Nikon Coolpix S1200pj review

Review Date : Thu, 5 Jan 2012

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With the tagline “Built to shoot and share” Nikon’s newest projector-sporting Coolpix houses some neat features including connectivity with external devices such as an iPod or iPhone. It has a brighter projector and improved styling too, and yet there are still foibles.

Pros: Plenty of features, Fun, much improved projector, Handling
Cons: Smile timer has unreliable AF, Average image quality, Price

With the tagline "Built to shoot and share" Nikon's newest projector-sporting Coolpix houses some neat features including connectivity with external devices such as an iPod or iPhone. It has a brighter projector and improved styling too, and yet there are still foibles.

Nikon Coolpix S1200pj Review - Features

The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj is much-changed beast compared to its forbear the S1100pj, both in terms of looks and some key kit. First up the S1200's projector is much improved over the device found in its predecessor with a brighter DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector.

That new projector uses a three-light, single plate colour sequential system (the S1100's was a single light) that boosts light output from the14-lumens of the S1100 up to 20-lumens on the new S1200.

It is major step up and means you can project (even in a reasonably bright room) images up to 60-inches, and like the S1100 (and the S1000 before that) it's great fun to use, drawing admiring crowds whenever I fired it up to display my shots. The one caveat here it is does suck juice from the battery every quickly indeed.

Another new feature of note is the iPhone and iPod connectivity via an accessory cable that is sadly, not included in the box; there's also a remote control (that is included) to help use the projector and other features once you got it set up and projecting.

Interestingly I did not get the remote in my review sample but I did get the accessory cable to use it with my iPhone and while it's easy to set up and use, getting the two devices speaking is a tad more of a challenge than I'd like, but it means you can project images and video from any compatible device.

In terms of the rest of its kit much is unchanged, such as the 14.1-megapixel 1/2.3in. CCD sensor and the 5x optical zoom lens, that sits snuggled into the top right corner of redesigned body, more on which shortly.

18 scene modes (one addition over the S1100 is a Pet Portrait mode) are included and it's the usual parade of auto scene options including landscape, portrait, dusk/dawn and beach along with a panoramic assist mode. The Nikon's implementation stitches full resolution images together rather than the more de rigueur panorama sweep modes that are finding their way into many competing compacts. The downside of that is that it limits the final resolution of the panorama, so not so here.

The scene modes allow a certain amount of built-in auto-creativity to be employed when shooting but it's still rather limiting for anyone wanting something with more manual control.

You do have an easy auto mode, a smart portrait setting and a rather more mundane auto mode to play with however. In each case, the camera tries to do its best to make a good job of the subject your shooting, but with easy auto mode, the camera tries to select the relevant scene mode too, based on what it detects in front of the lens. And it does that rather well.

Of course, HD video capture - at 720P - with stereo sound is included (and of course can be projected from the camera too) and includes a rather effective wind noise reduction system within settings, that really does help improve sound quality.

A hybrid Vibration Reduction (VR) system employs both active lens elements and higher sensitivity settings to help reduce the effects of camera shake and subject blur in lower lighting conditions for example. This works well enough but again, the increased sensitivity option used in the hybrid VR setting can load images with noise.

You can opt to shoot with just optical VR however, so you can get some control of that noise back as you go, which is great. There are a few special effects you can apply to images too, such as nostalgic sepia and soft focus effects, each can be applied to images once taken and it really helps boost the fun quotient of using the S1200.

Similarly, the smart portrait system has a set of automated processes to help make a better fist of snapping people. These features include a smile timer that detects when a subject smiles and immediately automatically fires the shutter for you at that point.

An effective blink warning lets you know if you've taken a snap and someone has there eyes shut so you can re-shoot those images and add to that skin softening - for a more flattering outcome to skin - and the camera can (and does) do almost anything you need when snapping.

 

Nikon Coolpix S1200pj Review - Image Quality

Just like the S1100pj before it, we found image quality to be a rather mixed bag, which is a shame. There's a lot of detail smoothing at higher sensitivities as the noise reduction processing takes hold and although the noise itself is dealt with rather well it comes at the loss of detail.

I can't help feeling the sensor could drop around 4-megapixles and make the pixels larger and that would go a long way to improving the image quality.

There's also a lack of shadow detail, which fills in very quickly, so much so that any darker shadow areas have almost no detail and become a solid black. Trying to tease shadow detail out in Photoshop fails because it simply makes noise more apparent in other areas of the shots affected.

Highlights are better controlled, so I suspect that highlight detail is prioritized over shadows, and a general lack of sharpness in most of my shots means close inspection of shots reveals a rather homogenized look to pixel level detail. Adding a touch of sharpening does improve things though; I also found lens flare to be a problem.

And so you're left with a combination that means image detail and quality is average at best. Video quality is good rather than great but stereo sound quality is greatly helped by the wind cut feature the S1200 has within its settings.

 

Verdict

Priced at almost £400, well okay it's RRP is £379.99, you're paying a rather hefty premium for the addition of an otherwise excellent projector. Cameras with a similar feature set but lacking a projector would cost half the price asked here and provide equal quality in terms of pictures, video, sound and handling. And so, whether you want this camera comes down to the question of whether you're prepared to pay a premium for a projector on an otherwise average compact camera?


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Price as reviewed

£379.00

Scores

Scores
Design 17/20
Image Quality 15/20
Performance 16/20
Value 16/20
Features 18/20
Overall Score 82%