Monitoring the Coolpix lineup closely over the last half decade, I've come to the conclusion that Nikon likes to stick to its guns. The Nikon Coolpix S9300 is nearly identical to its predecessors, which includes last year's S9100, in fact both look like twins. The main difference this year is that the new S9300 benefits from GPS, more megapixels and a faster maximum fps burst rate. The zoom, external design, main features and image quality are about the same, which means the Nikon Coolpix S9300 is not an essential upgrade. It's an incremental model that may be throwing us a bone for a bigger S-series reveal early next year. But is the Nikon Coolpix S9300 a decent point-and-shoot? Read on to find out.
Nikon Coolpix S9300
- Offers great some great shooting modes, some are painfully fun
- Impressive High-speed burst modes
- Sexy, compact design with ample zoom
- Good bright light image and video quality
- Tortoise-slow when powering on
- No Manual mode
- Had an issue with structural integrity
- GPS works half the time
- Popup flash is semi-automatic, requires human input
Ideal for: Point-and-shooters who want a big zoom in their pocket, novices and those who are fond of a deep, glossy red exterior.
Find it at: Nikon USA
Suggested Retail Price: $349.95
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Design
Nikon did not stray far from the blueprints of last year's Coolpix S9100 when designing the S9300. Both cameras feature a sleek design with a pronounced frontal ridge for added grip and a spinning control dial in back. The crisp 921,000-pixel LCD screen was carried over from last year, and was a welcomed reprise. There's a separate button to trigger video recording, despite what shooting mode you happen to be in, and the only transparent design stray is the GPS hump, located above the lens. The sexy red gloss is a nice touch as well.
However, not all was peachy keen in Glossy Red Lipstick Land. The camera's 18x optical zoom lens offered a nice range, but it functioned deadly slow in video mode. It also took an average of six seconds for the Coolpix S9300 to be powered on and ready to take a shot, and that's just tortoise speed in the camera world. The S9300 suffered a brainfreeze when I rotated the Mode dial swiftly at times, and zooming in and out in playback mode was like watching grass grow. Needless to say, the Nikon Coolpix S9300 is not a fast camera.
The Achilles Heel of Structual Integrity, or Where not to use Adhesive Strips When Designing a Camera
But the thing that really chafed my long johns was the fact that one minute drop led to a significant amount of damage to the lens ring. Usually when you drop a point-and-shoot, you pucker up and weather the surge of guilt, pick the thing up, brush it off and move on with life. When I sent the S9300 for a light somersault, it came back with its outer-most lens ring missing. After careful investigation, it had come to my attention that this ring had been affixed via adhesive strips. Not a sound architectural idea, I know. So, there were elements of the Nikon Coolpix S9300 that I found to be quite lacking.
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Features
The feature set on Nikon's S-series Coolpix cameras is a strange cast of characters. First off, there's no Manual mode, so I couldn't adjust the shutter speed or aperture. This meant no long exposure shooting, which chapped my behind. The Nikon Coolpix S9300 specializes in Scene modes, Continuous (burst) shooting modes and a semi-automatic "Auto" mode that allowed me to control things like ISO, White Balance, exposure compensation, etc. The Easy Panorama mode operated via sweep (panning the camera takes the shot) method and functioned very well.
I also liked the high-speed modes, though the only one that seemed to freeze action was the 120fps mode, which captured at puny resolutions. Multi-shot 16 captured a sequence of 16 high-speed images and combined them in a collage format, as showcased below. The creative image effects like Selective Color and High Contrast Monochrome were awesome, though the S9300 was short staffed in the digital filters department compared to cameras like the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS and some Samsungs I've seen before.
Multi-shot 16 Mode
The Nikon Coolpix S9300 will appeal to the average BBQ loving consumer because it has a Smart Portrait mode that features Smile Shutter and Blink Detection, as well as Skin Softening. There's a Night Landscape mode that helps provide adequate exposure without the flash in lowlight, but the results were noisy beyond belief. The flash will have to be your guiding light when the sun goes down, but I found it to blow out closeup subjects. Also, the flash automatically pops up, but it must be manually pressed down to close, unlike the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, which has a fully flash.
One last note here, and I'm going to be brief. The GPS feature on the Nikon Coolpix S9300 is mediocre at best. The camera could not track any images indoors and it only tracks half of the images when outdoors. I only saw a fraction of the images I took show up on the map using the Nikon ViewNX 2 software. I had a worse experience with the Nikon Coolpix P510, which shares the same GPS technology. The bottom line is that if you're going to pay extra for this camera because of the GPS feature, then it's not worth it.
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Image Quality
The Nikon Coolpix S9300 is equipped with a typical 1/2.3-inch 16-megapixel CMOS sensor as part of the company's attempt to standardize the megapixel count across the entire Coolpix lineup. In the end, I think this hurts the Coolpix S9300, especially in low light. When you try to cram extra pixels into the same size sensor, you have to make them smaller, thus reducing their light gathering capabilities. As a result, there was no improvement over the S9100's performance. In fact, the S9300 might be taking a step back.
In bright light, the camera is fine, but even then it's hit or miss. If it's too bright, the lens casts a haze and purple fringing is present around edges. Macros in ideal lighting are stellar, but I found those to be few and far between. Low light was another story. The Handheld Night Scene mode creates abysmal noise and the flash is unreliable. Your best bet is to use a tripod at night or take a chance with the flash, but I expected a much better performance in low light from this camera.
Bright light video is great with the Nikon Coolpix S9300, and I liked the fact that I could shoot in various Effects modes like Selective Color. However, low light in video was sad. Just plain sad. Overall, the Nikon Coolpix S9300 was an average performer. If you're looking for more out of a compact, the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS is the better bet.
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Still Image Samples
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Video Samples
Nikon Coolpix S9300 Conclusion
The Nikon Coolpix S9300 will undoubtedly sell well, but it's not the best option out there in this price range. For me, the negatives outweighed the positives. The camera is like Mrs. Robinson. It will lure you in with its attractive looks and unbridled sophistication, but it will consume you whole if you cross its path. The lens ring debacle, the overall slowness, the mediocre image quality and lackluster GPS mode all added up at the end of the day. Those faults made me look to the rest of the point-and-shoot sea, where more competitive Canons, Sonys and Panasonics reside.
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