Nikon Coolpix S9300

The Nikon Coolpix S9300 is a good choice for anyone after a pure point-and-shoot experience and a long zoom lens.

CNET Rating

The Nikon Coolpix S9300 is a modest update to 2011's S9100. It's basically the same camera, but with increased resolution — 16 megapixels up from 12 — and built-in GPS for geotagging your photos. The latter comes in handy for travel, or if you just like to see where you've shot, while the former is mostly for marketing.

Design and features

The S9300 is designed for snapshots, so you won't find a lot of manual controls. Instead, you get several automatic options for improving your results. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Scene Auto Selector. It adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn't match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Then there is an Auto mode, which is like the program AE modes on other point-and-shoot cameras. You can change ISO, white balance and exposure compensation, as well as light metering, and autofocus area and mode.

There are 16 scene modes with standards such as Landscape and Portrait, as well as a Pet Portrait mode that will automatically shoot when it detects a cat or dog face, and an Easy Panorama mode. Just press the shutter and pan the camera left, right, up or down to create a panorama in-camera. These modes never handle movement well, so they're best used on scenery without movement in it. Nikon also added a simple 3D photo mode; take one shot, and move the camera slightly to the right, and it fires off a second shot and combines them into one MPO file for viewing on a 3D display.

There is a Special Effects mode, too, perfect for those who want to get just a little more creative with their photos; a Backlighting mode that uses the flash or combines multiple exposures to improve backlit subjects; a handheld Night Landscape mode, which also uses a burst of shots and combines them to reduce blur and noise; and a smile-detecting, skin-softening, blink-warning Smart Portrait mode.

Nikon also includes several continuous shooting options. The best one is the Continuous H setting, which lets you shoot at up to 7.9 frames per second in our tests for seven photos at full resolution. The Continuous L mode drops to approximately 2fps for six photos, but will continue to continuously shoot at a slower rate until you stop pressing the shutter release. The camera also has 60fps and 120fps bursts; the former captures up to 25 images at a resolution of 1 megapixel, and the latter grabs up to 50 VGA-quality shots at a press of the shutter release. There's a substantial wait while the camera stores all of those photos, but, if you're trying to capture a specific moment in time, then this is your best bet with this camera. Also, with all of these modes, the focus, exposure and white balance are set with the first photo. If you have a fast-moving subject, like someone running, there's a good chance only the first photo will be in focus.

The Coolpix S9300 shooting modes are geared for snapshooters. You won't find any real aperture or shutter-speed controls.
(Credit: CNET)

Aside from all of the features, the camera is nice looking and easy to use, too. Available in black, red and silver, the S9300 has just a couple of subtle differences from the prior version. There's now a bump out on top for the GPS receiver, and a rubberised thumb grip on the back separating the one-touch movie-record button from the rest of the controls. More importantly, the flash design has been changed. The S9100's flash angles up from the body, leaving you little room to grip the camera, and it had to be triggered manually with a switch. The S9300's flash pops straight up — and fast — automatically when it's needed. And, when you're done with it, you can just press it back down.

The mode dial sits on top for quickly changing your shooting mode. The rest of the shooting and camera options are navigated with a four-way control pad/wheel with an OK button in its centre (Nikon calls it a Rotary Multi Selector), and then there are Menu and Delete buttons at the very bottom. The control pad is used for menu and image navigation, as well as setting the self-timer, adjusting flash and exposure compensation and turning on macro focus. Should you want to move more quickly through menus, images and videos, you can spin the wheel instead of doing single presses with the underlying control pad. Although it moves easily, you can feel stops.

The Coolpix S9300 has fairly large, easy-to-use controls.
(Credit: CNET)

The S9300 is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable pack that is rated for 200 shots; that's OK, but keep in mind that using the zoom a lot, or the movie and burst-shooting modes, will kill battery life faster. The battery is charged in the camera by connecting via USB to a computer or the included wall adapter. The battery and card compartment are on the bottom behind a locking door. Mini-HDMI and micro-USB ports are behind a door on the right side of the camera.

Lastly, the S9300 has built-in GPS. It's strictly there for geotagging photos, so no fancy maps or anything like that. But it was relatively fast to lock onto a signal, even in the middle of the city, surrounded by tall buildings. Nikon wisely gave it its own tab in the menu interface, making it easy to turn it on and off.


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Nikon Coolpix S9300
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
  • 20.80.3
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
    Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in FPS)

  • 7.9
    Nikon Coolpix S9300
  • 7.6
    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
  • 4.1
    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30
  • 2.5
    Canon PowerShot SX260 HS

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The rest of the S9300's shooting performance is pretty quick, too. From off to first shot is 1.4 seconds. Shutter lag — how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed without pre-focusing — is 0.3 seconds and 0.6 seconds in bright and low lighting, respectively. Shot-to-shot times averaged 1.4 seconds. Using the flash, however, slowed the camera to 6.5 seconds between shots. Also, when the lens is fully extended, it takes a little longer to focus and shoot, something to keep in mind if you're considering this for fast-moving subjects.

Image quality

Overall photo quality from the S9300 is very good, suitable for prints of up to 8x10 and web use. At full size, they don't look good, though, so its 16-megapixel resolution isn't a reason to buy. Though its sensitivity settings run from ISO 125 to ISO 3200, the S9300 produces the best results below ISO 400. Regardless of sensitivity, photos appear somewhat soft, and benefit from sharpening with photo-editing software. There's a Fixed Range Auto option that will limit you to ISO 125-400 or ISO 125-800; we recommend using the former outdoors and the latter indoors, when possible. The two highest ISOs — 1600 and 3200 — should only be used in emergencies, mainly because the colours get very washed out and the noise reduction makes subjects appear smeary, and, actually, colours are so bad at ISO 3200 that you probably shouldn't use it at all.

(Credit: Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET)

Colours produced by the S9300 are good up to ISO 800; above that, colours look de-saturated and muddy. Nikon adds some extra control over hue (colour tone) and vividness (saturation), with adjustable sliders if you're not happy with Nikon's processing. The slider settings get stored in the camera's memory for the Auto mode, so they stay even if you power the camera off. Exposure is consistently good, too, but if you want to bring out some details lost in shadows, Nikon's D-Lighting feature can be used in Playback mode. See more image samples from the S9300 in our photo gallery.

If you like to shoot close-ups, the S9300 can focus as close as 4cm from a subject. This is a 100 per cent crop of the inset image. It's a little soft, but still good.
(Credit: Joshua Goldman/CNET)

Video quality is on par with a good HD pocket video camera or a smartphone; good enough for web use and non-discriminating TV viewing. If you plan to do a lot of panning from side to side or shooting fast-moving subjects, you'll likely see judder and ghosting, but not enough to make clips unwatchable. Also, although the zoom does work when recording, the movement is picked up by the mics on top, so you will hear it in your movies. If you use the zoom while recording, you'll want to keep the autofocus set to full time, but you might hear the lens focusing in your movies, too.


The Nikon Coolpix S9300 is a good choice for anyone after a pure point-and-shoot experience and a long zoom lens. If you don't want the GPS or 3D photo mode, and you don't mind popping up your own flash, then you might want to save yourself some money and buy an S9100 before they're gone.


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