame at night, you want this mode instead. Again, both Hand-held (the default) and Tripod modes are available. The Coolpix S9100 looks for a face to focus on.

BACKLIGHTING. When your subject is in front of a strong light, you want this mode. The Menu button provides an HDR option. If HDR is off, the flash is fired when raised. With HDR on, the camera takes a series of images, saving one processed with D-Lighting and another that's a composite. No digital zoom.

CONTINUOUS. The behavior of the Coolpix S9100 when you set the Mode Dial to Continuous depends on the Continuous Menu setting. There are several: Continuous H, Continuous L, Pre-shooting cache, Continuous H: 120 fps, Continuous H: 60 fps, BBS, and Multi-shot 16.

With Continuous H, Continuous L, Pre-shooting cache, or BBS, images are captured as you hold the Shutter button down. With Continuous H: 120 fps, Continuous H: 60 fps,, and Multi-shot 16, you just have to press the Shutter button once because the camera knows how many images to capture.

Let's look at these a little more closely.

  • Continuous H will capture up to five images at full resolution at a rate of about 9.5 frames per second.
  • Continuous H will capture up to 24 images at 1.8 fps.
  • Pre-shooting cache starts capturing when the Shutter button is pressed halfway at 7.5 fps, saving five frames total, including two from just before the Shutter button was fully depressed.
  • Continuous H: 120 fps captures 50 frames with at least a 1/125 second shutter speed at a 1,280 x 960 pixel image size.
  • Continuous H: 60 fps captures 25 frames with at least a 1/60 second shutter speed at a 1,600 x 1,200 pixel image size.
  • BBS captures up to five images, saving the sharpest one.
  • Multi-shot 16 captures 6 images at 30 fps and arranges them into a single 2,560 x 1,920 pixel image.

Clearly Continuous H is a big deal for a digicam. We tested it on Tim Lincecum as he warmed up. And each image in itself was good enough to print.

EFFECTS. The Menu button accesses a menu of Special Effects that includes:

  • Soft to add a slight blur to the entire image
  • Nostalgic Sepia to add a sepia tone to the image and reduce contrast, simulating an old photo
  • High-Contrast Monochrome to capture a black and white image with "sharp" contrast
  • High Key to brighten the image
  • Low Key to darken the image
  • Selective Color to capture a black and white image except for a specific color

MOVIE. Movie mode options on the Coolpix S9100 are extensive. The options, all of which capture images at 30 frames per second except HS modes, include:

  • HD 1080p* (the default) for 1,920 x 1,080 frames at a bitrate of 14 Mbps
  • HD 1080 for 1920 x 1,080 frames at 12 Mbps
  • HD 720 for 1,280 x 720 frames at 9 Mbps
  • iFrame 540 for 960 x 540 frames at 24 Mbps
  • VGA for 640 x 480 frames at 640 Kbps
  • HS 240 fps for 320 x 240 frames at 640 Kbps and 1/8 speed slow motion with a maximum recording time of 10 seconds (80 seconds playback)
  • HS 120 fps for 640 x 480 frames at 3 Mbps and 1/4 speed slow motion with a maximum recording time of 10 seconds (40 seconds playback)
  • HS 60 for 1,280 x 720 frames at 9 Mbps and 1/2 speed slow motion with a maximum recording time of 30 seconds (one minute playback)
  • HS 15 fps for 1,920 x 1,080 frames at 12 Mbps and 2x fast motion with a maximum recording time of two minutes (one minute playback)

In HS modes sound is not recorded, VR is not supported, and zoom, focus, white balance and exposure are all locked at the start of recording.

Full HD video. 1920x1080p30 (14 mbps) H.264 with stereo audio. Click to download 9.4MB .MOV file.

Movies are limited to a maximum file size of 4GB and length of 29 minutes, and are encoded using H.265/MPEG-4 AVC compression with AAC (48 kHz) stereo audio in a .MOV container.

You can set the Autofocus Mode to either Single AF (the default) or Full-Time AF, so the camera focuses continuously. Normal speed movies can be set to use electronic vibration reduction in the menu system. And there's an option to enable Wind Noise Reduction as well.

Optical and digital zoom can be used during Movie capture but backing out of digital into optical isn't supported. And as with most cameras that correct for geometric distortion and chromatic aberration, the Nikon S9100 can't do that correction in Movie mode.

But wait, there's more. You can create still images while recording movies, too. Just press the Shutter button. In the HD 1080p modes, a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel image will be saved. In HD 720p, a 1,280 x 720 pixel image is saved and in VGA mode, a 640 x 480 pixel image is saved.

PLAYBACK. In Playback mode you can tap into some in-camera editing for Crop, D-Lighting, Filter Effects (Soft, Selective Color, Cross Screen, Fisheye, Miniature Effect), Frame, Quick Retouch, Skin Softening, and Small Pic.

Menu System. All these special features and extensive options are, in fact, made easily accessible by Nikon's well-organized and attractive Menu system.

I've raved before about the gray color scheme that uses yellow for a highlight but it never gets old. It's simply one of the best graphically designed menu systems I've ever used and the high resolution LCD only makes it look better.

Record

 

Setup

 

Playback Mode

 

Playback Menu

 

Storage & Battery. While the Coolpix S9100 does include about 74MB of internal storage, you'll want an SD memory card to store images and movies.

Nikon certifies SanDisk, Toshiba, Panasonic, and Lexar SD cards for use with the Coolpix S9100. Our test shots were done with a Kingston card.

Memory cards with and SD speed class rating of 6 or faster are recommended for HD movie recording.

A 4GB card will hold 650 of the highest quality JPEGs the Coolpix S9100 can capture, compared to just 12 using internal memory.

The Coolpix S9100 is powered by an EN-EL12 rechargeable lithium-ion battery providing about 270 shots using CIPA standards. I had no issues with battery life.

There is an optional battery charger (MH-65) available, but for charging you connect the included power plug to a USB cable that runs to the bottom of the camera. This arrangement also lets you charge the Coolpix S9100 while it's connected to a computer if you enable that option in the Setup menu.

An optional AC adapter (EH-62F) is also available, using a dummy battery to supply power from an AC outlet, but the included EH-69P adapter/charger can also power the camera.

Zoom Range. 25mm to 450mm to 4x digital zoom.

 

Image Quality. Chromatic aberration in the resolution target was moderate in the corners, and resolution was very good for a 12-megapixel long zoom.

The lens distortion shots for both wide angle and telephoto showed almost no measurable distortion thanks to post-processing after capture (as noted, video will still show this distortion), though chromatic aberration was more evident.

And the Still Life at ISO 160 shows very good color (notice the distinct pattern in the red square cloths) and very good detail (a legible proportion wheel if the cross hatching on the "Pure Brewed" type on Samuel Smith isn't quite distinct).

Shooting. My first shots with the Coolpix S9100 were close-ups. Some coins, a small clay figure, a glass clown. I thought the clay figure, with its high contrast, was the best of these.

The lower contrast image of the coins actually was taken at a lower ISO than the figure, and consequently a much slower shutter speed. It's a soft shot, pleasing to look at but not nearly as sharp as it might have been.

Even more puzzling, the clown was a very difficult shot. There's plenty of contrast and good light but the Coolpix S9100 kicked ISO to 640 and set the shutter speed to only 1/50 second. More troubling, it had a very hard time getting focus. So hard, in fact, that I almost abandoned the shot. I backed up a bit and zoomed in and it found focus. I would have expected it to have an easier time at full wide angle.

Contrast-detect autofocus as well as Macro mode can challenge a digicam. So my next shoot was a more conventional one: a trip up Twin Peaks.

I paused on the way up to shoot the bleached logs in black and white and color. I used the Effects option on the Mode Dial to select High-Contrast Monochrome (reported in the Makernotes SceneAssist tag), a bit of a round-about way to black and white photography, but at least there's a way. High-Contrast was perhaps a bit too high contrast, with the highlights blown but the image is dramatic and quite sharp in the center. It isn't a bad shot, in short.

By contrast, the color version is rather drab. The bleached log is not blown out but it doesn't have much texture. And the dark hollows below it are not quite dramatic enough. It's an image that cries out for editing.

It was an overcast day, as you can see on the shot of the row of logs. This shot wasn't very successful either, mostly a blur at ISO 160 and 1/1,250 second. The trouble is that f/3.5 aperture, which doesn't produce enough depth of field. It's a good example of when you would use aperture priority -- or at least a Scene mode that prioritizes depth of field. Landscape mode can usually do that, but as mentioned previously, the S9100's lens uses an ND filter instead of an iris for aperture, so no joy here.

The weather spoiled my zoom range shots from that day but the next chance I got, the shots showed off the range of this compact digicam. The sky was blue but there was haze so the zoomed images are flatter than they might have been.

Digital zoom captured sufficient detail and color to make it a reasonable option. But once the Coolpix S9100 enters digital zoom, it zooms very, very slowly. While it's helpful to indicate the game has changed and we're sacrificing some quality, it really is annoying. We avoid digital zoom on the Coolpix S9100 just for that reason.

Continuous H Handheld

Our next event was a ball game. The Atlanta Braves were in town and Tim Lincecum was on the mound for the World Champions. We had lower box seats just beyond first base. That's tantalizingly close. You can see well but you're not close enough to get good shots with most cameras.

But with the Coolpix S9100, I was able to crop to full body shots in the infield, which is pretty nice. I had the umpire, catcher and hitter all in the frame and a good view of runners on first. I was also able to isolate the pitcher. All of this handheld.

In Continuous mode, I used Continuous H to capture Lincecum warming up. His delivery takes longer than a second so I picked him up about halfway through, capturing five images over the last second at a 9.5 fps clip at full resolution. Those shots, snapped at 1/500 second are in the gallery.

I printed the second one as a 5x7, cropping out a bit of the top and the left side. There was still enough data for a superb print, which I mailed to my nephew with the longest hair.

In fact, cropping was the trick. As close as the Coolpix S9100 could zoom, an even tighter crop made a better shot. The image of Cody Ross sliding back into first does a lot better with a tight crop. And that's still enough resolution for a nice 5x7 (and perhaps an even larger print).

I took the Coolpix S9100 to another park, Golden Gate Park. The cherry blossoms were still in bloom and there's a shot in the gallery of some against a very dark background. I'd thought I would need to adjust EV for that shot, so I did, dropping down to -1.0 EV and -0.7 EV. But the two best shots in the sequence were actually at 0 EV and, even better, -0.3 EV.

The one shot that did profit from -1.0 EV was of green leaves filtering the sunshine. The color in that shot really won me over. As did the color in the shot of the bust of Verdi. You can see I was shooting into the sun, but the sky is still blue and the dark cypress trees are not entirely without detail. It's a very difficult shot (particularly for a digicam) and the Coolpix S9100 did a very good job with it.

The Coolpix S9100 wasn't the only digicam I had with me on this trip, but I was surprised how well it did with difficult shots in the park. Much better, in fact, than the Panasonic ZS8. The shots of the bronze vase were well captured by the Coolpix S9100 where the ZS8 simply failed to capture the color or tone.

I also took a few very low-light shots at ISO 3,200. There is color and detail in those shots, enough that I wouldn't hesitate to use ISO 3,200, even though they aren't on par with the lower ISO images.

 

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Strong blurring, lower right
Tele: Slightly fuzzy at center
Tele: Strong blurring, upper right corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Nikon Coolpix S9100's zoom shows noticeable blurring and flare in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, with the strongest blurring occurring in the right corners and down the right side (where it also extends further into the frame). At telephoto, results are similar, though details are just slightly soft at center. Neither result is a surprise, though, given the extreme range of this 18x zoom.


Wide: Only one pixel of barrel distortion; hardly noticeable
Tele: No visible distortion

Geometric Distortion: There is only one pixel of barrel distortion at wide-angle (about 0.03%), and no perceptible distortion at telephoto. The Nikon Coolpix S9100's processor does an excellent job here.


Wide: High
Tele: Quite bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is high in terms of pixel count, with fairly bright blue pixels extending almost halfway across the black area. At telephoto, distortion is again high, though the blue pixels are much brighter.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Nikon Coolpix S9100's Macro mode captures fairly sharp details at the center of the frame, though noticeable blurring at the corners extends far in toward the center (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Exposure is a little bright, with a warm color balance. Minimum coverage area is 2.25 x 1.69 inches (57 x 43mm), which is about average. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens, resulting in a harsh shadow across the bottom of the frame. Stick to external lighting when shooting this close.


 

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Nikon Coolpix S9100's LCD monitor showed just under 100% coverage at wide-angle and just over 100% at telephoto. Pretty good.


 

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Image Quality


Color: Overall color is bright and vibrant, though bright greens, reds and blues are a good bit oversaturated. Bright yellows are just a tad muted, as are aquas. In terms of hue accuracy, cyan is pushed toward blue (a common occurrence presumably to enhance skies), reds are shifted toward orange, and oranges toward yellow. Dark skintones show a strong shift toward orange, while lighter skin tones are practically dead-on accurate. Overall, fairly good results.


Auto WB:
Noticeable red tint
Incandescent WB:
Yellow, but not too bad
 
Manual WB:
Good, but a hint cool

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, though it does feel a little cool. Incandescent produced a stronger warm cast, but some consumers may prefer it to the slightly cool Manual image. Auto produced a strong reddish tint.


Horizontal: 1,800 lines
Vertical: 1,800 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height in both directions. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,400 lines per picture height.


Wide: Bright
Tele: Bright, but vignetting
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows bright results at the rated wide angle distance of 13 feet, though ISO is boosted to 450. The telephoto test came out bright at 8.2 feet, ISO 640, though with a noticeable vignette.

Auto flash produced an image was too bright in our indoor portrait scene, retaining essentially no ambient light at 1/30 second, ISO 360. You may actually want to dial down the exposure when shooting under normal indoor lighting like this. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


160
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is good but already a little soft at ISO 160, and blurring increases from there. Chroma (color) noise isn't overly strong, but luminance noise becomes overt at ISO 800. Noise suppression efforts are another factor, because details lose definition as more noise suppression is required. Results at ISOs 1,600 and 3,200 are quite blurry with faded color. See Printed section below for more on how this affects prints.


Print Quality: ISO 160 shots looked good printed up to 16x20 inches. On very close inspection, there was a little softness here and there, especially in the shadows, but it wasn't bad.

ISO 200 images were a little softer, but still usable at 16x19 inches. A print at 13x19 inches, though, looked a lot better.

ISO 400 shots were too soft for 13x19-inch prints, but looked good at 11x14 inches.

ISO 800 images were a little grainy for 11x14. We'd call it usable, but we preferred the 8x10-inch prints.

ISO 1,600 shots were too soft for 8x10, with more color fading and outright blurring of some detail. Printing at 5x7 helped with the detail loss, but the fading remains an issue.

ISO 3,200 shots look pretty good at 5x7.

Overall, the Nikon S9100 performs well, producing usable prints of normal sizes from each ISO setting.


 

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Performance


Startup Time: The Coolpix S9100 takes about 1.5 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's very fast for a pocket long-zoom.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.22 second at wide angle and full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is only 0.011 second, which is also very good.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is pretty good, capturing a frame every 1.25 seconds in single-shot mode. Full resolution Continuous H mode is rated at 9.5 frames per second for 5 frames, and 120 Continuous mode is able to capture 1280x960 images at 118 frames per second in our tests.


Flash Recycle: The Nikon Coolpix S9100's flash recycles in about 4.6 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is good.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with AF assist.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Nikon Coolpix S9100's download speeds are moderately fast. We measured 5,128 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The retail box contains:

  • The Coolpix S9100 camera
  • Camera strap AN-CP19
  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery EN-EL12
  • Charging AC adapter EH-69P
  • UC-E6 USB cable
  • Audio video cable EG-CP16
  • Nikon ViewNX 2 software CD

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra battery pack for extended outings
  • Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 8GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. Nikon recommends Class 6 or faster cards to record HD movies.
  • Mini HDMI (Type C) to HDMI cable
  • Camera case

 

Nikon S9100 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Backside illuminated sensor performs well
  • Reasonably light
  • Nice ridge and rubber for grip on the front
  • Manually released pop-up flash
  • 18x lens ranges from 25-450mm
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization (for stills)
  • Full HD movie mode
  • Stereo microphones
  • High-resolution LCD (921K dots)
  • Controls are comfortable to use
  • Two-speed zoom lever
  • Optical zoom during movie recording
  • Firm mode dial
  • Excellent Scroll Wheel control
  • Easy Panorama mode
  • Very fast autofocus
  • Fast cycle time and burst modes
  • Fast startup and flash recycle
  • Still capture during movie recording (up to 1,920 x 1,080)
  • Imaging stacking Night shot modes
  • HDR mode
  • Myriad of Continuous modes
  • HDMI port
  • Distortion correction is very effective for stills
  • Soft corners at wide and tele
  • Noticeable chromatic aberration and flare in some shots
  • No manual exposure mode
  • Connector/charging port on the bottom requires that you lay camera flat on a table
  • Movie button difficult to press
  • Chromatic aberration and geometric distortion correction are not applied to movies
  • No sensor-shift VR in movies (electronic VR only)
  • Autofocus is not always reliable
  • Digital zoom is very slow
  • Only two aperture settings at a given focal length, using an ND filter
  • No RAW format support
  • Auto white balance renders tungsten light a little red

 

The Coolpix S9100 is one of the most attractive compact digicams we've seen, featuring high-grade controls and a soft front panel with a raised finger hold that serves as a excellent grip. With an 18x optical zoom range that starts at a very wide angle, there aren't many places you won't want to bring it.

I liked both the color capture and detail rendering of the Coolpix S9100's images, even at high ISO and was able to make cropped 5x7s without worrying about loss of quality.

But the Coolpix S9100 did have trouble finding focus with some rather simple subjects. And digital zoom was glacially slow. Both are minor issues in normal use.

If you don't need in-camera GPS, the Coolpix S9100 also makes a very nice travel camera. It's small enough to pack with a great zoom range, and handles interiors as well as landscapes. Those are attributes that count even if you aren't going anywhere. And that makes the Coolpix S9100 a Dave's Pick.

To see how the Nikon S9100 compares to its competitors, see our Travel Zoom Shootout!

 

Nikon S9100

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