The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is a solidly built, automatic camera with a huge 18x zoom lens, and it can produce very good images. Updated, 8 Jun 2011

The sleek S9100 packs in a superb 18x optical zoom equivalent to 25mm to 450mm in 35mm terms. Like the Casio Exilim EX-H30 it’s supported by sensor-shift anti-shake to avoid blur shooting towards maximum zoom and in lower light, and it largely works. Furthermore there’s a rubberised surface to its faceplate to prevent slippage. As with the Canon PowerShot SX220 HS, the Nikon’s imaging sensor is a backlit CMOS chip, here offering 12.1 effective megapixels. The lens is retractable.

An instant record button is provided for shooting video. Matching the Canon, the S9100 offers Full HD clips with stereo sound, though at a marginally smoother 30fps. As with the Olympus SZ-20 and Samsung WB650 models, the battery is charged in camera. 

A particular feature that marks out the Nikon’s video capabilities the option to create slow motion video clips (in standard resolution) using the fast capture speed of 240fps. HDMI connectivity skulks beneath a side flap, whilst photos and video are composed via the aid of the 3in screen, which betters all comers via its huge 920k resolution. If we’ve a gripe it’s that video can wander out of focus when zooming in, the camera taking a second or two to catch up.

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As on the Casio, shooting modes are located around one of the tiniest dials we’ve seen, part recessed into the right-hand corner of the top plate and ridged for thumb operation. Alongside dedicated scene and subject mode buttons we get a digital ‘special effects’ option - a Nikon first. 

Nikon has eschewed wackiness and the options are distinctly sensible: a ‘soft’ effect, nostalgic sepia, distinctive high contrast monochrome, high key, low key and selective colour. Post-capture, fisheye and miniature effect filters can further be applied. Among the scene options an ‘Easy Panorama’ automatically stitches together a single elongated image as the user pans either through 180 or the full 360 degrees. Operation is completely silent.

Next page: Our original review of the Nikon Coolpix S9100, by PC World Australia's Elias Plastiras, from 6 April 2011 >>

The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is a solidly built, automatic camera with a huge 18x zoom lens, and it can produce very good images. It doesn't have extensive manual settings, which means it can be tough to capture a great shot in difficult lighting conditions. What follows is our original review of the Nikon Coolpix S9100, by PC World Australia's Elias Plastiras, from 6 April 2011

The Coolpix S9100 has a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor and a 25-450mm zoom lens, and it's simple to operate. It's aimed at users who want something that's small and automatic yet capable of capturing shots from a distance, as well as taking close-ups. It's not for users who want to mess with aperture and shutter values - check out the Canon PowerShot S95 is you want a manual camera. The most you can do to change the exposure on the S9100 is play with the ISO speed and the exposure brightness. It's quite similar in its capabilities to the Ricoh CX5: It's basically a well-built automatic camera with a good sensor.

See also: Photo Advisor

The mode dial includes auto, automatic scene selector, scene, effects and continuous mode. You also get dedicated mode settings for three scenes: Night landscape, night portrait and backlighting. The shutter button has a distinct two-step feel to it, and the camera's zoom rocker is not too loose. The rear has a dedicated button for enabling video mode, as well as a conventional 5-way thumb controller (with a rotating ring), and playback, menu and delete buttons. You can access most of its settings by hitting the menu button, and you can change the focus point by rotating the ring.

The Nikon S9100 captures high quality images for the most part; this is evident when you scrutinise the photos at their native size. Images look clear and detailed and there isn't much noise at low ISO speeds. Images captured at maximum zoom are blurrier though, especially if you shoot them while holding the camera, so you won't be able to crop them too much without seeing a drop in detail. However, as far as mega-zoom compact cameras go, the S9100 is a good one: It can definitely produce usable images at its maximum zoom.

Image stabilisation is built in to the camera, and you can actually feel it working when you press the shutter button half-way down. It performed quite well in our tests, but it's still no substitute for a tripod, especially if you'll be shooting at the maximum zoom (or close to it) or in low-light conditions.

Because you can't change the exposure settings, shooting in very bright conditions can pose problems. Often during our tests the camera didn't use high enough aperture and shutter settings and we ended up with very harsh-looking pictures (this is unlike the CoolPix S8000, which handled automatic exposures much better). The scene modes didn't help ameliorate this much either and we had to change angles instead to get better dynamic range in the shot.

When it comes to video, the S9100 is merely adequate. It can shoot at a resolution of 1920x1080, and the autofocus can work full time to make sure scenes are always clear. However, moving the camera while shooting produces footage that is noticeably choppy. Like most compact cameras, the best results will be obtained when holding the camera as steady as possible or using a tripod. We love the fact that the camera can shoot at 240fps; you'll definitely want to shoot everything you see in slow motion - once you start, you can't stop.

Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S9100 is a good camera. It can produce clear and vibrant images, it has some cool creative modes you can use (such as a selective colour filter), and its zoom range is versatile. We just wish it had manual controls so that you could tell the camera what to do in difficult lighting situations. However, novice users who don't require manual controls should find this camera to their liking.

Nikon Coolpix S9100: Bottom line

Nikon's COOLPIX S9100 is well built and it has a massive 18x zoom lens. It can take clear and vibrant pictures, but because it lacks manual controls it can sometimes struggle in challenging lighting conditions. Overall, though, it's not a bad camera at all for a user who wants something automatic.

Nikon Coolpix S9100: Specs

  • Digital camera compact
  • 105x35x62mm
  • 214g
  • 12.1 Megapixel CMOS
  • Optical Sensor Size: 1/2.3in
  • ISO 800, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 160, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO auto (160-800), ISO auto (160-400), ISO auto (160-3200)
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • AVCHD, JPEG
  • Pop-up flash
  • Focal Length: 4.5-81mm
  • TTL contrast detection
  • Min Focus Range: 50cm
  • Macro Focus Range: 4cm
  • Lens Aperture: F/3.5-5.9
  • Optical Zoom: 18x
  • Audio recording, USB 2.0 compatibility, DPOF support, digital image stabilization, cropping an image, digital image stabilization (video mode), D-Lighting technology, Exif Print support, Motion Detection Technology
  • Built-in 3in LCD display
  • Microphone
  • Hi-Speed USB, composite video/audio output, HDMI output, SD Memory Card
  • USB cable A/V cable
  • Nikon EN-EL12 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Digital camera compact
  • 105x35x62mm
  • 214g
  • 12.1 Megapixel CMOS
  • Optical Sensor Size: 1/2.3in
  • ISO 800, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 160, ISO 1600, ISO 3200, ISO auto (160-800), ISO auto (160-400), ISO auto (160-3200)
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • AVCHD, JPEG
  • Pop-up flash
  • Focal Length: 4.5-81mm
  • TTL contrast detection
  • Min Focus Range: 50cm
  • Macro Focus Range: 4cm
  • Lens Aperture: F/3.5-5.9
  • Optical Zoom: 18x
  • Audio recording, USB 2.0 compatibility, DPOF support, digital image stabilization, cropping an image, digital image stabilization (video mode), D-Lighting technology, Exif Print support, Motion Detection Technology
  • Built-in 3in LCD display
  • Microphone
  • Hi-Speed USB, composite video/audio output, HDMI output, SD Memory Card
  • USB cable A/V cable
  • Nikon EN-EL12 Li-ion rechargeable battery

OUR VERDICT

Styled like a high-end enthusiasts’ compact, complete with natty pop-up flash and stereo microphones, the S9100 is nevertheless an accessible point and shoot. While we'd direct experienced photographers not requiring a large zoom to the Coolpix P300, results from the S9100 were better that expected. We could shoot at extreme telephoto setting and get pin-sharp results, while subtle corner softening at maximum wide angle is forgivable. Add a best-in-class focal range, and the Nikon’s a winner in our book.

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