Nikon Coolpix S9100 Review

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Review


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.

Nikon S9100.jpg

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Features

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.

Nikon S9100- back.jpg

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!

Canoes 2.JPG

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.

Nikon Coolpix S9100 ISO 160.jpg

Nikon Coolpix S9100 ISO 400.jpg

Nikon Coolpix S9100 ISO 800.jpg

Nikon Coolpix S9100 ISO 1600.jpg

Nikon Coolpix S9100 ISO 3200.jpg

ISO Speeds

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!

Nikon Coolpix S9100 Specifications

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.
Dimensions:104.8x62x34.6 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 214 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon Coolpix S9100 at Amazon.

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Nikon Coolpix S9100
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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • Barbara O'Brien June 3, 2011 07:54 am

    I have a similar camera and just love it. Great pix, easy to carry so it's always with me BUT it has one major flaw. . . NO viewfinder. That means that shooting outside in bright sun with only a digital screen, can leave you taking shots blind. You cannot always see the screen in the bright light. Correct me if I'm wrong but I saw no mention of a viewfinder in the review and believe me that can be a real problem.

  • Chio June 2, 2011 04:57 pm

    Barrie, thank you for the excellent reply! I've been lucky to receive a few DSLRs in the past from brands directly, but because I had a friend there.

    Good luck, keep on writing and yes - the best way to review the model is to actually own it. But once you're really into these cameras, you can immediately tell the good and bad about it.

    Keep up ;)

  • Barrie Smith June 2, 2011 09:16 am

    To Chio

    this is an interesting situation. I've been writing about digital photography for nearly 20 years now. My first was the Apple QuickTake in 1994!

    There is an organised arrangement whereby such journalists as me get access to new models. Sometimes they will fall into my hands days after an announcement or months later.

    At the moment everything is slow because of the Fukushima disaster.

    Sometimes I can get them for only 2-3 days. Sometimes, a week.

    Within that week I try to become familiar with the gear. But in the real world all I can do is give my impression of the equipment. The only real test is to buy one and report back months later. If ever!

    I do my best!

  • Chio June 2, 2011 05:05 am

    I was hoping for some real life high ISO examples, but this seems to be an alright test. A friend of mine is going to buy this camera and me as a non P&S dude must help him :)

    Btw Barrie, if not too personal, do you receive these cameras when they come out or just happen to have them, heh?

  • ajsuk June 1, 2011 04:27 am

    I think what we're most dieing to know is how you keep that Orange so fresh. :P

  • Lesealight May 31, 2011 03:15 am

  • Lesealight May 31, 2011 03:07 am

    Here are some pictures taken using Nikon S9100.
    There's one thing I concern that HOW CAN I TAKE "Long exposure" photos with my gear???

  • Sergio Garcia May 30, 2011 11:54 am

    Hi, nice review. I own this camera and I really love it as a compact alternative for when I'm not allowed (or is not practical) to take my DSLR

    One thing though, I run into the same problem while shooting video and it bummed me too but I was playing around the menus and, in the video menu, there's an option to change the autofocus mode from "Single AF" to "Full-time AF" and that way it will continuously focus while zooming in and out (it'll take a bit and it'll look out of focus in the video for a bit but eventually it'll focus). Unfortunately, I discovered this until AFTER shooting some videos during a Linkin Park concert =(

    Here are some pics taken with the S9100 and here's a link to some of the videos I took with it.

  • OsmosisStudios May 30, 2011 08:42 am

    I posted this comment earlier, but it didnt work it seems.

    1: the spec list at the end of the review states an 11mm CCD sensor. It's actually a CMOS (as reported accurately in the article). Speaking of which...

    2: One of the big things with this, and all the top-end Coolpix cameras right now, is a BSI (back-side illuminated sensor) which is a HUGE contributor to the performance at higher-ISOs.

    3: One thing ignored in the review is ergonomics, which this camera does very well. The button placement, particularly of the video-record button on the back (again, a staple of current Coolpix cameras).

    4: The review is short, and lacking. The information is accurate (from experience and testing of my own), but the review comes up short.

    tl;dnr: Good, if short review.

  • danfoy May 30, 2011 04:50 am

    We sell this where I work, and I can confirm that it is absolutely delicious delicious. Like, as interesting as an S95 or LX5.

  • Lesealight May 30, 2011 03:31 am

    Just one word to describe how I feel about my Nikon S9100 :"Wow!"
    With a 18x optical zoom, I can catch every single details around me.
    It has within it many special effects such as "High-contrast monochrome", "High key", "Low key", ... which can fulfill your creativity in many shooting situations.
    There're still lots of beautiful things about this gear.

    Here are some photos taken using Nikon S9100

  • Cyler May 30, 2011 02:27 am

    While I agree that this camera is pretty good, the one reason that would cause me to look at a different camera, would be the lack of a manual mode. I would probably go for a Panasonic ZS8, which has far superior image quality. You will take a small hit on video capabilities, but add the manual controls the 9100 is missing.

    Just my opinion though, the 9100 is an awesome little camera.