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Nikon Coolpix S1000pj review: Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

A lot of cameras get called "unique", but the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj aptly lives up to this tag as it hosts a built-in projector. It's definitely a novelty and fun to use, we just wish image quality was better.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables | Smartwatches | Mobile phones | Photography | Health tech | Assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
5 min read

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?

7.8

Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

The Good

It's home movie time!. Intuitive projector design. Camera stand and remote included.

The Bad

Image quality still needs improvement. It's a lot of money for a compact camera.

The Bottom Line

A lot of cameras get called "unique", but the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj aptly lives up to this tag as it hosts a built-in projector. It's definitely a novelty and fun to use, we just wish image quality was better.

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.

Design

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.

Top of the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

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.

Features

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.

Performance

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.

There are also a few Easter eggs inside the S1000pj. Pandas unite, as you can select to have a dancing black and white panda bear trundle across your slideshow shots — the absurdity of the action is incredibly entertaining, especially when you read the background behind the animation's development.

The panda animation on the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

A panda traipsing through a field of pink flowers ... it's almost poetic. (Credit: CBSi)

Image quality

For casual snapshots in outdoor situations, the Coolpix S1000pj does a decent job. But take it indoors, under studio lights or in darkened rooms where you'll need to use the flash, and its images are less than satisfactory.

It has a tendency to blow out highlights and there's evidence of lens flaring in several situations, even without a direct light source pointing at the camera. As you can see in the image below, there is a curious magenta flare running across the top of the image, whereas the pavement at the bottom of the picture is blown out. It's an odd phenomenon that is most likely to do with the construction of the lens element and its positioning.

Lens flare on the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj

The lens flare exhibits itself rather peculiarly in this shot. Click the image for the large, unaltered version straight from the camera. (Credit: CBSi)

Images at higher ISO levels look over-processed, but colours are accurate and nicely saturated without being artificially rich. Automatic white balance is also very good in all conditions. For casual photographers, image quality is perfectly acceptable. Just don't expect to make really good enlargements from these images at full magnification.

Lens distortions (apart from the aforementioned lens flare) are pleasingly absent for the most part, and there's little evidence of barrel distortion at the wide end. Movie quality is reasonable at VGA resolution, though there is no optical zoom allowed during filming, just digital zoom, which introduces artefacts. Sound quality from the in-built microphone is less than great, with loud environments becoming more a cacophony of sound than anything else.

Conclusion

The S1000pj is perceived as a novelty camera from the outset, so shaking this image is relatively difficult. Fortunately, in practice the projector is quite good for its intended purpose and playing around with it to display movies and photos is a lot of fun. That said, Nikon still has a fair way to go in order to improve the performance of the camera in regard to sensitivities above ISO 200 and image quality overall.