Body & Design

The Coolpix S9300 is a compact and generally well-designed ultra zoom camera. The body is made mostly of metal, with the front plate having a rubberized coating that makes the camera easier to hold. The only weak spot I could find is the very flimsy door over the battery/memory card compartment. Controls are easy to reach, though I'm not a huge fan of how they're flush with the back of the camera. As with its predecessor, you can pick up the S9300 in three colors: black, silver, and red.

The S9300 is a travelzoom-class camera, which means its lens is one of the big selling points. Naturally, you're going to want an image stabilization system on a a camera with an 18X zoom, and as we've seen in the recently-reviewed P510, Nikon has switched from a hybrid (sensor shift + electronic) system used in the last-generation models to a more 'normal' optical system on the S9300. It'll reduce the risk of blurry photos, and will also smooth out your movies.

Behind the lens is probably the second-biggest new feature on the S9300 (with the GPS being #1): a new 16 Megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor. BSI sensors allow more light to reach the photo sites, which in theory allows for higher sensitivity. We'll see about that when we get to the photo tests.

The main event on the back of the camera is the same 3-inch, 921k pixel LCD display that was found on the S9100. As you might imagine, everything is super-sharp. Outdoor visibility is average, meaning not wonderful. In low light, the screen 'gains up' fairly well, so you can still see the subject you're trying to take a photo of.

Body Elements

Considering its enormous zoom range the S9300 remains an impressively compact camera.

The Coolpix S9300's lens has the same specifications as that of its predecessor, with the exception of optical stabilization. Focal range is equivalent to 25-450 mm. The lens isn't threaded, and conversion lenses are not supported.

Also visible here is the AF-assist lamp, which is used as a focusing aid in low light situations. This lamp also serves as a visual countdown for the self-timer.

On the right of the S9300's top plate we find the power button (which must be held down for a second before it does anything), shutter release / zoom controller combo, and the mode dial. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.8 seconds. I counted twenty steps in the S9300's 18X zoom range.
Dominating the rear controls is a four-way controller / control dial combo. You'll use this for menu navigation, image review, and adjusting exposure. The controller also allows access to flash, self-timer, and macro settings.

In the Auto and Burst shooting modes, you can use the exposure compensation button to adjust the vividness and hue of the photo you're composing.
A direct movie record button sits at the upper right of the S9300's rear, with a patch of rubber nearby which serves as a thumbgrip. Also in this view you can see the tiny flash charge light, and beneath it, the image playback button.
To the upper-right of the lens is the pop-up flash, which is released electronically. This flash is stronger than the one on the Coolpix S9100, with a working range of 0.5 - 5.1 m at wide-angle, and 1.5 - 3.0 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). As with all cameras in this class, an external flash is not supported.
The Coolpix S9300 logo sits atop the pop-up flash, which is in the down position here. The hump in the center of the photo is the GPS receiver, which I'll discuss later. The camera's stereo microphones straddle it.
On the right side you'll find the S9300's I/O ports, which include a proprietary USB + A/V connector and mini-HDMI. It was nice of Nikon to move the ports to the side of the camera, as they were on the bottom of the S9100.
On the bottom of the S9300 you'll find a metal tripod mount and the battery/memory card compartment. The door over this compartment is very flimsy.

The included EN-EL12 battery can be seen just poking out of its compartment.
The S9300 is quite compact, especially considering the size of the lens. Here's how it compares to other compact travel zooms in terms of size and weight:
Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon PowerShot SX260 HS 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 13.1 cu in. 208 g
Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.4 in. 13.8 cu in. 209 g
Nikon Coolpix S9300 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.3 in. 14 cu in. 215 g
Olympus SZ-31MR iHS 4.2 x 2.7 x 1.6 in. 18.1 cu in. 226 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS20 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in. 12.3 cu in. 185 g
Pentax Optio VS20 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.5 in. 15.8 cu in. 213 g
Samsung WB850F 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.0 in. 10.3 cu in. 227 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V 4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in. 15.1 cu in. 221 g

The Coolpix S9300 is one of the larger and heavier cameras in the group. That's not to say that it's a large camera - the S9300 will travel in your jeans pocket with ease.