Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Your personal theater on the go – The Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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In the world of point and shoot cameras, consumers might perceive that most look the same, and usually offer like or near identical features, and controls. All too often, companies don't take chances, but go with what has worked in the past, adding a mega pixel or two, and giving last years model new colors and a bigger LCD screen. So how do you really set one or two apart from the bunch? Luckily, Nikon has always managed to find an answer to that question. They had one of the very first Wi-Fi cameras a few years back, a couple years ago they debuted the first point and shoot with built in GPS, and they continue their tradition of design innovation with their latest unique entry, the Coolpix S1000pj; the first camera with a built-in projector.

Of course any camera with a new, unique feature has to prove it is, first and foremost, a good camera. So let’s put the S1000pj through its paces. On the surface it looks and feels much like any other good compact point and shoot. Not too small, and ergonomically comfortable to hold and control. Resolution is 12 megapixels, considered fairly high with current comparable models ranging typically from 10-14 megapixels. The picture detail is certainly sufficient for most people, with image quality remaining high even when the image is cropped or enlarged for bigger prints. Colors are accurate on automatic under varying types of light (a must for those looking for a true point and shoot), and lighting is well controlled, though in low light using one of the dedicated scene modes can make a difference and give a better exposure. Only in those really tricky times though. The flash range is average for this size camera, meaning about 10-12 feet. Overall, it stacks up solidly against even the newest point and shoot cameras on the market.

Nikon doesn’t skimp on the features with this small camera either. It comes equipped with a wide angle 5x optical zoom (28-140mm equivalent) lens for a good range, with Nikon’s VR, or vibration reduction technology, to help counter camera shake. It has Nikon’s now standard set of over a dozen specialized scene modes, for those hard to get pictures. It has a few other new features as well, such as smile shutter, which will actually set the camera to go off when your subject smiles. It can come in handy with kids who are all smiles until you ask for one, and just trying it out usually makes people laugh. It also has a blur warning, which will tell you if the picture is not sharp after it have been taken, giving you the chance to take the picture again. It has one other thing many point and shoot cameras don’t have, which is support for a wireless remote. This can come in handy while taking photos, as well as in the projector mode.

Which brings us to the one truly standout feature on this camera, its projector. The first of its kind, it is deceivingly well-integrated into the camera design. It appears to be just another window or lens on the front of the camera, and when activated, focus can be controlled by using a slider on top of the camera. The projected image is 640x480, or standard VGA resolution, with a brightness of 10 lumens. This is not particularly bright as projectors go, which makes sense - it is built into a small camera. What this means is that it is best suited to use in a dark room, at a range of about 6-8 feet max. This will produce a decent sized image on the wall, and trust me, watching the video you just shot move across the wall (or the ceiling!) is never disappointing. Don’t expect home theater quality, we are talking about a camera here. It makes for a great slideshow in a small room. Want to show off those vacation photos? Now you can just dim the lights.

All things considered, the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj would hold its own against similarly priced cameras with similar specs. Of course, the Nikon has one thing those cameras don’t. If you just love to have something fun, and functional, something you can use all the time, and show off when the time is right, the S1000pj might be just the camera for you. If you never turned on the projector, it would only take good pictures. When you do turn it on, it becomes the center of attention. Nikon may not always do things by the book, but they know cameras and imaging, and they have another winner on their hands.