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|Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.|
|Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at Nikon's second compact camera to feature a built-in projector.|
In a quest to find that unique feature that will set their products apart from the competition, Nikon have opted to add a miniature projector to a simple, easy to use compact camera with a touch screen interface, allowing pictures to be shown large, wherever you can find a white surface to project onto.
The Coolpix S1100pj costs around £360, so it is in competition with other premium compacts that may offer more zoom, enhanced video features or simply very high quality images so it will be interesting to see how the camera side of things performs, independent of the projector.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Features
First and foremost, the Coolpix S1100pj is a camera, rather than a projector and as such Nikon have made sure there are plenty of features available. A 5x zoom lens covering an angle of view equivalent to a 28-140mm lens on a 35mm camera offers a decent amount of flexibility. The 28mm wideangle is certainly useful for group shots or when shooting in tight conditions and the 140mm telephoto should be plenty enough for isolating many subjects at a reasonable distance.
Looking at the rear, you may notice that it is pretty bare, with very few buttons to press, as many features are tucked away in the menus, which are accessed via the touch screen interface. The touch screen is a resistive type, which means the screen's surface is quite reflective, but on the positive side, pretty much anything can be used to activate the screen (so those with fat fingers might want to use the stylus supplied with the camera).
Images are recorded by a 14.1 megapixel CCD sensor with sensitivities between ISO80 and ISO1600 available at full resolution and two further options of ISO3200 and ISO6400 at reduced resolution, providing plenty of flexibility for shooting in a wide range of lighting conditions. Auto ISO options are available covering a range between ISO80 and ISO800, or smaller ranges that you can specify if you prefer the camera not to raise the ISO too much.
The unique aspect of this camera is the built in projector, which can display images either from a memory card, or from a computer. The projector is pretty bright, especially considering the size of the camera and projects a clear image once properly focused. One suggested use is that the camera can be used to display Powerpoint presentations from the memory card, so long as they are saved as JPEG images. I'm sure that's something your travelling door-to-door salesperson could make excellent use of.
High definition videos can be recorded at 720p resolution at a frame rate of 30 frames per second. A dedicated movie record button is located on the rear allowing you to quickly record, without having to change modes in the menu. The footage is smooth and clear and looks pretty impressive when played back on a HD ready television.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Handling
Although the S1100pj is a little chunkier than other cameras of a similar design, it is still pocketable and is easy enough to take out and about on nights out or holiday excursions where you wish to travel light. As the rear is absent of the usual array of tiny buttons found on compacts, the design suits those like me, who have hands full of thumbs. There's plenty of space to grab hold of without accidentally pressing anything or placing a finger in front of the lens.
The touch screen interface can take a little getting used to at first. It isn't the most responsive touch interface I've used, which can be a little frustrating at times as menus take a second or two to load and animate jerkily across the screen. Another issue with the interface is that the touch targets seem quite small. This means that I often end up selecting the wrong option by accident when pressing the screen with my finger or thumb. The interface will definitely suit those with long fingernails better. For those who do struggle, like me, a touch screen stylus is provided, which makes things a lot easier.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Performance
The Coolpix S1100 is a fairly responsive camera, taking under a second to start up and even less to focus in most situations. Occasionally in low light the camera can struggle to focus accurately but most of the time the built-in AF illuminator comes to the rescue, so long as your subject isn't more than a metre or two away. A touch focus feature is also included, where you simply touch the screen around the area you wish to focus. In practice this works quite well, although focusing is noticeably slower than the usual button half-press method.
The exposure system uses the imaging sensor to calculate an exposure reading and under even lighting conditions it does a decent job most of the time. Subjects that are predominantly dark or light tend to come out over or under exposed in a slightly arbitrary way. It's not always the case that a light subject will come out underexposed and vice versa, so sometimes it pays to use the exposure compensation feature. Unfortunately this feature is buried in the menu and is adjusted via a slider on the touch screen, which can be a little fiddly, especially when in a hurry.
The 14.1 megapixel sensor is certainly capable of reproducing a lot of fine detail in decent lighting conditions, making this camera suitable for producing prints of a decent size. Colours can appear a little flat and washed out in the standard automatic mode. Luckily many of the scene modes have an adjustment slider which allows you to tailor the effect. For example, in the landscape mode there is a colour saturation slider to the right hand side of the screen, allowing you to get the look you want quickly and easily.
ISO and noise performance
Images taken at the base ISO and ISO100 are clear, sharp and full of detail. Although there is no significant noise by ISO200, there are signs of softening due to noise reduction present, which can be seen in finer details. This softening due to noise reduction continues as the sensitivity increases and becomes quite noticeable by ISO800, although speckling due to noise is still kept to a minimum.
ISO1600 is the highest setting that you can still take pictures at the full 14.1 megapixel resolution. As far as noise is concerned, images taken at this setting hold up quite well, but that softening due to noise reduction has now started to look blotchy. Fine details look slightly like a pointillist painting when examined closely.
Images taken at higher settings have a maximum resolution of 3.1 million pixels in an effort to reduce the amount of noise present. Despite the drastic reduction in resolution, I dare say you could still get a respectable 9x6inch print out of images taken at ISO3200. Although images at this setting lack the overall clarity of images taken at lower settings, the amount of noise is well controlled. ISO6400 may be a step too far though, as images at this setting display the same blotchiness seen at ISO1600 but the effect is more pronounced due to the lower resolution.
|Nikon Coolpix S1100pj Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
|Nikon Coolpix S1100pj Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
The auto white balance setting on the Coolpix S1100pj does quite an impressive job of correcting colour casts without making images look artificial, leaving just enough of a cast under incandescent or fluorescent lighting to retain the atmosphere.
For some reason the Incandescent preset seems to have introduced a slight green cast, which is just noticeable in neutral objects. To me this is slightly bizarre, as it appears that the auto white balance does a better job under these conditions. The fluorescent preset has done an excellent job of correcting the colour cast from the warm white fluorescent tubes in our studio.
Buffer read/write times
Unlike many other cameras at this price point, the Coolpix S1100pj makes no claim about fast continuous shooting speeds or response times. Even so the shot to shot delay is a respectable 2.01seconds in single shot mode. In the sports mode the camera is capable of taking a burst of three shots at approximately one frame per second, which is nothing special, but may be useful all the same.
The 5x zoom lens fitted to the Coolpix S1100pj covers a range equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera, which is a useful range suitable for a wide range of subjects. This optic is capable of producing decent, sharp images with plenty of detail from edge to edge.
The internal design of the lens means that nothing extends from the camera during zooming or focus and the front of the lens is deeply recessed into the body, which should reduce the chance of accidentally damaging the front element during use.
During testing the lens appears to be quite resistant to flare, but can suffer with loss of contrast when shooting into the light. Distortion is also well controlled, with only a little barrel distortion at the wide end and even less pincushion distortion at the telephoto end.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Verdict
If this were just a camera, without the unique projector feature, it would still come out quite well in this review. It is capable of producing decent quality images and the 5x zoom range is very useful, especially on a compact camera like this.
Although some aspects of the handling may not be to everyone's taste, it is still a good all-round camera that is very simple to use.
The projector feature may not float everyone's boat, but I did find it quite intriguing. Now you can bore your family and friends with a proper sideshow of the 3500 images you took on your latest jaunt to Benidorm, or you could put it to better use. Although you can project directly from a computer, I'm not sure this projector would be the best tool for delivering your Powerpoint presentation on cornering the world market in cheese twizzles, but still it might do if you were stuck.
Overall this camera is a well featured addition to the Coolpix line up and if the features on offer appeal to you, then it should be well worth the asking price. If not, you may be better looking at a camera more suitable for you needs.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Pros
Useful 5x zoom range
Compact design considering what's been squeezed in
Projector works surprisingly well
Good noise control
Good clarity at lower ISO settings
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Cons
Touch screen isn't the most responsive
Occasional unpredictable over/under exposure
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Specification
|What comes in the box||Wrist strap, AV cable, Battery, Charger, Infrared remote control, Touch Screen Pen, Software, USB Cable|
|Lens||5.0-25.0mm (35mm format equivalent to 28-140mm)|
|Sensor type||RGB CCD|
|Max. Image size||4320x3240|
|LCD monitor size||3inch|
|Focusing system||Contrast detection|
|Focusing modes||Single, face Detection, Touch focus|
|Metering system||via CCD|
|Metering modes||17 scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Copy, Backlight, Panorama assist).|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2EV|
|Continuous shooting||1fps in sports mode|
|Anti-shake mode||Lens-shift type + electronic type + Motion Detection (conventional type) + BSS (Best Shot Selector)|
|Movie mode||HD 720p: 1,280 x 720/30 fps, VGA : 640 x 480/30 fps, VGA: 640 x 480/15 fps, QVGA: 320 x 240/30 fps, QVGA: 320 x 240/15 fps|
|Media type||Internal memory (approx. 79 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card* *Not compatible with Multi Media Card (MMC)|
|Projector||Single light/single plate system Brightness: Up to 14 lumens*, image size: 5 to 47 in., throw distance: approx. 0.26 to 2.4 m, endurance (battery life): approx. 1 hour with EN-EL12, resolution (output): VGA equivalent|
|Size (wxdxl)||100.8 x 62.7 x 24.1|
|Weight||(with battery) 180g|
The Nikon Coolpix S1100pj costs £360 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj in black
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj in green