Nikon Coolpix S9 Review
Review Date: November 30th 2006
Ease of Use
The Nikon Coolpix S9 is a very eye-catching camera, with its slim, "wave-design" profile, non-zooming lens and large 2.5 inch LCD screen. The wave design basically means that the camera is thinner at one end than the other. At 9cms wide and 2cms deep, the Nikon Coolpix S9 will fit into your trouser or shirt pocket without too much trouble. The all-metal body of the Coolpix S9 has an understated matt silver finish, with the sides of the body in a more glossy silver. The Nikon Coolpix S9's weight is quite light for this class of camera at 115g.
The Nikon Coolpix S9 is very well-made overall, although there are a couple of external controls that aren't particularly well designed. The On/Off button is very small and recessed, which may prevent the camera from being accidentally turned on, but also makes it difficult to operate. Similarly the One-Touch Portrait Button is also too small and recessed. The Zoom lever is, yes you've guessed it, a little too small, making it fiddly to use when you're in a rush to take a photo. Otherwise the Nikon Coolpix S9 is designed and built very well.
The Nikon Coolpix S9 is not overly complex in terms of the number of external controls that it has. I counted just 10 controls in total, which suits the small dimensions and point and shoot nature of the camera. The majority of the controls are clearly labeled and common to most cameras, although the Nikon-specific icons will have you reaching for the manual. As this is a style-focused camera, most of the key photographic options, such as ISO speed, exposure compensation and white balance, are buried within the menu system, rather than accessible via external buttons, which slows down the operation of the camera. The large 2.5 inch screen only has 153,600 pixels, resulting in a slightly grainy image, although the 170 degree viewing angle makes it easy to share your images with friends and family.
|Navigation Pad||Shooting/Play Button / Mode Button / Thumb Grip|
Nikon have introduced a new menu system for their 2006 Coolpix's, and very good it is too. The main menu system on the Nikon Coolpix S9 is straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu button on the rear of the camera. You can choose either an icon or text-based system. The text menu for the Shooting mode has 2 screens with 10 options in total. The icon system shows all the options on a single screen and is the method that I preferred. Due to the large 2.5 inch LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to five (in the text version), the various options and icons are clear and legible. There is also a built-in Help system, accessed by pressing the Telephoto zoom button, which gives a brief but useful explanation for each option.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Nikon have chosen to supply it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you. The LCD screen is the only way of framing your shots, so if you have to have an optical viewfinder, look elsewhere now. The various icons used to represent the camera settings are clear and legible, although you can only toggle the information on and off via the Setup menu option.
As well as the basic menu system outlined above, Nikon have also added a Mode button to the Coolpix S9, which offers further options for both the Shooting and Playback modes. These options are presented as a circle of icons which are then selected by pressing the navigation pad arrows on the rear of the camera. In Shooting mode, pressing the Mode button allows you to choose from the various scene presets, voice recording, movies, and the standard shooting mode. Playback mode options are listed further down this page. The way in which you choose the 11 scene modes is a little tricky though - you have to press the Mode button and choose Scene, which returns you to the shooting display, and then press the Menu button to access and select the scene modes.
|Battery Compartment||Memory Card Slot|
The Nikon Coolpix S9 offers the now well-established D-Lighting and Face Priority AF features. Face Priority AF is accessed by selecting the Scene option on the shooting mode dial, pressing the Menu button and then choosing the Portrait (Face AF) option on the top row. Alternatively there's a One-Touch Portrait Button on top of the camera which automatically activates In-Camera Red-Eye Fix and Face-Priority AF modes. It works well if the subject is looking directly at the camera and quite central in the frame, but in most other situations the camera hunts for focus for several seconds and then tends to focus somewhere other than the subject's face. I suspect that most users will quickly lose patience with this feature, as will the person who is being photographed! D-Lighting lightens under-exposed parts of the image whilst ensuring that correctly exposed parts remain the same (and are not also lightened) - more on this feature in the Image Quality section.
The start-up time from turning the Nikon Coolpix S9 on to being ready to take a photo is fairly quick at around 2 seconds. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest takes about 2.5 seconds. Focusing is quick in good light and the camera achieves focus almost all of the time indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the focus-assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 2.5 inch LCD screen are adequate, with some visible grain. It takes about 2 seconds to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card, with a very brief LCD blackout between each image. The Nikon Coolpix S9 has an average Continuous mode which enables you to take 1.7 frames per second at the highest JPEG image quality. The flash recycle time is a little annoying, at about 5 seconds before you can take another photo with flash. Overall the Nikon Coolpix S9 is average in terms of operational speed.
Once you have captured a photo, the Nikon Coolpix S9 has an adequate range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, copy, create a small version of an image and set the print order. You can press the Mode button to play back an audio file. D-Lighting can be applied to a copy of an image via the One Touch Portrait button. Annoyingly you can't view detailed information such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is no histogram available during playback or when you are taking a photo. You can only choose between the detailed information, gridlines to aid composition and no information via the Setup menu.
In summary the Nikon Coolpix S9 is a stylish, compact, point and shoot digital camera that is easy to use, without really excelling at anything in particular.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Nikon Coolpix S9 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.