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Review: Nikon COOLPIX S9500

Review: Nikon COOLPIX S9500

My search continues for the perfect super-portable, high-quality camera. I want the quality of a full-frame DSLR (digital single-lens-reflex) camera with a nice wide-angle and a super-long telephoto lens. But I also want a camera small enough to fit in my pocket for convenience.

Unfortunately, that camera hasn’t been invented yet. At a certain point, it’s a give-and-take situation, which led me to check out the Nikon COOLPIX S9500, with a list price of $349.95. It’s a compact point-and-shoot, zoom-lens camera that easily slips into your pocket, purse or backpack.

coolpixs9500cityhexampleThe camera features a 22X zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of a 24mm to 500 mm optical lens with image stabilization. I found the telephoto was fine in most situations, such as  for travel or photographing parades, but I seemed to need more zoom for nature photographs. If you need more zoom, Nikon makes the COOLPIX P520, which features considerably more zoom — over 1,000 mm (35mm equivalent). But it is a larger camera that you’re going to carry with a shoulder strap.

There are so many situations in which I just don’t want to carry my DSLR camera with extra lenses: hiking, bike riding, family parties or traveling. I do get a little lazy at times, like most people, and I just seem to use my iPhone as my main camera. While the iPhone takes exceptional photos, offering convenience with its editing capability and instant social media sharing, it lacks three important features: a wide-angle lens, a long telephoto lens and a decent fill-in flash.

The Nikon COOLPIX S9500 features WiFi, so I could wirelessly send photos to my iPhone or iPad for editing and then post them to Facebook or Instagram. Of course, you can’t match the image quality to a full-frame, 4/3 style, or even the more expensive compact cameras with short-range zooms. This camera is point-and-shoot.

I test-drove it at my daughter’s graduation, our Fourth of July parade, a fireworks display, a walk at the wetlands, surfing at the pier and my mom’s birthday party. These are the types of situations for which all of us want a camera like this.

Here are a few of the Nikon COOLPIX S9500 stats:

nikons9500close30018.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor

WiFi built-in

Optical 22x Nikkor zoom (35mm equivalent 25mm to 550mm)

Full HD: 1920 x 1080p at 30 fps

ISO range: 125 to 3200

Nikon lists this camera on its website as having multiple shooting modes: Back Light, Beach, Close Up, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Scene Auto Selector Snow, Sports, Dusk/Dawn, Easy Panorama, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Sunset and 3D Photography. I kept the camera on the green auto-mode. Again, I want things simple; I want the camera to think for me.

Since this is a basic compact camera, it doesn’t feature an eye-level viewfinder. This made it tough to shoot in the sun because of the glare on the back 3-inch OLED screen, especially when the lens was zoomed out to the maximum. This is a complaint I have with most cameras of this style.

zoos9500-300pxThe camera does have a sports mode, but when I zoomed out all the way, I had a tough time following and focusing on birds in flight. You can only expect so much from a $300 compact camera.

I missed not having manual mode, exposure bracketing for HDR shooting and RAW imaging.

Overall, the camera performed well. I was really impressed at how well the fill-in flash worked when I shot pictures at my daughter’s graduation.  It didn’t over-fill but produced a nice, natural balanced light that was better than that of my more expensive compact camera.

The camera also shined at our Fourth of July parade. The weather was warm; my transportation was my bicycle. It was great to stop along the route and take snapshots, wide angles of the crowd, medium-range shots of the floats and long-zoom photos of the band members.

The camera boasts 18.1 megapixels and produces images that are great for social media sites, snapshots or even 8-by-10-inch prints. However, it’s probably not going to replace a professional’s gear. When you blow up the image, you can see a difference, especially on the images that were zoomed out to the max 550mm (the 35mm equivalent). You just don’t get the same tonal range and image quality.

I used the camera’s built-in WiFi to move photographs to my iPhone using the free Nikon Wireless Mobile Utility App.  This allowed me to edit and quickly send pictures to my favorite social media website.

It’s amazing to see the image stabilization working. The photos are so sharp, I really needed to hold the camera steady as I took the photo. When you’re zoomed out so far, just the slight motion of pressing the shutter can change your composition and take your subject out of the frame. Again, it’s quality versus convenience with a point-and-shoot camera.

Overall, I did enjoy shooting with the Nikon COOLPIX S9500 and appreciated its convenience. I recommend it to those who are looking for a simple compact camera with a super-long zoom range but who are not interested in manual controls or the ability to shoot RAW images.

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  1. July 14, 2013, 9:06 am

    An excellent review though I still prefer my Nikon D200.

    By: davidcrammer
  2. July 14, 2013, 11:24 pm

    — I prefer the now-discontinued Sony HX20V in the same price range. Reasonably compact, it has a 20x optical tele with another 20x available digitally, i.e. up to 40x. It produces great pictures set on Auto or Super Auto and has that wonderful Sony AVCHD video, up to 60p. 60 Progressive is hard to find in point and shoots. MP-4 is also available. The image stabilization works well, and there are 2 levels available.

    — Battery life with the Sony battery is decent. I got a generic "Info Lithium" battery which shows minutes remaining as well as bars – useful when videoing.

    — The Sony is good quality but it's not a not DSLR. Why? The sensor size in a DSLR is much larger than the sensor in a point and shoot like the Sony.

    — The Sony has a enough creative controls to make me happy (colors, saturation, sharpness, metering choices, focal point choices – better there than my DSLR – plus a lot of fun options like painting settings.)

    — I prefer to shoot at night, flash off. The Sony provides several solutions for low light work – Auto, Super Auto, Program, Twilight, high ISO, handheld / no blur. The video has exposure compensation +/- 2 stops, handy for adding mood.

    — I love the grid lines. For the truly shaky like me, the Sony also has a level gauge built in. Which I think is pretty cool.

    — There is a newer Sony model out, 30 x tele, which for me is overkill. If you are lucky, you can find a discontinued HX20V floor model for a song at a retailer like Target or BestBuy.

    — I left Canon for Fuji on reliability issues and for Fuji's larger sensor. I left Fuji for Sony, mostly for the better video. I'm happy with the overall Sony package. It is a fine camera.

    Just my opinion.

    By: EJ_bear
  3. September 7, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Wow, What a great camera for shooting images of nature and sport events. Yes , you must have a working knowledge of panning and single shot photography works the best. I found that shooting continuous focus uses up a lot of memory such as shooting power boat races. Compose you're shot and take it but make sure you are in an area higher than your fellow photographers otherwise unwanted head shots or lens equipment interferes with your creative ability to get that shot you are looking for. In nature a steady hand, tree branch or vehicle roof helps with camera shake. Relax, compose and enjoy what you are doing. Not everyone has an opportunity to visually see the beauty this world has to offer. Fantastic lens range too but beyond the yellow box- good luck. Extreme distances are a problem. Stay around the 400mm mark and you'll be fine. Enlarging to 8×10 very good but 11×14 is selective, just not as clear as it could be but there are limitations to everything.

    By: Michael Cordeira

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