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Product Review: Nikon S1000pj
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Product Review: Nikon S1000pj

The world’s first camera with a built-in projector

In a feat of engineering derring-do, Nikon somehow squeezed a projector into the pocket-sized S1000pj. Does the camera have the chops to deliver great shots once the novelty wears off?


 

Shooting lens is on the right, projector lens is in the center.


Key features

  • 12MP sensor
  • 28-140mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.9-5.8 internal zoom lens
  • 2.7-inch, 230K dot resolution LCD monitor
  • ISO range 80-6400
  • 64MB of internal memory
  • Built-in 10 lumens projector
  • Focus range 1.2 inches-infinity
  • 220 shot battery life (CIPA)


Positives

  • Pocket-sized
  • Well-built
  • Built-in Projector


Negatives

  • Slow performance
  • Projected image isn’t bright
  • Unimpressive image quality


Price: $350

The Nikon Coolpix S1000pj is in the running for the ultimate party camera. After all, its built-in LCD projector promises no more crowding around a tiny LCD monitor to view the photos just shot. Instead, the photographer can immediately project the images on the memory card on a wall, straight from the camera. How cool is that?

Let’s see how the S1000pj performs—both as a camera, and as a miniature digital projector.

Simple back control layout is easy on the hands.

 

In the hands

The S1000pj has a solid feel, thanks to its brushed aluminum exterior. Unlike many cameras in its price range, it doesn’t feel like a plastic toy. There’s not much room to place controls, and Nikon kept the buttons and dials to a minimum. Ergonomically, the camera is small but the controls are well placed so that even with my moderately large hands I was able to hold it comfortably.

To keep things simple, controls are pared down; external buttons access the flash, exposure compensation, macro, and timer modes, as well s the simple projector controls and playback. The menu options are mercifully simple. There’s no manual exposure control here, and that’s OK; the targeted user for this camera is unlikely to use it, and the 2-stop in either direction exposure compensation provides plenty of leeway.

Decent macro abilities: At telephoto setting, focus was at around 8 inches, which was pretty good.

 

The 16 scene modes are easy to access via an external button, and Smart Portrait (the camera chooses the appropriate combination of settings for flattering people pictures), Subject Tracking (Autofocus follows the subject as it moves through the frame) and movie mode are all easily accessed and are no more than 2-3 clicks away.

The shooting menu has only two pages of options so it’s hard to get lost among the options. Image size, white balance, frame rate, ISO sensitivity, color options (standard, vivid, black-and-white, sepia, and, interestingly, cyanotype) and AF Area mode are the only controls offered. The set-up menu has four pages but most of these controls are the “set-once-and-forget” type.

The 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot monitor offered acceptable image quality which was hard to see in direct sunlight.

In the field

I found the S1000pj to be an easy-to-use camera with a solid field. I like the automatic lens cover, and wish there was also a similar protective cover for the projector lens.

The camera’s performance is typical for a budget-priced Nikon. There is a slight shutter lag; about a half-second passes from the moment you press the shutter release until the photo is taken. That takes this camera out of contention for action photography.

 

At wide angle image quality was quite good, and acceptable at 5x tele setting.

 

Image Quality

As one would expect from a camera with a tiny 12MP sensor, image quality is acceptable, but not spectacular. While there was very little digital noise at ISO 80 and 100, it starts to become apparent by ISO 200 and unacceptable by ISO 400. Built-in noise reduction seems to kick in even at the lowest speeds, creating an overall softening effect in images enlarged to 100%.

What does this all mean? Overall, the S100pj’s image quality is acceptable for 4x6 up to 5x7-inch prints. If you want to make 8x10 prints, stick to ISO 80 or 100. I do not recommend shooting at higher speeds, even though Nikon claims sensor sensitivity up to ISO 3200 at a lower image size.

 

Many cameras have a Sepia black-and-white mode, but fewer models offer the bluish Cyanotype look, which the S100pj has.

 

The Projector

According to Nikon’s specs, the projector has a brightness of 10 lumens. That’s not going to get you very far and indeed, the official throw distance of approximately 10 inches to 6 feet seems a bit optimistic unless you’re sitting in a pitch-black room. I found that in average room light you can project the image to about 5x7 inches, from around a foot away. Beyond that ambient light interferes with image quality. Nevertheless, viewing a smallish projected print is easier on the eyes than looking at a 2.7-inch image in the LCD.

Turn on the projector by pressing a round button on the left side of the top plate (above). The center lens, located right below the flash, lights up. Don’t stare into it—it’s highly focused and blinding. Focus by moving a generously-proportioned slider. When the projector is on, the LCD monitor turns off.

I can see this feature being used at parties (find a nice clean white napkin or paper  to project onto) and it will certainly get some “oohs” and “ahhs”. It’s a nice, novel feature.

The biggest minus of the projector? Overuse. The projector drains the battery faster than just taking pictures—it will only last an hour of continuous projection, according to Nikon—so an additional battery is strongly recommended.

Wider-than-average +/- 2 EV exposure compensation makes HDRI imaging possible with this camera.

 

Conclusion and recommendation

The Nikon S1000pj is a real conversation starter: Imagine the thrill of taking a picture of friends then projecting the image on a wall or piece of paper, to their delight. Beyond that, it’s a capable budget-priced compact digital camera with average image quality and moderate performance. There are plenty of cutting-edge features, no HD video, and a surprisingly solid feel for a camera so small. And yes, it really does fit in a shirt pocket.

 

The camera was introduced last year and it’s a good bet it will soon be replaced, so you can probably grab one for less than its $350 list price.  If you like casual snapshooting, enjoy being the life of the party, and don’t plan on making big prints, the S1000pj is a fine choice.

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