Nikon Coolpix S8000 Review

nikon coolpix s8000 review
Nikon Coolpix S8000
“Nikon’s S8000 digital camera snaps superb 14-megapixel still shots from a compact, attractive body, but at less than one shot per second, you had better not be in a hurry.”
Pros
  • 10x zoom (30-300mm)
  • Takes very nice stills
  • Quality 3-inch LCD
  • Superior optical image stabilization
Cons
  • Pokey less than 1 fps shooting
  • Prefer wider-angle (26mm not 30mm)
  • No manual adjustments other than white balance, ISO
  • Poor video quality

Introduction

There were no real surprises with Nikon’s new Coolpix digicam line-up

–five of the seven 2010 models take HD videos. The digicam we’re reviewing–the 14.2-megapixel S8000–captures stereo 720p HD clips at 30 fps. Yet the last time we looked, the Coolpix and its ilk are cameras, so still quality should be paramount. Let’s see how this package adds up…

Features and Design

The Coolpix S8000 is a very attractive camera with sculpted lines around the 10x zoom lens. We had an all-black model, but it’s also available in red, bronze and champagne silver. Nikon claims this is the thinnest camera in its class at 1.1 inches thick, but that’s a moving target and competitors are at most just a fraction fatter. Still it is thin, given the potent zoom. The digicam measures 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.1 (WHD, in inches) and weighs 6.5 ounces with battery and card. You’ll have no issues carrying this around with you all the time.

Along with the usual logos and decals, the front has a nice textured surface on the left side; the thumb rest on the back has a nub-like surface. It felt just right in our hands but you know the drill—do your own hands-on before you buy this or any camera. Also on the front is an AF Assist lamp, a great help for fast focusing. There is no visible flash as it’s an auto pop-up type like many Canon PowerShots like the SX210 IS. Nikon claims the S8000 has a “wide” lens but with an opening focal length of 30mm it’s not nearly as wide as many Canon, Sony and Panasonic models. In our book 25-28mm is true wide angle but 30mm isn’t too bad and you’ll grab nice landscapes and portraits. The 300mm on the tele end makes this a good choice for travelers.

The rear of the S8000 is dominated by a 3-inch LCD rated a fine 921K pixels. The screen worked well for the most part. Hidden in the thumb rest at right is a small speaker. Below this are the typical controls and keys: Menu, Playback, Delete and Camera which gives access to Auto, Scene modes (16 options), Smart Portrait and Subject Tracking. Smart Portrait lets you soften skin tones and use Face/Smile/Blink Detection while Subject Tracking helps capture things on the move—more on these in the Performance section. Instead of the usual four-way controller, there’s a Rotary Multi Selector i.e. a dial surrounding the center OK button. With the selector you can access the four-points of the compass—exposure compensation, macro, self-timer and flash. When you tap exposure compensation (brightness) you can also change hue and how vivid you want your colors. The last key is the red dot so you can quickly shoot a video rather than turning a mode dial. This is a good feature.

On the top is the shutter surrounded by a wide/tele toggle, tiny on/off button, stereo mics and the pop-up flash. On the right side of the Made In China camera is the compartment for the mini HDMI out while USB-A/V out and the battery/SDHC card slot is on the bottom along with a tripod mount. Definitely use Class 6 or better cards for best results. All in all, the S8000 is a nicely designed camera you’ll easily use after 15 seconds of setup.

What’s In The Box

The Coolpix S8000, battery/charger, USB and A/V cables, strap and 20-page Quick Start guide as well as a 172-page User’s Manual. The CD-ROM has the Nikon Software Suite featuring Nikon Transfer, ViewNX, ArcSoft PanoramaMaker 5, QuickTime and access to my Picturetown which offers 2GB of free online storage.

Performance and Use

This is truly an aim-and-forget camera—there’s only an Auto mode with very limited options. If you want to adjust shutter speeds and apertures this camera is not for you. Since we’ll always go with the flow, we put in the camera in Auto at maximum resolution and best compression. The 14-megapixel camera grabs 4320×3240 pixel files as well as 720p HD clips.

Before getting to the results, let’s state the S8000 is an easy-to-use, easy-to-carry camera. The menus are quite legible and simple to follow. It zooms and focuses quickly thanks to a 9-area AF system, saving images to memory in reasonable time for a point-and-shoot. It’s rated .7—that’s point seven—frames per second so if sports or action photography is your thing, you won’t be too thrilled with this Coolpix. Check out the $399 P100 that shoots 10 fps since it uses the same Exmor R chip found in the Sony TX7. In case you’re wondering, Sony sells the chip to Nikon as well as Casio, FujiFilm, Samsung among others.

For the most part the 3-inch screen held up well but there were issues with direct sunlight. Unfortunately, Nikon makes it somewhat difficult to adjust the display (multiple menu steps). It would be far better if there was a dedicated key to boost brightness in those instances.

We took many shots of blooming flowers and other subjects over the course of several weeks. Once done, files were downloaded to a PC, reviewed closely on a monitor (100%+) and 8×10 prints made.

Overall the Nikon S8000 captured very high-quality stills with accurate colors and practically no purple fringing at extreme telephoto. Sharpness was also very good but not tack sharp as a D-SLR but that’s way too much to ask for from a point-and-shoot. Although the 10x zoom is a plus, macro close-ups were outstanding, among the best we’ve seen from a digicam. The Creative Slider function is just O.K. as it lets you adjust brightness, vividness and hue. Actually we feel it takes away from the straight ahead results you’ll get in Auto.

Digital noise was handled very well by the S8000. Of course you should try to keep it as low as possible (around 400) but ISO 3200 prints could be used in a pinch—which is pretty amazing for a compact camera. 100 percent blow-ups on the monitor at that level were pixilated messes but the 8×10 prints were decent. Nikon’s Vibration Reduction system did a fine job handling blur—it’s a winner even with handheld shots taken at 1/6th of a second. The camera is rather pokey at less than 1 frame per second but like most 12- to 14MP digicams it’s really for static subjects like scenery and people portraits which the S8000 handles with aplomb. And the battery, which is rated 210 shots, performed better than advertised so you really don’t need a spare unless you plan on using the flash with every shot.

As noted the S8000 takes 1280x720p videos by tapping the red dot on the back. It’s somewhat limited since there’s no optical zoom available, just 2x digital so you should frame your scene before you hit the button. Quality on a 50-inch plasma using HDMI was poor and the digital zoom just made the “blocking effects” even worse. There simply is no comparison to the videos made with this camera versus the recently reviewed Editor’s Choice Sony TX7. The Nikon’s clips might pass muster on YouTube but that’s a stretch.

Conclusion

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 is a very good, lightweight 14MP camera that takes high-quality stills. It’s extremely simple to use and has a versatile 10x focal length of 30-300mm, making it a good choice for vacationers or anyone who wants a solid digicam at hand. Unfortunately its HD video quality is very low-definition as Sony and Panasonic have left Nikon in the dust. At around $265 at legit online dealers it’s a bit on the pricey side but if you’re looking for a quality camera—i.e. a device for capturing photographs–keep the S8000 in mind.

Highs:

  • 10x zoom (30-300mm)
  • Takes very nice stills
  • Quality 3-inch LCD
  • Superior optical image stabilization

Lows:

  • Pokey less than 1 fps shooting
  • Prefer wider-angle (26mm not 30mm)
  • No manual adjustments other than white balance, ISO
  • Poor video quality

Editors' Recommendations