Nikon Coolpix S9600 Review

June 4, 2014 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix S9600 is the top of the range digital compact camera before moving into the Performance range. Features include a 22x optical zoom, 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, built-in WiFi and Full HD video. It looks impressive on the outside, but can it meet those expectations on the inside? This full test will reveal all. The Nikon Coolpix S9600 costs around £250 and is available in white, red and black.

Ease of Use

When we receive a new digital camera in for review which is an upgrade from a previous model, we hope that it has certain extra features on it that will make newcomers to photography, or indeed the brand, excited enough to want to learn more. That is what photography is all about after all. The Nikon Coolpix S9600 is an upgrade of the previous S9500 that we reviewed in August 2013 which received a Recommended award from us. There are some interesting features that have been adjusted slightly such as the lower 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor. That's a drop of 2 megapixels, which isn't such a bad thing. The lower pixel count simply means that noise will be less of an issue.

Many new features have been retained for the S9700 which is also available. It has a larger 30x optical zoom compared to the 22x zoom on the S9600. This 22x optical zoom is what we saw on the S9500. In 35mm terms it has a range of 25-550mm which isn't to be sniffed at.

The size of the lens means that the body bulges slightly at the front to accommodate it. Because of the extra length of range, the camera needs a larger flash to ensure as much spread as possible and this means that the S9600 has retained the pop-up type that has been seen on previous models. It's automatically activated by choosing the flash function on the pad at the back. Once finished, you do have to push it down manually, though.

Nikon Coolpix S9600 Nikon Coolpix S9600
Front Rear

Joining the flash on top of the Nikon Coolpix S9600'sbody, you'll find a small power button indented into the top plate in order to avoid accidental pushing while trying to take a picture. A small green light surrounds it for easier location. The tiny holes at the front are the left and right microphones for stereo sound video which is also FullHD quality.

The shutter release is quite large and the zoom ring has been shrunken to fit into a small cavity in order to keep the aesthetic of the design. A Command dial is situated next to it on the shoulder which replaces the Mode menu seen on models lower in the Coolpix range.  The Command dial allows you to flick through most used modes quicker than going into a menu system. It also displays the turning of the wheel on the screen, so you can see from there. It's also a larger display for anyone struggling to see the small dial. You can choose the typical modes of Auto, Scene selector (intelligent auto), Scene modes and Digital effects, but there's also some scenes that you may use frequently and these are also available such as Back-lit portrait, Night portrait, Night scene and Smart portrait. Aside from the Auto mode, most of those options will close down the menu system and only allow you to adjust the resolution.

The back of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 has taken the typical design of four buttons surrounding a navigation pad and used that. However, because of the inclusion of the aforementioned Command dial, one of the buttons has been removed. It would normally access a small menu system for choosing those modes and would be redundant on the S9600. It also would toggle between Playback and the Shooting screen. On the S9600, you simply tap the shutter release button as though focusing.

Nikon Coolpix S9600 Nikon Coolpix S9600
Front Pop-up Flash

The navigation pad has optional menus for self timer, flash and exposure compensation. There's also a macro facility if you press down. The circle of the pad is in fact a wheel and you can use this to quickly scroll through the larger menus. An interesting point here is the exposure compensation which isn't just that. Pressing the button brings up three picture options for Hue, Vividness, Brightness (exposure compensation) and a Reset and Exit option.

From a cold start up, we managed to get the Nikon Coolpix S9600 powered up, focused and taking a picture in 1.6sec. That's a fantastic performance and in our opinion it's mainly down to the super fast focusing system on the S9600. There are several continuous shooting modes on the S9600. The ContinuousH setting takes five pictures in just under half a second before it has to stop and download the images. These are full size images and as such take a while to download. However, it does average at 10fps (frames per second) which is impressive. If you're not in as much of a rush or you need more pictures taken continuously, you can select the Low option. We managed to get 19 pictures in just under 8sec before the buffer got full up and had to stop to download. During this mode, the camera can grab between two and three images in each second. The downside is that it takes anything up to a minute to complete downloading the pictures before it's ready to shoot again.

The menu system is laid out like a typical Nikon digital compact with the tabs down the left side. Dual tone grey colouring and yellow highlighter allows easy viewing. There's an additional menu on the S9600 which accommodates the WiFi integration options. The Main menu is bright, intuitive and easy to use. It's split into three sections with the primary tabs down the left side, the options within each tab in the middle and the sub-options to the right.

Nikon Coolpix S9600 Nikon Coolpix S9600
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Flicking to the playback section will bring the most recently taken picture up onto the screen. It shows some basic shooting information such as date & time, file number and it's position in the pictures you've taken as well as the resolution and battery life remaining. After a few seconds that will go. You can press the Ok button to go into Quick effects which will add a filter over the picture you're taken. It's the same as the Digital effects so you don't have to worry if you missed using a filter. The camera will also save it as a separate file, so it's arguably better doing it this way.

The Playback menu replaces the Shooting tab with the Playback tab. It allows you to retouch images automatically, add D-Lighting, correct red-eye and other mild editing features. There's also provision for creating a slide-show, protecting and rotating your pictures as well as making copies, adding voice to them and placing them in print order.

In the box alongside the Nikon Coolpix S9600, you'll find a lithium ion battery with a USB cable, charging adapter with a two pin plug and a three pin adapter for UK use. The camera charges via the USB port and will charge off a computer which is extremely useful. There's also a wrist strap to keep the camera safe and a Quick Start guide to get you up and shooting as soon as possible. You may notice the lack of a CD with the full manual. This can now be downloaded from the Nikon website if needed.

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 5Mb.


The sensitivity range spans from ISO 125 to 6400. At the lower ranges, there doesn't seem to be an issue with noise. Edges are sharp and aside from a lack of detail in the darker areas, which could be due to the dynamic range, the images at low ISO look good. Some image quality begins to drop off slightly at ISO 200, but it's nothing really to worry about and we only noticed it when viewing the pictures at 100% magnification.

Colour noise begins to poke through noticeably at ISO 800 which is a great performance. Edge definition is still acceptably sharp. ISO 1600 sees a drop in edge sharpness, but it's negligible and colour noise is still being kept at bay for the most part. It does sneak in some places though. The final setting has some bright blobs of colour poking through sporadically which is a shame, but only given the previous performance of the camera. Let's face it, the quality we've seen so far is outstanding for a small sensor. It looks like the lower resolution certainly helped to a degree.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The 22x optical zoom is equal to a 25-550mm in 35mm terms. There's slight barrel distortion at wide-angle, but full zoom doesn't appear to suffer.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


We're happy with the amount of sharpening that the S9600 produces, but when running the pictures through a basic sharpening tool in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop, we did notice a slight improvement.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

All pictures were taken at full 16 megapixel resolution at the finest setting, with the exception of the resolution test image. You see, there's two settings for 16 megapixel. Both record the same number of pixels, but the compression is different on the normal setting. You can determine whether you're using fine or normal because the fine setting has a star next to the resolution like this: 16M*. Shots taken at this setting are typically around 5.8Mb while a normal setting image can be around 3.4Mb. While that does free up memory space, there's a risk of losing vital detail so if you're shooting a finely detailed image, use the highest possible.

18M Fine (4.63Mb) (100% Crop) 18M Normal (3.18Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberration is very difficult to find on the S9600 pictures. We found it randomly on a few photographs that had very high contrasting lines with very sharp edging. It doesn't occur on anything except black & white, at the edges of the frame and there's no sign of it in bokeh or out of focus areas.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)




The S9600 has a close focusing capability of 1cm. We found that this works better if you push the zoom out to the maximum of the macro range. At wide-angle we struggled to get focus. Because of the close proximity to the lens, focus drop off is fast and quite close to the centre of the frame.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


If you don't use the flash there's no trace of vignetting in the corners of the frame. That does happen when the flash is activated and remains at full zoom. When taking portraits, we found that the flash has a nice, even spread with no heavy shadows. There's a slight blue tinge to the catchlights when red-eye reduction isn't used and this subdues when it's switched on. We didn't any actual red-eye though, so the red-eye removal system in the Playback menu wasn't needed.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (550mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (550mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The flash is a pop-up type and therefore won't see much of an issue from red-eye. In fact, we couldn't replicate it in any way.


On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


There are three options to choose from to get a photograph at night. The Night scene mode is on the Command dial on the top plate of the camera. This will automatically select the settings for you to get a decent picture in dark conditions. The night scene used a faster shutter speed than the Auto mode to avoid camera shake and also used ISO 1600. In Auto, we tried a shot at ISO Auto and ISO 125. The latter gave a similar result to the Night scene in terms of exposure although it was a smoother image due to the lower sensitivity. The Auto ISO image gave the best exposure but used a longer shutter speed of 1sec with the ISO 1600 setting.

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene1.jpg

Night Auto ISO

Night Auto ISO (100% Crop)

night_auto_isoauto.jpg night_auto_isoauto1.jpg

Night ISO 125

Night ISO 125 (100% Crop)

night_auto_iso125.jpg night_auto_iso1251.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S9600 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 highest quality setting of 1920x1080 at 25 frames per second. Please note that this 41 second movie is 82.2Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Pop-up Flash

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Scene Modes

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Special Effects


Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Camera Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Movie Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Wi-fi Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Settings Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Mode Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 / Playback Menu

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Front of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Side of the Nikon Coolpix S9600

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S9600

Battery Compartment


The Style range of Nikon digital compact cameras are designed to look good in your hands, so it's really nice to see one that is powerful as well as attractive. That's what you have with the Coolpix perfectly designed for the travel photographers, happy snappers and keen photographers who may simply want a day out without lugging all their gear around. The 22x optical zoom with 1cm macro will cope with pretty much every scenario from distant ships at the coast, to interesting lizards at your feet.

Using the Nikon Coolpix S9600 is a breeze. It's super fast, the focusing is sharp - although it sometimes gave soft results of far away subjects – and if you turn off the Digital effects option on the review, it's ready to take another picture almost straight away.

The S9600 is built very well. The metal body is solid and the buttons are firm. The wheel is easily moved, as is the Command dial, but they don't move out of place when not in use. There's a locking switch on the battery door and we like the tiny, sunken power button to avoid accidental pressing.

We've reviewed these top end S range cameras in the past and the image quality has come up somewhat lacking, but it looks like Nikon have worked some magic and turned things around. Noise no longer interferes at low settings and colours are punchy without being too over saturated.

For the price, you're getting a nice piece of kit in the Nikon Coolpix S9600. It's a well built, fast, intelligent picture taking machine. The digital effects will give bland colours from flat light a pep up while the 22x optical zoom means you don't have to walk as much. If you're going off travelling the world and you need a highly versatile camera to get as many sights recorded without compromising image quality, then the S9600 will suit you down to the ground.

4 stars

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

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix S9600.

Canon Powershot SX280 HS

The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is a new travel-zoom camera for 2013, offering a 20x zoom lens and a 12 megapixel back-illuminated image sensor. Other key features of the Canon SX280 include built-in GPS and wi-fi connectivity, a 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080p HD movies with stereo sound, fast 14fps burst shooting, and a full range of manual and automated exposure modes. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot SX280 HS in-depth review now...

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR

The FinePix F900EXR is the range-topping camera from Fujifilm, sporting a 20x lens with a versatile focal range of 25-500mm. The 16 megapixel F900 EXR also features fast phase-detection autofocusing, wireless image transfer, GPS support, full 1080p movies, a high-contrast 3 inch LCD screen and 8fps continuous shooting. Read our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR review now...

Olympus SH-50

The Olympus SH-50 is a premium travel-zoom compact camera, featuring a 24x lens, 16 megapixel sensor, 1080p HD video recording, 5-axis image stabilisation and a 3 inch LCD touchscreen. With a current street price of less than £200 / $250, read our Olympus SH-50 review to discover if this is the only camera you need...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60

The Lumix DMC-TZ60 is Panasonic's new flagship travel-zoom compact camera for 2014. The TZ60 (also known as the ZS40) adds a 30x wide-angle zoom lens, lens control ring, RAW file format, focus peaking and an electronic viewfinder to last year's TZ40/ZS30 model. Read our Panasonic DMC-TZ60 review to find out if it's still the best travel-zoom camera...

Pentax Optio VS20

The Pentax VS20 is an innovative travel-zoom compact camera featuring a 20x image-stabilized zoom lens, 16 megapixel sensor, 3-inch LCD screen, 720p HD movies and not one but two shutter release buttons. Retailing for around £200 / $250, read our Pentax VS20 review to find out if it can take on its many travelzoom rivals...

Samsung WB850F

The Samsung WB850 is a new travel-zoom camera with a mouth-watering specification. The WB850 offers a wide-angle 21x zoom lens, 16.2 megapixels, Full 1080p video recording, 3 inch AMOLED screen, built-in wi-fi and GPS, plus full manual controls. Read our detailed Samsung WB850 review to find out if it's a contender for the travel zoom crown.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350 is the world's slimmest camera with a 20x zoom lens. This affordable travel-zoom also offers an 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting, built-in wi-fi/NFC connectivity and Full HD movie recording. Priced at around £239 / €289 / $299, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350 review to find out if it lives up to its full promise...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S9600 from around the web. »

The compact Nikon Coolpix S9600 features Wi-Fi, a wide-angle 22x optical zoom lens, full HD video and is designed to be an easy to use and pocketable travel zoom camera. The S9600 is available in black, red and white.
Read the full review »


Number of effective pixels 16.0 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. type CMOS; approx. 16.76 million total pixels
Lens NIKKOR lens with 22x optical zoom
Focal length 4.5-99.0 mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 25-550 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. 2200 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Combination of lens shift and electronic VR
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. Macro mode: Approx. 1 cm (0.4 in.) to infinity (wide-angle position). (All distances measured from center of front surface of lens)
Focus-area selection Face priority, manual with 99 focus areas, center, subject tracking, target finding AF
Monitor 7.5 cm (3-in.), approx. 460k-dot, LCD 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. 59 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, and DPOF compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG. Sound files (voice memo): WAV. Movies: MOV (video: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, Audio: LPCM stereo)
Image size (pixels) 16M (High) [4608 x 3456(fine)]. 16M [4608 x 3456]. 8M [3264 x 2448]. 4M [2272 x 1704]. 2M [1600 x 1200]. VGA [640 x 480]. 16:9 12M [4608 x 2592]. 1:1 [3456 x 3456]
Shooting Modes Auto, Scene (Night landscape, Night portrait, Backlighting, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Black and white copy, Easy panorama, Pet portrait), Smart portrait, Special effects
Continuous Shooting Single (default setting), Continuous H (the frame rate for continuous shooting is about 6.7 fps and the maximum number of continuous shots is about 5), Continuous L (the frame rate for continuous shooting is about 2.2 fps and the maximum number of continuous shots is about 35), Pre-shooting cache (the frame rate for continuous shooting is about 20 fps and the maximum number of continuous shots is 25, including a maximum of 5 frames captured in the pre-shooting cache), Continuous H:120 fps (the frame rate for continuous shooting is about 120 fps and the maximum number of continuous shots is 50), Continuous H:60 fps (the frame rate for continuous shooting is about 60 fps and the maximum number of continuous shots is 25), BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16
Movie 1080/30p (default setting): 1920 x 1080 (High)/16:9, 1080/25p (default setting): 1920 x 1080 (High)/16:9, 1080/60i: 1920 x 1080/16:9, 1080/50i: 1920 x 1080/16:9, 720/30p: 1280 x 720/16:9, 720/25p: 1280 x 720/16:9, iFrame 720/30p: 1280 x 720/16:9, iFrame 720/25p: 1280 x 720/16:9, 480/30p: 640 x 480/4:3, 480/25p: 640 x 480/4:3, 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, 6400 (available when using Auto mode)
Exposure metering mode Matrix, center-weighted, spot (digital zoom 2x or more)
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 s (maximum speed during high-speed continuous shooting). 4 s (Fireworks show scene mode)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-2 AV) selection
Aperture range 2 steps (f/3.4 and f/6.8 [W])
Self-timer Can be selected from 10 s and 2 s
Flash range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5-5.7 m (1 ft 8 in.-18 ft). [T]: 1.5-3.2 m (5-10 ft)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
Interface Hi-Speed USB equivalent
Data Transfer Protocol MTP, PTP
HDMI output Can be selected from Auto, 480p, 720p, and 1080i
I/O terminal Micro-USB connector. HDMI micro connector (Type D) (HDMI output)
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) standards IEEE 802.11b/g/n (standard wireless LAN protocol). ARIB STD-T66 (standard for low power data communications systems)
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) communications protocols IEEE 802.11b: DBPSK/DQPSK/CCK. IEEE 802.11g: OFDM. IEEE 802.11n: OFDM
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) range (line of sight) Approx. 30 m (32 yd)
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) operating frequency 2412-2462 MHz (1-11 channels)
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) data rates (actual measured values) IEEE 802.11b: 5 Mbps. IEEE 802.11g: 15 Mbps. IEEE 802.11n: 15 Mbps
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) security OPEN/WPA2
Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) access protocols CSMA/CA
Supported languages Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, 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, Serbian, 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. 2 h 20 min (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-71P and when no charge remains)
Battery life¹ Approx. 290 shots when using EN-EL12
Movie recording (actual battery life for recording)² Approx. 1 h 5 min when using EN-EL12
Tripod socket 1/4 in. (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 108.6 x 61.0 x 31.6 mm (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 206 g (7.3 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, Charging AC Adapter EH-71P, USB Cable UC-E21

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