Nikon's revamped the champion S-series Coolpix camera with its latest S9500 model. We were on hand at the Focus On Imaging show in Birmingham where we were able to nab this forthcoming compact model from one of Nikon's locked and sealed glass cabinets.
Although we weren't huge fans of the Nikon S9300 model that came before it, we can see the intended direction of the S9500. It's a simple point and shoot compact camera laden with scene modes and automatic options that avoids getting bogged down with mode dials or much advanced stuff that can be found in some competitor cameras. Nikon's stance: if you want that control then look elsewhere in the range.
The Coolpix S9500's most immediate new feature is a yet longer zoom range, increased from the S9300's 18x optical zoom to a more significant 22x optical zoom. That equates to a 25-550mm equivalent which means not only can wide-angle group shots be snapped up with ease, the middle-to-long zoom can also pick off far away subjects and make them appear large and closer in the frame. It's a fair whack longer than the S9300's lens was too.
The zoom is controlled by a toggle around the shutter button and we found it to be really responsive throughout. Controls are limited, but there are options to jump between single and continuous autofocus among various other choices instead of the full-on set of manual controls.
Another big hitter is the S9500's inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi to share images directly from the camera. Without a decent network within the show's walls it wasn't possible to test this out, but we suspect that it ought to be a big jump forward - certainly far better than the S9300's Eye-Fi compatibility only anyway. Good job the Wi-Fi's built in to the S9500 rather than based on the cost of an optional WU-1a adaptor as per other recent Nikon models too.
Elswhere Nikon's done the same thing as it has with much of its recent range - including the P520 superzoom that we've also got our mitts on at the show - by increasing the S9500's resolution. It's got an 18-megapixel sensor. The results of this we can't comment on in any detail at the moment, but we're a little baffled as to why the resolution race keeps on running - the S9300's 16-megapixel sensor was more than resolute enough, if not pushing its limits a little too much.
The S9500 also crams in some extra tech, such as a 614k-dot OLED rather than LCD screen. The lower power consumption of this new tech ought to make for better long-term battery performance, even if the resoltuion isn't up to its predecessor's 921k-dot levels.
Cosmetically we prefer the S9500 too: there's no "hump" on top for the GPS unit, instead Nikon's managed to keep the tech on board minus the physical protrusion. It makes for a simple yet elegant looking compact camera and one that's rather slim - 31mm at its widest - considering that wide-ranging zoom.
It might not have the more advanced manual options of some of its competitors, but the S9500's direction makes good sense. The only thing we're not yet convinced by is the rise in resolution, but we'll take a closer look at that when we get one of these models in for review before its April release date.
Price-wise the S9500 is penned in to cost £300 - which might be pushing it considering the likes of the Fujifilm F900EXR that we've also perused at Focus On Imaging.