Better low-light images seems to be the new mantra of most of the major camera manufacturers. Nikon claims the new S9100 makes "...handheld night-time shooting as easy as taking daytime pictures" (from the Nikon USA website). Does the S9100 make shooting night pictures as easy as shooting daytime pictures? Sure it does, but the really important question here is - are the night time pictures it generates as good as its day time pictures? The answer is no.
Consumers have been demanding better low light performance from P&S digicams for a very long time and camera manufacturers seem to have finally started listening. Hopefully, OEMs will soon realize that the cheapest and most effective method for improving low-light performance is the installation of larger sensors. Everything else being equal, larger pixels have better light gathering capability than smaller pixels.
Serious shooters may complain that the S9100's lack of manual exposure options compromises the camera's creative usability and that's a valid point. User input into the S9100's exposure process is pretty much limited to lighter/darker tweaking via the exposure compensation mode.
Like the Panasonic ZS10 and the Canon SX230 HS, the S9100's low light images are marginally, not magically, better than those of its predecessor. The differences are subtle - so there is no definitive justification for S8100 owners to upgrade unless they can't live without the S9100's 18x zoom.
If you want or need manual exposure capabilities check out the roughly comparable Panasonic ZS10 or the Canon SX230 HS - both reviewed by this website. For everyone else, the Nikon Coolpix S9100 would be an almost ideal choice to replace an aging first digital camera, an excellent choice as a family camera, and a very good choice for travelers who want a small tough, easy to use digicam.
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