To call 2009 the year of the camera gimmick is no overstatement. There have been some serious innovations, and some seriously good ideas, so when it comes to building a projector into a camera, which category does it fall into?
That decision is really up to you as a consumer and a photographer, and we'll reserve judgement until the end of this review. If you hadn't already guessed by now, Nikon's new Coolpix, the S1000pj, has a projector built into the body, capable of throwing images up to 40 inches in size against any surface, but it works best in a darkened room against a white backdrop.
The camera design is rather conservative — the projector unit is located front and centre, the flash unit nestled just above the projector, and the lens itself is off to the right of the front panel. To top off the standard design, the whole camera is covered in a black finish, and to its credit, feels well made and solid. It's rather boxy and chunky, even though it's not actually that heavy at 155g. At the top, apart from the shutter button, is a button that activates the camera's projector, plus a textured slider that can be moved from side to side to adjust the focus of the projected image. The zoom rocker is around the shutter button.
The top of the S1000pj. (Credit: Nikon)
As for the projector itself, it's a Pico LED with VGA resolution and a brightness of 10 lumens. Fortunately, the projector is not just limited to still images — it's also capable of playing movies and sound that was recorded with the camera. However, since the S1000pj doesn't record in HD, you won't be showing your HD masterpieces with this camera.
Inside the box you're also provided with a projector stand and a remote which can be used to release the shutter without holding the camera, as well as controlling your images and movies being projected.
The S1000pj features a 2.7-inch LCD screen alongside its main calling card, plus a 12.1-megapixel sensor. Like its companion, the Coolpix S70, it has a 5x 28mm wide-angle optical zoom lens which operates with an internal mechanism rather than coming out of the camera. As for the rest of the lens specifications, it's just f/3.9 at the wide end, and although the same as many of the other Coolpix cameras, it's still not that impressive considering we've seen other compacts with optics as wide as f/2.8.
Shooting modes include 16 separate scene modes, plus an automatic mode, movie recording (VGA only though) and a subject tracking mode. ISO sensitivity can reach up to 6400 but like the other Coolpix cameras we have tested recently, the quality of the images at these high sensitivity levels has been poor, so we have similar expectations for the S1000pj.
The S1000pj uses SD memory cards which slot into the base of the camera alongside the rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. Nikon states that the battery should be able to withstand about one hour of projections which is fairly reasonable, and in regular usage the battery is rated for 220 shots.
The S1000pj performs reasonably well for a compact, it took two seconds flat to start up and take its first shot. Shutter lag measures 0.6 second and burst speed, like on the S640, lets the camera down, managing only one frame every second.
As for the projector itself, it does a great job of throwing images and movies against any surface and you can have a lot of fun playing around with the projections. The colours are fairly dull though, and it really does work best in a completely dim room. Controlling the slideshow or navigating between photos is also a little cumbersome when pressing the buttons and you definitely need to use the stand to hold the camera steady otherwise you'll be inducing some motion sickness rather than good times.