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Nikon Coolpix S1000pj
Tools for sharing photos and videos are increasingly being seen in digital cameras these days. Features such as image enhancement and slideshow with background music and transition effect are common. Some cameras also offer selectable music tracks to go with the mood of your photos. Nikon has gone a few steps further and packed a projector in their latest addition to the Coolpix lineup, the S1000pj.
Despite a projector squeezed in the S1000pj it sports a compact design and weighs in at just 155 grams like any other compact digital camera — it’s neither too large nor is it too heavy. The all-black shell with matte finish lends a good look to the device. Nikon has done a great job with the design considering the slew of features that they have thrown in, right from the optics to the navigation controls.
The S1000pj is equipped with a 12.1 MP sensor and a 5x zoom lens that resides in the body. At 28 mm it’s nice and wide for capturing wide landscapes and big groups of people. And with 5x optical zoom it’s a notch above many compact cameras that offer 3x or 4x zoom lens. Our concern with the optics is a relatively smaller aperture (F3.9) at 28 mm which is possibly due to the design of the in-body lens—we have seen aperture as large as F2.8 in compact cameras. It won’t make a difference in broad daylight, but with a larger aperture you get better exposure in low lighting and shallower depth of field.
The projector window is at the center of the face below the flash. There’s a switch on the top for switching to the projector and a slider for adjusting the projector’s focus. The zoom lever encircling the shutter release button is at the right end next to the on/off button.
The rear panel is clean with a large 2.7-inch LCD and a tiny control panel at the bottom right corner. The control panel layout is pretty standard with a 5-way d-pad and buttons for menu, delete, playback mode and scene selection. We liked the one-touch access to flash settings, self timer, macro mode and exposure compensation via the d-pad—a very useful combination. But the addition of a programmable hotkey or a button for adjusting the ISO would have been nice.
The area above the control panel is slightly depressed and has dimples for a firm grip. To the left of the grip are an IR sensor, flash charging indicator and a tiny speaker grille. There’s another IR sensor right next to the lens. The camera bundles with a tiny little remote control that serves two purposes. Firstly you can control the slideshow with the d-pad and secondly it’s a wireless shutter release with zoom controls. So no need of scurrying into the frame before the timer runs out if you want to be in the picture. And with two IR sensors it doesn’t matter whether you’re in front of or behind the camera.
The user interface of the S1000pj is designed such that anyone can use it. There aren’t many menu levels and everything is labeled along with appropriate icons. Navigating the menus is quite straightforward and easy using the d-pad. If you’re not familiar with exposure values that have to be used in various lighting conditions or parameters for shooting various subjects, the camera automatically takes care of the settings. For this, you can choose from 16 preset scenes depending on the type of the subject or lighting conditions — portrait, landscape, sport, twilight, fireworks, food, backlight, etc. And if you’re not sure which scene to use, you can let the camera decide using the auto scene selection mode.
The auto mode is pretty much like the program mode in most digital cameras. ‘Auto’ sounds less daunting than ‘Program’, doesn’t it? White balance, ISO sensitivity, color options and focusing are all set to auto by default, but you’re free to experiment with them. ISO speed ranges from 80 to 6400, but shooting at ISO 3600 or 6400 is possible only up to a resolution of 2048 x 1536 which is 3.2 MP.
The focusing can be set to automatic, center of the frame, face detection or manual wherein you can specify the focus zone. Settings apart from those relating to exposure are grouped under the setup menu. These include vibration reduction or IS, digital zoom, sound settings, date imprint, and blink warning.
The S1000pj doesn’t have anything to boast about when it comes to shooting videos. It captures videos at VGA resolution (640x480) and doesn’t allow optical zoom while shooting. For the hefty premium this camera commands, we feel it should have at least been able to capture videos at 720p.
On a brighter note, the playback menu is very interesting. Images can be enhanced using the built-in functions such as Quick Retouch, D-lighting and Skin Softening. Quick Retouch corrects the lighting and adjusts the sharpness, whereas D-lighting ensures correct overall exposure. The intensity of these functions can be adjusted and the preview is displayed before you apply the correction. On confirming, the enhanced image is stored as a separate file.
We took the camera outdoors and shot people, flowers, high-contrast scenes and close ups. In the second round we went out late in the evening to assess the low light performance. The tests ended with a few indoor shots and noise tests.
The camera excels in outdoor performance during daytime. The details captured were excellent but the colors were a bit oversaturated. The blue sky looked good in photos but in reality it wasn’t as blue. Likewise, oversaturation looked good in certain photos where the scene had contrasting colors. But in certain photos colors were very unnatural.
The camera also takes a hit in very bright light. With bright sky in the background, the objects in the foreground had washed out colors. This clearly indicates that the camera falters when metering light in very bright light. We had to tone down the EV to a little more to get the correct exposure.
The preset scenes work really well. The skies looked better (more purple) with dusk/dawn mode than using auto mode. We also noticed the flash firing in bright sunlight to expose subjects against bright skies. The macro performance is excellent—excellent colors and details and you can go as close as 3 cm to the subject.
The indoor performance was also very good, but we again faced the problem of oversaturated colors. With the flash firing, skin tones had a slightly pinkish tone. It can be corrected with an image editing program, but the camera should have done a better job.
In the noise performance, the results are decent up to ISO 200 but noise starts creeping in ISO 400 onwards. ISO 800 and beyond should be used only if the light is too low. At ISO 3200 and 6400 colors details go for a toss—Nikon shouldn’t have bothered including them.
Now for the most interesting bit — the built-in 10 lumen projector. Switch it on in the dark and everyone’s jaw will drop. Ours did when we first saw it in action. The package includes a stand to angle the camera slightly backwards so that the screen doesn’t get cut when the camera is placed on a flat surface.
Going by the specifications the ideal throw distance ranges from 26 cm to 2 meters. You get a 5 inch display at 26 cm and a massive 40-inch screen at 2 meters. The image was crisp and bright at 5 inches but that’s too small. At a throw distance of 1.3 meters we found the 25-inch display ideal—a satisfying combination of screen size, colors and brightness, but you need a really dark room. At the maximum recommended throw distance of 2 meters, the brightness wasn’t satisfactory. However, the 40-inch screen looked awesome.
Our overall impression of the Nikon S1000pj is good but not excellent—we’d give it 4 out of 5. The USP of this camera is its built-in projector for which it commands a price higher than top-end compact digital cameras. The massive 40-inch projection looks really cool. However, the camera fails to deliver when it comes to image quality. Since you’re paying Rs 28,950 for it, you better get the best of everything, unless you’re happy with just the projector. We were also unhappy with the video resolution of only 640x480 pixels and lack of optical zoom while recording. Had the camera excelled in picture quality and the video resolution been at least 720p, we’d call it a perfect 10.