Nikon Coolpix S9500 ($349.95)(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) is a pocket-sized digital camera that packs an 18-megapixel image sensor, GPS radio, Wi-Fi, and a 22x long lens into a slim form factor. It’s a stylish design that can take sharp photos in automatic mode, but it doesn’t offer the same level of manual control as some others in this class. If you don’t like messing around with settings it’s a solid choice, but we like the 20x zoom Canon PowerShot SX280 HS($299.69 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), add a little more. This is the compact superzoom of our Editors’ Choice because it offers many of the same features, costs a little less, and also gives you access to shutter and aperture settings.
Design and Features
The S9500, available in black, red, or silver, is impressively small, especially when you consider that its lens features a 25-500mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.4-6.3 design. It measures 2.4 x 4.4 x 1.3 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.3 ounces. It’s not out of line for this type of camera, but it’s tiny compared to the always-connected Samsung Galaxy 21x Camera($399.95 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), an Android-powered beast with a giant touchscreen; it measures 2.8 x 5.1 x 0.75 inches and weighs 11 ounces. One puzzling thing about the S9500’s design is the placement of the tripod socket; it’s on the edge of the camera base, not in the center of the lens as you’d expect. However, this is not a camera that you will likely use often with a tripod.
You get some good physical controls, though the shooting modes are limited. There’s a mode dial at the top, along with a shutter-release button, zoom rocker, and Power button. The rear panel contains a control dial with knob directions for setting flash output, exposure compensation, macro focus modes, and self-timer. There’s also a Record button to start and stop video, a Menu button, and image playback controls.
The mode dial gives you access to several scene modes and visual effects. By default, the camera operates in Auto mode. There is a setting to automatically select a scene mode and there is also a setting for manual scene selection; This is done through the menu. Nikon has chosen to include several distinct scene modes on the dial: Night landscape, Night portrait, Backlight, and Smart portrait.
Standard program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual mode are not included, as they are on the SX280 HS. Depending on your level of photography expertise, this may or may not bother you; One morning, I was trying to take a photo with a lot of movement on the street and the camera defaulted to a very low ISO with a shutter speed of 1/40 second, resulting in a photo with transition blur. significant movement. Enabling the Sports Scene mode would fix that, but I may have missed my shot when I went into the menu system to change to that setting. Simple shutter speed control and shutter priority mode on the dial are quicker to access and will result in a usable photo.
There is also an Effects mode, which allows you to apply artistic filters to your images. These include soft focus, sepia tones, selective colors, and several others. It’s not as extensive a library as Quick Effects is enabled by default; With these enabled, you will be prompted to add an artistic filter to your image after each shot. The filters available through this menu are much broader — there are more than 20. You can dismiss this screen by tapping the shutter button. Quick effects can be applied through the playback menu, but only if that feature is enabled when the photo is taken. I found the menu a bit annoying, and unfortunately it’s not possible to turn off the prompt or apply an effect to the image without enabling it while shooting.
The rear 3-inch screen uses OLED technology and has a resolution of 614k-dot. It’s noticeably sharper than the 460k-dot displays found on the Canon SX280 HS and Samsung WB800F.(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window)and there are five brightness settings so you can increase its brightness on sunny days.
Wi-Fi and GPS are built in, which is quite common for cameras of this type. GPS automatically adds your geolocation to your photos. And Wi-Fi lets you transfer images to your iOS or Android device using the free Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility app. The camera acts as a wireless hotspot; You just need to connect it to your phone to transfer images. Your device can also be used as a remote control for the camera using the app. You’ll get a Live View feed on its screen, and controls are available to adjust zoom and trigger the shutter.
Performance and Conclusion
Performance and Conclusion
The performance of the S9500 is in line with other machines in its class. It starts and shoots in about 1.6 seconds and manages a very short 0.1 second shutter lag. The only real knock is its bang; it can shoot 5 shots continuously at 7fps, but then needs a recovery time of 5.3 seconds. There’s a low-speed continuous shooting mode that can produce shots at a more reasonable 2fps for as long as you like. The Canon SX280 HS doesn’t offer short high-speed continuous shooting, but it can capture images at 3fps and it matches the S9500 in terms of launch speed and shutter lag.
I used Imatest(Opens in a new window) to test the sharpness of the S9500’s lens. That’s an impressive performance, scoring 2,823 lines per image height in our sharpness test. This is better than the 1,800 lines needed for a sharp photo, and better than the 1,770 lines that the Galaxy Camera manages. The S9500 is one of the sharpest compact cameras we’ve tested.
Image noise is another problem. It can rob an image of detail and add unwanted grain as light sensitivity, as measured by ISO, increases. The S9500 keeps noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 800. Compare this to the SX280 HS, which controls noise through ISO 1600. The Imatest score isn’t the only factor in how the camera performs at high ISOs; we thoroughly tested our ISO test scene on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W ($999.00 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) displayed to see how images are held together at high sensitivities. There’s some noticeable blurring at ISO 800, but the image looks pretty good at the size you’ll use for social sharing, and the quality will hold up at smaller prints. Blur is more pronounced at ISO 1600, and by the time you get to the highest ISO of 3200, you’ve got very noticeably noisy images, even when viewed at smaller sizes.
Video is recorded at up to 1080p30 quality in the QuickTime format. The footage is sharp with clear colors and the lens can zoom in and out as you shoot. That movement is so quiet, you can hear a slight humming under voices when zoomed in, but it’s no worse than standard background noise. The S9500 quickly refocuses as the scene changes. The only real factor to video quality is a fairly common one for compact cameras: Rolling shutter effect. Since the CMOS sensor captures the scene continuously, line by line, there is a slight lag when panning or in fast-moving scenes. This causes an optical effect not too different from the optical illusion of a rubber pencil; Objects at the bottom of the frame move to their new positions faster than objects at the top.
There is no external battery charger included with the S9500; instead, an AC adapter and USB cable are included to plug the camera directly into the wall for in-camera charging. The USB connection is not a standard mini B or micro B design, so you won’t want to misplace this cable. The only other connector on the camera is the micro HDMI port. The memory card slot is located in the battery compartment and supports SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.
The Nikon Coolpix S9500 is a solid attempt at compact superzoom cameras. It has an impressive 22x lens that covers wide angles and telephoto shots, and boasts built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. It’s one of the sharpest we’ve tested, but its performance isn’t good enough to win the Editors’ Choice award. It’s a bit more expensive than the winner in this category, the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS, a camera that performs only slightly better in low light and gives you access to manual shooting controls more advanced. If you don’t mind a larger camera and are a frequent Instagrammer, you might also want to consider the Samsung Galaxy Camera. Its optics aren’t quite on par with Nikon or Canon entries, but it does offer always-on 4G connectivity and full compatibility with Android apps—just be prepared to pay a little up front and see the bill. Your mobile phone will increase if you choose 4G data plan.
Nikon’s Coolpix S9500 is a fully loaded pocket camera with a large zoom range and sharp lenses, but it’s not entirely out of our Editors’ Choice.
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