Opinions and Perspectives…Nikon Coolpix S9400

When I read reviews on various products and “things”, I tend to view them very tongue and cheek Smile  I, like everyone else, have my own opinion and perspective on things.  Are the reviews helpful? ABSOLUTELY!!!  I find them very helpful (and in some cases, very expensive Smile)  They give enough information to either validate a theory or an opinion or a perspective.

I happened to be cruising thru the cameras at a big box store and noticed that Nikon had  a new travel camera out – the Coolpix S9500.  This one basically had a 22x zoom at 18 megapixel.  It was in the $300 range.before tax. Because there was a display model out, I picked it up to take a closer look Smile  Indirectly, this ended up to be a bad move – NO, I didn’t buy it…

In reality, the last thing I needed was yet another travel camera –  I already have, in this zoom range (15-20x zoom), a Panasonic ZS15, & 25, Fuji F800 and Sony HX30.  Yes, I do use them all Smile  AND I have more….. but onward.

Going back a bit in time – I have roughly 15 years in retail/wholesale camera experience ranging in store sizes from your specialized camera store to back then a “discount” high volume camera dept.  Back then though, there weren’t that many places that had cameras per se.  This was in the world of 35mm, 110 and Polaroids, not to mention the “big stuff”.  BUT there was enough competition and the profit margins were low enough that in order to differentiate yourself, you had to do “something” that made you different that could bring to the customer to YOU and not your competition.  Basically, the key factor was a combination of better service and more knowledgeable staff.  Has that changed in today’s world Smile

My wife and I are pretty big shoppers.  We do a lot of things in our spare time and shopping, unfortunately, is required.  A lot of people simply hate to shop.  That’s another blog entry Smile  Both of us also have extensive retail backgrounds.  Anyway – I read about all these places that are going under and in some cases, I recognize names and it’s no surprise.  Back in the day, a sale was a special thing.  In today’s world, it seems like there’s more on sale than ever before.  I’m almost thinking here, that price is becoming the only draw.  You go in, buy whatever’s on sale and leave.  End of story.  Well, not really Smile  Sometimes, especially when it comes to things like groceries, buying larger quantities can save big as well. 

Getting back – one of the consistent things I’ve seen in reviews, especially in this travel camera range, is that both Sony and Nikon, the opinion has been, that they are expensive for what they do or that if they have the feature set you are looking for, they MIGHT be worth the money.  To a certain degree, I would agree with that.  When I picked up looked at the S9500 for the first time, the first thing that caught was that it was an all metal body and the second thing was that it was surprisingly small for a camera in this range.  Actually thin would probably be a better term…  It felt nice enough and typical to Nikon in the point and shoots, it was a little more automatic.  At $300 and IF you were aware of comparable feature sets, yes, it was “up there”.  My Panasonics and Fuji F800 for instance, had full manual controls for a lot less. 

HOWEVER – I had a Nikon pointy shooty before and and it actually did pretty good for a little guy Smile  I had always kinda wanted one in this range, so I decided to buy it.  I guess “try to buy it” would be a better term.  Interestingly enough, no one wanted me to buy it Smile  So I left.  I had to drop my local London Drugs and I knew that the S9400 was on sale but it was the sliver one and I wanted a black one, but I stopped there anyway.  Lo and behold, there were black ones.  AND they were on sale for $229!!!  AND, the clerks were very different to the ones I normally deal with.  AND, it was busy AND I was on a bit of schedule.  Anyway, when someone did finally get to me I simply said “I want the Nikon S9400 if you have one in black”.  What really caught me off guard was the comment the person made. It was to the effect that it was rare to find a customer that knew what they wanted.  AND that it was rare NOT to have to explain the various feature sets to customers.  To me, part of being in this specialized area, was that it was part of their job to do this Sad smile 

Anyway …. From what I’ve seen from the other cameras I own or have owned.  In the pointy shooties, each brand “sees” photos slightly different.  I like the Panasonics because to me, they render a pretty what I would call a natural photo.  In other words, they simply take a good general photo.  Especially in auto mode.  I tend to use the vivid mode a lot with these when I’m doing plants and landscapes.  I like Fuji for their blues, reds and oranges.  My X10 I like for flesh tones, but that’s not in this class.  My F800 is a very manual oriented camera, though and does better in manual though the auto is not so shabby.  What I’ve found with the Sony and Nikons, is that they seem to take a slighly “brighter” photo.  Blues, though tend to wash out a bit as certain bright sunlight photos.  BUT they are pretty good in auto mode.  Now, one of the things that the S9400 does do well is what it was designed to do – work well in auto mode. 

My Nikon 1 J1, in reality, does work really well in this mode.  It actually does pretty well for what it was designed to do.  I’ve sold and used a lot of Nikon in my history, so it wasn’t strange to me.  Currently though, my two “serious cameras” are the Fuji X10 and Panasonic GX1. 

I took a couple of sample pics with the S9400 just to see.

DSCN0027DSCN0028DSCN0039

These were in full auto and from what I saw, pretty good for what I do Smile  Now when I looked at image size at 18 megapixels, the file size was roughly 4 MB, so a bit smaller than any of the cameras in a similar range.  When I zoomed in, it was still pretty decent.  From the perspective of “casual” photo, one could do a fair amount of cropping and still end up with a pretty good pic.  The blue was actually a little better than I expected. 

More perspective stuff.  I’ve touched on this before a bit.  I have my own opinion things, like everyone else.  I also have enough technical knowledge to know what I want and at the same time, not scared to spend the money to get it – especially in photography.  I’ve take the approach of portability as opposed to a DSLR approach.  I’m not saying that I ultimately won’t own one, just that for what I do and the way I do it, small is a good thing.  With my GX1 and two zooms, it’s more than enough IF I need that “extra”.  I’m currently between contracts (I’m a consultant), so actually, I’m taking my GX1 with me along with a couple of travel cams when I’m out and about.  For me, I want to have a camera (or several) with me when I’m commuting.  Depending on what I’m doing, equipment changes, of course Smile  In any event, there’s always a travel cam in there.

Let’s look at this from a slightly different view point.  For the last little while, phones have had some sort of a camera built into them  A lot of people I see, use their phones to take photos.  I think one of the fantastic things about this is, that it’s kinda encouraged people to take photos again.  The bigger question here – what would prompt someone to get a dedicated camera?  It’s not a life changing event per se, but I almost think it’s a realization that the phone isn’t “enough” for one reason or another.  Maybe it’s a memorable upcoming vacation, or a new arrival in the family or some other event that warrants this type of acquisition.  They may or may not be aware of branding aside from what they see on TV.  They probably have friends who have cameras over and above so they may or may not have pre-conceived notions when they decide to look.  More important here – most people who go looking for the first time, may not even know what want in a camera beyond “I want to be able to take better pictures”!!  I ran into this literally most of the time when I was in retail, and get that from a lot of acquaintances who are also looking.  Beyond, perhaps the odd brand they have heard of, they know literally nothing, nada, about cameras.  To make it more complicated – they probably don’t even know any of the basics that surround photography!!  Will they research?  Probably not.  Pricing may or may not be a factor.  Will they go to a dedicated camera store – probably not.  It’s probably going to happen “in the course of” doing groceries or if they happen to be in one of the big box stores.  Will they get one right away?  Unless the event is urgent – probably not.

Thank goodness for auto mode Smile  One of the BIG BIG things in today’s camera technology, especially in the pointy shooties, is that the manufacturer, at least, recognized the fact that todays world is fast paced enough that there isn’t really enough time to study the manual too seriously let alone “learn” to take pictures.  It’s also competitive enough in this area, that it’s pretty hard to even buy a bad camera per se.  Plus, most people do have computers so they can download photos.  BUT, when someone new goes looking, they will find this barrage of cameras with an even more overwhelming barrage of features.  To me, most people end up getting sold a camera that will ultimately end up in the closet no longer being used.  Why?  Either too complicated or perhaps too heavy.  Maybe because they, in the end, didn’t take all that many photos.  Or something.  You see, that’s where something like the smartphone comes into play – it makes it convenient to take a photo. 

Look at it another way – if you are on holiday, unless you are, what I would say, a fairly avid photographer, going beyond having a camera convenient, is going to be a hassle.  Again, it has to be convenient.  That means VERY portable.  OR, let’s look at kiddy or pet pics.  THEY aren’t going to pose while you dig out your camera Smile  When I was in the world of 35mm, my SLR at the time was always within reach regardless of where I was.  Even today, when I’m with my grand kids, there’s a camera on me all the time. Maybe that’s one of the key motivators as well – new arrival, missed shots or poor shots on your phone…. I dunno….

Unfortunately, the downside of this is getting something that is also overkill for what will be doing.  This, however, does take some intrinsic knowledge of what one is going to be or not to be doing and it’s only experience that’s going to be the deciding factor.  Despite me not even being close to the retail market (I’m an IT consultant), because I take a lot of photos and am known for that among friends, I still hear “what do YOU think I should get?”.  You know what I’ve found?  Most are thinking they need a DSLR for some unknown reason or actually because “it takes the best picture” or “I want something that I can grow into”, and I always try to find out  why they would say that (I’m a Business Analyst – Requirements AnalysisSmile)  Well, to me the bottom line – why buy something to grow into when it’s going to sit in the closet Smile  What I find amazing, in a lot of instances, is that when I tell them and in many instances, show them what I used to get the shot, they are astounded that a relatively inexpensive camera can do this Smile 

If we want to get a little more technical about this – from what I”m seeing in today’s technology, most cameras in the pointy shooty range start at around 10 megapixels and typically tend to have a zoom in the 3x-5x range AND they run about $100.  Now, IMHO, this is probably more than adequate to deal with the majority of “things” and have room to grow a bit and find out what you can and cannot do.  You MIGHT want to step up a bit for a bigger feature set, but you know, the person in this range is going to be in auto mode literally all the time anyway.  I guess the trick here, is to understand or at least try to find out what you want to do and then see if the feature set fits.   Another thing I’ve found in retail experience, is that what you think vs what you say to a clerk are two very different thingsSmile  They don’t want to look “stupid” in front of the clerk.  Well, surprise here – their job is to help you find something that does what you want it to Smile 

The bigger problem – knowledgeable staff.  For all we know, they may only know the feature set, for instance, not how it may render color, work in low light, work in bright light, whatever.  From the consumer side, I think we have been driven to price points and the tendency to go looking for the lowest cost. I also have found that people get upset when they find that the lower cost also comes at the cost of service.  I’ve also found that in cameras in particular, the cost isn’t necessarily lower Smile  AND you have to able to buy it Smile  Out of all the cameras I own, which is probably 8 or more, I think I’ve only gotten one or two at a big box store and that was only because there was a clerk there who didn’t run away when it looked like I was going to ask something Smile    Now in saying that, I’ve also seen a similar thing but from a different angle in the camera stores.  The dedicated camera stores seem to want to push DSLR’s and justly so – they cater to the serious amateur.  Yes, they have the knowledge, but they don’t necessarily have the product in the bottom end stuff, but the same token, the “middle stores” like Black’s in my area, are not bad either if you kinda know what you want.  When I got my X10, I got it from a dedicated camera store.  Even funnier was the fact that when I explained why I wanted it compared to a DSLR, the person couldn’t really argue.  Over and above, they had a spare battery, and the case for it.  All other stores I checked on, didn’t have everything in one spot and I wasn’t going all over the place either.  I knew what I wanted and the price didn’t matter.

In today’s world, the internet, to me, plays a huge part.  I’ve always wondered just how much people research before they go out and get a camera Smile  I mean, it’s one of those things, that will ultimately require some knowledge if you go beyond the “casual” photo stage.  Mind you, many people may not WANT to go beyond that.

Onward…..

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About gkamitomo
IT Busines Analyst

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