April 18, 2011
- Compact & well-designed
- Very easy to use
- Excellent 3-inch LCD display
- 18x optical zoom
- Very good image quality
- No manual controls
- Bad low-light video
The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is a compact, 12-megapixel digital camera that offers an 18x optical zoom lens and a backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor. This gives the S9100 excellent low-light shooting quality, making it very easy to use and delivering some very good quality images too.
The Nikon Coolpix S9100 measures 4.2 x 1.4 x 2.5-inches and weighs 0.5-pounds, which makes it very compact, portable and easily slipped into a pocket for easy carrying. It also has a fairly stylish look too with a matte black finish, but we felt that it was a little hard to hold onto at times, mainly because of the slimness of the handgrip. There are two other colors available (red and silver) as well.
On the backside, you'll find a 3-inch LCD along side a minimal layout of buttons. The LCD display works nicely, works in direct sunlight and has very good image quality, which can sometimes be a rarity for a point-and-shoot compact. The buttons include a four-way navigation pad, a dedicated video record button, a playback, menu and delete button. The top of the Nikon Coolpix S9100 has a zoom toggle, mode dial and power button. The pop-up flash is also located on the top of the camera and is activated by sliding a toggle switch on the camera's side. The flash is extremely bright and does a good job of lighting even a mostly dark setting.
In terms of specifications, the Nikon Coolpix S9100 has a 12-megapixle resolution with backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, an 18x optical zoom lens (25-450mm 35mm equivalent), a focal length of 4.5-81mm, an aperture range of f3.5/f5.9 and a shutter speed of 1-1/2000 second. The maximum image resolution is 4000 x 3000-pixels and can be saved in JPEG format. Videos can be shot at a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080-pixels (1080p HD) at 30 frames per second and saved in MPEG4 format. For storage, SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards are supported. More of the camera's specifications are listed under the "Specs" tab at the top of this review.
There is no manual controls on this camera, so you have to rely on the automatic modes, but you get plenty of options to choose from. There are many different scene modes (14 total) and effects to add a little artistic touches to your shots. For example, the more advanced modes include high-contrast monochrome, low-key and high-key (the last two adjust the color saturation levels). There are also filters that can be applied in-camera and a few ways to touchup images as well.
The Nikon Coolpix S9100 does have a some autofocus controls that allow you to change the focus point of the frame to create more dramatic shots. There is also a tracking focus mode, which will focus on a moving object and it works rather well too.
Nikon includes an Easy Panorama mode that allows you to press the shutter button and pan the camera across a setting and the camera will automatic stitch together the shots into one panoramic image. You also are given the option to take either a 180- or 360-degree panoramic image. We found this mode to work quite well, but only if you pan the camera at an extremely slow speed to avoid blurring and stitching glitches.
In subjective image tests, we found the Nikon Coolpix S9100 to perform extremely well in well-lit conditions as it provided very good rated images. Colors seemed to be saturated and represented in an accurate way. We did notice some over-exaggeration of colors at times, but nothing unexpected from a point-and-shoot. Thanks to the backlit CMOS sensor, low-light conditions also produced images that were rated good to very good. To get the best shots in low-light, you'll need to have at least a little bit of visible light and to use the camera's D-Lighting editing feature after to help brighten up the shot. There was also some visible noise in the extreme low-light shots, but again, nothing unexpected from this type of camera.
The 1080p high-definition video was rated as good in well-lit situations. We noticed the video did seem a little darker than it should be and slightly blurry at times. The low-light videos taken with this camera were horrible and completely unviewable. The recorded audio was rated as being "good".
The CIPA-rated battery life for the Nikon Coolpix S9100 is 270 shots per charge, which is average and on par with most other similar cameras.