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A dozen new kinds of point-and-shoot cameras flood electronics stores each year, and that’s often just from a single company. To distinguish itself, Nikon took an interesting approach with its Coolpix S1000pj. Instead of focusing on pictures, this camera shines--literally. It can project photos and movies on a wall so everyone can see them. We like the concept and had fun presenting instant vacation slideshows while still traveling. But the average quality of both its photos and its projection make this camera purely a technoholic’s toy. Discerning photographers and home buyers on a budget should think twice.
We’ve seen video projectors of about the same size as the S1000pj, but Nikon impressed us by cramming one into the camera without adding any perceptible bulk. The tiny 640x480 LED projector can throw big images--about 5 feet or more. But you’ll have to carefully manage lighting conditions, especially at that size. Images look moderately bright in a room with several lights turned off, but they perform best without any lights. On the flip side, they’re practically undefined in daylight or near bright windows.
While its image quality is only adequate, the novelty of its built-in projector lifts the Coolpix S1000pj above otherwise similar point-and-shoot cameras.
The onboard projector allows you to
bore impress more than one person at a time with your latest snapshots.
At an image size of a few feet diagonally with controlled lighting, we enjoyed sharing snaps with a group. At huge sizes, color saturation and image details fade alongside the brightness even in fairly dark rooms. And pictures lose sharpness as they get bigger. Because of these limitations, we enjoyed the projector for what it is--a fun toy. It’s more of a novelty than a truly productive component of the camera.
When the thrill of the projector dims, the S1000pj remains an adequate workhorse of a camera, and its images approximate the quality of its competitors (meaning cheaper point-and-shoots without projectors). Our test photos never excited us, but they always seemed sufficient. We got the best pictures shooting outside in moderate sunshine, which is typical for any compact camera. Colors and shapes looked defined, and the lens caused little distortion. We captured portraits with clear, smooth skin tones in average daylight, for example, that were quite usable.
But fine picture details suffer in any kind of light. When we closely reviewed a photo of garden woodchips, we saw a pointillist jumble of messy browns instead of individual pieces. Image quality also declines outdoors in shade and indoors without the flash. Colors look muted, and noise--in the form of pixelated speckles--creeps in. A flash brightens up the foreground, at least.
Fortunately, the camera felt fast enough. It turned on and started taking pictures in about three seconds, and it could snap its full 12.1-megapixel resolution about once every two seconds--not speedy enough for sports, but quick enough otherwise. You can adjust a few settings--condition-specific modes, exposure compensation, focal point, and others--but some users will miss manual controls for shutter, aperture, and ISO. We wanted those options at this price point, but that projector doesn’t come without trade-offs, right?
None of the camera’s extra features seem crucial. You can capture video at up to 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second, but you can’t tune the focus during a shot. In-camera retouching makes basic photo adjustments, but it’s hard to preview what will happen. Smile and blink sensors sometimes worked to capture the right moments, but neither feature was consistent enough for us to rely on.
All together, this camera captures sufficient, reliable images, although its photo features are limited. Gadget fans who buy a new camera every 18 months will enjoy the S1000pj overall, but both the projector and average photo quality make it lose its luster rapidly.