Nikon Coolpix S1000pj digital camera

It is probably safe to start this review by saying that the Nikon Coolpix S1000pj is the one with the projector. A bold move by Nikon, perhaps, launching a device that mashes together the trend for pico projectors with a regular 12-megapixel camera.

If you are really wondering how you combine a camera and a projector, then it is worth glancing at the iFixit teardown of the camera that lays out its innards. It's probably not as exciting as you'd expect, it simply adds the small projector into the mix.

This does of course mean that the camera carries a little weight, making it larger than other 12-megapixel compacts. So you do make something of a compromise for your pocket projector but it's not devastating. The measurements swell to 99.5 x 62.5 x 23mm, average dimensions for compacts a few years back, but well above the likes of a comparable modern camera. It will still slip happily into your jacket pocket and it isn't as though it is wasted space – there's a projector in your pocket after all.

Build quality is good and the S1000pj feels solid in the hand, free from creaks as you manipulate it. Controls are logically laid out, with most of the options sitting to the right of the 2.7-inch display on the back, where they fall neatly under your right thumb.

Across the top of the camera you get the usual shutter button surrounded by the controls for the 5x zoom. You also get a dedicated projector button and a slider so you can get the thing in focus depending on your distance from the surface you are projecting on to.

The extra bulk of the camera means the 5x optical zoom is housed internally, without the need to slide out the lens as is common on smaller models. Startup is reasonably swift and zooming is fast, if a little noisy. You get a 28-140mm (equiv) range from the lens and when out of use it sits behind a lens cover. No protection is offered to the projector lens, however, which sits in the centre of the camera under the flash.

Menus are easy to navigate using the four-way controller and ok button on the back. Although no manual control is offered, the Auto mode does offer you the likes of limiting the ISO range, or indeed picking the option you want, right up to the top ISO 6400, albeit accepting a drop to 3 megapixels at this setting, and the 3200.

Menus change based on whichever shooting mode you have currently selected and once you dive out of the regular Auto mode you find your options are limited, usually to the overall resolution and nothing else. Direct controls through buttons let you selection flash firing mode, self-timer, exposure compensation and macro mode (good from 3cm) however.

The usual scene selections are in here, as well as a Smart portrait mode which combines all the technical gubbins to try and eke out a good shot: face detection, skin softening, smile timer and blink detection. Why this isn't simply bundled into the Scene options too we don't know. You also get Subject tracking which is a neat focus lock, whether you use it to track a subject across the lens or to reposition a focal point to aid composition.

Video capture is supported at an average top setting of 640 x 480 (which holds a fairly solid 30fps). The results are good in daylight, but even in shadow or shade outdoors does pick up a lot of noise bands, with lower light video very noisy overall. The front mounted mic is relatively good though, giving good results, but exposed to wind noise and the like outdoors.

As a camera the S1000pj gives you results you'd expect from an experienced company like Nikon and it is good to see that image quality hasn't been compromised to deliver the novelty of the projector.

Colours are well represented, with nice punchy blues, giving great rich skies. Reds can be a little over-saturated at times, but not to a degree that detracts from the overall image and you do get colour presets in the menu if you want  something different. Exposure and metering is good, with clear on-screen symbols of when camera shake is likely to occur, when the included vibration reduction tries to help out.

Low light performance is reasonable, with the ISO 6400 taking on something of a mottled appearance. It won't stand 100% views or cropping, but if your plan is sharing online, then it works well enough. With the lens packing a max aperture of F/3.9, it isn't as versatile as some rivals in low light. However the best results come out of restraining the ISO range through the menu to stop Auto running wild, something we like a lot. High contrast scenes are handled relatively well with purple fringing kept under control and certainly no more of a problem than in other compacts out there.

We did notice some darkening in corners when using the camera at the widest angle with some barrel distortion too, but once you know it is there it can be used to artistic benefit – see the Cenotaph sample image.

Sitting at the left-hand end of the top plate is the projector button. Press it once and the projector fires up and you have your image beamed out the front. It is rated at 10 lumens, so best results come in a darkened room. Daylight with the lights off is certainly possible, but you really need to pull the curtains or close the blinds to get the greatest impact. Outdoors, in daylight, you won't get a visible image.

The throw is from 26cm (5-inch image) up to 2m (40-inch image) and the slider on the top will help you get it in focus across this range. Resolution of the projected image is 640 x 480 which is to be expected from a projector this small. It supports zoom however, so you can zoom in on parts of a photo to see more detail if you wish.

Options are limited, but you can set-up slideshows so you don't have to keep pressing the buttons and it even comes with music tracks. In the box you'll also find a small stand, giving the camera an angle to raise the projection off the end of a table. You also get a remote control, so you can show your images with ease, or use it for remote capture, a much preferred option over the usual self timer, with zoom controls too.

You can only project those photos and videos you have taken, you can't use it as a giant Live View option – you'd be looking at what you were projecting, so you'd be left with a feedback loop and little else anyway. It isn't designed for playing back media from other devices, but it did project other image files we had on our memory card.

Battery life is rated at 220 shots, although using the projector cuts this drastically and we found with mixed snapping and projecting we managed nearly 100 before we got a battery warning: some of this can be put down the excitement of having a projector to show off though.

Verdict

So the camera delivers decent results and the projector works too. But the real question is what you are going to do with it. We guess that if you are interested in the camera you can already see the benefits of having projection in the same device.

If you spend your time taking shots and then instantly plugging into a computer to show them off again, then this saves that step for sure. We don't know who might do this, but the S1000pj makes it possible. But then we've all been in that situation when someone shows you a shot on the back of a camera. Give yourself a darkened room and you'll be able to entertain wedding guests or party goers with shots of the day. Kids love it too and there seems to be limitless entertainment in taking photos or video and projecting it onto the wall or ceiling.

Nikon have stuck to their principles and delivered a compact camera which performs as you would expect it to, so you don't lose out in opting for the S1000pj, except in pocket bulk.

If you've never been in the situation where you need to instantly share your images you'll get the same imaging quality in a smaller package for less money elsewhere. You do pay a little over the odds for the camera, but what price do you put on novelty?