Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
    Nikon S9500 275 wide.jpg
  • 18.1-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor
  • 22x optical zoom range (25-550mm equivalent)
  • 3-inch OLED display (614,000-dot)
  • Full HD 1080p video recording
  • Vibration Reduction (VR)
  • Quick Effects mode
  • Auto mode for beginners
  • Built-in GPS
  • Built-in WiFi
Pros
  • Large 22x optical zoom lens in a thin camera is a great feature
  • Image quality is good with sharp photos and realistic colors
  • 18MP of resolution is available
  • Plenty of aspect ratio and resolution options
  • Start-up time is very fast
  • Almost no shutter lag problems
  • Popup flash unit and CMOS image sensor provide good low light results versus other point-n-shoot cameras
  • Display screen is sharp and bright
  • Auto mode makes camera very easy to use
  • Built-in GPS and Wi-Fi are handy options to have available
  • Dedicated recording movie button
  • HDMI port included
  • Mode dial makes camera easy to use
Cons
  • No advanced manual control options
  • Very limited shooting modes
  • Uses small 1/2.3-inch image sensor
  • Menu structure is a little tough to navigate
  • Selections included on mode dial are odd
  • Battery life should be better
  • No separate battery charger included, so battery must be charged in camera
  • Although the S9500 has some interesting features, price point seems a bit high for what's basically a point-n-shoot camera
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.4 seconds (with start-up image turned off)
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = about 0.1 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay without flash = 3.4 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 2.2 seconds with review Off
  • Shot to shot delay with flash = 3.8 seconds between frames with minimum review time On, 3.7 seconds with review Off
  • High Burst Mode = 5 frames in 1.3 seconds @ 18M
  • Low Burst Mode = 5 frames in 3.1 seconds @ 18M
  • All tests were taken using a PNY Class 10, 16 GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, Flash off, Review on, ISO Auto and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Nikon Coolpix S9500 digital camera provides a very odd configuration of features in today's marketplace. The S9500 produces good quality images, offers a large optical zoom measurement, and includes both GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities, all in a thin camera. With a suggested price of $350, you'd expect the Coolpix S9500 to have some advanced shooting features to go along with those really nice physical features, but this isn't the case. Nikon has designed the S9500 as a point-n-shoot camera with minimal manual control features. Forcing yourself to shell out $300-plus for a point-n-shoot camera may seem difficult, but this model would be one of the few with which you could justify that price tag, as long as you'll frequently use the GPS and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Pick This Up If...
You need a very easy-to-use camera that includes high-end physical features like GPS, Wi-Fi, and a large zoom lens, and you don't mind spending a large amount for a fully automatic camera.
The Nikon Coolpix S9500 is a camera that's easy to like. It produces good image quality versus other point-n-shoot cameras, and it has quite a few high-end physical features; including a 22x optical zoom lens, a high-resolution display, and built-in GPS and Wi-Fi.

It also has quite a high starting price of $349.95. And in that price point, the S9500 is competing against models that have mid-sized image sensors and plenty of manual controls and advanced shooting features. 

The Coolpix S9500 doesn't offer any of those things. It has only a 1/2.3-inch image sensor, which is similar in size to what you'd find with point-n-shoot cameras in a much lower price point. This camera has almost no manual control modes, and Nikon basically designed it as a simple point-n-shoot model.

While there's nothing wrong with having a fully automatic, easy-to-use camera in the $300-plus price point, it's just a little strange to see it, especially without a larger image sensor. 

Obviously Nikon has placed the Coolpix S9500 in this higher price point because of the excellent physical features this camera offers. So if you are sure that you'll make use of the built-in GPS and Wi-Fi features found in this camera, it will give you strong performance and a pretty good value. However, if you're not sure about how much you'll use those extra physical features, other cameras can match the S9500's performance levels at a lower price point.

The Coolpix S9500 is a fast performing camera, offering little to no shutter lag in almost all shooting situations. Shot-to-shot delays are minimal without the flash. The S9500 has performance times that are comparable to what you might expect to find in a camera in a $300-plus or higher price point.

Even with a small image sensor, the Nikon S9500 does a nice job with image quality, creating sharp and vibrant prints. It offers 18.1-megapixels of resolution, which does place the S9500 ahead of most other digital cameras that use a 1/2.3-inch image sensor; in terms of resolution. This Coolpix camera's image quality isn't as good as what you might find with a more advanced fixed lens camera -- such as the Coolpix P7700 and its 1/1.7-inch sensor -- but the S9500 does a good job versus other fully automatic cameras.

Another area where this model outshines other basic point-n-shoot cameras is with its telephoto capability. There aren't a lot of cameras that measure only 1.3 inches in thickness that can offer a 22x optical zoom lens. This design feature gives the S9500 the flexibility to be carried easily in a pocket while also working well for landscape and nature photos. Nikon included its Vibration Reduction feature with this model, which is a necessity for a camera with a large zoom lens to avoid blurry images from camera shake.

You're going to find a high-quality display screen with the Nikon S9500. This 3.0-inch screen makes use of OLED display technology, which has a greater contrast and overall quality versus most LCD screens. With this camera offering no advanced control features, it would've been nice if Nikon had chosen to give the display a touch screen capability, which is a helpful feature for beginners.

Nikon included a mode dial with the Coolpix S9500, but it almost seems a bit unnecessary because of the lack of advanced shooting modes that are available. About half of the modes on the Coolpix S9500's mode dial would be listed in the Scene Mode menu with other easy-to-use cameras. Most of the time you're going to be using the S9500 in basic automatic mode, so you probably aren't going to use the mode dial all that often.

There's a popup flash unit with the Nikon S9500, which is great for providing improved results in low light. Additionally the flash opens automatically any time the camera senses that it's needed, which is a feature that you don't often find, even on more expensive models. The flash does seem to cause a bit of wash out in photos from time to time, though.

I really like the layout and size of the control buttons on the back of the Coolpix S9500. The four-way button is a ring that can be spun, which makes it easier to use to scroll through a lot of photos at once. And with this camera there aren't a lot of confusing extra buttons to deal with, which is nice for beginning photographers.

The built-in GPS and Wi-Fi features work pretty well, although they can be a little tricky to set up and learn to use at first. With the Wi-Fi feature, you almost certainly will want to send some photos to social networking sites like Facebook, so it's advantageous that Nikon chose to include several different resolution settings with the S9500. The lower resolutions are great for creating images that can be uploaded quickly through Wi-Fi. However, Nikon only offers one resolution option for shooting a 16:9 aspect ratio image and no options for 1:1 or 3:2 aspect ratios, which is disappointing.

The biggest drawback to the GPS and Wi-Fi features is that they will drain the battery much more quickly than typical use of the camera. The S9500 has below average battery life when you're just using the photographic features, only allowing for a little over 200 photos per charge according to my tests. The number of photos you can shoot per charge will drop by quite a bit more if you use the Wi-Fi or GPS features on a regular basis.

Unfortunately Nikon didn't include a separate battery charger with this Coolpix camera. You must charge the battery inside the camera, which means you cannot shoot photos while you're charging the battery. You're probably going to want to purchase a second battery for the Coolpix S9500 because of the below average battery life, but this is a tough-to-take added expense for a point-n-shoot camera that starts in the $300-plus price range.

The S9500 works very well for recording movies, especially compared to other point-n-shoot cameras. It has a dedicated recording button available, five different movie resolutions are included, and the 22x optical zoom lens is available while recording movies. Nikon also included an HDMI port with the S9500, which is great for downloading full HD movies. No HDMI cable is included, though, causing another potential add-on expense.

Bottom Line - I like quite a few aspects of the Nikon Coolpix S9500. Although there are a lot of great physical features to appreciate with this camera, its best feature is its strong performance levels with almost no shutter lag. Image quality with the S9500 is better than with other cameras that have small 1/2.3-inch image sensors. The Nikon S9500's 22x optical zoom lens is an impressive option, too, nearly always creating sharp photos throughout its zoom range. It's great to have a camera that can fit in a pocket and yet offer such a large zoom lens, giving it a lot of flexibility. Nikon included built-in GPS and Wi-Fi options, too, for even more flexibility. But all of those advanced features have led to an odd pricing point for the Coolpix S9500 at over $300. Typically cameras in this price range offer some advanced manual control photography features or a larger image sensor. However, the S9500 is a fully automatic camera with a small image sensor. This point-n-shoot camera doesn't even have a Program mode. You can set the white balance and ISO under certain shooting circumstances, but the manual control options are very limited. It may be difficult to convince yourself to pay $300 or more for what amounts to a point-n-shoot camera, but the S9500 has enough advanced features that it's definitely worth considering. If you know you're going to be  using the GPS and Wi-Fi features often, then this camera will give you a good value, although you'll probably have to buy a second battery because of below average battery life. However, if you'll rarely turn on the GPS or Wi-Fi, it's difficult to recommend the S9500, because other less expensive cameras can come close to matching this camera's other features.

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