These are 100 percent crops from the center of our test scene at the Nikon Coolpix S9500's available ISO sensitivities in Auto mode at approximately a 35mm focal length. (In Scene Auto Selector mode it only uses ISO 80-1600). Picture quality is good to very good depending on how much light you have and the focal length you're using. Detail is very good at its base ISO, but it immediately starts to soften above that setting and picks up more noise and artifacts. By the time you get to ISO 800, subjects start to look soft and flat and colors start to look dull.
Basically, if you plan to enlarge or heavily crop your images, you'll probably want to shoot outside in bright lighting, especially if you're using the zoom lens.
Colors produced by the S9500 are good up to ISO 400; above that, colors look desaturated and muddy. Both of these pictures were taken with auto white balance; the top photo was taken outdoors in bright sun at ISO 125, while the bottom was shot under direct incandescent light at ISO 400.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the S9500 can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject with the lens extended slightly. However, when shooting this close, I had a difficult time getting the AF to lock focus on the subject I wanted.
The S9500 has an impressive zoom range given its size, going from 25mm (top) to 550mm (bottom). You can download full-resolution versions of these photos at the end of this slideshow if you'd like to take a closer look.
Fringing in high-contrast areas of photos was an issue at the telephoto end of the lens, especially if you plan to enlarge and crop. This is a 100 percent crop from the inset image. At smaller sizes, it's less of a problem. Clipped highlights are another story, however.
The S9500 has a series of effects that can be applied when you're shooting or after.
This is an example using the Backlighting mode with the high-dynamic-range feature (HDR) on. The mode takes a burst of shots at a single press of the shutter release and combines them into one image for improved shadow detail on backlit subjects (right). This also seemed to remove some blur and softness from the photo.
What's nice is the camera simultaneously captures a second photo with a regular exposure (left). When the HDR feature is off, the camera corrects backlighting using the flash, which is better for portraits or other close, backlit subjects.
If you like to capture really wide shots, the S9500's Easy Panorama, which is unfortunately buried in the scene modes, lets you do it quickly. Just press the shutter and pan the camera up, down, left, or right and it will shoot and stitch the photos together for you. The results are OK as long as you don't look too closely.