Nikon Coolpix S1100pj £350
17th Feb 2011 | 12:45
The second Coolpix camera to come complete with projector functionality
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Overview
It was only ever a matter of time before someone thought to incorporate a projector inside a digital camera, but two and a half years after Nikon took the plunge it remains the only manufacturer to have done so.
Despite the lack of any competition the company clearly reckons it can better its original concept, and does so in the shape of the new Coolpix S1100pj.
Predictably, perhaps, Nikon has justified the new release with improvements to the projector's functionality, but other revisions to both its specification and design show Nikon's willingness to also make it a better camera overall.
With regards to the projector, Nikon now claims the S1100pj is 40% brighter than before, which in turn allows it to perform better in brighter conditions and against brighter surfaces.
Images and videos can now be projected up to 47-inches in size, while wider compatibility with different file types allow it to be used for business purposes, such as for displaying presentations. The camera comes complete with a stand which can be adjusted out of its base, as well as a remote control for controlling the projector from a distance.
The sensor has also been upgraded to offer an effective 14.1MP, although the 5x optical zoom lens still provides a focal range between 28 and 140mm. Showing little tolerance to camera shake of any kind, Nikon has also fitted the S1100pj with a 5-way VR system which uses optical and electronic methods, as well as a Best Shot Selector system, Motion Detection and a maximum sensitivity of ISO 6400 to ensure images taken in any conditions blur-free.
Exposure modes are limited to Easy Auto, Auto, Smart Portrait and scene modes, the latter category comprising seventeen different functions to suit every eventuality. Sadly, there's no manual exposure control of any kind, save for an exposure compensation function which can be adjusted over +/-2EV.
As well as receiving a marginal boost to 3-inches, the LCD has also doubled in resolution to 460,000 dots and gained touchscreen functionality, while HD video recording is also now on offer at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720p.
The camera still supports SD media for recording images and movies, although the use of SDXC cards is now also a possibility.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Build quality and handling
The design of the S1100pj makes it clear that it follows on from its predecessor, but Nikon has arguably made the new model easier on the eye. Both the lens and projector have lost their more angular details, and are instead surrounded by circular motifs, while the projector's once-sliding focus switch has also been replaced by a round dial.
Furthermore, to better fit the larger LCD screen, all controls have been consolidated into three buttons on the back, which means that many key functions are now accessed directly through the touchscreen.
A stylus is supplied with the camera, which goes some way to explaining why many buttons are small and awkward to press with a finger, although the fiddly nature of using something so small is likely to frustrate some users.
It's not particularly helpful that the screen can often lack responsiveness too, all of which translates to an overall frustrating user experience.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Performance
One of the better aspects of the camera's performance is its focusing system, which finds subjects with ease and locks on to them quickly, even when shooting conditions aren't great. Focusing and releasing the shutter at once can also be done through the touchscreen by simply pressing the desired area, although the afforementioned issue with responsiveness can make this tricky.
Post-capture, it takes a good couple of seconds for the image to be displayed, while browsing through images is made problematic by the sensitivity of the LCD screen, which requires a surprisingly firm swipe of the finger in order to cycle through stored images.
While the camera is capable of producing a good standard of image quality, overall performance is inconsistent. Metering is largely accurate, although the camera has a tendency to overexposure in certain situations. Highlight detail is generally well maintained, though, while colour in optimum conditions is punchy and vibrant, and largely faithful. In such conditions the camera can also produce images with a high level of detail, particularly at the centre of the frame.
White balance in the auto settings is largely fine, but occasionally leans towards coldness, particularly when there is less information in the scene for the camera work with. The main problem concerns the softness which characterises many images.
Noise and noise reduction leaves images looking heavily processed and devoid of detail, and remind us of the problem with cramming 14MP on a 1/2.3in sensor. Furthermore, images taken at the longer end of the zoom are soft and lacking in definition, despite the camera claiming to be within the limits of its image stabilisation technologies.
To compensate for all of this, the camera has a tendency to oversharpen images which creates unnatural edges, and again contributes to the general processed look of images.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Sample images
f/3.9 at ISO 228 (Click here to view full-res version)
f/3.9, 1/170 sec at ISO 80 (Click here to view full-res version)
f/4.2, 1/30 sec at ISO 83 (Click here to view full-res version)
f/5.8, 1/30 sec at ISO 84 (Click here to view full-res version)
f/3.9, 1/800 sec at ISO 80 (Click here to view full-res version)
f/5.8, 1/270 sec at ISO 80 (Click here to view full-res version)
f/3.9, 1/90 sec at ISO 80 (Click here to view full-res version)
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Projector performance
The projector is activated upon a press of a button on the top-plate, which is encircled by a dial for focusing. This button, being small and recessed into the dial, requires a good press for the projector to turn on, which may be awkward with larger fingers, but once on it's easy to operate the projector with the supplied remote (which is advised over touchscreen operation).
Controls on offer include starting slideshows, browsing through images and videos, and zoom functionality, and it also possible to change the volume over three levels for any recorded videos.
Projected images are well exposed and colourful, and maintain a contrast we'd expect from a projection, although this depends on the image and the conditions in which it is viewed. The projection can appear a little dull and muddy, particularly if the video has any shadowy details and if the viewing conditions are a little bright, but this is somewhat to be expected.
Sound quality is a little tinny from the camera's small rear speaker, but for capturing everyday scenes and family occasions this shouldn't be too great a deal; only when the recording contains little sound does background hiss become noticeable.
Nikon Coolpix S1100pj: Our conclusion
The Coolpix S1100pj fulfils its aim as a pocket projector well, with large clear images and the helpful inclusions of the built-in stand and remote. Indeed, this is the camera's major selling point and with no alternative than the S1100pj's predecessor – at least not in camera form – it's likely to attract attention.
But those who are drawn to it will need to place a great deal of value on this feature alone, as it's an otherwise average camera with frustrating operation and mediocre image quality, certainly not to the standard of other camera's with a £330 asking price.
Hopefully one day the technology will proliferate to other manufacturers which will create both variety and competition, but for now the S1100pj remains a pricey lifestyle gadget that can only be said to do one thing well.
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