Nikon Coolpix S9300 Review

April 30, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S9300 is a slim 18x optical zoom digital compact camera aimed at the photographer who wants all the latest technologically advanced gadgets in an easy to use package. Sporting a back-illuminated 16 megapixel CCD image sensor for low light photography, an 18x, 25mm wide-angle lens with lens-shift vibration reduction, and built-in GPS to track and correlate your photographs, the Coolpix S9300 also offers Full HD video for movie enthusiasts. There's also a 3-inch high resolution (921k dot) LCD screen and a range of special effects shooting modes that bring an element of fun to your pictures. The Nikon Coolpix S9300 costs £299.99 / €354 / $349.95 and is available in black, silver, red and blue.

Ease of Use

With a large bulky zoom lens on the front and a pop-up flash, the Coolpix S9300 is reminiscent of old 35mm compact cameras. However, if this was a 35mm compact camera, the 18x zoom lens would stretch from a wide 25mm to an eyewatering 450mm. That size zoom lens was unheard of back in the day when 35mm compacts ruled the roost.

The image goes through the lens onto a 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor. The main difference between CCD and CMOS is that CCD yields a sharper image but a CMOS is more fuel efficient meaning your battery will last longer. The back-illuminated system describes the design of the CMOS. On a standard sensor, the pixels are surrounded by micro-circuitry which takes the information to the processor. The circuitry partially blocks the pixels meaning less light is collected. A back-illuminated sensor has the circuitry on the reverse so if you were to look at it mounted in a camera, it looks like it's on backwards. The lack of circuitry on the front means that more light can be collected theoretically making the sensor perform better in low light.

On the top of the Coolpix S9300 Nikon have opted for a more traditional command dial for switching through the various modes that the camera has to offer. There are eight modes: Auto, Effects, Burst, Smart Portrait, Backlighting, Night Landscape, Scenes and Scene Auto Selector. The latter is an option that will analyse the frame when you compose and select the correct scene mode for that composition. The Effects are accessed by pressing the menu button when the mode is selected on the dial. The options are Soft, Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, High Key, Low Key and Selective Colour.

Nikon Coolpix S9300 Nikon Coolpix S9300
Front Rear

The shutter release button is flush with the zoom rocker that wraps around it. A small power button sits between the shutter button and the small raised area that houses the GPS system. If you've never used a GPS system with a camera before, it works by corresponding the time and date of the camera with where the GPS says it was at that time. You can then upload these pictures to Google Maps.

On the back of the Coolpix S9300, Nikon have added a wheel to the pad for speedy navigation through the menu system. A direct video button will start recording FullHD film whenever you press the button regardless of the mode you're in at the time. It's not overly sensitive and does require some extra rotating than what should be necessary but it still gets the job done faster than pressing a button. Satisfyingly there's the usual medley of options on the navigation pad for flash options, macro, self timer and exposure compensation.

Being reasonably thick, the build quality of the Coolpix S9300 looks to a higher standard that we suspect it really is. We're not implying that Nikon have cut corners but when it comes to stepped products such as the Nikon L, S and P ranges of digital compacts, you do tend to get what you pay for. This S series camera is in the middle of the ranges so has a good build but isn't as good as the P series.

Nikon Coolpix S9300 Nikon Coolpix S9300
Front Top

However, it's worth noting that the camera is positioned for the customer it's aimed at. People buying this camera aren't going to be as bothered about top lens quality as long as it takes good pictures. They won't care about a quiet focusing motor or lens operation because they won't be taking pictures of wildlife at 5am in a misty meadow. The people who buy this camera will be going on holidays with the family and want to document as much as possible. The build is perfectly sufficient for that. It's a camera that will be carried around all day so the lighter materials used, the better for the photographer.

There are some nuggets of niceness though. The lens barrel has minimal play in it and the battery door has a lock on it which is nice. However, the door is quite flimsy despite this. The cover protecting the HDMI and USB ports is made of rubber and hangs off the camera. A plastic hinged version would've been nicer but is unlikely on a camera at this level.

The Coolpix S9300's main menu will vary dependant on the mode you have the camera set to on the command dial. In auto there's lots of features and the S9300 sticks to the traditional Nikon colours of a black background with a grey menu and yellow highlight bar. Everything is pretty easy to work through. The menu is set into four sections for shooting, video, GPS and set-up. Pressing right will go into the highlighted tab whereas pressing left will go back to the tabs for faster navigation.

We took numerous shots in the shutter lag test and the results were a little disappointing. An average delay from pressing the shutter button to the camera taking a picture once the camera is focused is around 0.08 seconds, but the Nikon Coolpix S9300 took 0.12 seconds. On the rare occasion that this happens, we generally give the camera a chance by testing it for longer than usual in case of user error. After all, this test has human reflexes to take into consideration. But the S9300 gave similar results right through.

Nikon Coolpix S9300 Nikon Coolpix S9300
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Start up time from pressing the power button to the Coolpix S9300 focusing and taking a picture is just over 3 seconds. That's a little slower than we're used to seeing too, the average being around 2.5 seconds.

The burst mode is on the command dial and after the disappointingly slow performance in the timing tests, we were blown away by comparison. The camera has a burst rate of 7 fps. It does this precisely: our test started at 0.86 seconds and finished at 1.86 seconds. However, this is off set by the extra 21 seconds it took to download all the pictures to the memory card - which is a shame. Pictures taken in burst are displayed on the camera as a sort of slideshow. You have to press the OK button to play them then scroll through with left and right.

In playback, the Coolpix S9300 shows basic information about the picture such as the file number, date/time and position in the line of pictures on the card. Pressing OK will change the display to a smaller thumbnail and more information such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO and even a histogram. Playback can be accessed from power off by holding the playback button down. In the menu area, there's a few different editing options such as D-Lighting, an auto quick retouch option and the filter effects. These can't be used on the burst images.

In the GPS menu, there are plenty of options. There are five initial options in the menu and these can be drilled into to expand your options. In GPS options, you can switch GPS on, synchronise the camera's clock and update the profile. Points of interest can be added and you can also record logs of GPS data in 6, 12 and 24 hour periods. The last option is something that can provide useful if out walking. It places a compass on the screen so you can keep track of the direction you're travelling in.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

From the moment we started taking pictures with the Nikon Coolpix S9300 we were impressed. On screen, the results seemed to ooze perfection. They were sharp, well exposed, not too saturated and the camera appeared to be able to handle anything we threw at it. The image stabiliser works so well we rarely had to leave ISO 125 and because of this we couldn't wait to see the noise test images.


Just as we suspected, low ISO settings give an excellent result. Edge definition is great and the lack of digital noise is refreshing. Although noise starts to appear at ISO 200, it's adequately suppressed by the noise reduction software and can only be seen when the pictures are viewed at full magnification.

Flecks of colour start to teeter on the edges of visibility at ISO 400 while edge definition takes a slight downward curve. This is to be expected though and not only are they within overall tolerance levels, the S9300 is performing very well for a camera of this calibre.

Despite the obvious noise reduction going on from ISO 800, the images look pretty good. After all, the edges are relatively sharp, it's well exposed, there's still a decent dynamic range and the colours are all how they should be. This remains the same with the next step although it's obvious the camera is starting to struggle. A noted give-away is the edges breaking down further although amazingly colour noise is still being kept at bay. Frankly, we'd rather cope with some undefined edges than colour noise any day.

By the final setting of ISO 3200 noise should be taking over the scene but it isn't. Noise has definitely invaded the picture but instead of colour spots, there's white ones instead.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S9300's 18x zoom lens offers a very versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.




One thing that we've been consistently impressed with throughout the review is the sharpness of the Nikon Coolpix S9300's pictures. However, even though we're singing it's praises, after running a few pictures through the basic sharpening in Adobe Photoshop CS4, the pictures were improved slightly. You can see a couple of samples below.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S9300 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M Fine (100% Crop) 16M Normal (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberration is a problem with the Nikon Coolpix S9300. We found it in the most unusual of places including low contrast areas. It happens the most at the edges of the frame.

Chromatic 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic 2 (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S9300 has a macro focusing distance of 4cm. That's pretty good and can get up close and personal with all sorts of tiny objects. Sharpness at the centre of the frame is good but as we mentioned earlier, edge fall off is pretty bad and is subject to all sorts of problems such as distortion, blurriness and chromatic aberration.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


At first glance, it's easy to assume that Nikon forgot to put the flash on the Coolpix S9300, but it's actually a pop-up type that sits on the left side. Nikon are very good at getting rid of red-eye one way or another but the flash being situated all the way over on the left will mean it should never rear its head in the first place.

Vignetting seems to be an issue at a couple of settings. When the flash is off we found that we got vignetting at full telephoto. Using flash eradicated this. At wide-angle we didn't get any vignetting with the flash off but discovered that it is present when the flash is fired.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (450mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (450mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Back to red-eye and Nikon usually fit a software based red-eye removal system in the playback menu but on this occasion they haven't. Don't be disappointed though, because the Coolpix S9300 doesn't suffer from it at all.


On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


We took a night shot using both the auto and the night scene mode. In night scene, we found that the picture had a slightly cooler tone to an already blue scene. Because we were able to manipulate the ISO settings in auto, the image comes out a lot smoother with no loss in exposure.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)


Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S9300 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 22 second movie is 40.3Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / Special Effects

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / Movie Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / GPS Menu


Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / Set Up Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Rear of the Camera / Playback Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Top of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S9300

Battery Compartment


The S series of Nikon's Coolpix digital compact cameras are the Stylish options for the fashion conscious. They're still easy to use but have all sorts of extra modes and features to justify the upgrade from a cheaper model, which explains why GPS and Full HD video are included on the S9300.

The part(s) of the Nikon Coolpix S9300 that we've been most impressed with throughout the entire test is the focusing system. That includes the lens, even though it produces horrible purple fringing in places. What we also didn't get from the lens is any barrel distortion or pincushion. Not bad for a 25mm wide lens. The pictures were lovely and sharp though and the low-level light performance is also pretty good thanks to the lens and a good noise result from the back-illuminated sensor.

There's little we would have liked to see added to the S9300; maybe a slightly better build quality on the appendages such as the battery door and HDMI cover. Relocating the tripod to the middle and making it metal would be marvellous but we'd dismiss the latter to get the former because of the amount of shake we got using a tripod. It makes the camera unbalanced and if you use an inferior tripod you'll have to compensate for the leaning that will ensue.

We like therange of digital effects although we're surprised not to see a higher emphasis on the vintage filters that are saturating camera menus at the moment. It's refreshing on our part but it's what consumers want otherwise sharing sites such as Instagram wouldn't be so popular.

Out of all this, we have to keep an eye on the price. At the start of the review the Nikon Coolpix S9300 was around £300 but since we finished, it's fallen to nearer £250. That's exactly the level we expected it to be at and we think for that price the Coolpix S9300 is a great camera.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S9300 from around the web. »

Current Coolpix 9100 users may be tempted to yawn at Nikon’s new S9300, a direct replacement in the company’s travel zoom lineup that adds more megapixels, GPS, and not much else. We’re inclined to agree, but of course reserve judgement until the test results are analyzed in full. With such a similar feature set, this camera needs to rely entirely on image quality and performance to win our favor. In some cases, that’s exactly what happened; in others, not so much.
Read the full review »


*Based on CIPA Standards for measuring life of batteries.

**When recording a single movie.

Effective pixels 16.0 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. type CMOS; approx. 16.79 million total pixels
Lens 18x optical zoom, NIKKOR lens
Focal length 4.5-81.0mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 25-450 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
f/-number f/3.5-5.9
Construction 11 elements in 10 groups (2 ED lens elements)
Digital zoom Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of an approx. 1800 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Lens shift
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range (from lens) [W]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 1.5 m (5 ft) to infinity Macro mode: Approx. 4 cm (1.6 in.) (at a wide-angle zoom position) to infinity
Focus-area selection Face priority, auto (9-area automatic selection), center, manual with 99 focus areas, subject tracking
Monitor 7.5-cm (3-in.), approx. 921k-dot, wide viewing angle TFT LCD monitor with anti-reflection coating and 5-level brightness adjustment
Frame coverage (shooting mode) Approx. 98% horizontal and 98% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Frame coverage (playback mode) Approx. 100% horizontal and 100% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Media Internal memory (approx. 26 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, DPOF, MPF compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG 3D pictures: MPO Sound files (voice memo): WAV Movies: MOV (Video: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, Audio: AAC stereo)
Image size (pixels) 16 M (High) [4608 x 3456(fine)] 16 M [4608 x 3456] 8 M [3264 x 2448] 4 M [2272 x 1704] 2 M [1600 x 1200] VGA [640 x 480] 16:9 12M [4608 x 2592]
Shooting Modes Auto, Scene (Portrait, Close-up, Landscape, Food, Sports, Museum, Night portrait, Fireworks show, Party/indoor, Black and white copy, Beach, Easy panorama, Snow, Pet portrait, Sunset, 3D photography, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Backlighting), Smart portrait, Continuous shooting, Special effects
Continuous Shooting Continuous H (default setting) (Images are captured continuously at about 6.9 fps), Continuous L (About 6 images at about 2 fps), Pre-shooting cache (Up to 5 frames at up to 10.6 fps), Continuous H: 120 fps (50 frames at about 1/120 s or faster), Continuous H: 60 fps (25 frames at about 1/60 s or faster), BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16
Movie HD 1080p(fine) (default setting): 1920 x 1080/approx. 30 fps, HD 1080p: 1920 x 1080/approx. 30 fps, HD 720p: 1280 x 720/approx. 30 fps, iFrame 540: 960 x 540/approx. 30 fps, VGA: 640 x 480/approx. 30 fps, HS 120 fps: 640 x 480/approx. 120 fps, HS 60 fps: 1280 x 720/approx. 60 fps, HS 15 fps: 1920 x 1080/approx. 15 fps
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 Auto (auto gain from ISO 125 to 1600) Fixed range auto (ISO 125 to 400, 125 to 800)
Metering 256-segment matrix, center-weighted, spot (when digital zoom is 2x or higher)
Exposure control Programmed auto, motion detection, exposure compensation (-2.0 to +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Speed 1/2000 - 1 s 1/4000 - 1/120 s (Continuous H: 120 fps) 1/4000 - 1/60 s (Continuous H: 60 fps) 4 s (Fireworks show scene mode)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-2 AV) selection mode
Range 2 steps (f/3.5 and f/7 [W])
Self-timer Can be selected from 10 s and 2 s
Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5 to 5.1 m (1 ft 8 in. to 16 ft) [T]: 1.5 to 3 m (5 ft to 9 ft 10 in.)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Data Transfer Protocol MTP, PTP
Video output Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
HDMI output Can be selected from Auto, 480p, 720p, and 1080i
I/O terminal Audio/video (AV) output; digital I/O (USB); HDMI Mini Connector (Type C) (HDMI output)
Electronic compass 16 cardinal points (position correction using 3-axis acceleration sensor, automatic correction for the deviated angle, and automatic offset adjustment
GPS Receiver frequency 1575.42 MHz (C/A code), geodetic system WGS 84
Supported languages Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Power sources One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (included) AC Adapter EH-62F (available separately)
Charging time Approx. 3 hours 50 minutes (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-69P and when no charge remains)
Battery life (EN-EL12) Still pictures*: Approx. 200 shots Movies**: Approx. 50 min. (HD 1080p(fine) (1920 x 1080))
Tripod socket 1/4 (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 108.7 x 62.3 x 30.6 mm (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 215 g (7.6 oz.) (including battery and SD memory card)
Temperature 0°C to 40°C (32°F to 104°F)
Humidity Less than 85% (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (with terminal cover), Charging AC Adapter EH-69P, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16, ViewNX 2 Installer CD, Reference Manual CD
Optional accessories Battery Charger MH-65, AC Adapter EH-62F

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