Feature-packed and stylish, but image quality is nothing special
1/2.3in 18.0-megapixel sensor, 22.0x zoom (25-550mm equivalent), 202g
Ultra-zoom cameras aren’t known for their sumptuous good looks, but Nikon has made a bit of an effort with the S9500. The curvy metal shell looks elegant and refined, and the bronze finish we were sent for testing makes a refreshing change from the usual choice of dull or garish colours. The ridge just below the Nikon logo is just enough for a firm grip, and the rubber-like texture on the back for the thumb to rest on is a thoughtful touch. The video record button is a little too accessible and we pressed it by accident quite a few times.
The camera is well specified, with a 22x zoom, Wi-Fi and GPS. The mode dial lacks conventional priority and manual exposure options but the various scene presets and creative effects will probably be more popular. We particularly like the Smart Portrait mode, which takes a photo automatically when it sees a smiling face. We’ve seen this feature plenty of times before, but other cameras have only managed to take a photo about a second after the subject pulls a maniacal toothy grimace. The S9500 has the sense to focus as soon as it identifies a face, allowing it to take a photo quickly when it spots a gentle smile.
A skin-softening effect is also applied in Smart Portrait mode, but thankfully it’s pretty subtle and can be turned off in the menu. Another feature that’s worth turning off is the Quick Effects function. Creative effects such as Toy Camera, Painting and Sepia are all well and good but we don’t want to be offered them after every photo we take.
The Wi-Fi app is simple but effective, with responsive browsing of the camera’s contents and transfers at a choice of sizes from VGA to the 18-megapixel original files. The app can also be used as a remote control for the camera, although control is limited to the shutter button, zoom and self-timer function. Photos are transferred as soon as they’re taken, but this freezes the app for about 10 seconds. Thankfully there’s an option to turn this feature off.
The GPS function is certainly effective, correcting geo-tagging photos as soon as we switched the camera on. However, on a couple of occasions we went to turn the camera on and found that the battery was completely dead, even though the battery indicator wasn’t low the previous time we’d used it. It looks suspiciously like GPS remains on even when the camera is switched off, but there’s no indication of this in the menu options. It doesn’t help that the 230-shot battery life is on the short side to start with.
The S9500’s basic ability to capture photos and videos is less remarkable. Videos generally looked OK but details were rather coarse, low-light clips were noisy and the soundtrack was muffled. Photos were captured at a rate of one every 1.4 seconds – a passable result. The continuous mode was much better at 6.9fps, but it stopped after five frames.
Photo quality compared well with rivals at the long end of the zoom, with sharp focus from the lens. Fine details were lost due to noise reduction, though, especially when shooting shady subjects. It also struggled with dense textures such as foliage, but these problems weren’t particularly noticeable after resizing to fit a computer screen.
Over-exposed highlights were harder to ignore, particularly as they bled into surrounding pixels. The 18-megapixel sensor appears to generate a lot of noise in low-light shots. These photos didn’t stand up well to scrutiny, but thanks to some energetic noise reduction, they too looked fine at typical viewing sizes.
This is one of the better telephoto shots we’ve seen from a pocket ultra-zoom camera
It’s not so impressive shooting shady subjects, though – noise reduction has taken a heavy toll on details
There’s a lot of blooming from these overexposed highlights…
…And this automatic exposure has come out too bright
Heavy noise reduction has spruced this photo up to look fine at normal viewing sizes
Ultimately, image quality is on the right side of acceptable, but the S9500 doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself and the Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is the better buy.
|CCD effective megapixels||18.0 megapixels|
|Viewfinder magnification, coverage||N/A|
|LCD screen size||3.0in|
|LCD screen resolution||614,000 pixels|
|Zoom 35mm equivalent||25-550mm|
|Image stabilisation||optical, lens based|
|Maximum image resolution||4,896×3,672|
|File formats||JPEG; QuickTime (AVC)|
|Mermory supplied||23MB internal|
|Battery Life (tested)||230 shots|
|Connectivity||USB, AV, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi|
|Focal length multiplier||N/A|
|Kit lens model name||N/A|
|Accessories||USB and AV cables|
|Warranty||one year RTB|
|Aperture range||f/3.4 (wide), f/6.3 (tele)|
|ISO range (at full resolution)||125 to 3200|
|Exposure compensation||+/-2 EV|
|White balance||auto, 5 presets, manual|
|Additional image controls||none|
|Closest macro focus||5cm|
|Auto-focus modes||multi, centre, flexible spot, face detect, tracking, target finding|
|Metering modes||multi, centre-weighted, face detect|
|Flash||auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction|
|Drive modes||single, continuous, self-timer, panorama, 3D|