Every time I tried to describe the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj to someone, my words fell flat. "It's a projector camera. A camera with a projector inside." It seems straightforward, but people didn't fully grasp the concept until I turned the camera on and projected an image onto a wall. Every time I did, the camera got a lot of "oohing" and "aahing."
That's the trouble with describing the effectiveness of a projector camera in a review. I can photograph the camera in action, I can show you a video of the projector working, but it doesn't quite add up to the same experience as seeing the projected images with your own eyes.
Bear with us - the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj is very much a novelty, but it's an interesting innovation. If you have $400 or so waiting to be spent on a new piece of inessential technology, then a projector camera is a good candidate. We can't let the Nikon S1000pj slide by without putting it under the microscope, though. Read on for a detailed look at its performance, image quality, and usability.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Nikon Coolpix S1000pj, bearing a 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3-inch type CCD sensor, strikes a familiar profile. It's a basic black box with metallic accents along the edges. The 5x optical zoom Nikkor lens is tucked in the right corner of the camera body, making room for a less-familiar feature: the projector lens front and center.
Overall, it's a striking design. The lines are clean and modern. The camera body is matte black with a brushed aluminum panel below the projector lens. A small plastic lens cover slides from the camera lens when the unit is turned on, keeping the optics safe inside a coat pocket or purse.
Ergonomics and Controls
Holding the S1000pj, you'll feel the added weight of the projector. Loaded with a rechargeable battery, it's slim enough for a coat pocket but heavy enough that you won't forget it's there. The camera is comfortable in the hand, although the front panel doesn't offer enough of a grip for single-handed shooting. Six small, raised dots on the back panel offer a slight grip for a thumbrest. It's not terribly ergonomic, but I didn't have much trouble handling the camera while shooting.
The on/off switch on top of the S1000pj is recessed slightly and requires a firm press to operate. The projector on/off switch is on the left, just at the place where your left index finger naturally falls when shooting with two hands. The button is also recessed, although I accidentally triggered it on a couple of occasions. Centered on top of the camera is a sliding switch that focuses a projected image. The layout is intuitive, and without using the camera manual I was able to operate the projector right out of the box. A zoom ring encircles the shutter button on the top right.
On the back panel is a 2.7-inch LCD of a sufficient 230k-dot resolution. A squared-off compass switch offers directional controls for navigating menus as well as shortcuts to flash, EV compensation, macro mode, and self-timer settings. Two buttons above the four-way control offer access to playback and shooting modes. The image erase and menu button are below the four-way control.
The S1000pj also includes a remote control. It can be used during slideshow projection to move between images or zoom in and out of a projected image. The remote can also be used to wirelessly fire the shutter. Nikon recommends the use of a tripod for this function. They've also included a small plastic stand that can sit on flat surfaces and angles the S1000pj backward by a few degrees for hands-off projecting on a wall.
Menus and Modes
Nikon's point-and-shoots use one main menu screen to access settings for ISO, white balance, and AF area mode. Pressing the menu button brings up these options, and selecting an option like white balance will display a list of different settings and a live view of how each setting will look. The interface is intuitive and logically laid-out.
Those who stick with auto white balance and ISO settings won't have any trouble using the S1000pj. If you're finicky and like to tweak those settings often, then you might find it slightly cumbersome as opposed to using a quick menu or shortcut button to access often-used controls.
Shooting modes are switched by pressing the green camera icon and include:
The S1000pj is very much an automatic camera. Auto mode offers some degree of flexibility as users can change ISO and white balance themselves, although you're limited in all modes to default metering.
Like most monitors this size, the 2.7-inch LCD is relatively sharp and bright, although it is difficult to use in direct sunlight. However, I didn't struggle much while shooting on a bright morning. Also, the camera lacks an optical viewfinder.
The projector displays images in VGA 640 x 480 resolution. We'll go into greater detail about projection quality in the performance section that follows.
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