Nikon has replaced the Coolpix S9100 with two new models—the Coolpix S9200 and S9300. The only difference between the two new cameras is that the S9300 has a built-in GPS whereas the S9200 doesn't. We tested the GPS-less Coolpix S9200, a superzoom compact that'll have to work hard to find its place in this increasingly crowded market.
The Coolpix S9200 is a very similar camera to last year's S9100, a perfectly pleasant compact from which the new model gets its body and lens. The main new addition to the camera body is a rubbery non-slip thumb-rest on the back, which helps improve grip. Build quality is generally good, although the USB and HDMI ports are covered with disappointingly flimsy strips of rubber. On the whole, though, the S9200 is a reassuring and sturdy camera.
The S9200 has the same screen as the S9100. Colour fidelity is OK, but the display is very cold and light greys are soon overexposed to white. That said, the screen is still pleasant to use, with good levels of sharpness and good viewing angles.
The internal interface hasn't changed either. So while the Coolpix S9200 is an easy-to-use camera for beginners, the drab grey menus are a little uninspiring.
There's not much to report in this field. The S9200 starts up in two and a half seconds, which is within average for this kind of camera (although unlike the S9100, it wouldn't let us shoot immediately after deploying the zoom lens). Once it's up and running, the S9200 focuses quickly and shoots photo after photo without too much of a delay. However, it's not the fastest camera we've ever seen.
Snapping seven frames in just under a second, the continuous shooting mode does a good job, even though—once again—there are faster cameras out there.
The Nikon S9200 is basically an S9100 with the sensor from the S8200. However, the 18x zoom lens has evolved in this model, as while it still has an equivalent focal range of 25-450 mm, it now has an optical stabilisation system (in the S9100, stabilisation was sensor-based instead).
This compact handles noise as expected. Smoothing starts to appear at 400 ISO and wipes out detail from 800 ISO. Performances are therefore quite similar to those of the S8200, but the image processing system has clearly been tweaked slightly—smoothing looks heavier on the contour lines in the map on our test scene, but high-contrast items are more clearly defined. We have to admit that we prefer pictures from the S9100 (which has a 12-Megapixel sensor), and some users may even prefer Casio's approach to image processing in the ZR200, which keeps more noise but reproduces fine detail like the contour lines more effectively by reducing smoothing. All in all, it's still a far cry from the kind of quality we've seen in Canon's 12-Megapixel SX240, which sells for a similar price (see our review of the SX260, which is identical to the SX240 but with an added GPS).
The S9200 has a decent, if not extraordinary lens. The corners of the frame are a little less sharp than the middle at wide-angle settings, but that won't be a problem for 8" x 10" prints (20 x 27 cm). At telephoto settings, quality is fine all across the frame, but is by no means excellent. All in all, the Sony HX10V and Panasonic TZ25 do a better job, as does the Canon SX260.
The stabilisation system has improved greatly. While previous Nikon compacts took clear Barbie without flash shots at around 1/8 ths of a second, the improved system pushes that down to 1/4 ths. That won't be useful every day, but Nikon's camera is now up there with the best on this front.
The S9200 films Full HD video at 30 fps, which is on par with current market standards for cameras in this price range. Exposure is good and the camera doesn't overexpose bright, light areas nearly is much as many other compacts. However, the autofocus can be a bit unreliable at times, as it doesn't always keep things looking as sharp as they should be.
The stereo sound is decent enough but the mics aren't great quality—voices sound a bit muffled. Note too that you'll be able to hear the lens zooming in some quieter scenes.