Nikon Coolpix S9300 review: Easy to use, so-so performance

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Nikon Coolpix S9300 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

    The Coolpix S9300 is an 18X-zoom pocket camera with very simple controls, but its image quality takes a big step backward when matched against that of its excellent predecessor.

On paper, the Nikon Coolpix S9300 pocket megazoom doesn't differ much from its highly rated predecessor, the Nikon Coolpix S9100. The new S9300 offers the same 18X zoom lens (24mm wide angle to 450mm telephoto), easy-to-use controls, and helpful post-capture editing tools as the S9100. In addition, both cameras are geared toward pure point-and-shoot photographers, as neither one has manual exposure controls or the ability to capture images in Raw format.

The main changes that the Coolpix S9300 introduces are the addition of in-camera GPS and a higher-resolution (16-megapixel) sensor. Unfortunately, the S9300's battery life is much weaker than the S9100's; and according to our lab tests, its image quality is significantly worse.

Credit: Robert Cardin

Photo quality was one of the S9100's strong suits, but the new sensor seems to have a detrimental effect on sharpness and color accuracy. The Coolpix S9300 is still a decent long-zoom travel camera for anyone looking for sheer operational simplicity, but this is one sequel that doesn't match up to the quality of the original.

Performance, image quality, and video quality

The Coolpix S9100 earned among the best overall marks of any point-and-shoot camera we tested last year in PCWorld Labs' subjective tests for image quality. In contrast, the Coolpix S9300 falls squarely in the middle of the pack. Our judges rated its exposure quality as Good and its lack of distortion as Very Good, but the Coolpix S9300 picked up scores of only Fair for color accuracy and sharpness, which dragged its overall image-quality score down significantly. Compared to the output of the S9100, test photos shot with the S9300 looked washed out and less vibrant. However, you can fix those two things shortcomings by applying the camera's Quick Retouch filter as you review photos.

Click the thumbnail images below to see the full-size shots we used for our subjective tests.

In our video tests, the Coolpix S9300 earned a score of Good for overall video quality, thanks to the marks it received in our video tests in well-lit settings. In our bright-light tests, the 1080p/30-frames-per-second test clips shot with the S9300 exhibited punchy colors and good contrast, but captured motion didn't look particularly smooth. In our low-light tests, the S9300 jacked up the ISO settings, which resulted in orange-tinted video that lacked sharpness.

Here are the test videos we used for our subjective evaluations. Select 1080p from the menu in each player to see the highest-definition footage.

Alas, the Coolpix S9300's battery life is also a bit of a bummer. With a CIPA rating of 200 shots per charge, it lands in the Fair range of our battery life scores. It's also worth mentioning that you'll need to charge the battery inside the camera, as was the case with the S9100.

At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    The Coolpix S9300 is an 18X-zoom pocket camera with very simple controls, but its image quality takes a big step backward when matched against that of its excellent predecessor.

    Pros

    • 18X optical zoom lens (24mm to 450mm)
    • Easy operation for casual shooters
    • Good post-shot editing and filter options

    Cons

    • Disappointing image quality
    • Shaky stabilization at full zoom
    • Mediocre battery life
    • No manual controls or RAW mode
    • Slow save speeds for some photos
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