DPInterface Nikon Coolpix S9 Review
Brad Soo - December 24th, 2006

Compact and affordable, the Coolpix S9 seems to be Nikon's solution for consumers wanting such a camera. It offers 6 megapixels with an internal lens in a stylish little case. Is this the affordable thin camera you've been waiting for?

Nikon S-series comparison

Here's a comparison chart feature all four of the Nikon S-series launched this year:

 

Nikon S7

Nikon S7c

Nikon S8

Nikon S9

Original retail/ current price*

$299/$288

$349/$297

$279/$239

$249/$204

Resolution

7.1 megapixels

7.1 megapixels

7.1 megapixels

6.0 megapixels

Lens

35-105 mm
f2.8 - f5.0

35-105 mm
f2.8 - f5.0

35-105 mm
f2.8 - f5.0

38-114 mm
f3.5 - f4.3

LCD size

3.0 inch (230k pixels)

3.0 inch (230k pixels)

2.5 inch (230k pixels)

2.5 inch (154k pixels)

Internal memory

14 MB

14 MB

14 MB

24 MB

Image stabilizer

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

WiFi

No

Yes

No

No

Rotary dial

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

ISO range

50 - 1600

50 - 1600

50 - 1600

64 - 400

Cont. shooting

1.4 FPS

1.4 FPS

1.4 FPS

1.7 FPS

Battery life

200 shots

200 shots

210 shots

190 shots

*As of December 24th, 2006

Size and Weight

(165.1)  96.1 x 45.1 x 23.9 mm (105 g) - Canon PowerShot SD40 Digital ELPH
(172.6)  89.5 x 58.0 x 25.1 mm (150 g) - Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
(179.0)  91.2 x 59.6 x 28.2 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD900 Ti Digital ELPH
(172.2)  94.5 x 60.4 x 17.3 mm (127 g) - Casio Exilim S770
(172.8)  92.0 x 58.4 x 22.4 mm (139 g) - Casio Exilim Z1000
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F30
(163.6)  90.0 x 55.0 x 18.6 mm (130 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z3
(177.0)  93.0 x 61.0 x 23.0 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R827
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (170 g) - HP Photosmart R967
(189.7)  111.0 x 55.5 x 23.2 mm (160 g) - Kodak EasyShare V610
(171.2)  101.0 x 49.8 x 20.4 mm (124 g) - Kodak EasyShare V705
(181.5)  100.5 x 60.0 x 21.0 mm (135 g) - Nikon Coolpix S7
(191.5)  110.5 x 60.0 x 21.0 mm (140 g) - Nikon Coolpix S7c
(172.0)  93.0 x 59.0 x 20.0 mm (135 g) - Nikon Coolpix S8
(168.9)  90.5 x 58.0 x 20.4 mm (115 g) - Nikon Coolpix S9
(174.3)  96.0 x 54.0 x 24.3 mm (120 g) - Olympus Stylus 750
(169.4)  94.1 x 51.1 x 24.2 mm (125 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX3
(169.4)  94.1 x 51.1 x 24.2 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX07
(179.9)  97.7 x 57.1 x 25.1 mm (151 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX50
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A20
(173.0)  95.0 x 58.5 x 19.5 mm (135 g) - Pentax Optio T20
(169.0)  94.5 x 57.0 x 17.5 mm (142 g) - Samsung NV3
(174.8)  95.0 x 56.5 x 23.3 mm (130 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T50
(169.0)  89.0 x 57.0 x 23.0 mm (127 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W70

The Nikon Coolpix S9 is one of the smallest cameras in the very competitive ultra-compact camera category, and a light one too. With its tiny dimensions and light weight, you could bring this camera anywhere.

Open up the Box

This is what's included with the Nikon S9 in the box:

  • Rechargeable EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • User's manual
  • CD-ROM

Storage and Power

The Nikon Coolpix S9 has 24 MB of internal memory, which holds up to 9 photos at the highest settings. I'd recommend at least a 1 GB Secure Digital card to start with. The camera doesn't take advantage of high-speed cards.

270 shots - Canon PowerShot SD800 IS Digital ELPH
230 shots - Canon PowerShot SD900 Ti Digital ELPH
200 shots - Casio Exilim S770
360 shots - Casio Exilim Z1000
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F30
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z3
240 shots - HP Photosmart R827
160 shots - HP Photosmart R967
135 shots - Kodak EasyShare V610
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V705
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix S7
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix S7c
210 shots - Nikon Coolpix S8
190 shots - Nikon Coolpix S9
190 shots - Olympus Stylus 750
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX3
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX07
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX50
150 shots - Pentax Optio A20
130 shots - Pentax Optio T20
200 shots - Samsung NV3
400 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T50
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W70

The Nikon Coolpix S9's 190 shots per charge (CIPA Standard) is below average. The average is starting to hit the 250-shot range. I'd recommend picking up an extra battery if you're planning to shoot for extended periods.

 

Extras

There's only a leather case available for the Nikon Coolpix S9 as an accessory.

Camera Tour

The Coolpix S9 looks just like your standard ultra-thin camera, with Nikon's wave design thrown in. The camera is well built, with the except of the tripod mount.

The Nikon Coolpix S9 has an internal lens equivalent to 38 - 114 mm with an aperture range of f3.5 - f4.3. Sounds suspiciously similar to the ones that Sony's ultra-thin T10 and T50 cameras are using.

The flash unit has a range of 25 cm to 3.2 m at wide-angle and 45 cm to 2.6 m, which is slightly below average. The AF-assist/self-timer lamp is located next to the lens, on the other side.

The Nikon Coolpix S9 has a 2.5 inch LCD which consists of 153,600 pixels. The LCD has good low-light and outdoor visibility though viewing angle is not that great. The low resolution is average.

An indicator light and four buttons are nested to the right of the LCD around the directional controller. The top most button moves you around shooting and playback while the one below it brings up a graphical display of the sub-modes you can select.

The directional controller doesn't have too many quick functions but here they are:

  • Up - Flash setting (Auto, red-eye reduction, off, on, slow-sync)
  • Down - Focus setting (Auto, macro, landscape)
  • Left - Self-timer (Off, 3 seconds, 10 seconds)
  • Center - Confirm/Direct transfer

Below that is the MENU button and delete photo button.

Over here there's some speaker and microphone holes. There are three small buttons to the right. The first one activates the One Touch Portrait function which uses the portrait scene mode along with Face Priority AF and red-eye reduction. Nikon's face detection (which is software based, I believe) didn't work quite as well as on competition and that button is so tiny, I had to jam it down quite a bit before it could work.

Next is the power on/off and shutter buttons which are on the small side as well. On the far right end, there's a really tiny zoom lever - you can't operate this one easily without digging in using your nail. You can also see the S9's stylish "wave design" here.

nikon-s9-side

There seems to be nothing on the sides of the Coolpix S9.

Over here, there's the memory card and battery slot covered with a fair sturdy cover. Beside that is a plastic tripod mount and A/V Out port.

Shooting

The Nikon Coolpix S9 shows a low amount of shooting info - with no live histogram or exposure data. All you'll get is simple screen with a center bracket and basic info around it.

Settings you can adjust on the S9 include:

  • White balance (Auto, custom, 5 presets)
  • Exposure compensation
  • ISO sensitivity (64, 100, 200, 400)

The Coolpix S9 includes an array of scene modes: Portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, night landscape, indoor, beach, snow, party, sunset, dusk, dawn, close up, museum, fireworks, copy, backlight and panorama assist. The two Best Shot Selector modes take up to 10 shots in a row, picking the sharpest and best exposed ones respectively.

A time lapse photography feature takes up to 1800 shots at a selectable preset interval from 30 seconds to 60 minutes. The Coolpix S9 has a good 4 cm macro mode.

Recording

The Nikon Coolpix S9 records VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. That's great, especially for a camera at this price. To record longer movies, you can lower the resolution down to QVGA (320 x 240) or QQVGA (160 x 120). Exposure is automatically adjusted while optical zoom is non-operational. You can choose between single or continuous focus - the latter keeps focusing in movie mode but the AF noise may be recorded.

Movie quality was about average with good video compression and audio.

Performance

The Nikon Coolpix S9 clocks a startup speed of 1 second thanks to the non-extending lens. The S9 normally takes about 1/4 second to 1/2 second to focus in good light and up to a full second when it's dark - okay, but there are cameras which do better.

As usual, shutter lag is a little obvious at telephoto in low-light conditions but is otherwise not noticeable. Shot-to-shot speed was 1 shot every 1.6 seconds, longer if the flash is used or when the internal buffer is reached. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery took 6 seconds. The camera zooms from wide-angle to telephoto within 2 seconds.

In burst mode, the Coolpix S9 shot 5 frames at 1.6 FPS which isn't a very long period. Using the multi-shot 16 mode, the S9 takes and compiles 16 photos into a single collage. The LCD refreshes many times in the burst mode at a respectable rate but don't expect to successfully track fast moving subjects.

The S9 turns off within 2 seconds in record mode.

Image Quality

Checking out the Nikon S9's image quality:


ISO 64 (f3.7, 1/23 sec)


ISO 100 (f3.7, 1/35 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.7, 1/75 sec)


ISO 400 (f5.9, 1/90 sec)

At ISO 64, everything is not noisy at all but soft. Same goes to ISO 100, except here thing's are sharp. Going up to ISO 200, there is a tiny bit of increase in noise. ISO 400 noise is more visible but it's still very good and acceptable for midsized prints and viewing. Chromatic aberration (color fringing) is slightly visible.

The S9's has mildly soft edges, barrel distortion and redeye. Overall image quality is good, with fairly low noise as well.

Photo gallery

Check out the Nikon Coolpix S9 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Nikon Coolpix S9 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as: Protect image, print marking, sound memo, slideshow, resize and trimming. You can also magnify still photos by 10x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons. The D-Lighting function can also be applied to images taken. The S9 shows you barely any info about your photos - the screen above is all you'll get.

 

Conclusion

The Nikon Coolpix S9 is a small, stylish and affordable camera. A 3X zoom lens is self-contained in the camera and the 2.5 inch LCD on the back offers good resolution and viewing. Unfortunately, that LCD previewing won't last long without a viewfinder and below average battery life.

Performance was just average - unless you're a sports shooter or used faster cameras (like Canon or Panasonic) before, you won't mind. Continuous shooting was limited to just several shots, so keep this in mind if you use it a lot.

Some other downsides include a plastic tripod mount, really tiny buttons (Especially the zoom controller), lack of manual controls and shooting info being displayed. Movie zoom is another option unavailable, though you'll find the Coolpix S9's overall movie mode brilliant.

Image quality was good with some reservations in the redeye and softness departments. Though its design is definitely stylish, I don't think the Coolpix S9 is a good deal. Something like the Panasonic Lumix FX3 definitely operates better, faster and with optical image stabilization. Of course, no camera is perfect but the S9 sacrifices some features from the wrong areas.

Camera rating upon 10 (more about this): [Category: Ultra-compact]

  • 6.5 - Body/Exterior
  • 6.5 - Bundle, batteries and memory
  • 7.0 - Lens
  • 8.0 - Feature set
  • 5.5 - Controls and operation
  • 6.5 - Performance
  • 7.0 - Image quality
  • 6.7 - Overall rating

What's hot:

  • 3X internal zoom lens
  • Stylish design
  • Good LCD visibility and resolution
  • Tolerable (Average) performance
  • Nice movie mode
  • Good image quality with low noise
  • Affordably priced

What's not:

  • Below average battery life
  • Limited continuous shooting
  • Plastic tripod mount, tiny buttons
  • No manual controls
  • No exposure info or histograms
  • Redeye, corner softness and color fringing
  • No movie optical zoom

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra rechargeable EN-EL8 lithium-ion battery
  • 1 GB Secure Digital card

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