The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj is the brand's third-generation projector-wielding compact digital camera incorporating iPhone capability
The Nikon Coolpix S1200pj is the brand's third-generation digital camera with an innovative built-in projector that allows a picture to be taken then instantly relayed to family and friends via the nearest available wall. As a result there’s a 5x optical zoom lens with lens shift stabilisation for capturing photos and video, with a wide-angle focal range the equivalent of 28-140mm on a 35mm film camera, and a second opening for their projection.
This means the camera is physically wider than non-projecting point and shoots,such as the Canon Ixus 230 HS. However in tech terms it’s impressively sophisticated. The S1200pj allows the hooking up of an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to project pics straight from the device via optional cabling.
Brightness is a so-so 20 lumens, and projections are standard resolution 640x480 pixels, with projected image size adjustable between five inches and a whopping 60 inches to wow your pub mates.
However this funky little extra does command a price premium. With non-projecting cameras with this level of headline spec – 14 megapixels and a 5x zoom – and build quality retailing around £250, the Nikon’s suggested asking price is £399 - almost as much as a digital SLR and even more than the Fujifilm FinePix HS20. So what else does the S1200pj have to recommend it and does it have what it takes to make it into our list of the best digital compact cameras around?
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj: Controls
Though it squeezes a functioning projector into its innards, the S1200pj is hardly a lead weight, nor any wider than a travel zoom compact that would seek to incorporate a broader focal range. Though the build is solid enough to indicate this is no mere toy, it weighs just 186g even with SD card and battery inserted, so can still be carried in a pocket.
Operation is surprisingly straightforward: in most respects controls resemble those you’d expect to find on any point and shoot camera: raised shutter release button surrounded by zoom lever on the top plate and video record, shooting mode, playback, menu, delete and multi directional control pad at the back.
The main clues here to the camera’s additional purpose are the cover for the projector at the front that is merely slid open to activate this facility, and the projection focus wheel dead centre of the top plate. Simply twiddle this left or right to get the image as sharp as you want it.
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj: Screen
Although you can view imagery via the nearest clean surface with this camera, it does offer a conventional LCD screen at the back, in 4:3 aspect ratio and with a decent resolution of 460k dots. At 3 inches in size and with anti-reflective coating and adjustable brightness, it’s as good a screen as one would expect to find on a compact camera that wasn’t actually aimed at photo enthusiasts.
In terms of the projected ‘screen’ performance, the image simply becomes bigger the further back you step, but at the same time more indistinct. Smaller is sharper, and unlike the camera itself, focus doesn’t automatically adjust, which is where the five pence piece sized dial on the top plate comes in. Focus range of the camera for regular stills capture is 30cm to infinity, or 3cm if using the macro/close up mode.
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj: Performance
With an internally folded lens mechanism, which means that at no point does the lens jut outwards from the body, the Nikon Coolpix S1200pj powers up ready for the first shot in just over a second, which is remarkably swift for a point and shoot camera.
Give the shutter release button a half squeeze and the camera is also swift to determine focus, the image on the rear LCD only very momentarily blurring as it quickly adjusts and snaps back into focus, AF points highlighted on screen with a bleep of affirmation that you’re ready to go ahead and take the shot.
Do so, and in less than a couple of seconds a full resolution, optimum quality JPEG image is committed to memory, here either an internal capacity or regular removable SD media card. No grumbles as to speed or performance here then.
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj: Battery
For power, here an EN-EL12 rechargeable lithium battery slides into a compartment at the base of the S1200pj that is shared with a slot for optional SD card. There’s also a 94MB internal capacity to fall back on. Battery life is good for an hour of projection, which seems like plenty, or 220 shots, which is slightly less impressive in its average-ness.
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj: Pictures and video
Some may see it as a shame that the S1200pj doesn’t offer the Full HD 1920x1080 pixels, nor stereo sound; but it could be argued that the above spec is more than enough for occasional use and the resolution of the projector wouldn’t do this justice anyway.
Others may also have preferred HDMI output for hooking up to a flat panel TV set rather than a connection point for an iPad. These are minor grumbles however.
For low light photography without flash, the ISO range runs from ISO80 to ISO1600 at full resolution, and drops down to three megapixels at ISO3200 and ISO6400 to help limit visible noise/grain.
As we normally note with Nikon compacts, pictures can look a little flat and drab when downloaded to your desktop, the camera tending to err towards naturalistic rather than warm in terms of colour. However projecting such images does add a degree of visual dynamism otherwise missing.
Though shots at maximum zoom handheld were good and sharp with plenty of available light, those taken at maxim wide angle setting did reveal a loss of focus towards the extreme corners of the frame, better disguised in natural rather than hard edged man made settings.
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj: Verdict
It has to be noted that thankfully the S1200pj is no mere gimmick masquerading as a camera, but a decent enough camera in its own right if you took away the projector facility entirely. That’s as it should be and was we expect from Nikon. The only obvious barrier to purchase then is the price tag.
The suggested cost of £399 is considerably more than a point and shoot camera with the ‘basics’ of a 14 megapixel resolution, 5x optical zoom and 1280x720 pixels video, so you have got to want to use the projection facility for something more than just a bit of fun.
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj availability: Available now
Nikon Coolpix S1200pj price: £399