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I make no apologies for reviewing this humble compact digicam – the Nikon Coolpix S9100 – in amongst the heavy hitting DSLRs and maxi-zoom models. Why?
‘Cos it has a few features the DSLRs do not have.
To begin with it has a moderate 18x zoom, starting at a wide 35 SLR equivalent of 25mm.
The 7.5cm LCD screen has a reasonably high resolution, helping ease the pain of no optical finder.
The Live View CMOS carries 12.1 megapixels, with a maximum image size of 4000×3000 pixels, or 34x25cm as a print.
Movies: Full HiDef 1920x1080p resolution with stereo sound (captured by an onboard microphone) is provided. One downside is that you have to preset focus before starting to record but you can capture stills while you’re shooting video; maximum size 1920×1080 pixels.
If you’re happy with a reduced frame size, you can shoot slow and fast motion video. At 240fps the image size is 320×240 pixels; at 60fps the video frame is 1280×720 pixels. Fast motion can be shot at 15fps and a frame size of 1920x1080m pixels. Pretty cool huh!
The usual range of scene modes will please raw beginners, easing access to such situations as portraits, sports shots, sunsets etc. The Easy Panorama mode as pioneered by Sony in their HX5V will be welcomed by the more daring of photographers; in short, you can pan the camera up or down and the images will be captured and stitched together, up to a final size of 6000×1024 pixels. Your only problem then will be finding a way of printing these elongated pictures!
There’s even an HDR mode built in: with this the camera will take a series of shots of varying exposure, combining them into an optimised image. This, I feel, is a surprising but delightful feature to be built into a compact digicam.
Another attraction is a Pet Portrait mode for shots of dogs and cats. Guinea pigs? Dunno!
For the more adventurous a range of special effects will help you produce images with soft/high and low key/sepia/hi con B&W and colour variations.
There appeared to be no drop off in definition or rise in noise up to ISO 800. IMHO you could use ISO 800 for day-to-day shooting.
At ISO 1600 noise became discernable but not objectionable; definition OK.
A surprisingly good performance at ISO 3200: some noise, some loss of definition but still useable.
Quality: I shot very good quality images with the S9100: accurate colour, excellent sharpness.
Why you would buy it: you want 60 or 100fps shooting; you’re an experimental photographer.
Why you wouldn’t: you want auto focus in your movie shooting.
The S9100 is a cut above the usual digicam and would suit the explorer!
Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Sensor Size: 11mm CCD.
Lens: Nikkor f3.5-5.9/4.5-81mm (25-450mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Metering: Matrix, centre-weighted.
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/4000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 1.8fps (24 4000×300 pixel images); 60fps and 120fps (images saved as a sequence).
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC cards plus 74MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4000×3000 to 640×480. Movies: 1920x1080p, 1280x720p, 640×480, 320×240 at 30 fps.
Viewfinders: 7.5cm LCD (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, MPEG4, WAV.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 160 to 3200.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV, DC.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Weight: Approx. 214 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon Coolpix S9100 at Amazon.