Nikon Coolpix S9900 Review

March 24, 2015 | Mark Goldstein |


The Nikon Coolpix S9900 is the new top-of-the-range digital compact camera from the Style series. It features a back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, 30x optical zoom lens, Full 1080/60i HD video with new time-lapse recording, built-in WiFi, GPS and NFC connectivity, P/S/A/M exposure modes, a command dial and a 3-inch 921K dot vari-angle screen. The Nikon Coolpix S9900 costs £269.99 / $349.95 and is available in silver and black.

Ease of Use

Even more packed with technology than its predecessor, the new Coolpix S9900 looks like it would be more at home in Nikon's Performance range. However, the P series of Nikon cameras are for keen enthusiasts and as such, don't really offer much in the way of easy modes for the point and shooters. The S9900 still offers the Easy Auto mode, albeit buried somewhat n the menu system.

The S9900 bears an uncanny resemblance to the higher specification models in terms of shape and design. Weighing nearly 300g, it's a heavy block of metal and plastic which holds a 30x optical zoom inside the bulge at the front. The lenses contain ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and the focal length works out at an eye bulging 25-750mm in 35mm terms.

We hear you asking “What about camera shake?” Well, the S9900 has been fitted with a 5-axis Hybrid VR system. This type of Vibration Reduction of combining electronic and optical image stabilisers isn't new but using 5 ways of stabilising the image is on a camera at this designation.

Nikon Coolpix S9900
Front of the Nikon Coolpix S9900

Once the light has gone through the lens, it burns onto a back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor. In the past, some Nikon compacts have suffered with low light and high noise problems, so hopefully, this sensor that is lower in resolution than previous models will react better. The back-illuminated technology will also help by allowing more light onto each photosite, but our noise test will give the definite answer.

No expense has been spared on the screen incorporating a 921,000 dot RGBW TFT LCD screen which can even be used in direct sunlight. One big upgrade over the previous S9700 model is that the screen is now a vari-angle model, which is perfect for shooting movies, over the heads of a crowd and of course for those all-important selfies.

As we mentioned earlier, the S9900 sits on the Style side of the fence, but it's also very close to the Performance series. Because of this intimacy with both ranges, the S9900 has a mixture of lazy modes and performance enhancing features. On the top plate, you'll find the power switch and shutter release with a small finger-operated switch that operates that massive zoom range.

Nikon Coolpix S9900
Rear of the Nikon Coolpix S9900

Situated to the left of the shutter release on the shoulder of the Nikon Coolpix S9900 is a Shooting Mode dial. It has the usual easy to use modes, such as Auto, Scenes, Smart portrait and Short Movie, but also holds the manual PASM modes. New to the S9900 is a dedicated command dial, which in conjunction with the rear navigation wheel makes it easier than ever to use the manual shooting modes.

On the opposite side to the Command dial is a pop-up flash that sits very high when opened via the dedicated switch. That's great for avoiding red-eye. However, it uses so many different joints to collapse down into the unit – which you have to do manually – it's like trying to get a cat into a bath; it's possible, but you'll have to wrestle a bit. The top of the camera also holds the WiFi and GPS unit above the lens.

The GPS button on the left flank of the S9900 displays a map of the World and allows you to not only log your photo's locations, but also track where you're going. Fantastic for travellers and that's exactly who the S9900 is aimed at, especially as it now utilises GPS/GLONASS/QZSS satellite tracking to provide highly accurate longitude and latitude data.

Nikon Coolpix S9900
Top of the Nikon Coolpix S9900

The S9900 also offers built-in wi-fi and NFC connectivity, with the former accessed via a button on the rear of the camera, and the latter simply by tapping the S9900 against another NFC-enabled device. The wi-fi options are a little basic - you can only connect or upload to a smart device - but they do at least make it easier to share your photos.

The main menu system changes depending on the shooting mode that you're currently in. It has the usual layout of three sections with the primary menus tabbed down the left side. The centre section shows what each tab can offer, while the right side shows the current setting for that option. Pressing right drills into the menu and allows you to make any changes. The colour scheme is light grey on the centre section with dark grey surround and a yellow highlighter. Those colours may not sound appealing, but they work nicely and the menu is very easy to see and use. The five tabs on the left are for the mode you're currently in, Video modes, WiFi, GPS and the Set-up menu.

Start up time from the off position to being switched on, focused and a photo taken is 1.8sec which is a good performance. There are two continuous shooting modes; High and Low. The first is a burst mode that rapidly fires off five high resolution pictures in just over half a second. It works out at roughly 8fps (frames per second). Slightly higher than the 6.9fps on the Nikon website, so that's pretty good. You do have to allow for human error, though, so keep an open mind. It takes a total of 10 seconds to download the pictures as well.

In Low mode, the camera takes pictures at a much slower rate. We got 16 pictures in eight seconds before the camera stopped to download. That's roughly 2fps and it took the camera up to 43 seconds to download and be ready to shoot again. This was going through the Nikon EXPEED C2 processor and writing onto a Class 4 Micro SD card in an adapter. The speed of the card will affect the write speed, so you may see a slight increase with a faster variation in.

Nikon Coolpix S9900
The Nikon Coolpix S9900 In-hand

In playback, the pictures will be displayed full size with some basic information that will disappear after a few seconds. Should you take a photo that you wish you'd added a digital effect to, you can press OK at this stage and add it on after. The added bonus is that the S9900 saves that as a separate file on the memory card, preserving the original. The layout of the Playback menu is the same as when you're shooting. However, there's a slight variation in the inclusion of the Mode tab.

The Playback modes are usually in a separate menu which is accessed via the Playback button. On the Nikon Coolpix S9900, doing that takes you back to the shooting screen. The Video menu has been replaced with the full Playback menu which allows you to amend the pictures with some basic editing via the Quick retouch, D-Lighting, Red-eye correction or Glamour retouch options. There's also provision to amend the print order, create a slide-show to thrill your family and friends of your travelling adventures.

In the box you'll find a rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-71P4, USB Cable UC-E21, and a Camera Strap. Battery life is around 300 shots, pretty good for this class of camera, although we don't like the fact that you can now only charge the battery in-camera.