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Just Posted: Nikon Coolpix S9300 Review

By dpreview staff on Jul 16, 2012 at 18:45 GMT

Just Posted: Nikon Coolpix S9300 review. We've collaborated with Jeff Keller of the Digital Camera Resource Page to bring you a 9-page review of Nikon's latest travel-zoom compact camera, the 16MP S9300. We liked last year's S9100, and the newer model features the same 18X optical zoom lens, with the addition of a higher resolution sensor and GPS. So how does it perform overall? Read our 9-page review to find out. 

This review is based on one originally published at the Digital Camera Resource Page, enhanced with a full set of our own product images, our usual studio comparisons and an expanded samples gallery, plus the addition of a standard dpreview score.

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Total comments: 56
By JeffGilly1 (Aug 23, 2012)

I bought this camera and took it back within 5 days. I took it on a weekend trip and almost half my photos were out of focus. When zoomed in (no particular focal point), it had a hard time focusing. It was not user error as I am a photographer on the side and know how to take photos. I wanted this camera for an easy, small camera to just carry with me during social events and such.

Other things I do not like about this camera: 1) the position of pop-up flash...on the left side...would like to see it in the middle. 2) the position of the video record button. It's too easy to press when you are trying to take a picture.

Things I liked about the camera: 1) good low light quality for a p&s (when the photos were in focus). 2) ease of use 3) the 3" screen

1 upvote
Aleo Veuliah
By Aleo Veuliah (Jul 18, 2012)

It seems the S9100 is still a better choice

Keith Golon
By Keith Golon (Jul 17, 2012)

Yes, I would tend to agree here. 1/2" should be the smallest size sensor in a camera today. I don't really care about how many MegaPixels I get. I am more interested in the quality of those little dots. And, furthermore, how well those dots are processed into a final image.

I personally believe that camera mfgs (for small P&S) should spend available budget funds more on sensor R&D and build quality.

There is too much money spent on developing shmancy fancy software tricks and gadgetry. Let's divert money from those useless features toward bigger sensors and thus better image quality. That's what taking pictures is all about, isn't it? We're not here to play with menus and graphics. We're here to take a picture!

I don't buy the nonsense argument that bigger sensors cost more. That's a load of BS based on incessant cost cutting. Big sensors are like anything else. Produce enough of them and the price drops to near nothing. Business wins and consumers win!

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
By Wubslin (Jul 17, 2012)

From the criticism here it seems my work is done :)

1 upvote
By danaceb (Jul 17, 2012)

It's getting to the point that I won't waste my time looking at reviews for 1/2.3" sensor cameras anymore. The Canon SX220 seems the plateau of IQ since last year.

By Rachotilko (Jul 17, 2012)

What a sad year,

We've experiencing yet another substantial decrease in P&S quality, with focal lengths on travelzooms being pushed into unrealistic ranges. Megapixel race seems to be revived (after its refreshing stagnation - and even reversal - in 2011).

At the same time the prices of the newly introduced cameras in the higher categories (DSLRs, mirrorlesses, premium compacts) increased more than noticeably.

Comment edited 15 seconds after posting
By pierpa (Jul 17, 2012)

Thank you for putting "Full manual on CD-ROM" in the cons.

I don't remember having seen this in any previous reviews, when appropriate.

I hope you will continue to underline this fault. Maybe some manufacturers will notice.

(Then there's also the abysmal quality of most manuals, whether on paper or on CD, but that's another battle)


Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
By yslee1 (Jul 17, 2012)

Jeff Keller of DCResource (who wrote the original review) always makes it a point to note these things. Personally when it comes to a more mass-market audience I've always found Jeff's reviews to be more accessible and relevant.

1 upvote
By jj74e (Jul 17, 2012)

I rather like having the manual in CD. It makes it much faster to just search for terms or the specific thing you need reference on instead of flipping through flimsy pages and often poorly organized indexes or vague table of contents. Plus I'm guessing it'd be more expensive if they had to print the entire manual for every single camera.

The only advantage I see is if you need it on field, but really, I've never needed a manual on hand. It doesn't stop me from taking a shot; maybe I've just been lucky with the cameras I've owned, but honestly it's kind of a waste IMO.

By pierpa (Jul 18, 2012)

jj74e: - I too like to have the manual in PDF, *in addition* to the paper copy!

- A manual printed industrially costs few cents.

- You must be much smarter than me. For all the cameras I owned, I have learned things from the manual that I would have never guessed without reading it. And even for the things that I could have guessed, usually reading the manual saves me a lot of time.

1 upvote
By royshoonit (Jul 17, 2012)

I'm not looking for excuses, i'm looking for a normal camera, you know what it means.
I quote "Noisy and soft photos have noticeable detail loss, even at base ISO of 125, Not great for night shots, below average battery life, low light focusing not great" Etc.
It's Devolution Of cameras, Even worse, it is insult to as customers.
Worst of all, all models for Everyday photographers dropped in quality:
Nikon Coolpix P300 is devolution to Coolpix P310.
Nikon Coolpix S6200 is devolution to Coolpix S6300.
Nikon Coolpix S9100 is devolution to Coolpix S9300.
So why buy from a company,that Knowingly Manufactures lower levels Of products???
(English is not my native language, i hope you understand me).

By Menneisyys (Jul 17, 2012)

Yup, Nikon has never been particularly strong at P&S cameras and they don't seem to pay attention to making them better / outstanding - as opposed to, say, Sony.

By CameraLabTester (Jul 17, 2012)

royshoonit: "Knowingly Manufactures lower levels Of products???"

It is called Market Segmentation.

A long time ago in the digital history, there was a camera from Nikon that had everything they could lump on: The Nikon D70.

But then the bean counters from Nikon realized they could "cannibalize" the features and set pricing levels so they could "cover" more affordability levels of the whole range of customers.

So they "distributed" all these key features and made many models with different levels of endowment.

One example is the D70 have wireless flash BUILT IN, but they took this out from the next models coming out and offered it to higher priced models...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
By yslee1 (Jul 17, 2012)

CameraLabTester: That's an absolute lie. The D70's successors always had wireless flash control built-in.

May I remind you that the D70 debuted at about US$1300 with the kit lens. It was no cheap camera, like the D3000s and D5000s of today. The D80 and D90 debuted at the same price too. The D7000 was more expensive, but it was also a higher calibre camera.

Also, as a long time Nikon shooter from the film era, the D70 certainly didn't have everything built-in. Maybe you'd like to review your post again instead of ranting mindlessly?

1 upvote
By lacro (Jul 18, 2012)

The idea behiind the price evolution over time might be a good one for a comparison chart section altogether along with others, provided values adjustments are considered.

Comment edited 12 seconds after posting
By CameraLabTester (Jul 17, 2012)

Nikon makes great DSLRs, undoubtedly, but struggles, sputters, crashes and burns on P&S and small compacts.

This camera has no identity.

Just like the epic fail "1 series", it is just a container with Nikon's proprietary goodies inside.

While you can easily tell other brands by the way their compacts are shaped and the unique "style" of their ergonomic handling... the Nikon design output is tired and lost.

Yes, there are truly good bells and whistles inside, but the exterior is one good "also ran".

By bobbarber (Jul 17, 2012)

Yes, the images look soft, but honestly, there is a place for cameras like this. I don't own this camera or plan on buying it, but for purposes of comparison, II find that I use my Canon SX230 more than I do my Panasonic GH2, because the SX230 is easy to carry and the zoom is awesome.

When I look at the images closely, the GH2 images are WAAAAAYYYYYYYY better than the SX230 images, but honestly, I don't use or need that extra resolution and sharpness most of the time. It doesn't matter on the web, and I rarely print over 8"x10".

I mean, if you print the ten best photos of your life at 8"x10", then that probably does it for most of us as far as space on the wall goes. After that, aren't you printing small (if at all) for a photo album or something like that?

I love the ability of these types of cameras to get the image, even if it does look crappy when pixel-peeping.

1 upvote
unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jul 17, 2012)

Two words for you: Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR

unknown member
By (unknown member) (Jul 17, 2012)

i see no reason to choose this camera over Fujifilm FinePix 770EXR.

D Lynch
By D Lynch (Jul 17, 2012)

No thanks. I tried 3 S9100's and gave up.

I have used Nikon slr's as a pro starting in'72. Good reviews, and a good substantial camera. I wanted to like it, and tried hard.

No S9300 for me.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
By cgarrard (Jul 17, 2012)

Go Jeff, you are jammin. I don't think any other reviewer out there is doing as many nor near as fast as you :).


By ecm (Jul 17, 2012)

"the Nikon Coolpix S9300 represents an excellent value and offers a nice point-and-shoot feature set, its photo quality is poor relative to the competition, with mediocre low light shooting and below-par battery life. "

THAT is a 69% camera? It offers a few bells and whistles, but can't take a picture worth a damn? The Panasonic FZ15 got 73% - despite indicating it "produces better-looking images, while maintaining the robust performance, competitive feature set, and ease of use...". So, it's easier to use, faster, with similar features, and above all gives you DECENT photos and videos - and that gives it a 4% lead??

I wonder what a 50% camera would be - a block of wood that's painted to look like a camera?

Bah humbug, DPR. Since when does feature creep trump image quality? The details in the review spell it out; the 9300 is a miserable excuse for a camera, just like it's predecessor was. 69% suggests it's in the vicinity of the SX260 or ZS15... but it's not.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 6 minutes after posting
By GeorgeZ (Jul 17, 2012)

Yup, that reminds me of the times when 90% of cameras reviewed got at least a "recommended". There was no average there.
Same thing today, whatever the reason, dpr don't want to be too critical in their final judgement.
FWIW: Last 20 non-DSLR reviews: Average was 72,6%, highest 79%, lowest 67%
It seems there is no camera out there which doesn't get at least 2/3 of all the points which again makes me wonder- what is the idea behind this system?
And why are all within a 12%-range?
If cameras are too similar these days (and they are)- why not adjust the rating system to adress this issue?

By richohio (Jul 17, 2012)

This type of camera - with incremental, relatively uninteresting upgrades over its prior model - would seem more properly covered in a group roundup. Not sure a full individual review is warranted here. Perhaps of more widespread appeal would be a new waterproof group comparison. There are several significant new entries in that market (canon d20 and oly tg-1 come to mind), the feature-set is not matched by camera phones (no iPhone or Android model can survive when wet), it has been a year since the last DPReview roundup, and it is summer after all! Thanks for your valuable work.

Comment edited 18 seconds after posting
By jon404 (Jul 17, 2012)

Junk. Why don't you redirect your time and effort to full reviews of actually interesting cameras, like the Sony RX100 and the Pentax K30?

I would only review a non-PASM camera if it had a truly unique feature, like emitting a low-pitched ultrasonic whistle that would scare away teenagers and dogs.

Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Jul 17, 2012)

We're actually already in the process of reviewing one of those two cameras, and about to start reviewing the other, and the people writing them were uninvolved in the production of this review.

By iudex (Jul 17, 2012)

Barney: that´s music to my ears ;-) I look forward to the review of both the RX100 and the K-30.

By yslee1 (Jul 17, 2012)

Do people not read who wrote the review? Seriously. -.-

By micahmedia (Jul 17, 2012)

While Nikon's DSLRs have a super slick and efficient interface, their point and shoot models are bottom of the barrel in terms of UI and general speed.

Reviews, including at DPR, all seem to gloss over what I see as a major difference. Nikon's P&S cams are just klunky.

I'll take a look at one of these out of curiousity, but I don't expect this trend to change.

1 upvote
magneto shot
By magneto shot (Jul 16, 2012)

seriously 1/2.3 sensor? sure someone brought up pentax that really sellable at all? come on, guys, lets not fool with physics. The days of 1/2.3 sensor compacts being anything serious are gone.
even camera phone (808 pureview nokia) have much bigger sensor.

1 upvote
By schaki (Jul 17, 2012)

Unfortunately the 1/2.3" are the facto standard among small super-zoom compact cameras, with Fujifilm Finepix 770EXR and some of its predecessors as the only exceptions I know about.
This is because it probably is more simply to fit a smaller cmos or ccd to the back of a super-zoom and it also benefits from the bigger crop/multiplier compared to marginally bigger 1/1.7" sensors.

1 upvote
Keith Golon
By Keith Golon (Jul 17, 2012)

If we're sticking these high-density sensors on small cameras in this day and age. We (the camera companies) better damn well know how to process and extract an image from all that noise!

It would seem to me that consumer electronics & industrial companies such as Panasonic and Sony are better at signal processing than the big optics guys like Canon and Nikon. It's just a very large general observation and maybe wrong. But it seems that the likes of Nokia and Fujifilm are doing good things with image interpolation and all sorts of processing goodness. And it shows.

I'm still undecided if I like Nokia's PureView tech or not. It seems perfect for small cameras and mobile photography. I wonder how well the techniques they use can be applied to a full size DSLR?

Sergey Borachev
By Sergey Borachev (Jul 16, 2012)

Over the years, I have read many reviews. I found that the name "Coolpix" just means an average camera and have ignored such camera. Unlike some other similar cameras, Nikon seems happy to continue to offer bland and uninteresting cameras (in terms of what enthusiasts want) rin this range, not particular small, good in IQ, fast in aperture, fast AF, good looking, or anything. The P510 may have 1000mm equiv FL but otherwise still not so interesting due to other faults. Olympus has the XZ-1, Sony the RX100 and NEXes, Canon the S100, Fuji the X10, and so on, all with something special. Nikon small cameras are so uninteresting.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 11 minutes after posting
By schaki (Jul 17, 2012)

While I still agree about the Coolpixes I've to say that the Coolpix P7000 and P7100 are 'decent' compared its direct competitors, mainly the Canon Powershot G11 and G12.
Also the P510 seems to be very competitive. Surely the default sharpening is slightly aggressive and not give the best possible look I think, but back it off one stop and also set the NR to Low and the P510 should perform well.

1 upvote
By yslee1 (Jul 17, 2012)

The last decent Coolpix died with the 4500, if you ask me. Even then by the 995 Nikon were starting to struggle against cameras like the Canon G2.

1 upvote
By skyrunr (Jul 17, 2012)

I had the "millennium" <chuckle> edition cp950. It was perhaps my favorite point and shoot digital of all time. The cp995 was ok, but didn't focus near as well as the cp950. I was excited about the cp4500, but it wasn't much better than the cp995. So I skipped the sXXX twist model after that and went to Canon point and shoots.

The twist model with a viewfinder was a fantastic design though! They really should have made the V/J series like the twist to handle the larger lens size and get the flash away from the lens IMO.

By IcyVeins (Jul 16, 2012)

What is currently the best pocketable superzoom camera (at least 10x zoom) in terms of IQ and features? The "top of the line" cameras I know about are:

Canon SX260
Sony HX30V
Fuji F770
Panasonic ZS20
Olympus SZ12
And of course this Nikon which doesn't seem to be very popular with DPR.

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
By Lan (Jul 16, 2012)

In all fairness a lot of the mass market Nikon Coolpix cameras aren't exactly great.

When I last played with the superzoom cameras (six months or so ago), the Nikons stood out as having by far the slowest AF in the group at full telephoto. Not just the slowest, but also the most prone to hunting, and the most prone to giving up on focussing entirely having missed the target completely.

Nikon make some staggeringly good dSLRs, but I'm afraid their compact cameras can gobble just a bit ;)

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Keith Golon
By Keith Golon (Jul 17, 2012)

It's not popular with me either. I tested it out and took some test shots. Some of them were just a mess, to many things to mention are wrong. I'll leave it to the reviewers to discuss that. If they aren't afraid of getting "blacklisted" by the camera mfg's!

1 upvote
By gaiaswill (Jul 16, 2012)

I'm more surprised it doesn't get a silver award. Seems like almost everything gets that nowadays.

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Jul 16, 2012)

Except all the cameras that don't.

By Nismo350Z (Jul 16, 2012)

If Seinfeld's soup nazi reviewed cameras, he would bark at Nikon: "NO silver award for you, come back 1 year!"

By ybizzle (Jul 16, 2012)

Fuji F550 EXR is on for $199 at Best Buy here in Canada. Larger sensor, full manual controls, though slightly less zoom. IQ is much better though. I would buy that over this any day!

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
By Simon97 (Jul 16, 2012)

You can't have a camera this small having such a zoom range with a larger sensor. The problem is that they choose to put in a 16mp sensor that must have heavy NR to clean up the image. Problem is, it cleans up the detail as well. The Canon SX230 has less MP count and shows more detail in the studio shot. Not splitting hairs either.

1 upvote
By Dabbler (Jul 16, 2012)

1/2.3 sensor? not interested.

1 upvote
By theoschela (Jul 16, 2012)

16megapixel on that 1/2.3 sensor - not interested.
No manual controls - not interested
Soft output even at ISO125 - not interested

Parent Amazon MUST be 'making' the reviewers include these P&S cameras... I understand reviewing Advanced amateur P&S like the s100, G12, FZ150, but come on...

Simon Joinson
By Simon Joinson (Jul 16, 2012)

damned if you do, damned if you don't

Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Jul 16, 2012)

@ theoschela - just for the record (the broken record - the one that keeps going roundandroundandroundandround) Amazon exerts precisely no pressure on me or the reviews team to review this or that product. The S9300 is the top of the line travel-zoom class compact camera from one of the two biggest camera manufacturers on the planet.

It would be idiotic not to review it, given the opportunity to do so.

By marike6 (Jul 16, 2012)

So if it had a 1/1.7" sensor, you'd be interested, even though the larger sensor might only mean less than 1/3 of a stop better low light performance? What about something like the Pentax Q which it's 1/2.3" sensor that actually outperforms many P&S cameras with 1/1.7" sensor like the P7100 (see DxOMark)?

Clearly there are better photographer's cameras, but my wife has an S9300 and it's actually not bad - big zoom range great for travel, lovely 920K LCD, very good video, GPS, nice colors and well exposed images, does exactly what it's supposed to do.

1 upvote
By Gesture (Jul 16, 2012)

I guess so, but I would like to see Nikon put 1/3rd the effort and creativity that it puts into its DSRs into its point and shoots. None lead the pack along any parameter, it seems. Even the P60 is more advanced in some ways than current offerings, with a usable EVF supplementing the LCD, recognizing that optical viewfinders in this class of camera aren't great.

1 upvote
By jpr2 (Jul 16, 2012)

no eye-level VF? NOT interested :) !!

By IcyVeins (Jul 16, 2012)

Can't change the lenses? Not interested.
No f/0.95? Not interested.
Costs over $100? Not interested.
Longer than 0.1 second autofocus? Not interested.
And finally:

Didn't get a gold star from DPR? Not interested.

Comment edited 34 seconds after posting
1 upvote
By CFynn (Jul 17, 2012)

Nikon may be one of the two biggest camera manufacturers on the planet - but I get the feeling that a lot of their rather mediocre CoolPix cameras mostly sell because of of the brand reputation they made with some of their excellent SLR and DSLR cameras.

1 upvote
By tonywong (Jul 16, 2012)

Apologies if this seems overly critical, but Jeff's review was posted June 15 and DPreview's version is posted July 16. Seems like a fair amount of time to add DPR's take on Jeff's work.

Anyhow I'm hoping to see more reviews soon.

1 upvote
M Irwin
By M Irwin (Jul 16, 2012)

Regardless, I like Jeff's frank spin on things. I'm hoping this is part of the positive side of this cross-polination.

1 upvote
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Jul 16, 2012)

We're going to try and get these collaborative reviews out as fast as we can but we do add a lot of our own samples and studio work can take a long time (and took an unusually long time for this particular camera).

Total comments: 56