Exposure Mode Dial Options

Now it's time to dive into the items on the S9300's mode dial. They include:

Option Function
Auto mode Your standard point-and-shoot mode.
Scene Auto Selector mode Still point-and-shoot, with the camera selecting the scene mode that it thinks is best for the situation. Most menu options are locked up.

Scene mode

Pick a scene mode yourself, from the following options: portrait, landscape, sports, party/indoor, beach, snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, close-up, food, museum, fireworks show, black and white copy, easy panorama, pet portrait, and 3D photography.
Night landscape mode In hand-held mode, the camera takes several exposures in rapid succession and combines them into a single image. In tripod mode, the camera will turn VR off and take a long exposure.
Backlighting mode By default, the camera will use the flash to light up subjects with a bright light source behind them. You can also turn on an HDR (high dynamic range) feature, which takes 2 or 3 images (Nikon doesn't say exactly), each at a different exposure, and combines them into a single photo with improved contrast.
Smart Portrait mode The camera will take a photo when someone in the frame smiles. A 'blink proof' feature will take two photos and save the one in which the subject's eyes are opened. A skin softening function is also available.
Burst mode Choose from a whopping seven continuous shooting modes: high speed, low speed, pre-shooting cache, continuous high 120 fps, continuous high 60 fps, Best Shot Selector, and Multi-Shot 16. More details on the next page.
Effects mode Choose from six special effects, which can be used for stills or movies. They include soft, nostalgic sepia, high-contrast monochrome, high key, low key, and selective color.

The Coolpix S9300 is a 100% point-and-shoot camera, with no manual exposure controls to be found (beyond exposure compensation). If that's okay with you, then you'll find plenty of automatic modes and bells and whistles to choose from, most of which I explained above. The S9300 has a pair of multi-shot modes, for night as well as high dynamic range (HDR) shooting. I'll tell you about the latter in a moment.

'Easy Panorama' Mode

The Easy Panorama scene mode lets you 'sweep' the camera from side-to-side, after which the camera will stitch everything together. You can choose from 180 or 360 degree panoramas, and keep in mind that the resolution of these images is on the low side. As you can see above, the camera had a little trouble with the Bay Bridge - I don't think you'd want to drive across it. Less challenging subjects should look better.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) Mode

Selecting the Backlighting mode on the dial will give you access to the camera's high dynamic range (HDR) function. When you take a picture in this mode, the S9300 will create two images: one without HDR, and one with. The HDR photo is a combination of two or perhaps three images, each taken with a different exposure. The resulting photo is supposed to have brighter shadows and less highlight clipping than a regular image. Let's see if that's the case:

Normal image HDR image

The HDR feature performed just like it did on the Coolpix S9100. While yes, contrast is improved, the HDR effect is so over-the-top that it looks like a Photoshop effect. If you really want HDR on this camera, just take three shots at different exposures and combine them using one of the many HDR applications out there.


The final item on the camera body that I want to go over before we hit the menus is what's under that hump on the top: a GPS receiver.

The GPS system features a point-of-interest database and electronic compass. There are over 1.7 million entries in the POI database, and that information will be shown on the LCD when you're composing a photo, and saved into the metadata when it's taken. You can choose how 'deep' the info drawn from the POI database is, from country all the way down to the landmark.

GPS performance is fairly typical for a digital camera, meaning 'not great'. As is typically the case, the S9300 failed to get a signal when in downtown San Francisco. It also struggled to find me in a pretty open area in the mountains, though I've seen that on regular GPS', as well. In flat, open areas (near the Bay), it generally worked okay, taking around a minute to figure out my location. A tracking option is available, with three durations to choose from: 6, 12, or 24 hours. Do note that this will drain your battery even faster than the GPS already does.