The new Nikon Coolpix 8700 is one of several eight megapixel digital cameras recently introduced. As apparent from the similar model number it is based heavily on its predecessor, the Coolpix 5700 which we reviewed around a year ago.
The Coolpix 8700 is a prosumer camera aimed at advanced amateurs and enthusiasts and it has been introduced around the same time as Nikon's new low-cost Digital-SLR the Nikon D70. Whilst these types of prosumer cameras have some advantages over the lower-cost Digital SLRs it will be interesting to see which of the two achieves the most sales. It is also the first time that Nikon will have a Prosumer camera of their own competing with a Digital SLR of their own as there is only around £50 difference between the D70 body price and the 8700! Does the Coolpix 8700 have what it takes to stand up and compete with the emerging low cost digital SLRs, read on to find out.
Nikon Coolpix 8700 specification
- 8.0 megapixel 2/3-inch CCD
- Image size: 3,264 x 2,448
- 8x Zoom-Nikkor Lens
- Contrast-detect Autofocus with AF-assist illuminator
- 5-area or Spot AF selectable
- 3cm focusing in Macro mode
- 0.44 inch 235,000 dot TFT viewfinder
- 1.8-inch 134,000 dot TFT monitor
- Exif 2.2
- Motion JPEG capture (Movie, Audio)
- CF Type I/II, Microdrive compatability
- USB interface
- Li-ion Battery (EN-EL1)
- Weight: 480g
- Dimensions: 113x105x78mm
Lens Cap, Camera Strap, AV cable, USB cable, Rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL1, Battery Charger, Nikon View CD-ROM, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0.
What's new in the Coolpix 8700?
Whilst the external appearance of the 8700 may be similar to the 5700 predecessor, Nikon have made various internal changes.
The most obvious change is the new eight megapixel CCD vs the Coolpix 5700's five megapixel CCD. This increase in resolution will in theory mean larger prints are achievable but might mean an increase in image noise as a result of more pixels being squeezed into the same small area.
Nikon also claim that it features a faster start-up time, faster image recording and a shorter release time lag. Helping focussing times, they have included a AF-Assist illuminator which will be useful when shooting in low light.
Body and handling
Anyone new to digital cameras reading this review needs to be aware of fundamental differences between prosumer cameras like this Coolpix 8700 and the low-cost digital SLRs emerging like the Nikon D70 and Canon EOS 300D. Whilst the Digital SLRS use the traditional optical viewfinder, the prosumer cameras in general use an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This EVF shows all changes to image settings in real-time, if for example you change the white-balance or aperture you will see the changes reflected in the viewfinder. They can also do other 'trick's', like showing you a live histogram of the image you're previewing before you've taken it. Depending on your taste, there can be quite a big difference between the enjoyment you'll have using each system, so before rushing into buying a camera please do check out both systems.
Like its predecessor, the Coolpix 8700 features a very high quality body. Manufactured from a lightweight Magnesium alloy it has a reasonable weight and is lighter than many of the other new eight megapixel models available. Besides helping keep the weight low, the Magnesium alloy body also gives the 8700 a very solid feel.
Operational speeds are good, although compared to the Canon Pro 1 the time taken on the Coolpix 8700 to turn on and off seems a little slow. Shot to shot speeds are also good, although this is still one area where there is an obvious gap between the performance of prosumer digital cameras and digital SLRs.
The positioning of some of the buttons on the Coolpix 8700 make it harder to use than some of its competitors. The number of them combined with their positioning can make this a tricky camera to master, especially for someone who is new to digital cameras. Those of you used to prosumer digital cameras shouldn't have any major problems though.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been improved over the Coolpix 5700 and compare as well to those found on other prosumer digital cameras. The LCD is still a swivel-type, meaning that you can change it's position to get a better view, even when shooting at awkward angles. The combination of swivel-LCD, EVF and 8x optical zoom make the Coolpix 8700 a very versatile camera.
Focussing speeds in daylight on the Coolpix 8700 are quite good. In darker areas the focussing speed doesn't suffer too much thanks to the addition of a focus-assist light. The manual focussing mode doesn't provide the fine control that some competiting cameras by Canon and Minolta provide but it is sufficient for most purposes.
The menu system hasn't changed a great deal from the Coolpix 8700's predecessor. We didn't find the camera so easy to use as the Canon Pro Shot 1 however and it will take beginners some time to get used to the various options. Thoroughly reading the manual is likely to be a requirement for most users.
||When in the record mode, the display can be switched between several different views. A very basic view that just shows the shot you will get when you take the picture. Then a standard view, which shows the shutter speed, aperture setting and other information. On top of this standard view you can then view a live histogram of the shot. Lastly there is an overlay which is helpful for checking you are going to get your horizon's straight.
||The scene-mode provides a selection of preset scenes which are selectable through the menu system. These include the following scenes: Portrait, Party / Indoor, Night Portrait, Beach / Snow, Landscape, Sunset, Night Landscape, Fireworks Show, Close up, Copy, Back Light and Panorama Assist.
||In playback mode you can view a full-screen version of the shots you've taken, or a smaller version combined with a histogram for that image. You don't have to switch to the playback mode to be able to view images you've taken as there is a dedicated 'Quick' button to quickly view photos you've taken whilst remaining in Record mode.
A typical consumer might think that an eight megapixel camera is going to easily out perform a five megapixel camera. Manufacturers are capitalising on this fact to keep consumers buying their cameras and tempting them to 'upgrade'. Whilst it's true that in some areas an eight megapixel camera will out perform a five megapixel camera the increased resolution also introduces some problems, namely increased levels of image noise at higher ISO's. Another noticeable problem on the Coolpix 8700 is above average amounts of purple fringing.
It's not all doom and gloom though, the camera produces sharp shots full of detail. Colour accuracy is very good and noise levels at lower ISO's are good too. Combining the flexible lens range with good macro performance, RAW mode, improved low light focussing and the high resolution CCD means in the right hands the Coolpix 8700 is more than capable of producing stunning results.
The Coolpix 8700 focussed quickly on these plants ensuring sharp shots with lots of detail.
Although not noticeable on the resized image above, the crop of the original shot shown below shows some evidence of chromatic aberation.
The eight megapixel CCD, combined with the high quality Nikon lens allows the Coolpix 8700 to capture a lot of detail. The crop to the left from the image above shows how some of the details on the further advertisements can be read quite easily.
Nikon had a great camera in the Coolpix 5700 and after improving it technically and adding some new features they now have a great camera in the Coolpix 8700.
Overall the Coolpix 8700 will provide you with a powerful tool which will be able to produce excellent results. It is however let down by chromatic abberation problems and the reduction in quality when shooting at higher ISOs. The good points about the camera do easily outweigh the bad and we recommend it as long as you consider the negative aspects mentioned.
In summary the main positive points of the Nikon Coolpix 8700 are:
Well-built body which handles well
Flexible LCD and good Electronic Viewfinder
Good low-light focussing
Generally good image quality
Fast operational speed
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 is included
Negative points are:
Interface can be confusing for beginners
High noise levels at the higher ISOs
Manual focussing lacks the fine control of rivals
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