If you want a long zoom lens with a pocket-friendly look, the Nikon Coolpix S9700 ($349.95) is a strong contender for your money. The 16-megapixel compact camera features a 30x zoom lens, full manual control options, built-in Wi-Fi, and GPS. On paper, it’s very similar to the Canon PowerShot SX700 HS($189.99 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window)but Nikon delivers detailed images with less noise when you push the ISO up higher and won the Editors’ Choice award for compact superzoom.
Design and Features
S9700(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) Slim enough for most bags, measuring 2.5 x 4.3 x 1.5 inches (HWD) and weighing just 8.2 ounces. Its edges are rounded, and although there’s a bezel on the front to give you a better grip, it’s not quite as comfortable in the hand as the Canon SX700, which has a firmer grip. The lens has a 30x design (25-750mm f/3.7-6.4 equivalent), which is very close to the field of view captured by the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40’s(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) 24-720mm lens.
The top plate of the camera houses a retractable flash (it lifts up automatically when turned on), as well as a power button, shutter-release and zoom buttons, and a mode dial. Other controls are located on the rear panel, to the right of the OLED screen. There’s a dedicated button for video recording, a flat control dial with four directional presses (they control flash output, exposure compensation, macro and self-timer modes), and a center OK button, a Map button world and standard playback, delete and menu controls.
The mode dial contains Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Planned modes, as well as fully automatic settings (indicated by a green camera icon) and positions. settings for Scene modes, color filters, and Smart Portrait settings. No fancy Creative Shot modes like you’ll find on the Canon SX700 and SX600(at Amazon)(Opens in a new window), but you have the option to apply the filter to any photos you’ve taken with the S9700. By default, the camera prompts you to do so after each photo, but I quickly turned the feature off — you can always apply a filter when reviewing photos on the card.
Nikon chooses a full menu that obscures the Live View feed to adjust settings. This is in contrast to other cameras that choose a matte overlay menu. The exact settings available will vary depending on the mode you are shooting in; if you are in P, A, S or M, you will have the most control for yourself. You can adjust the amount of compression applied to the image (we set the camera to Fine – no Raw shooting like in the Panasonic ZS40), output resolution, white balance, metering pattern , burst mode, ISO , autofocus mode and area, whether or not you’re prompted to apply Quick Effects to the image and how your Live View feed will look in Manual mode. When Exposure Preview Mode M is set to On, you will have a real-time view of how your output image will look, which is useful for times when you are shooting scenes with bright light. mixed and wanted to perfect the exposure.
The rear screen is a 3-inch OLED display with 921k-dot resolution. It’s sharp, and I had no problems using it outdoors on a bright day, but it lacks touch input. There are other cameras in this class that support touch, which is a useful tool for selecting focus points, including the Samsung WB350F and Panasonic ZS40.
Wi-Fi is built in, which is a welcome departure from other Nikon cameras that require the WU-1a($190.00 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) auxiliary equipment. You can transfer images to your iOS or Android device via the free Wireless Mobile Utility app and control the camera remotely using the same app. Options are limited when using your phone to control the camera — you can adjust the zoom, activate the self-timer, and trigger the shutter. Other settings, such as flash output, must be set from the camera, but you can only do that before starting a remote shooting session. Nikon is a few steps behind the competition in its Wi-Fi implementation. I’d like to see some more of the controls available when shooting remotely, including exposure compensation. There’s also no way to post to social media directly from the camera, as you can with Canon, Samsung, and Panasonic models.
The S9700 has built-in GPS. When enabled, it adds geographic coordinates to your photos — many photo-sharing websites and workflow apps will recognize that data and display your photo on a map. GPS locks onto the signal for about 40 seconds, and the camera has its own world map showing nearby landmarks.
Performance and Conclusion
Performance and Conclusion
The S9700 starts and shoots in just about 1.8 seconds, and can lock focus and fire in 0.1 seconds. It has several burst shooting modes; one person captures a series of five full-resolution images at 5.7fps, and it can also shoot continuously at 1.2fps. There are several additional continuous shooting modes that have been carried over from the Nikon 1 series to the S9700; they include 60 and 120 fps continuous shooting modes at reduced resolutions, the Best Shot Selector (which takes a photo as long as you hold the shutter button down, and saves an image that the camera feels has composition and focus) best) and Pre-shooting Buffer that continuously caches a 1-megapixel image from the Live View feed, so you can capture the action as soon as it passes by holding the shutter button down . The Canon SX600 HS doesn’t have a lot of continuous shooting features, but it does have its own in normal modes; it starts and shoots in 1.6 seconds, focuses and fires in 0.1 seconds, and can shoot continuously at 1.6 fps.
I used Imatest(Opens in a new window) to test the sharpness that the S9700 can capture at the widest angle and aperture. It hit 2,688 lines per image height in our focus sharpness test, far more than the 1,800 lines needed for a sharp image. The resolution does drop a bit as you move away from the center of the frame, but it stays the same until you get to the edges, which is typical for a compact camera; they show 1,448 lines. The S9700 outperforms the 18-megapixel Panasonic ZS40; it hit 1,955 lines in our center of gravity tests, showing lower numbers in all parts of the frame.
Imatest also checks images for noise, which can degrade image quality as light sensitivity (represented numerically as ISO) is increased. The S9700 kept noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 800, up from 1.4 to 1.7 percent at ISO 1600. I took a close look at the images from our ISO test sequence on the NEC MultiSync PA271W that did. calibrated ($999.00 at Amazon)(Opens in a new window) display and was nice to see that, despite some smudges, detail was kept pretty well past ISO 800. It showed more detail than the Canon SX700, also keeping noise below 1.5% over ISO 800. ; at ISO 400, the two cameras are much closer in image quality.
Video is recorded in 1080p30 quality in QuickTime format. Footage is sharp with rich colors and details, but it shows some rolling shutter effects during camera movement. This effect causes moving objects in the frame to advance faster at the top than at the bottom, so they appear to be wobbly. There’s a micro HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV and a micro USB port that serves as a charging port. An AC adapter is included to plug the camera directly into the wall to charge the battery; If you want an external battery charger, you will have to purchase it separately. SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards are supported.
The Nikon Coolpix S9700 is one of the better compact superzooms available, and as such, it won our Editors’ Choice award. The lens covers a large 30x range, has built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, and has full manual controls available. Its images are sharp and it outperforms a similar Canon SX700 HS when pushed up to ISO 800. If you have deeper pockets and prefer to shoot in Raw, you may be more satisfied with the Panasonic ZS40, but the S9700 is better than its JPG output. For photographers who want to take photos without worrying about image post-processing, the S9700 has a lot to offer.
The Nikon Coolpix S9700 camera packs a 30x zoom lens into a compact body with Wi-Fi. Its image quality earned it the title of Editors’ Choice.
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