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Nikon Coolpix S1200pj review:

Nikon Coolpix S1200pj

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The Good Genuinely useful projector; Slim body; Great build quality.

The Bad Expensive for what it is; Some variation of brightness at relatively low sensitivity settings.

The Bottom Line The S1200pj's projector is a neat feature, but still we find the asking price too high. Despite being a good camera at heart, it's let down by a little too much variation in brightness in some pictures. We'd rather lose the projector and, with it, lose a few pounds.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.5 Overall

Whether we'll live to see the paperless office -- or the paperless home -- is up for debate, but if everyone followed Nikon's lead we'd be one step closer. The 'pj' at the end of this camera's name points to its built-in projector, which lets you display your pictures without ever having to print them out.

The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj's built-in projector is a neat feature
The S1200pj comes with a neat in-built projector, so you can share your photos without printing them out.

The projector is the S1200pj's most obvious selling point (and presumably the reason for the hefty £350 price tag), and we were excited to give it a try. Yet we also wanted to see how it performed as a regular point-and-shoot camera, so rounded off our close examination with some equally close-up photography.


All digital cameras have a screen on the back for reviewing your shots, but the S1200pj goes one step further, supplementing this with a projector on the front so you can share your snaps with family and friends without all crowding around a small screen.

On the top, where you might expect to find a mode dial, there's a diopter control for focusing the image. This moves the lens inside the body (as with the shooting lens, it doesn't protrude) to sharpen things up, and produces some great looking results. But with the bulb rated at a mere 20 lumens (for comparison, a 25W lightbulb has 200 lumens), you'll want to darken the room if you're not projecting to a surface close at hand.

Nikon Coolpix S1200pj lens
On the top of the camera, there's a control for focusing the image, which moves the lens inside the body.

The projector has a throw of up to 3m, by which point the image will be the equivalent to a 60-inch display, with resolution topping out at 640x480 pixels and contrast at 200:1. There's a neat stand in the foot of the body to help here, which tilts the camera backwards and projects the image higher. If you've invested in the optional remote you can use this to control stills playback.

This projector isn't just for boring your friends with holiday snaps, though, as it'll happily take an external input. We used an optional Belkin AV Dock connector to stream YouTube movies from our iPhone, at which point the camera's speaker also replayed the video soundtrack.

The same trick would let you stream from an iPad or iPod touch, but be beware that using the projector for extended periods zaps the battery. Nikon clocks the maximum life at just an hour when used this way, so it's not a viable solution to watching downloaded movies in your hotel room.

Nikon Coolpix S1200pj external input
The projector will take an external input, so you can stream YouTube videos -- but it zaps the battery.

Stills shooting

The S1200pj's macro mode gets you a respectable 3cm from your subject, from where the results are extremely sharp and detailed with a good fall-off beyond the naturally short depth of field.

We tested it out in the field -- literally -- by photographing this teasel head, back-lit by the setting sun. The S1200pj made excellent use of the available light, keeping the main body of the teasel properly exposed despite the fact the sun was clearly visible behind it in the frame. 

The individual spikes of the head were well rendered, with even the small hairs on each one clearly visible in the finished result. 

Macro test

Macro lets you get within 3cm of your subject and demonstrates some good focal fall-off (click image to enlarge).

There was no evidence of chromatic aberration (improperly rendered colours) in our regular tests as the sharp lens perfectly aligned each of the wavelengths of visible light, which is particularly important when photographing fine detail against a bright background.

Detail test
Light was evenly focused across the frame, keeping each part of the visible spectrum aligned when taking pictures, such as the fine frames of this window against a blue sky.

At 100 per cent zoom, an increased variation in brightness (or 'noise', caused by the camera's sensor or circuits) was also evident in shots where the S1200pj had raised its sensitivity to what we would still consider fairly conservative levels. At a lower sensitivity setting of ISO 80 the results were clean, but at just ISO 200 they were starting to look dappled in the darker areas of some of our shots.

In better-lit and well-balanced compositions, however, detail was well rendered right into the corners of our images, and areas of subtly graduated tones, such as skies, were kept smooth and blemish-free.

Detail test

A well-balanced scene here, with smooth skies and a good level of detail (click image to enlarge).

The S1200pj also put in an excellent performance in our standard still-life test when shooting under studio conditions. We gathered together a collection of everyday objects comprising various colours and different surface textures to test both its exposure skills and rendering talents. It passed with flying colours on both fronts, in these conditions keeping sensitivity pinned at ISO 80 and exposing for a fairly generous 1/50 second.

Reflective surfaces were particularly well handled, with the bare minimum of clipped highlights; blacks were dense and rich and it very cleanly rendered the detail on our fabric doorstop and the characters in a page of printed text.

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