The Nikon Coolpix S9100 does not provide more advanced shooting modes like Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority or full Manual exposure – instead, the camera relies on its very capable auto exposure mode, Auto ISO (160-3200 range), Auto WB mode, 256-segment matrix metering system and snappy AF performance to capture dependably very good to excellent images in a broad variety of shooting scenarios.
The S9100 is fast enough for just about anything its target audience is likely to try – easily quick enough to capture the decisive moment in everything except the most extreme cases.
Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)
|Casio Exilim EX-H20G||0.01|
|Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS||0.01|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10||0.01|
|Nikon Coolpix S9100||0.01|
AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)
|Nikon Coolpix S9100||0.18|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10||0.18|
|Casio Exilim EX-H20G||0.23|
|Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS||0.48|
|Nikon Coolpix S9100||5||15.0 fps|
|Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10||14||5.5 fps|
|Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS||3||3.5 fps|
*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.
Usually I test digicam shutter lag and operational speed by seeing if the camera I’m using can freeze skateboarders and BMXers in mid-air. Check out the image below.
The S9100’s 9 af point Auto Focus system is identical the that of the S8100. Kudos to Nikon – in my opinion, the S9100’s contrast detection AF system is as speedy as many entry level DSLRs, which are driven by inherently quicker phase detection AF systems.
The S9100’s multi-mode pop-up flash provides a tiny bit more distance from the lens than the built-in flash units of most its competitors – to help avoid the dreaded red-eye. The flash is very small and a bit on the weak side, but it provides an adequate selection of artificial lighting options, including Auto (fires when needed), On (fill flash), Red-Eye Reduction, and Off. Flash coverage is even and flash-lit images are as close to natural looking as it is possible to get with an on-camera flash. Unlike its predecessor, the S9100 features a new quick release button for the pop-up flash.
Nikon claims the S9100 can counter blurred images in seven different ways including Hybrid VR – Sensor-shift Image Stabilization and Electronic Image Stabilization (Higher Sensitivity and faster shutter speeds reduce the risk of blurred images) combine to reduce the effects of camera shake, Motion detection compensates for subject movement, Best Shot Selector (BSS mode) automatically selects the sharpest of up to 10 sequential shots, Night Portrait Mode, Night Landscape mode and HDR (high dynamic range) backlight mode all decrease image blur by improving low light performance. Users can enable the S9100’s new Night Portrait mode (via its dedicated position on the mode dial) and the camera will capture several consecutive shots (with one push of the shutter button) both with and without flash (illuminating the subject and the background separately) and then combine those shots into one image.
The S9100 is powered by a 3.7V, 1050mAh Nikon EN-EL12 lithium-ion battery. Nikon claims the S8000 (with a fully charged battery) is good for about 270 exposures. I do a lot of shoot, review, delete, and re-shoot so I don’t really keep track of exposures, but I only charged the battery once while I had the camera.
The EN-EL12 lithium-ion battery is charged in-camera and requires about two hours for a full charge from house current. The S9100 can also be charged via USB. The S9100 saves images and video to SD, SDHC or SDXC memory media, plus 74MB internal memory.
There are few visible (or actual) differences between the S9100 and its predecessor, so in the final analysis everything comes down to the S9100’s substantially longer (18x vs 10x) zoom. When the S9100 is powered up, the lens automatically telescopes out of the camera body. When the camera is powered down, the lens is fully retracted into the camera body and a built-in iris style lens cover closes to protect the front element.
Not so long ago, most compact P&S digicams sported 3x zooms, so the S9100’s f/3.5-5.9 4.5-81.0mm (25-450mm equivalent) zoom is the star of the show – that’s not too surprising given the tiny form factor of this camera. The S9100’s 18x zoom permits shooters to cover everything from real wide-angle landscapes and large groups to tightly framed environmental portraits, backyard wildlife shots and up-close macro images.
The f/3.5 maximum aperture is a bit slow for shooting indoors, but should be more than fast enough for outdoor shooting – at least in decent light. The S9100’s diminutive profile and extra reach make this camera almost ideal for travelers and candid/street shooters. Center sharpness is pretty good overall, but at the wide-angle end of the zoom corners are slightly soft.
I didn’t notice any vignetting (dark corners) and both barrel distortion (straight lines bow out from the center) and pincushion distortion (straight lines bow in toward the center) seem well corrected. Contrast is balanced (but a little flat) and colors are hue accurate, though slightly oversaturated. Chromatic aberration is remarkably well-controlled, but some very minor color fringing is present, especially in the color transition areas between dark foreground objects and bright backgrounds.
Minimum focusing distance (in Macro mode) is 1.6 inches. Zooming is smooth, and fairly quick, but there is more motor noise than I expected – especially considering that the massive 18x zoom can be used during video capture.