Want a whopper of a zoom in the slenderest possible package? Well that's just what the Nikon Coolpix S9100 provides. Packing a sizeable 18x zoom into its petite chassis, though it may be crass to describe an inanimate piece of technology as sexy, that's precisely the adjective that springs to mind when prising the Nikon Coolpix S9100 from its box. We had the sleek black body option in for review (with silver and red alternatives available in the UK) for a manufacturer's suggested cost of £299. Deals are to be found for around £249 at the time of writing.
The focal range here is the S9100's biggest selling point, and indeed is impressive from a camera that can (just about) be squeezed into the pocket of your jeans. It boasts a wide angle 25mm to 450mm in 35mm film terms, which offers plenty of scope for capturing natural landscapes and candid portraiture into the bargain. This is supported by sensor shift anti shake to avoid blur from hand wobble at longer focal lengths, which we're pleased to report appears largely to work. But of course the S9100 is not without 'travel zoom' competitors, of which there are a growing number.
At last count rivals included the Canon Power-shot SX220 HS, Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, Fujifilm FinePix F550EXR, Sony Cyber-shot HX9, Olympus SZ-20 and SZ-30, Samsung WB650 and Casio EX-H30... to name just the tip of the iceberg. So what else helps the Nikon stand out from the baying crowd?
Like the Coolpix P500 we were testing alongside it, which offers a class leading 36x zoom but is inevitably much bulkier due to DSLR-like styling, the S9100 offers a back-side illuminated CMOS image sensor with an effective resolution of 12.1 million pixels. Maximum lens aperture is a so-so f/3.5, so not especially bright, but clearly compromises had to be made somewhere to pack in that enormous focal length range.
Like its sibling we also get Full HD 1080p movie clips at 30fps with stereo sound, with an instant record button squeezed into the top right hand corner of the back plate. Its implementation is similar to the one found on the cheap-as-chips Coolpix S3100 lower down the range, in that it features a raised surround to avoid accidental activation. Yet another feature shared with that model and the P500 is the ability to create slow motion video clips; via a fast capture speed of 240fps though this does require a sever resolution drop.
The Coolpix S9100 may be styled like a high end compact - the black finish adding an extra layer of apparent sophistication to our review sample – but there's no disguising the fact that it's actually a fairly approachable point and shoot. The mode dial doesn't feature any program, aperture priority, shutter priority or manual modes - it's preset auto modes all the way.
Alongside dedicated scene and subject mode buttons we get an array of digital effects. Drill down into the scene options by twisting the dial to that setting and further pressing the dedicated menu button and you'll find a new 'Easy Panorama' feature, that like similar modes on other models automatically composites together a single elongated panoramic image as the user pans across the scene. The gimmick here being that both horizontal and vertical panoramas can be created, with the further option of either shooting a 'normal' 180° panorama or the full 360°, which is nice. It's also completely silent in operation, so just as good for taking photographs in the Vatican as at rock festivals.