Nikon Coolpix S9400 Review

April 8, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S9400 is a slim and stylish 18x optical zoom digital compact camera. Sporting a back-illuminated 18 megapixel CMOS image sensor for low light photography and an 18x, 25mm wide-angle lens with lens-shift vibration reduction, the Coolpix S9400 also offers Full 1080p HD video for movie enthusiasts and 7.5fps continuous shooting. There's a 3-inch high resolution 614k-dot OLED screen and a range of special effects shooting modes that bring an element of fun to your pictures. The Nikon Coolpix S9400 costs £249.99 / €294 / $299.95 and is available in black, silver, red and white.

Ease of Use

With a large bulky zoom lens on the front and a pop-up flash, the Coolpix S9400 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 new 18 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 S9400 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, Smart Portrait, Backlighting, Night Portrait, 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 S9400 Nikon Coolpix S9400
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 stereo speakers. Note that this particular model doesn't have built-in GPS like its predecessor, the S9300 - you'll need to pay a little extra for the S9500 model to get that feature.

On the back of the Coolpix S9400, Nikon have added a wheel to the pad for speedy navigation through the menu system. 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. A direct video button will start recording Full 1080p HD film whenever you press the button regardless of the mode you're in at the time.

Being reasonably thick, the build quality of the Coolpix S9400 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 S9400 Nikon Coolpix S9400
Front Side

However, it's worth noting that people buying the S9400 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 covers protecting the HDMI and USB ports are made of rubber and hang off the camera. A plastic hinged version would've been nicer but is unlikely on a camera at this level.

The Coolpix S9400's main menu will vary dependent on the mode you have the camera set to on the command dial. In auto there's lots of features and the S9400 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 three sections for shooting, movie 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 S9400 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 S9400 gave similar results right through.

Nikon Coolpix S9400 Nikon Coolpix S9400
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Start up time from pressing the power button to the Coolpix S9400 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 7fps. 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 20 seconds or so that 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 S9400 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.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 18 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6.5Mb.

Although the S9400 pushes the boat out in terms of the available focal length, happily it doesn't over-reach itself. We managed to get very usable results shooting at its extremities. Especially impressive, given that this is a point and shoot model aimed at the general user rather than amateur enthusiast. Too many times with rival travel zooms two or three shots are required to get a sharply focused image in daylight when shooting handheld at maximum 450mm equivalent telephoto – but that wasn't the case here.

Yes there's softening of detail to limit the appearance of image noise at ISO 800 and above, but we can live with that. At ISO 1600 it's only really shadow detail that is taking on the tell-tale sandy appearance, and only if enlarging sections to scrutinize closely. At the maximum setting of ISO 3200 there's a more obvious smoothing/softened effect compared with the previous images. Overall though the S9400 has delivered a very respectable ISO performance for a sub £300 camera.

So the S9400 is reliably consistent, even if, to nitpick, we noticed marginal corner softening at extreme 25mm equivalent wideangle settings. As with just about every other pocket digital compact, purple fringing occasionally also makes an appearance in images with areas of high contrast. Otherwise colours veer towards the naturalistic.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Nikon Coolpix S9400. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

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 S9400's 18x zoom lens offers a very versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S9400 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.

18M Fine (7.38Mb) (100% Crop) 18M Normal (3.66Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Nikon Coolpix S9400 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S9400 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 4cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)


The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix S9400 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Off, On and Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

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

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any significant red-eye.


On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S9400's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Fireworks scene mode, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 125.


Night (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

Vibration Reduction is Nikon's name for anti-shake, which in the S9400 works via a lens-shift mechanism. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/40th / 25mm
1/13th / 450mm

Special Effects

The Nikon Coolpix S9400 offers a number of special effects that you can preview before taking the shot.




Nostalgic Sepia

High-contrast Monochrome


High Key

Low Key


Selective Color


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S9400 camera, which were all taken using the 18.1 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 26 second movie is 48.4Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Rear of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed


Nikon Coolpix S9400

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Top of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Bottom of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S9400

Battery Compartment


The Nikon Coolpix S9400 is the latest iteration of a proven design that's now several years old, principally increasing the megapixel count to 18 and removing the built-in GPS when compared to last year's S9300 model. It's also cheaper than ever before, with the official list price of £249.99 / €294 / $299.95 looking good against the main competition.

If you don't want all the latest bells and whistles but still want a long zoom and decent image quality, then the S9400 certainly fits the bill, all without breaking the bank. If you want manual features beyond a smattering of effects and the ability to control the likes of white balance and ISO, then look elsewhere. The Nikon Coolpix S9400 gives a slick performance, both in terms of its attractive design and handling, while the 18x, 25-450mm zoom is wide and long enough for most photographic situations that you'll encounter.

At the end of the day the Coolpix S9400 offers more expansive framing opportunities than your typical point and shoot for not a lot more money. With respectable scores across its features and that official price tag only ever going to get lower with time, it therefore makes sense that if you're trading up from a humble 3x or 5x zoom snapshot, the Nikon Coolpix S9400 should be given serious consideration as your next potential purchase.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4.5


¹ Based on CIPA Standards for measuring life of batteries.
² When recording a single movie.

Product name S9400
Type Compact digital camera
Number of effective pixels 18.1 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. type CMOS; approx. 18.91 million total pixels
Lens NIKKOR lens with 18x optical zoom
Focal length 4.5-81.0 mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 25-450 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
f/-number f/3.4-6.3
Lens construction 12 elements in 10 groups (1 ED lens element)
Digital zoom magnification Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 1800 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Combination of lens shift and electronic VR (still pictures); Lens shift (movies)
Motion blur reduction Motion detection (still pictures)
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range [W]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 1.5 m (5 ft) to infinity;
Focus-area selection Face priority, center, manual with 99 focus areas, subject tracking, target finding AF
Monitor 7.5 cm (3-in.), approx. 614k-dot, wide viewing angle OLED 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)
Storage media Internal memory (approx. 65 MB); SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, DPOF, and MPF compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG; 3D images: MPO; Sound files (voice memo): WAV; Movies: MOV (Video: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, Audio: AAC stereo)
Image size (pixels) 18M (High) [4896 x 3672(fine)]; 18M [4896 x 3672]; 8M [3264 x 2448]; 4M [2272 x 1704]; 2M [1600 x 1200]; VGA [640 x 480]; 16:9 13M [4864 x 2736]
Shooting Modes Auto, Scene auto selector, Scene (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Black and white copy, Easy panorama, Pet portrait, 3D photography), Night landscape, Night portrait, Backlighting, Special effects, Smart portrait
Continuous Shooting Single (default setting), Continuous H (up to 5 pictures are continuously shot at a rate of about 7.5 frames per second), Continuous L (about 31 pictures are continuously shot at a rate of about 1.9 fps), Pre-shooting cache (frame rate: up to 12 fps / number of frames: up to 25 frames), Continuous H:120 fps (50 frames are captured at a speed of about 1/120 seconds or faster), Continuous H:60 fps (25 frames are captured at a speed of about 1/60 seconds or faster), BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16
Movie 1080(fine)/30p (default setting): 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 1080/30p: 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 720/30p: 1280 x 720/16:9/approx. 30 fps, iFrame 540/30p: 960 x 540/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 480/30p: 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 30 fps, HS 240/8x: 320 x 240/4:3, HS 480/4x: 640 x 480/4:3, HS 720/2x: 1280 x 720/16:9, HS 1080/0.5x: 1920 x 1080/16:9
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 125-1600; ISO 3200 (available when using Auto mode)
Exposure metering mode Matrix, center-weighted, spot (when digital zoom is 2x or higher)
Exposure control Programmed auto exposure and exposure compensation (-2.0 - +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Shutter speed 1/1500 - 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
Aperture range 2 steps (f/3.4, f/6.8 [W])
Self-timer Durations of 2 or 10 seconds can be selected
Flash range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5 - 6.0 m (1 ft 8 in. - 19 ft); [T]: 1.5 - 3.5 m (5 - 11 ft)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor pre-flashes
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 output; digital I/O (USB); HDMI micro connector (Type D) (HDMI output)
Supported languages Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Power sources One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (included); AC Adapter EH-62F (available separately)
Charging time Approx. 3 h and 50 min (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-70P and when no charge remains)
Battery life ¹ Still pictures: Approx. 230 shots when using EN-EL12; Movie recording (actual battery life for recording) ²: Approx. 50 min when using EN-EL12
Tripod socket 1/4 (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 110.1 x 60.3 x 30.7 mm (4.4 x 2.4 x 1.3 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 200 g (7.1 oz) (including battery and SD memory card)
Temperature 0°C - 40°C (32°F - 104°F)
Humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (with terminal cover), Audio/video cable EG-CP16, Charging AC Adapter EH-70P, USB Cable UC-E6, ViewNX 2 CD, Reference Manual CD
Optional accessories Battery Charger MH-65, AC Adapter EH-62F

Your Comments

Loading comments…