Nikon Coolpix S9100: Video and Image Quality

by Howard Creech Reads (247)
Editor's Rating
7.50

TG Ratings Breakdown

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 7.50
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


Video Quality
The S9100’s movie mode is a bit different. Nikon, of course, included 1080p at 30 fps HD video, but users can also shoot at 720p at 60 fps, iFrame (a digital video editing format developed by Apple), 1080p at 15fps, High-Speed 240 fps (QVGA), and 120 fps (VGA) slo-mo video resolutions – plus shooters can enable creative effects like Selective Color or B&W/Sepia at any resolution or frame rate.

Most digicams utilize the same optical or mechanical Image Stabilization system for videos and still images, but not the S9100. Nikon has been criticized in the electronic media for the S9100’s electronic image stabilization system (which utilizes higher sensitivity and faster shutter speeds) to control blur in video mode.

Download Nikon Coolpix S9100 Sample Video

After reading some of the comments I was concerned enough to shoot twice as much video as usual. I shot video outdoors (in good light) of BMXers at the Extreme Park and indoors (window light and overhead fluorescents) of workers at a downtown letterhead press shop. Despite some shaking, my videos were consistently sharp, bright, fluid at wide angle and showed accurate colors. I’m not sure why Nikon chose to buck the conventional wisdom here, but my videos didn’t look significantly different from the videos I’ve shot recently with some of the S9100’s competitors. They did appear to be somewhat shakier than footage from an optically-stabilized compact camera. OIS can’t work miracles though, and some of the shaking present would surely still exist even with a more aggressive stabilizer in place.

I did notice some “jitter” (difficulty holding the point of focus on the subject) at the telephoto end of the zoom in video mode. It’s going to be a subtle difference with an 18x zoom, but the “jitter” would probably have been less noticeable with a standard (optical or mechanical) image stabilization system.

Image Quality
The Nikon Coolpix S9100 utilizes the same 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3-inch back-illuminated CMOS sensor as last year’s Coolpix S8100 to capture images. Like most compact point-and-shoots, image files produced by the S9100 are optimized for the bold, bright colors and slightly flat contrast that many veteran shooters refer to as “consumer” color. Recorded hues are accurate but noticeably more intense than real life colors – reds are warm, blues are bright, and greens/yellows/oranges are very vibrant.

The bottom line is that the S9100’s color interpolation, while a bit more intense than neutral, is consistently and dependably accurate. The colors I saw on my monitor when I reviewed the images I shot with this camera were the colors I saw when I shot the pictures. Shooters who like vivid color palettes will love the S9100.

Nikon is justifiably famous for its macro lenses. The old f/3.5 55 and the newer f/2.8 60mm AF Micro-Nikkor macro lenses are both classics. Those years of industry leadership in the close-up genre are evident in the S9100’s close-up images – check out the fine detail in the sample image of the Tent Caterpillar on an Oak Brackett Fungus and you’ll see what I mean. The S9100 only costs half as much as an f/2.8 60mm AF Micro-Nikkor lens and it will generate macro images that are nearly as good.

Outside in good lighting and even in lighting that would challenge many compact cameras, the S9100 consistently produces sharply focused and properly exposed images. The S9100’s auto exposure system is sufficiently precise to allow users to capture consistently first-rate images with almost no effort on their part. Outdoors, the S9100 does a great job. Image quality is dependably excellent and noticeably better than the average for cameras in this class.

Exposures are consistently accurate, but lots of sky in the image often results in slightly overexposed images and the sky turning from blue to white. The bottom line is that the S9100’s color interpolation, while a bit more intense than neutral, is consistently and dependably accurate. The colors I saw on my monitor when I reviewed the images were the colors I saw when I shot the picture.

The S9100’s Auto White Balance is dependably accurate over a wide range of lighting conditions. In fact, it’s one of the best Auto WB modes I’ve seen in a camera in this price range – essentially equal to Canon’s G12 and S95 digicams. The S9100’s Auto WB mode also handled indoor color with aplomb. In addition to the auto WB setting there are user selected Manual, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy and Flash settings available.

Nikon S9100 Sample Image
Auto White Balance, 5500k fluorescent light

The S9100 provides an adequate range of sensitivity options, including auto (I160-800) and user-set options for fixed ISO auto (160-400), and ISO160 to ISO 3200. ISO 160 images are very sharp with intense colors, very low noise levels, and slightly flat contrast. ISO 200 images were also very good, but with a tiny bit less pop.

Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 160
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 160, 100% crop
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 200
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 400
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 800
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 1600
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 3200
Nikon S9100 Sample Image
ISO 3200, 100% crop

At the ISO 400 setting, noise levels are beginning to rise and there’s a perceptible loss of fine detail. Indoor image quality is excellent, on par with much more expensive digicams, but as sensitivity (automatically) rises to overcome lower levels of ambient lighting, noise levels rise exponentially and color intensity (saturation) suffers a bit. Noise levels are quite reasonable up to ISO 400, but they increase dramatically after that.

Additional Sample Images

Nikon S9100 Sample Image Nikon S9100 Sample Image
Nikon S9100 Sample Image Nikon S9100 Sample Image
Nikon S9100 Sample Image Nikon S9100 Sample Image
Nikon S9100 Sample Image Nikon S9100 Sample Image


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