DCRP

Nikon Coolpix S9300 Review

Performance & Photo Quality

The Coolpix S9300 is generally a responsive camera. There is a bit of a lag when you start recording a movie or enter the menu, and low light focusing leaves something to be desired, but otherwise the news is good.

The table below summarizes its performance:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 1.4 sec Average
Autofocus
(Normal light)
0.1 - 0.3 sec (wide-angle)
0.4 - 0.8 sec (telephoto)
Above average
Autofocus
(Low light)
1.0 - 1.3 sec Below average
Shutter lag None Above average
Shot-to-shot
(No flash)
1.5 secs Above average
Shot-to-shot
(Flash)
4 secs Below average

There are really two areas where the S9300 is not so hot. The first is low light focusing. Not because it's slow, but because the camera usually struggles to lock focus in those situations. The S9300's flash is also on the slow side when it comes to recharging. Thus, the camera may not be the best choice for those shooting in dim lighting.

As I mentioned on the previous page, the S9300 has a huge collection of continuous shooting modes, which are only accessible via the spot on the mode dial. The table below summarizes them, and what kind of performance you can expect (at the highest image quality setting):

Setting Measured performance
Continuous high Takes seven shots in a row at 7.5 frames/sec.
Continuous low Takes ten shots at 1.9 frames/sec, then continues shooting at 1.4 frames/sec until memory is full
Pre-shooting cache Takes five shots, two of which were recorded before you fully pressed the shutter release button, at 10 frames/sec.
Continuous H: 120 fps Takes fifty photos at 120 fps (per Nikon). Resolution is set to 640 x 480.
Continuous H: 60 fps Takes twenty-five photos at 60 fps (per Nikon). Resolution is set to 1280 x 960.
Best Shot Selector Camera takes up to ten shots in a row and saves the sharpest one.
Multi-shot 16 Camera takes 16 pictures at about 30 fps and combines them into a 5 Megapixel collage.

Tested with a SanDisk UHS-I SDHC card

When it comes to full resolution continuous shooting, the S9300 is about average in terms of speed and buffer depth. Sure, it can shoot at 120 fps, but only at VGA resolution. I also noticed that the LCD lags considerably behind the action when shooting at full resolution, which makes it very hard to track a moving subject.

Let's move on to photo quality now, shall we?

Our macro test photo turned out nicely. Colors are nice and saturated, the subject is sharp, and a good amount of detail is captured. While there's a tiny amount of noise here, it's not nearly enough to concern me.

The minimum focus distance on the S9300 is 4 cm, though that's only when the lens is at its "sweet spot" near the wide-angle position. Unfortunately, Nikon doesn't publish what the distance is after that point (the same was true for the S9100).

Being a point-and-shoot camera, you have to rely on auto modes to handle more complex scenes, like the night photo that I take regularly. In regular auto mode I can lock the ISO down and set the white balance to something that doesn't make the photo come out so yellow. Unfortunately, the longest shutter speed on the camera is just one second, which doesn't cut it for this type of scene. The only way to get a photo with a semi-decent exposure is to use the night landscape scene mode, which boosts the ISO (for a brighter exposure), while unfortunately keeping the white balance set at Auto. What we get from that is a yellowish photo that's soft, underexposed, and noisy. The bottom line is that the S9300 is not well suited for long exposures.

Since I can't control the ISO and shutter speed at the same time, I am unable to perform the night ISO test. You'll find the studio ISO test further down the page.

The Coolpix S9300 takes a two-pronged approach to redeye reduction. First, it fires the flash a few times, ahead of the actual exposure. After the picture is taken, the camera detects any leftover redeye, and removes it digitally. As with the S9100 before it, the camera passed our redeye test with flying colors. You will, however, notice the pretty high noise levels in the photo, which the camera took at ISO 400.

There's very little barrel distortion at the wide end of the S9300's 25 - 450 mm lens -- most likely due to automatic correction during image processing. Corner softness doesn't seem to be an issue (it's hard to tell when the photos are so soft in the first place), and vignetting (dark corners) was not a problem.

Now we're going to take a look at our studio test scene. Since the lighting never changes, you can compare these images with those from other cameras that I've reviewed over the years. Remember that the crops below show only a small portion of the total scene, so be sure to view the full size images!


ISO 125

ISO 200

ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600

ISO 3200

Things start out with a little noise at ISO 125, but it doesn't eat away at the details in the scene. That changes at ISO 200, where you can see edge detail starting to disappear. This is much earlier than I'd expect to see this kind of thing. Thankfully, ISO 400 isn't much worse than 200, and it's probably where I'd stop with the ISO sensitivity. At ISO 800 details continue to go south, with some parts of the scene looking more like an oil painting than a photograph. Still, you could use this sensitivity when you have no other choice. I would avoid the top two sensitivities, as there's too much detail loss for them to be usable.

Since the Coolpix S9300 lacks support for the RAW format, I cannot do a RAW vs. JPEG comparison.

What I can do is a comparison of the test scene at ISO 800 on five different travel zooms. Included here are the Canon PowerShot SX260, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS15 and ZS20 (note that the former lacks a GPS), and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V. Click on the tabs to compare them and see which one looks best -- and don't forget that you can click on them to see the whole scene!

I think it's safe to say that the Coolpix S9300 and the Panasonic ZS20 have the worst-looking photos in the group. The Canon SX260 and Panasonic ZS15 look better, but it's the Sony HX20V that comes out on top in my opinion, despite the fact that it has an 18 Megapixel sensor!

Overall, I was disappointed with the photo quality on the Coolpix S9300. But first, the good news: photos are generally well exposed, and colors are really vibrant. Purple fringing isn't an issue and, as you saw either, neither is redeye. The bad news is that images are soft, quite noisy, and lacking in fine detail -- even at the base ISO of 125. Sure, they look okay when downsized or printed at 4 x 6, but other cameras don't require as much of a compromise. The S9300 also likes to clip highlights, and there aren't really any tools available to deal with that.

As always, you are the best judge of image quality. Have a look at our photo gallery and decide for yourself if the S9300's image quality meets your needs!

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