Nikon Coolpix S1000pj (projector camera) Review

Is this camera with inbuilt projector more than a gimmick?

Camera manufacturers can’t use megapixels to woo savvy buyers any more, so they increasingly try to get our attention in other ways. The gimmick with Nikon’s S1000pj is that it has a pico projector built into it, which lets you share photos and videos shot with the camera on a nearby wall. (There’s a small stand and a remote control in the box for this purpose.)

Camera manufacturers can’t use megapixels to woo savvy buyers any more, so they increasingly try to get our attention in other ways. The gimmick with Nikon’s S1000pj is that it has a pico projector built into it, which lets you share photos and videos shot with the camera on a nearby wall. (There’s a small stand and a remote control in the box for this purpose.)

This apparent nostalgia for interminable holiday snap slideshows may leave you feeling pretty unimpressed, especially when you learn that the projector is capable of only ten lumens of output, and producing even that uses so much power that you’ll get no more than 90 minutes projection time from a fully charged battery.

That said, few cameras we’ve ever seen have generated such an excitable first impression. People we showed it to – novices  and pros alike – were initially puzzled, but were soon clamouring to be snapped and projected on the wall. Sadly, the projected image (at just 640×480 pixels) is dim, except in pitch darkness, and the volume and quality of the integrated speaker is predictably weedy for video playback. It lacks saturation too, and sure, you might cringe at the idea of starring in an impromptu slideshow as your friend decides to share their shots on the wall of the pub, but for our money at least it can’t be dismissed as no more than a gimmick. We hope that more models are made.

Stills performance

Elsewhere, the camera is good, but certainly nothing special. The build quality is fine, but it does lack polish and elegance; we’re not just talking about its relative chunkiness – it’s got a projector in it, after all, which is an undoubted marvel of miniaturisation – but rather a kind of institutionalised plainness that conspires to make the thing feel like nothing special in your hand. The S1000pj’s interface will be familiar to anyone who’s owned a recent Nikon compact. We’ve seen much better attempts at accessible interfaces – the contextual tap-for-help system of the Samsung ST1000, for example, or even the ancient HP digital compacts’ on-screen guides – but it’s not baffling.

Pros, however, may quickly get annoyed by how difficult it is to get any decent manual control over a shot. There are few standard features it lacks. It has a 5x optical zoom, and totes both optical and digital image stabilisation. The stabilisation technology does a pretty good job, which is just as well because images quickly become noisy and smudgy at anything above ISO400 – unsurprisingly for a compact camera with such a high pixel count.

Indeed, on close inspection, low-light performance is disappointing overall, either because of the noise or because the fl ash is harsh and unpleasant. Even in good light, detail at 100% can be frustratingly smeary. There are other newbie-friendly features; the camera can try to track the subject of a shot – it can be a bit hit-and-miss, but it’s generally  pretty good – and it can also offer to hold off shooting until everyone in your shot is smiling and not blinking.

Projector aside, who would spend over £300 on a compact digital camera when you could get one with similar specifications and output for a third of the price? You could even upsell yourself to a basic D-SLR for only a few quid more. You certainly shouldn’t buy this camera if you’re a professional or even enthusiastic amateur – the quality’s too low and the manual control too fiddly – but we must confess we’re tempted by the projector feature.

This camera is relatively expensive, photographically pedestrian and aesthetically dull, but we would still be delighted if someone gave it to us as a present. We just wouldn’t spend our own money on one…

See below for some review pictures (click to see full size – opens in a new window):