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on April 26, 2011
Folks, this purchase came after 3 solid days of research using everything from Amazon, CNet, Infosyncworld, to YouTube. You are here, reading reviews, as I was at the beginning of my search for a great quality digital camera that was neither high-end nor cheap. Let me begin by saying that I just purchased this camera and have not gone over extensive testing myself, but rest assured that you should NOT take reviews for digital cameras (and a lot of other things for that matter) as the gospel. Why? Because too many people come on here, bashing good equipment when the vast majority of the time it is user error. Please, do yourself a favor and do research using professional analysis by people that test these things out and that take pictures and video that you can see for YOURSELF.

I ignored all of the reviews that didn't specifically point towards any sort of systematic malfunction and that solely complained about image quality or other things that are easily altered and messed up using settings. And also reviews that complained about their camera breaking -- yeah I don't care HOW far you think you dropped it from...dropping electronics and it breaking then giving it a negative review is absurd. After narrowing my search down to the Canon S95, the Canon SX230, the Nikon s8100 and the Nikon s9100, I chose the Nikon S9100.

1. a compact camera...not too small, not too big
2. advanced enough to get my feet wet in the world of digital photography
3. offers 1080 HD video
4. optical zoom of at LEAST 10X
5. Under $450 - as I'm not ready to purchase a dSLR
6. utmost picture quality offered by a point & shoot (to include low-light performance)

1. professional review websites, not amazon reviewers, know what they are talking about when it comes to digital camera picture/video quality and they back it up with samples
2. not to rely on a handful of negative reviews to sway my decision
3. Nikon and Canon were the 2 most reliable brands offering products that met my requirements
4. cameras are going to offer stuff I don't need, won't use
5. pretty much all of the cameras are battery hogs
6. the memory card can influence camera performance/speed (wonder how many negative reviewers trashed the Nikon for their lack of putting a quality card in it eh)

1. Nikon s9100
Why over the s8100?
-well, the image quality is virtually identical DESPITE what some of the Amazon reviewers are saying because they pretty much use the same imaging system.
-s9100 has slight upgrades to scene modes, video, etc...
-s9100 is the newer model and has just dropped to a reasonable price as compared to the s8100

2. Canon sx230
Why over the S95?
-the s95 didn't shoot 1080 video (it is a 2010 model)
-the s95 had a lot of manual controls I am not ready for at this point and that I'd probably not use (this is a PRO for a lot of people)
-the s95 would likely be upgraded in the near future with a 2011 model
-the s95 cost roughly $50 more and didn't really give me anything the sx230 wouldn't at my usage level

So, How'd I decide on the Nikon S9100 over the Canon SX230:

Menu System: Canon - I really liked the canon menu system and it was really fast to navigate. However, the Nikon menu was just as fast, just not as fancy or "pretty" as the Canon.
Image Quality: Tie; I found pictures taken at the store to be the same, and reviews online touted both cameras as being excellent in both low-light and bright light.
Video Quality: Tie
Picture/Video Stabilization: Picture: Tie; Video: Canon
Zoom: Nikon
Effects: Tie - however the Nikon approaches some of the effects a little bit different. Canon does offer a few effects the Nikon didn't like a miniature video effect.
Audio: Tie - however you will hear the zoom in your videos if you use it while recording.
Form Factor: Canon - the Canon was more sleek and curvy
Comfortability: Nikon - the Nikon just fit my hand better
Price: Nikon - the Nikon was roughly $40 less.

In the end I REALLY liked both cameras. I'm no pro photographer, but I didn't want a battery operated purse toy either. So I don't think I would have gone wrong either way, however I just couldn't justify spending $40 more for the Canon when it really didn't offer me anything more features (that I'd use) over the Nikon. I wouldn't use the GPS function on the is a battery hog anyway, EVEN when the camera is off unless you turn the feature off. I wouldn't really use a few of the extra effects the Canon had, and the Nikon had the better zoom. Despite Nikon's menus not being as pretty, nor the back of the camera being as pretty. I liked it's LCD screen better and was able to understand the menus just fine. In the end it was the price point and the fact the Canon had features I didn't want that led me to purchasing the Nikon.

So there it is folks (if you made it this far). Please do research and compare yourself before making a purchase based on consumer reviews. I would take a lot of these reviews with a grain of salt unless you see systematic issues EVERYONE is having with mechanical failures or hardware issues. Check out the resources I listed at the top of this article and you can't go wrong. But if you do, just be aware of the return policy and take comfort in knowing you can return.

UPDATE 5/26/11

Now that I've owned the camera for a little bit longer I thought I'd post another update to answer a few more questions folks might have or like to know about. I initially gave this 5 starts without owning it very long based on my initial experience with the camera and the feature set it had based on what I needed/wanted and the price point. My review is still excellent, but now I'd give it 4.5 stars due to the way it chargers and the necessity to purchase additional equip for the type of functionality I'm used to. I've been an exclusive Canon owner in the past, but this Nikon is a gem.

1. Picture Quality: Crystal clear. I have no issues with blur. Make sure you take good care of the camera and keep the lens clean.
2. Zoom: Incredible. Such a high zoom for the price point. Probably the best zoom you will find on a point & shoot.
3. Battery: Battery life is as expected. You will need to purchase at least 1 more EN12 battery as backup.
4. Charging: This camera charges with the battery inside. You charge the camera via USB into your computer or into a wall outlet. If you want to charge the battery separately you will need to purchase a separate wall mount battery charger (~$25-35 bucks). This is one reason I am lowering my review to 4.5 stars is because I feel the battery charger should have come with the camera. Charging is a big deal and we all like to be able to charge a battery AND still use the camera. You can't do that with this camera unless you buy a separate battery and the wall mount charger. That being said, it IS nice to be able to charge this camera via USB into your computer.
5. Compatibility: I have a MAC and I have zero issues. You can use iPhoto, or Picasa (from Google) or whatever else and it works fine. Also, it uses the same batteries as the S8100 and a few other models so if you are upgrading you can use your same batteries.
6. Flash: The flash works great. It has plenty of power and turns any photos in a completely dark area into a crisp colorful bright photo.
7. Size: The size is just about right. For a point & shoot, this is just about as big as you get before entering the DSLR realm. It is not pocket friendly, but is purse/bag friendly. The reason this camera is a bit bigger is to accommodate the awesome zoom as well as the larger LCD screen and flash.
8. LCD Screen: Perfect size LCD screen to view. Consider investing ~7-8 bucks into a plastic screen protector so it won't get scratched.
9. Controls: As I previously reviewed, the back of the Nikon is not as sleek or ergonomic as the Canon model(s), but nevertheless the design works fine for my hands (medium sized male hands). I am able to cleanly press all buttons and functions with no problem and I don't feel them to be cheap or to be faulty in any way.
10. Video: Great video, but stabilization will be an issue, especially at high zooms. But I knew this going in. Consider getting a tripod for serious video shooting, or prepare to film at a low zoom.
11. Effects/Modes: I love the effects and modes in this camera. You can create a lot of artistic effects without needing to use Photoshop or other expensive programs. IE. black and white photos that specifically highlight/target a single color palette illuminating a single color in your shot resulting in dramatic and beautiful shots. (by far my fav effect).

All-in-all, I'm very happy with my purchase. I just noticed the price dropped again making this camera even more of a great value. If you are looking for a small ultra portable purse camera for dinner and whatnot, look elsewhere. This one is inbetween the small point & shoots and the DSLRs. If you are looking for a high quality, yet compact enough to carry around and produce amazing shots, this is your camera. I'd say for the best review check out Infosyncworld's video review on their website or on YouTube for a closer look at it's size and capabilities.
5353 comments|1,389 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 16, 2011
Now I'm no professional photographer, but I am picky about how my pictures look. I have a good eye, and can be very anal about details in my photos. I've seen this camera get some bad reviews lately, and I am really perplexed by this. I looked at lots of other cameras. some costing more and some less. This was by far the best point and shoot pocket-able mega zoom out there, I thought. I read some negative reviews about sluggish focus and blurred images from here and from Best Buy's web site. I don't know if a bad batch of cameras went out? I did have some focus issues right out of the box when I started using the camera; but after inspecting the camera I noticed a nice big greasy finger print right on the lens. I'm pretty sure it wasn't from me, but I wouldn't bet my life on it though. After cleaning the lens, I have had no focus issues. The only thing I can say about the focus is that when indoors, sometimes you need to take a step back and use more zoom to get focus lock, and sometimes you might need to take a step forward and use less zoom to achieve focus lock. This happens rarely though. Most of the time my S9100 focuses fast and true. Low light shots are great indoors and out. Auto mode works pretty good for about 90% of my shots, and the rest I use the various setting or scene modes to capture the shot I want. Now I'm not saying every shot I take is perfect and clear. As with any camera digital or film. You have to expect a few bad shots. That's why I always try to take more that one shot when possible. the lcd is gorgeous. I find that if the pictures look good on the camera, they will look good on my computer. Of course different computers will yield different results. On my laptop the pictures look a bit drab or dull, but on my desk top with a high res monitor the pictures are real vivid and pleasing to the eye. I've had the camera now for almost two weeks and I love it. The long zoom is great, but even with image stabilizing enabled you will need a steady hand for clear shots at higher zoom levels. The video from the camera plays nice and smooth on my computer when I use windows media player; but when I tried quick time the video was choppy. In video mode you can take pics while recording, which is nice. There is no shutter sound when you take the picture, therefore no shutter sound in the video. You will however hear the zoom lens in your videos under quiet situations. It's not very loud, but it is noticeable. The camera starts up quick with little delay from shot to shot. I do recommend a class 6 or higher memory card. It made a big difference for me in burst mode. The camera can fire off 5 shots at a rate of 9.5 fps, but write times with a class 4 were painfully slow. I had to wait a good 9 to 10 seconds before my next shot. I am now using a class 10 and that time has been cut down to about 3 to 4 seconds. A bit of advice on memory cards. Make sure you look at the minimum and maximum write times. Not all class tens or sixes are equal. I saw a lot of class 10 cards with the same write speeds as higher end class 6 cards. I did upload a bunch of pictures so everyone can judge for themselves on quality. I guess the best advice I can give is try some test shots using various scene modes for other than there intended purpose. That's what I try to do when possible. I'll take a few pictures of the same shot using different settings. Then I view them on the computer later to see what looks best. Some other things I would like to touch on. A complaint I heard a lot about on the S8100 is the battery level wasn't displayed until the camera needed charging. It is now displayed always on the S9100. Another complaint was about flash placement on the S8100. It's in the same place for this one, but for me there is still enough room behind the flash for my finger. The flash no longer pops up automatically. It now pops up by activating a little switch on the side of the camera. This I actually like. I never cared for auto pop up flashes. Some people have complained about placement of the shutter button. That of course is an individual preference and shouldn't effect a rating. I like where it is on this camera, no problems at all. The other buttons and dials all seem to be good places and easy to activate or use. The camera itself is pretty easy to use. The interface is simple and clean. Settings are easy to get to and not buried under five or six sub menus. All in all, this is a great little camera.
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on March 13, 2011
The specs for the S9100 looked promising but it produced fuzzy and often out of focus still pictures making it unacceptable. In the end, I found the Nikon S8100 to have superior picture quality.

I started by taking 50 or so pictures in a variety of setting using the S9100's default settings. The results looked ok on the camera's 3" screen but once loaded to my PC, poor focusing & fuzzy/soft edges were evident in almost every photo. I wasn't ready to give up on the S9100 so I spent the next couple of days reading the manual and even buying my second choice (Nikon's S8100) for a direct comparison. I am upgrading from a Sony DSC-P200 (3x zoom, 7.2 MP) which produces good pictures but has a small field of view, only a 3X zoom and only does so so in low light. So my final comparison was between all 3 cameras.

After reading the S9100's manual I adjusted some of the default settings in the hope it would improve the photo quality:
* Auto Focus (AF) mode: I selected Center mode instead of the default. This tells the camera to focus on the center of the screen instead of the default. The default attempts to guess at what you want to focus on which in my experience was the closest object.
* ISO Setting: I changed the default to limit the ISO range to 400 max (Suggested in some other/similar Nikon camera reviews).
* Auto vs. Scene modes: For indoor photos I selected the indoor scene mode.

Of the 3 changes to the default setting above, only the AF Center change seemed to impact my test photos. I was able to tell the camera what object I wanted to focus on but even then focus was hit or miss.

With the S9100 settings tweaked I again took the same 50 or so photos I took earlier using the factory default setting and compared them to the same shots taken with the Nikon S8100 and Sony DSC-P200. The results:
Even when the S9100 appeared to focus on the proper object the photos were still fuzzy/soft when views on my pc. The more I zoomed in on the photos on my PC the more I could see the flaws. When I viewed the same photos taken on the Nikon S8100 and Sony DSC-P200 for the most part they were superior/crisper than the S9100 though the Sony could not zoom in nearly as close as the S9100 or S8100. The test photos were not particularly challenging... Indoors with lights on and Outdoors in midday daylight - With/without flash, wide/ zoomed, Auto/ indoor scene modes and focusing on various objects only some of which should challenge the AF. If the S9100 can't handle these basic shots there's no point testing more challenging tasks like low light, fast action or HD video.

Conclusion: The S8100 has superior (But by no means prefect) picture quality in these basic everyday situations and has the zoom upgrade I was looking for, it's a keeper. The S9100's poor picture quality is a show stopper, it's going back.

Considering the specs how could this be? I'm no expert but one possible cause is the image stabilization process... The S8100 uses Lens shift and S9100 uses Senor shift. Of course perhaps I happened to get a defective camera.

For those of you who are wonder what I mean by Fuzzy/Soft. A picture of a couch with patterns in the pillows... the edge of the pillow with a wall in behind it looked fuzzy and the pattern on the pillow looking as if the lines in the patterns were blended/feathered with the S9100 but sharper/crisper with the S8100. Pictures that involved text, whether it be a birthday card on a hutch or the lighting instructions on my grill, were clear and easily read in the s8100 photos but blurred/fuzzy to the point where I could only guess what the words were with the S9100.
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on March 27, 2011
I usually use a cumbersome system consisting of a Nikon D300 and
numerous accessories. Naturally I don't carry this gear with me all
the time, and I wanted a small camera as a constant companion and as a
backup. I ordered the Nikon S9100 before it was reviewed. While I was
waiting to receive it the first reviews came out, and I admit I
was worried by the negative comments describing the S9100's purported
poor focusing ability. Perhaps, as one reviewer remarked, there is a
bad batch out there, but I am pleased to say that my copy of the 9100
has no trouble focusing. In fact it does everything I wanted it to,
and I'm very pleased with it. You don't have the control you have with a
full blown DSLR but this marvel of technology fits amazing abilities into a
very small package. In fact it has some abilities that my D300
doesn't have, specifically the easy panorama facility, and the option to
take videos (of up to half an hour in length). The one feature that
sold me on this particular point and shoot is its incredible zoom
range. I would recommend the S9100 to anybody who wants to combine
maximum portability with extreme ability.
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VINE VOICEon March 9, 2011
When I went to Best Buy, it was only to play with the SLR camera's. I couldn't decide between the Nikon D3100, or the Canon Rebel. After getting a new job as a food photographer, I wanted to upgrade from my current camera, the Kodak Z981, to something with a few more options. I've ALWAYS used only Kodak cameras because of their user friendly operation and editing software. Unfortunately, after only 10 minutes with the SLR's, I realized it was WAAAAAY more camera than I was ever going to use...and I couldn't operate it if my life depended on it. I was getting ready to leave when I figured I'd check out what was new in the world of regular digital cameras. That's when I ran into this little guy.

I talked with a very knowledgeable Best Buy associate who, after explaining exactly what I want and need in a camera, pointed me to this camera, and the Nikon Coolpix P500. After playing with both of them and finding them very similar (the only major difference being the P500 has a 35X zoom, which I don't need), I really liked the size of this camera. I never thought in a million years I would go this small when purchasing a new camera, but I absolutely love it.

I've taken numerous photos with this camera (mainly of food, since that's what I do), and they are stunning (I've shared some above)! There's actually a 'Food' setting under scene mode, but I prefer the 'Close-up' setting...makes the colors seem a bit more vivid IMO. I've taken pictures of my son playing outside using both Auto Mode and Sports Mode, and they came out crisp and blurry hands and legs!

This camera is super easy to use and you can jump right into taking pictures with ease. I only needed to consult the user manual about a couple things, like how to delete multiple photos at once. If you're a Nikon veteran though, you probably already know how to do this on one of their cameras. I didn't download the software that came with this, the ViewNX 2 program. When I plugged the camera into my computer I was able to send my photos to my Kodak EasyShare Program. I'm just not ready to part with my photo editing software yet, so I'll keep Kodak around for that purpose.

Overall, I ABSOLUTELY recommend this camera. If I could change anything about it, it would two things. I would love to switch the Mode Dial and the Shutter Release Button around. I think the shutter button is just a bit too far in towards the middle of the camera. The ideal place for it would be on the far right edge of the top of the camera, where the mode dial currently is. Also, the little door on the bottom of the camera that opens to reveal the USB port is a little flimsy and annoying. It's a rubbery flap you have to pop open then spin around out of the way so you can plug the cord in. It's a cumbersome design since this port gets so much's not only how you get pics onto your computer (unless you take your memory card out and do it that way), but it's also how you charge the battery. OH...and THAT is awesome! To charge your battery, just plug the camera into the wall or your buying new batteries or having to remove them from the camera to put them in a charger (my Kodak was like that...4 AA batteries that have to be removed and placed in a wall charger...VERY aggravating to have to remember to bring the charger with us on vacations. Even more aggravating when I forget).

Well, I think that about covers it. This is a great little camera, but don't be fooled by it's small size. It has TONS of features, settings, editing options right on the camera itself (my favorite is Miniature Mode), and an 18X zoom! I'm a little sad to be ending my lifelong relationship with Kodak cameras but, judging by how great this Nikon has been in the few short weeks I've had it, I think I'll get over it.
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on July 19, 2011
I bought this camera at my local Best Buy due to the outstanding feature set and optical zoom. On paper, it's a great camera with great features. Unfortunately, after only 80 pictures, I began experiencing the lock-up issues that others are seeing. When I would turn it on, the lens extends most of the way but then you can hear it clicking inside as it apparently isn't getting fully extended but is still trying. I took it back to Best Buy assuming I would get an exchange but they forced me to send it in for service through the geek squad, which took over 4 weeks. After getting it back, the problem started happening again. I took it back in and the customer service girl messed with it by twisting the base of the lens stack, which apparently got it back in the groove and now it works again....for now. That had me leaving the store with it "working" again. Had the service girl not messed with it, they were going to force me to send it in for another few weeks of service. Now I have a fairly expensive camera that I have to treat like some old piece of junk that you have to fiddle with to get it to operate normally.

Don't buy this camera. Too many people are seeing the same problem as I am.

Don't buy any camera at Best Buy. Had I purchased it on Amazon, I'd have saved $50+ and gotten the same service plan... "send it in".
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on April 1, 2011
The S9100 uses the 12mp CMOS sensor used in sony P&S cameras with similar panorama, low-light, hi-speed, and noise characteristics. I guess since everyone uses these today, it must be good for sony to have all these licenses for the multi-shot technology.

The S9100 is about the same size as most mid-sized compacts with superzooms (10-18X) like the ZS3-7-10, HX5V, SX230IS, etc. Pocketable to be sure, but noticably larger than the smaller TX7, WX9, S95 variants out there.

PROS: the Night Landscape is the multi-shot low light implementation of the Handheld Twilight of Sony. Works great and is impressive for non-moving subjects. HDR is multi-shot. The Burst modes are very flexible, either 5 full-res 4000x3000 shots max at 10fps, or up to 24 full-res shots at about 2 shots per second (nearly perfect for longer sports sequences).

Manual flash switch - I like this - no flash until needed - bravo!
Big instant video button - yea!
Beautiful screen - woohoo - stunning, slide shows awesome (although no music like the Sony's).
Boots like in one second - wow.
Fast menu changes - way faster than my Sony TX9 - I hate touch screens on a camera.
Focuses quickly - I use the "Center" setting and so far, not too many OOF shots.
BSS - this is my BFF - the Best Shot Selection rocks! Takes 5 shots and then chooses and saves the sharpest one.
Panoramas extend to 360 degrees wide - cool!

CONS: Amazing - NO AUTO PHOTO ROTATION - you must rotate each and every shot in your photo app (and the Nikon post-processing and download is a joke - just get Picasa instead). LAME LAME LAME - SHAME SHAME SHAME on Nikon for not being able to do what $100 cams have been able to do for a few years now. Yeah, I know - no big deal but the next time you have to sift thru hundreds of shots rotating what should have been automatic, you'll realize.

No good spot focus! Every other camera I've owned has a better spot focus than this. I use the "Center" expose and focus. LAME but works.
No sharpness control - vivid and hue - yes, but sharpness - NO.
No external battery charger - you are hosed, period. Yeah, you won't forget the external charger, but guess what? You still have to remember to bring the internal charger - d'oh. Third party chargers are $5 but grrrrrr for having to buy one!
No easy access to the panorama mode - have to dig into scene mode, which is lame.
No multi-shot anti-motion mode. Could be better.

I gave it 4 stars but jeez, Nikon - how hard is it to add the orientation mode for the auto rotate and add an external battery charger? Good grief!
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on July 6, 2011
This camera stopped working yesterday 45 days after I bought it. Amazon will not give me a full refund and I am none too happy about this. The camera turns on, lens comes out and there is no control over the lens and the screen doesn't show anything. Camera did not take any falls or anything. Checked memory card- OK, recharged battery- OK....just won't work. Now on an endless call with Nikon. I always had Canon's in the past and I think that we will be buying one again soon.
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on July 1, 2011
I am not a professional photographer by any means. I bought my wife this camera for her birthday so we could use it on our honeymoon 3 weeks later.

Our initial reaction was good. We were happy with the camera and it had a great zoom, while having all those other neat new digital camera features.

Several days into our 2 week honeymoon the camera freezes. Just completely freezes. We recharged the battery, turned it on and off multiple times, took out the memory card, etc... and it was totally frozen. Nothing in manual about this. Called customer support and they said it was most likely a 'software problem' and the camera would have to be sent in to be fixed. Since we were on our honeymoon that meant we were pretty much screwed for the duration.

Where I come from you don't make an expensive product that has a major software issue after barely 3 weeks of use. We will most likely be returning this camera and going with another brand when we get home. In the mean time, we will have to stick to disposable cameras.

DO NOT buy this camera. We didn't push our camera hard at all and the 'software' inside broke from normal use. Buy something else with your hard earned money.
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on July 10, 2011
I had really high hopes for this as a small everyday alternative to my full DSLR & lenses. I'd read early reviews that some of the cameras were freezing up after only a short while; unfortunately mine did too at exactly 2 weeks of light/moderate use.

It's a shame that Nikon hasn't addressed what appears to be a not uncommon issue in a model with such potential!
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