The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj digital camera is breed of its own, migrating a 20-lumen projector into its compact point-and-shoot body. Believe it or not, this is Nikon's third projector cam, and after a full testing phase, I can safely report that the S1200pj features the company's best projector to date. The projector's throw has been increased to 10 ft. (a 3 ft. boost from the S1100pj), the LED light has been upgraded to individual RGB channels (last year's was a single white LED) and the screen size cap has been stretched to 60 in. (last year's was a 47 in. maximum).
But the most exciting new feature on the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj is its compatibility with iPhone/iPad/iPod devices. Yes, pictures and videos from any of the aforementioned iDevices can be streamed through the camera's projector via a special included cable. Furthermore, the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj can connect to Mac or Windows computers and project the desktop in real-time, which is ideal for PowerPoint presentations or watching movies on the big screen. The design of the camera was also improved, providing a shield for the projector lens, and the built-in tilt stand was carried over from last year. Couple that with the camera's innate ability to project any pictures or videos located on its SDHC card, and the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj proved itself as the most versatile model in the company's projector cam fleet to date.
But that versatility and improved technology comes at a price. The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj retails for $429.95, which is an $80 increase from last year's Coolpix S1100pj. I imagine the included iPhone/iPad/iPod cable chomps a sizable chunk of that price tag. However, with all that attention on the projector, Nikon did not alter any of the camera internals on the Coolpix S1200pj. This year brings the same 14-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor and 5x optical zoom Nikkor lens with f/3.9 base aperture. As a result, image quality was identical to what I experienced last year, which was an exercise in mediocrity.
The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj exhibited purple fringing and vignetting in bright light while low light shooting brought on the noise parades. I still believe that if Nikon went down to a 10-megapixel sensor, the Coolpix S1200pj would attain a better low light sensitivity due to the larger pixels. It wouldn't hurt the projector aspect either, since the projected image is VGA quality. The camera's 720p 30fps videos rivaled the best smartphones, and I'd even venture to say that the iPhone 4S beat it in certain aspects. Fortunately, the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj's stereo audio pickup was highly impressive for a point-and-shoot. If you just plan on using the projector to showcase your pictures and videos, then the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj will do the trick, but don't expect to print your shots and place them in a gallery.
Nikon also axed the touchscreen LCD found on last year's Coolpix S1100pj and opted for a traditional 460K 3-inch display manned by the 4-way directional pad. As a result, the firmware played nicely with the hardware and the camera was significantly faster than last year, though zooming in video mode was still sluggish. The Selective Color mode was a blast, as well as Multi-shot 16, but most of the Coolpix S1200pj's controls were geared toward the beginner crowd. For instance, there was no shutter or aperture control outside of a few Scene modes and the camera lacked manual focus.
In the end, the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj was actually a better projector than it was a camera. Nikon needs to improve the image quality of next year's projector cam in order for it to be a double play. But that projector is a highly versatile tool that can be used for nearly anything. I took it to the dance club and projected videos of people dancing on the ceiling and it was an instant hit. A Super Mario Bros. ROM from the NES emulator at a 60-inch projected display was an 8-bit geek's dream. And of course, browsing the TechnoBuffalo site on the big screen via the PC-PJ (computer to projector) software was the highlight of my testing regime.
The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj is available online for $429.99.
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