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|Nikon Coolpix S8000: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.|
Nikon's latest foray into the the crowded super-zoom compact market is apparently the world's slimmest 10x zoom camera currently available at a mere 27.3mm wide. This will obviously appeal to those after having their cake, and eating a fair bit of it too, by squeezing the flexibility of a large zoom into a small body. It is part of Nikon's 'Style' range of Coolpix cameras, which offer ease of use over customisation. Costing only £210, it is reasonably priced as well. Here we'll take a look at whether this style-conscious compact can deliver the goods.
Nikon Coolpix S8000: Features
A 10x zoom lens which provides an equivalent angle of view of a 30-300mm lens on a 35mm camera is at the heart of the Nikon Coolpix S8000, which is a very useful range indeed. It offers a moderately wide view at the short end of the zoom, coupled with the ability to fill the frame with quite distant subjects.
At the moment the S8000 is also billed as the slimmest camera to offer such a range and even though the claim may only be validated by millimetres, it certainly feels compact for its zoom range. The lens also uses Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology to help reduce the effect of camera shake in images, which should certainly be useful at the telephoto end of the zoom given the camera's small dimensions. When the conditions are beyond the mechanical VR system, Nikon's Best Shot Selector (BSS) can be enabled, which allows the user to take up to 10 shots in quick succession, greatly improving your chances of getting a sharp one. In this mode the camera automatically analyses each shot and only saves the sharpest one to the memory card.
A quick retouch facility is built into the playback mode, allowing the user to adjust the brightness of a particular image after it has been taken, without a computer. This feature will suit those without the time, or inclination to spend time adjusting images on a computer afterwards.
Images are recorded by a 14.2Mp CCD sensor and then processed in camera by Nikon's Expeed processing chip, which promises to provide excellent image quality, and a responsive user experience. With all being well, 14Mp should be enough resolution for the average user to produce large prints up to A3 or larger if a sensible viewing distance is taken into account. An ISO sensitivity range of ISO100-3200 is available to select manually, or automatically by the camera, which should provide plenty of scpoe for taking pictures in a wide range of conditions. If you don't wish for the camera to raise the ISO too high and cause grainy pictures, a cap can be set for the maximum ISO the camera will set when Auto-ISO is selected.
Besides these main features, the camera also includes face detection, automatic scene detection, smile detection, blink detection and a variety of scene modes to assist the user in taking images without the slightest mention of an aperture or shutter speed.
A three inch screen takes up nearly three-quarters of the rear of the S8000. The screen is clear and bright, making composing images easy enough in a range of conditions. The anti-reflective coating works well on bright sunny days, as you can still see what you're doing, although contrast is reduced in very bright conditions.
Nikon Coolpix S8000: Handling
The S800 feels quite reassuringly weighty for it's size at 183g, with much of the mass being in the 10x zoom lens. On the sample provided for the review, the metal body has a pleasant champagne coloured matt finish. Black and brown finishes are also available for those who are fussy about colour.
During use, I found the metal finish felt a little slippery, and coupled with the relatively small size of the camera and lack of finger grip on the front, I found it difficult to feel assured of my grip on the camera when using it with one hand. I found this especially true when operating the zoom via the bezel around the shutter release. People with smaller hands may find their grip over the camera more comfortable though, as I believed I struggled due to having quite large hands.
The controls are set out in a fairly typical manner, with the shutter release falling under my index finger and menu controls under my thumb. Menus can be navigated either by pressing the directional pad or by turning the rotatable wheel as your preference dictates. The controls on the rear are quite small, but are well set out enough for easy operation. An instant record button is located to the left of the thumb rest on the rear, providing one-touch access to the high definition recording capabilities of the camera. Unfortunately, I kept accidentally recording movies when attempting to use the camera with one hand. If your fingers are less fat than mine, you may have less of a problem. My dialling stick is in the post, apparently.
Nikon Coolpix S8000: Performance
Nikon's S8000 is quite a responsive performer, the camera is ready to shoot around a second after pressing the power button. I found the autofocus to be very quick at obtaining a lock in most conditions, only really struggling in very low light conditions, and occasionally when very close to your subject in the macro mode.
I find that the exposure system copes well with a range of conditions, and that the automatic scene selection system does an excellent job of differentiating between portraits and scenic shots, selecting the correct mode each time. Manual override of the selected scene mode may be required for other scenarios such as for sports or indoor pictures though.
Images have a fair amount of detail recorded in them, but very fine details appear to be rendered a little soft. The camera appears to apply quite aggressive sharpening at low sensitivities, which means images can have artefacts present around high contrast edges. This shouldn't cause too much of an issue at smaller print sizes, but is clearly visible when inspecting images on a computer screen.
Vibrant colours are reproduced well enough to give pictures plenty of impact, while skin tones are rendered in a more reserved, and flattering way. The face detection system also seems to effect the exposure, which helps the camera to obtain a good exposure for most shots of people.
ISO and noise performance
The S8000 doesn't fair too badly when it comes to taking pictures at high sensitivities, although the noise reduction system seems to prefer to smooth out the noise at the expense of detail as the ISO is increased. At lower sensitivities of ISO100 and ISO200 the camera produced images with little noise visible anywhere, although the aggressive sharpening applied does create some artefacts around high contrast edges.
As the sensitivity is increased, the amount of detail visible starts to decline. This effect is most visible in areas of fine detail, and on small text in images, but images still look smooth enough to produce a decent set of 7x5inch prints up to ISO800. At ISO1600 more noise starts to become visible, especially in the shadows, and the amount of detail recorded decreases further, although small prints will still look acceptable and will still look good when shared on the web through your favourite social networking service, be that Facebook, Twitter, Myspace or Tumblr. Images taken at ISO3200 are visibly blotchy on close inspection and the amount of colour retained in the image is reduced. Still, images taken at these high sensitivities will certainly suffice for sharing on the web.
|Nikon Coolpix S8000
Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
|Nikon Coolpix S8000
Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
The camera's Auto White Balance system seems to cope well under most common situations, leaving a slight yellow cast in images taken under incandescent lighting, and it is pretty much bang on under the fluorescent lights in our studio. The incandescent preset will give a more neutral image in those conditions, as it did in our studio test. As there are so many different types of fluorescent light, the camera's preset for this kind of lighting is more suited to tubes emitting a greener cast than ours do, as the resulting image has a visible magenta cast.
|Nikon Coolpix S8000 White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.|
Auto white-balance in incandecent lighting
Incandescent preset in incandescent light
Auto white-balance in fluorecent lighting
Fluorescent preset in fluorescent light
Buffer read/write times
In single shot mode, there is a delay of 2.1 seconds before another shot can be taken, which is about average performance for a camera of this type. In continuous shooting mode at full resolution, the camera manages roughly 1 shot per second, but changing to the sports continuous mode will allow roughly 3 frames to be taken per second, albeit at a reduced resolution of 3Mp.
With over fourteen million photo-sites squeezed onto the CCD sensor in the S8000, it is bound to be quite demanding on the lens. On this camera, it is hard to tell just how well the lens resolves detail due to the aggressive sharpening and noise reduction systems in place to provide smooth looking images at high sensitivities. The zoom range is useful, and I noticed few instances of chromatic aberrations, with them only being visible around bright reflected highlights in the images I took.
Distortion seems reasonably controlled for a lens of this range, with moderate barrel distortion present at the wide end, and slight pincushion distortion present a the telephoto end. Neither will cause major issues for general picture taking.
The macro mode allows images to be taking of subject almost touching the front element of the lens, which is great performance, although due to the wide angle of the lens, the enlargement of your subject isn't that strong and it can be quite difficult to get light on your subject when taking pictures from so close.
The maximum aperture is only f/3.5-5.6, which may result in images being taken at high sensitivities to gain a decent exposure, especially indoors. This specification is the compromise you make for a compact such as this, as a larger aperture would mean a larger lens, and a larger camera. Flare was not an issue, even shooting into the sun on a bright summer's day.
Nikon Coolpix S8000: Verdict
In an ever more crowded market for high zoom compact cameras, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. In this case, the S8000 performs well enough to be suitable for those looking for a convenient compact with the flexibility a large zoom offers for producing good quality 7x5 prints at your local high street lab or at home, or for sharing images on the web.
The camera is well-specified with all manner of different kinds of detection on offer to ensure pictures are correctly focused, exposed and free of shut eyes or frowning faces at the touch of a button.
The compact dimensions will certainly appeal to many, although if you have fat fingers like me, you many find some of the controls a little fiddly. Even so, this camera is truly pocketable, which is quite an achievement considering the zoom range on offer.
|Nikon Coolpix S8000: Pros|
|Attractive finish and good build quality|
|Plenty of functions to assist picture taking|
|Bright three inch screen|
|Effective metering system|
|Nikon Coolpix S8000: Cons
|Controls may be too fiddly for some|
|Aggressive noise reduction reduces detail|
|Aggressive sharpening can cause artefacts|
Nikon Coolpix S8000: Specification
|What comes in the box||Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12, Charging AC Adapter EH-68P, USB Cable UC-E6, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14, Strap AN-CP19, Software Suite CD-ROM|
|LENS DETAILS||10x zoom NIKKOR; 5.4-54.0mm (equivalent with 35mm format picture angle: 30-300mm); f/3.5-5.6|
|Sensor size||1/2.3 type|
|Max. Image size||4320 x 3240|
|LCD monitor size||3 inch|
|Focusing modes||Face Detection, Blink Detection, Smile Detection, Multi-Zone AF|
|Metering system||Matrix, Centre-Weighted|
|Metering modes||Automatic Scene Detection, 16 Scene Modes|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps|
|Continuous shooting||1fps at 14Mp, 3fps at 3Mp|
|Anti-shake mode||Vibration Reduction in lens|
|Movie mode||720p video at 24fps|
|Monitor||7.5 cm (3-in.), approx. 921k-dot, wide-viewing angle TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating|
|Media type||SD, SDHC|
|Power||Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (supplied), Charging AC Adapter EH-68P (supplied), AC Adapter EH-62F (optional), Battery Charger MH-65 (optional)|
|Size (wxdxl)||103.0 x 57.0 x 27.3 mm excluding projections|
|Weight (with battery)||183g|
The Nikon Coolpix S8000 costs £210 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Nikon Coolpix S8000 at Warehouse Express