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Nikon Coolpix S9100 Digital Camera Review

We review the new pocket ultra zoom from Nikon, the S9100 features an 18x zoom lens, and 12mp CMOS sensor.

| Nikon Coolpix S9100 in Compact Cameras
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Nikon Coolpix S9100 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix S9100

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 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix S9100

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.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix S9100

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.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix S9100

Key Features 
  • 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 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix S9100

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.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Digital Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix S9100

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.

Panasonic TZ18 Canon SX220 Nikon S9100
Shutter Reponse <0.1 <0.1 0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.4 0.35 <0.2
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.4 0.35 0.6
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.9 1.8 1.9
Shot to Shot (without flash) 1.3 1.9 1.4
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.5 3.0 1.7-2.0
Continuous Shooting (full resolution) 0.9 seconds 2.5fps 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 at Chester Zoo Seagull
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...

Normal shot, ISO160, f/5.3, 1/640, 53mm Backlighting / HDR mode (flash fired), ISO160, f/5.3, 1/500, 53mm
Black and White, ISO160, f/5.3, 1/500, 39mm Colour highlight, ISO160, f/5.3, 1/800, 39mm

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.

Normal shot, ISO220, f/4.4, 1/250, 9mm Portrait mode (softens skin, reduces red-eye), ISO200, f/4.5, 1/30, 11mm

The portrait shot came out well, red-eye was reduced by using the portrait scene mode, and this also softens the skin, but keeps detail in the hair.

White Balance:

Auto white balance - Incandescent light, ISO160, f/4, 1/15, 7mm Incandescent preset - Incandescent light, ISO160, f/4, 1/15, 7mm
Auto white balance - Fluorescent light, ISO160, f/4, 1/3, 7mm Fluorescent preset - Fluorescent light, ISO160, f/4, 1/4, 7mm

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 Performance: 

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.

Video Mode

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


Nikon Coolpix S9100 Specification

Price £245
Lens 18x optical zoom (25-450mm equivalent)
Resolution 12.00 million pixels
Sensor size 1/2.3 inch
Sensor type Back lit CMOS
Max. Image size 12mp 4000 x 3000
Aspect ratio 4:3, 16:9
Monitor 3.0in TFT LCD monitor, 921000 pixels
Shutter speed 1/2000-1 sec.
Focusing system Contrast-detect AF
Focusing modes Auto (9-area automatic selection), Center, Face priority, Manual with 99 focus areas, Subject tracking
Focus distance [W]: Approx. 1 ft. 8 in. (50 cm.) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 5 ft. (1.5 m.) to infinity, Macro close-up mode: [W]: Approx. 1.6 in. (4 cm.) to infinity
File types Still pictures: JPEG
Sound files (Voice Memo): WAV
ISO sensitivity ISO160 - 3200
Metering modes 256-segment matrix, Center-weighted
Exposure compensation Exposure compensation (-2.0 to +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Continuous Approx. 9.5 frames/sec. (12M for 5 shots)
Image stabilisation Yes - Vibration Reduction (VR) Image-sensor shift type + electronic type (still image)
Movie mode Full HD 1920 x 1080, 30fps, Audio file format: AAC stereo, Movie file format: MPEG-4 AVC H.264
Media type Internal memory (approx. 74 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC/UHS memory card
Interface Hi-Speed USB 2.0 / Pictbridge / Audio/video (A/V) output / HDMI Mini Connector (HDMI output)
Power Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (1050 mAh)
Box Contents Camera, Camera Strap AN-CP19, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-69P, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16 and ViewNX 2 CD-ROM, 2 Year Warranty
Size 104.8 x 62.0 x 34.6 mm
Weight Approx. 214 g (7.6 oz.). (including battery and SD memory card)

The Nikon Coolpix S9100 costs £245 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Nikon Coolpix S9100

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Photographs taken using the Nikon Nikon Coolpix S9100

PHOTOGRAPHER ON SOUTHEND PIEROrange WaxCap FungiSummer BeginsEmpty LagoonCycle AprilDoug The SlugSouthend City JamSquirrel Enjoying The Last Rays Of The SunPigeons And PierCentral Southend on SeaOne Bird In A Morning SkyThinking Of Mr KSouthend Seafront In WinterOld SouthendWet Day In Winter

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I believe, based on any other source of info I've found, that the S9100 has aspect ratios of 4:3 and 16:9, and does not offer 3:2 ratio. I'd love it if it did, but I don't think it's an option.
You're right, my mistake, this has been fixed now, thanks Josh
yellow flowers has the same link as Wide-angle ( Sad

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