The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is a new compact travel zoom with a stunning 18x optical zoom lens, yet the camera still fits in trouser pockets. The camera features built in vibration reduction but will it be enough to banish blur or do you need to bring a tripod with you?
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Features
The camera's most obvious feature is the extremely large zoom range ranging from 25mm (shown above in the wide-angle setting) to 450mm equivalent in 35mm film terms (shown below at full telephoto zoom).
As well as this, the camera features a 12 megapixel Backside Illumination CMOS sensor that should offer better low light performance with lower noise than the same sized CCD sensor. The sensor also enables high speed shooting at 9.5fps for 5 shots at full resolution!
With video becoming an increasingly important feature of digital cameras, the S9100 comes fully prepared with Full HD video, at 1920x1080 with stereo sound, and allows the use of optical zoom while recording. High speed video is also available at up to 240fps, at 320x240, 120fps at 640x480, 60fps at 720p, as well as a sped up mode that shoots at Full HD, 15fps, then plays back at 30fps speeding up footage by 2x.
On the back of the camera, there is a large, high resolution 3inch screen with 921k pixels, giving a great view of photos. The camera also features a dedicated video button and mode dial, however, compared to some competitors, the S9100 does not feature manual controls.
12 megapixel back-lit CMOS sensor
18x optical zoom lens, f/3.5-5.9, 4.5-81mm, 25-450mm in 35mm equivalent
3inch screen, 921k pixels
Full HD video, 30fps, with stereo sound
High speed video 240/120/60fps
Scenes / Effects / Backlighting / Night / High speed modes
Image stabilisation: Image-sensor shift type
ISO160 - ISO3200
4cm Macro mode
Pop-up flash (manual)
Digital Zoom or Crop Zoom
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Handling
The camera is constructed out of metal comes in three stylish colours black, silver, and bright red, with my favourite being the black model. The body feels well built with high quality buttons and dials, including a useful scroll wheel on the back of the camera.
Front and back grips are not rubberised but work quite well. For steady shots a tripod or using both hands to grip the camera is a good idea. The tripod position is far left (looking from the back of the camera), which could cause problems with small lightweight tripods.
Buttons and controls are all good, with very neatly designed covers for the HDMI / AV out that are easily opened without accidentally opening them. The battery / memory compartment has a lockable cover containing the rather small looking battery.
Menus: The menu system highlights your selection in bright yellow, and the excellent screen makes it easy to view the options and controls. Menus are colour coded with shooting in green, playback in blue, and setup in orange, although the video menu is simply grey and has a slightly limited number of options. Overall the menu system is easy to use, and well laid out.
Battery Life: The CIPA rating is 270 shots, with the provided 1050mAh 3.9Wh, 3.7v battery EN-EL2. I was able to take over 400 shots on one charge, with around 100+ of these being taken using the high speed continuous shooting mode. It's always nice to getter better battery life from a camera than expected, especially from such a small looking battery.
Speed: We tested the Nikon Coolpix S9100, and compared the camera with the Panasonic Lumix TZ18, and Canon Powershot SX220 HS, taking 6 shots with each and using the average to ensure consistent and comparable results.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting (full resolution)
9.5fps (5 shots)
Flash is not available with continuous shooting. The high speed shooting mode on the S9100 has it's own position on the mode dial. The Nikon Coolpix S9100 has excellent shutter response, and wide angle focusing speed, however focusing slows down at the telephoto end. Shot to shot time was good with or without flash, and the continuous shooting mode is excellent.
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Performance
The Nikon Coolpix S9100 produces images that have good detail, bright saturated colours, and gives a huge optical zoom range, here are a series of real world, and studio sample photos to demonstrate the quality of the camera. To view full size, original photos taken with the S9100 simply click to enlarge.
Lion, Chester Zoo, Full optical zoom
ISO400, f/5.9, 1/60, 81mm
Seagull, Full optical zoom
ISO160, f/5.9, 1/800, 81mm
ISO and Noise Performance
ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
ISO160, f/5, 1/6, 19mm
ISO200, f/5, 1/8, 19mm
ISO400, f/5, 1/15, 19mm
ISO800, f/5, 1/30, 19mm
ISO1600, f/5, 1/60, 19mm
ISO3200, f/5, 1/125, 19mm
Noise is good from ISO160 to ISO400 with low noise levels, and good detail and colour. At ISO800 noise starts creeping in, but detail and colour are still good. ISO1600 and noise is much more noticeable but results are still very good for a small sensor, thanks to the Back Side Illumination technology. At ISO3200 noise becomes too much and this setting is best avoided as detail and colour suffer dramatically due to excessive noise.
Wide-angle, ISO160, f/3.5, 1/1600, 4mm
Mid-zoom, ISO160, f/5, 19mm
Full 18x optical zoom, ISO160, f/5.9, 1/200, 81mm
Bright yellow flowers, ISO160, f/5.3, 1/800, 30mm
The optical zoom provides a good zoom range from 25mm to 450mm allowing you to zoom into distant subjects and see detail not normally visible to the naked eye. The camera also features an automatic 180/360 degree panoramic feature that automatically stitches the panoramic in camera. Click below to view the full size version.
Some of the creative modes and photographic features are shown below...
The creative modes can create some artistic shots, and can make some otherwise boring shots more memorable, using the modes available: Back Light, Beach, Black and White Copy, Close Up, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Panorama, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Snow, Sports, Sunset
The high speed mode is very good shooting at 9.5fps for 5 shots at full resolution and does not cause any detrimental effect to image quality.
The camera produced better results under incandescent lighting by using the incandescent preset, with the auto white balance mode creating a yellow cast to the image. The opposite was true under fluorescent lighting with the camera producing better results using auto white balance, and the fluorescent preset giving a magenta colour cast.
Macro Flower, ISO160, f/3.5, 1/1600, 4mm
Macro flower / clock, ISO640, f/4.2, 1/50, 8mm
The macro mode is very good, allowing you to be roughly 4cm away from the subject, this captured excellent detail, with very sharp results in the centre of the yellow flower.
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Full HD Sample Video.
The video quality is very good and allows the use of optical zoom, audio is recorded even when using optical zoom, and the camera features wind reduction.
Value for Money
Compared to the competition, the Canon Powershot SX220 HS with 14x optical zoom is smaller, and costs £229, the Panasonic Lumix TZ18 with 16x optical zoom costs £229, however none of these offer the same zoom range, and 9.5fps shooting that the Nikon does. Others worth looking at with the same zoom range include the Olympus SZ-10, and Samsung WB700, however these are not yet available.
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Verdict
The Nikon Coolpix S9100 packs a frankly huge optical zoom into a pocketable camera body, and throws in a high speed backlit CMOS sensor for great low light performance, a whopping 9.5fps shooting, and Full HD video shooting. Add to that the excellent 3" 921k pixel screen, and you should be onto a winner. However, despite the camera's built in anti-shake feature, you will still need to be aware of the simple facts that you're going to need good light and a steady hand to use the full optical zoom, and may even need to think about using a tripod if you're ever shooting in less than ideal conditions. However, saying that, if you don't use the full optical zoom all the time and would just like to have the option every now and again, then it makes an extremely versatile camera.
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Pros:
Full HD video, stereo sound and high speed video
High speed 9.5fps continuous shooting for 5 shots
Quick performance (particularly at wide angle)
Huge amount of zoom in a pocketable body
Built in vibration reduction
Excellent 3inch screen
Low noise upto ISO400
Nikon Coolpix S9100 Cons:
Slightly slow telephoto focusing
Some purple fringing, some vignetting
Tripod socket position