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Nikon Coolpix S8000 Overview

by Mike Pasini and Zig Weidelich
Review Date: 07/22/2010

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 is a pocket long zoom digital camera with a 14.2-megapixel sensor and a 10x optical zoom lens. Zoom ranges from a not-so-wide 30mm to an impressive 300mm equivalent. Maximum aperture varies from f/3.5 to f/5.6 across the zoom range. Ordinarily the Nikon S8000 can focus on subjects as close as 20 inches, but in macro mode this range is reduced to just 0.4 inches. The Coolpix S8000 includes lens-based optical image stabilization, useful for fighting blur from camera shake. Images and movies are framed and reviewed on a 3.0-inch wide-viewing TFT LCD panel with anti-reflective coating and an uncommonly high 921,600 dot resolution.

The Coolpix S8000 offers sensitivity ranging from ISO 160 to 1,600 equivalents under automatic control, and as high as ISO 3,200 controlled manually. The Nikon S8000 offers 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) movie recording with stereo audio in H.264 .MOV format. The Nikon S8000 stores images on Secure Digital cards, or in 32MB of built-in memory. Data transfer to a computer is catered for with a USB 2.0 High Speed connection. Power comes from an EN-EL12 lithium ion rechargeable battery, said to be good for 210 shots on a charge to CIPA standards.

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 ships from February 2010, priced at US$300.

 

Nikon Coolpix S8000 User Report

by Mike Pasini

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 is a compact, 10x optical zoom digital camera with a very high resolution LCD. Like most 14-megapixel sensors, the Nikon S8000 doesn't capture what last years 12-megapixel sensors did, but it still gets a good image, and can capture 720p high definition movies, in addition to stills in 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.

The Coolpix S8000's unconventional controls include three mode buttons instead of a dial and a scroll dial to make creative adjustments to brightness, vividness, color, and exposure compensation, among other things.

Its Auto Scene mode functions much like the intelligent exposure mode of other recent digicams but does a little better than most. A Sports Continuous release mode can capture up to 3 fps for 45 frames. And the flip-up flash fires with a good deal more intelligence than on many digicams.

I've been wary of Coolpixes in the recent past but from the first shots I took with the Coolpix S8000, my old enthusiasm returned. There's some smart stuff happening with this model. Those looking for an action camera, though, might want to stick with the Nikon S8000's video mode for that.

Look and Feel. The Nikon S8000 is a compact digicam that easily fit in my front jeans pocket, but tugs just a little on a light, summer shirt pocket. There are smaller cameras and thinner cameras but the size of the Coolpix S8000 really didn't bother me at all. I like a little heft to stabilize the camera when I press the Shutter button and the Coolpix S8000 provided just that and no more.

It isn't obvious from the illustrations but the front grip area of the Coolpix S8000 is actually non-slip. After you remove the label, that is. On the back, the recessed speaker grill also functions as a thumb grip. I always used the camera with its wrist strap but considering it has no molded grip, the Coolpix S8000 was comfortable to hold and use.

Available in black, red, bronze or silver, the front panel charmed me with a soft taper from the body to the lens. The AF-assist lamp cuts into that smooth slope at 11 o'clock on the lens but otherwise the front panel is clean.

Where's the flash? On the top panel. The back of the flash cover is a hinge on which the flash swivels up when required. That keeps it as far away from the lens as possible, minimizing red-eye -- a welcome approach.

The top panel also has a comfortably large Shutter button ringed with the Zoom control. Next to that is a small, recessed Power button itself ringed with an LED that indicates power is on. We had trouble activating it, but we never mistakenly turned the camera off.

The stereo microphones are just to the right of the Power button and the flash to the right of them.

There's nothing at all on the left side of the camera but the right side has both the wrist strap eyelet and the mini HDMI port covered by a plastic insert. Nikon doesn't include an HDMI cable with the Coolpix S8000.

The bottom of the camera has a metal tripod socket in one corner (closest to the lens) and the battery/card compartment in the other. The battery/card compartment has a small locking switch that makes it easy to secure the cover.

The USB port is adjacent to the battery/card compartment, an unfortunate location. More than once I had the cover open with the USB cable connected and it wasn't pretty. The problem is the black rubber flap that covers the USB port. It attaches to the camera near to the battery/card compartment hinge and easily swivels in the way.

Worse, though, was trying to get the flap open. There is a small gap on one side designed for your fingernail, but I had to peck at it repeatedly to get a grip and flip it away. And it wasn't just me. Several other people gave it a try and all had the same experience.

The back of the camera has a lot going on, starting with that gorgeous 921K dot LCD. You're going to like your photos more if they look good on the back of the camera and they look pretty nice on a 3.0-inch LCD with that much resolution. You'll think you have a sharper lens.

To the right of the LCD is a panel of controls and indicators. The speaker grill/thumb grip is in the top right corner with a charge/flash lamp.

Controls. The controls on the Coolpix S8000 are a bit different from most digicams.

The top panel is conventional, with a large Shutter button ringed by a Zoom lever. The Zoom lever not only zooms during recording and magnifies during playback but it also adjusts the volume during movie playback.

The Power button next to the Shutter button is both small and recessed. It is the only way to power off the camera (you can also power it on with the Playback button). While some reviewers have complained about the long start-up time of the Coolpix S8000, I found that like other Coolpixes, all you have to do is disable the startup screen to get quick startups.

The back panel hosts the rest of the controls and those are a bit unconventional.

There's no Mode dial, for example. Instead there are three Mode buttons: Shooting, Playback, and Movie. When you press the Shooting or Still mode button, you can choose between four further options displayed on the LCD: Auto, Scene, Smart Portrait, or Subject Tracking. The Movie mode button functions like a camcorder Record button, immediately starting or stopping video capture. And Playback, of course, takes you right to Playback mode without extending the lens if power is off.

Creative Slider. Four options have their own icons.

The Coolpix S8000 has what looks like a standard four-way navigator but it's actually a rotary multi-selector control. In Playback mode it spins through your images very quickly. And it also spins through menu options so you don't have to continually press an arrow key. The OK button in the middle functions just as you might expect to apply a selection.

The Nikon S8000's arrow buttons play major roles, too. Up toggles through the Flash modes -- but it is disabled when in Continuous release modes. Right accesses EV compensation, which Nikon has rechristened the Creative Slider, because pressing it transforms the rotary multi-selector control into a tool to adjust Brightness, Vividness and Hue settings. While the control is clever, all settings but EV are better left alone, frankly. Down accesses Macro mode. And Left accesses the self-timer options.

Below that are the Menu and Trash button. The Nikon S8000's Menu button takes you to the LCD menu system where you'll find the remaining options for each mode.

Lens. The Nikon S8000s' 10x optical zoom Nikkor lens has an equivalent focal length range of 30 to 300mm. Maximum aperture is f/3.5 to f/5.6. And digital zoom is available up to 2x for a maximum 600mm reach.

Focus ranges from 1.6 feet (50cm) to infinity in Normal mode and from 0.4 inches (1cm) to infinity in Macro mode.

Aperture is electronically adjusted via an ND filter (-2AV) selection in two steps (f/3.5 and f/7 at wide angle). Pressing the Shutter button halfway displays the aperture and shutter speed on the LCD.

The Coolpix S8000 also includes Nikon's Vibration Reduction lens-shift optical image stabilization, essential for handheld shots at telephoto range or in low light. And the lens uses Nikon's Extra-low Dispersion glass to enhance sharpness and contrast.

Modes. With no Mode dial, Nikon is making a statement. Modes on the Coolpix S8000 are unconventional. And our list above suggested just how unconventional with Smart Portrait and Subject Tracking among the Still options.

Smart Portrait uses face priority to recognize up to three human faces, firing the shutter when a smile is detected (using the Smile Timer option). A skin softening option (also available as an edit option) smooths skin tones of recognized faces after the image is captured. A Blink Proof option disables the flash to take two quick images, saving the one in which the subject's eyes are open.

Subject Tracking maintains focus on a moving subject. Its target icon is no joke. When you select it, a white border is displayed at the center of the frame. Place your subject inside the border and press the OK button to identify the subject you want to track. A yellow border frames the subject as it is being tracked.

If the camera recognizes a face, that face is automatically tracked. Just press the OK button to deselect the currently tracked subject if you want to track something else.

Scene modes are not quite the conventional list either. There's no Sports mode, for example (use Sports Continuous release mode). And there is an Auto scene mode.

Auto. Four still recording modes accessed by pressing the Still mode button.

Auto can set the camera to any of six common Scene modes: Auto (a general setting), Landscape, Night Landscape, Backlight, Portrait, Night Portrait, or Close-up. That covers quite a bit of territory. In fact, it covers most of the common errors made famous by automatic exposure. You can't use digital zoom, but that's about it. Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks, Copy, Backlight, and Panorama Assist round out the options.

The Coolpix S8000 records high definition video at 1,280 x 720 and 30 frames per second with stereo sound captured by the mics on the top panel. It can also record standard definition video at 640 x480 or 320 x 240, both at 30 fps. While optical zoom is disabled when recording starts, you can still use the 2x digital zoom. Video format is MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 with AAC stereo.

Menu System. Shooting, Movie, Setup tabs.

Menu System. Controlling the Coolpix S8000 is done primarily with the three mode buttons: Still, Movie, and Playback. Within those modes, a press of the Menu button reveals options not otherwise available. They're displayed in as many as three tabs.

In Record mode, the Still tab contains a comprehensive list of options. Image mode (which includes various image sizes at either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratios), White Balance, Metering (matrix or center-weighted only), Release mode (Single, Continuous, BSS, Multi-shot 16, Sport continuous), ISO (Auto; Fixed Range auto of either 100-400 or 100-800; 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200), AF area mode (Face priority, Auto, Manual, Center), and Autofocus mode (Single AF, Full-time AF).

The Movie tab has options for image size (1,280 x 720 HD, 640 x 480 VGA, or 320 x240 QVGA) and Autofocus mode (Single AF, Full-time AF).

And the Setup tab has options for Language, TV settings, Charge by computer, Blink warning, Reset, Firmware version, Motion detection, AF assist, Digital zoom, Sound settings, Auto off, and Format.

In Playback mode, the options are Quick retouch, D-Lighting, Skin softening, Print set, Slide show, Delete, Protect, Rotate image, Small picture, Voice memo, and Copy. The Setup tab is also available on a separate tab.

Storage & Battery. The Coolpix S8000 has 32MB of internal memory to bail you out when the optional memory card fills. Nikon warns that MMC cards are not compatible with the Coolpix S8000. Only SD cards are supported. Nikon recommends cards with an SD Speed Class rating of 6 or faster when recording movies or recording may "stop unexpectedly." The company has tested and approved cards from SanDisk, Toshiba and Panasonic up to 32GB and Lexar up to 8GB.

The Coolpix S8000 is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery EN-EL12, which is included with a charging AC adapter EH-68P/EH-68P. An optional AC adapter EH-62F and battery Charger MH-65 are also available. Nikon estimates battery life at about 210 shots with an EN-EL12 battery.

Image Quality. If you're one of those photographers who judges image quality by what you see on the camera's LCD, the Coolpix S8000 is going to look pretty good to you. But that's at least partly due to the higher resolution 921K-dot 3.0-inch LCD.

The resolution of 14-megapixel sensors never seems sharp when you pixel peep at 100 percent. And it's often obscured further by noise reduction and JPEG processing. The Coolpix S8000 doesn't escape that fate.

Kodak Slice Detail. Shot with f/5.0 at 1/15 second and ISO 400.

Coolpix S8000 Detail. Shot with f/3.8 at 1/25 second and also ISO 400.

We're not pixel-peeping here but simulating a normal view of these 14-megapixel images. We resized both images at 50 percent and applied our normal screen sharpening. Although the images are not identical (because they were handheld shots), the difference in quality is obvious.

We did see some difference between the Nikon S8000 and its competition in color accuracy and tonal capture. Although the Coolpix S8000 does not offer Active D-Lighting to maintain detail in both the highlights and shadows, it does offer D-Lighting as an Edit function. But I really didn't need it because the Coolpix S8000 seemed pretty smart about avoiding highlight and shadow clipping.

Maybe it wasn't smarts so much as simply underexposing a bit. The water pitcher and the white flowers (shown here) could both have used some positive exposure compensation.

Colors looked natural even though our Imatest ColorChecker chart shows significant shifts in red, blue, and green tones. The reds might have concerned me if I hadn't compared poinsettia shots with a Kodak Slice, as I explain in the next section.

Shooting. My very first shots with the Coolpix S8000 were rewarding if for no other reason than its high resolution LCD. But I also liked how the scene was rendered, whether it was a high contrast outdoor shot or a close-up at ISO 3,200.

The real problem I had with the Coolpix S8000 was wrapping my head around its unconventional exposure options. Where was the Mode dial? Where was Program Auto? What, no Intelligent Auto? No auto Macro mode?

Zoom Range. 30mm to 300mm to 2x digital zoom.

I found out I didn't need a Mode dial because the Coolpix S8000 has mode buttons. And its Auto mode is the equivalent of Program Auto. Intelligent Auto is really just Auto Scene mode. And that's where you find auto Macro mode, too.

Once I had oriented myself to the Coolpix S8000, we had even more fun. Its backlighting control was perfect for a first grade baseball game. And it's Smart Portrait mode made me look like I was clairvoyant.

But for my very first photos, I snapped a series of shots with both the Coolpix S8000 and the Kodak Slice, each of which uses a 14-megapixel sensor.

The first was a dramatic if ungainly composition of a frosted glass lamp shade against a light-colored office chair with the light coming from behind. I liked how the light illuminated the shade against the office chair in shadow.

The Coolpix S8000 captured exactly what had attracted me to the image. The Kodak captured what you would call a technically correct exposure (the shadows were lighter) but one that completely missed the point.

Exposures were quite different. The Kodak used f/5.2 at 1/10 second and ISO 400 while the Coolpix S8000 took the same shot with f/4.6 at 1/20 second and ISO 800. Focal lengths were equivalent at about 20mm.

That was no aberration. On a wide angle shot of a plant under a skylight, the Kodak overexposed the highlights while the Coolpix S8000 captured what I saw with more natural tones. The Slice used f/4.8 at 1/8 second and ISO 400 while the Coolpix S8000 took the same shot with f/3.8 at 1/10 second and ISO 400. Nearly equivalent and yet dramatically different.

The biggest difference between the two digicams was in a shot of a poinsettia still in bloom. The Slice capture was with f/5.0 at 1/15 second and ISO 400 while the Coolpix S8000 snapped it with f/3.8 at 1/25 second and ISO 400. Again the color capture was the difference with the Kodak failing to capture any detail at all in the red petals and the Coolpix S8000 holding some detail in the red petals and even more detail in the green leaves.

I'd thought a first grade baseball game would be the perfect test of Sports scene mode -- except there isn't one. Instead, if the subject is moving fast, you can use Sports Continuous release mode, which captures a 3-megapixel image at 3 frames-per-second. From my perspective, first graders move fast. But I found standard Auto on the Coolpix S8000 was able to handle them just fine.

The big problem, ironically, was that I hit the Shutter button far too quickly anticipating a slide at the plate or a big swing. In this case, the Coolpix S8000 was just more responsive than I was used to.

And the solution for that was simply to tap into the 3-fps Sports Continuous release mode and keep the Shutter button pressed until the play was over.

But I opted for an HD movie instead. It's a cruel world.

Smart Portrait. Quicker to catch a smile than I am. (This is not Mary, BTW.)

I'm not a big fan of letting the camera decide when to snap the shot. I like to make that call. But I had to admit that every shot I took of sister-in-law Mary was a dud. She'd be laughing for a minute and a half, I'd take six shots of her and not one of them captured the laugh. She'd look like she was crying or sad. It was uncanny. And not just once, but every time over a three day period. We started to joke about it because I didn't have that problem with any of her four sisters.

So in desperation one afternoon, I switched to Smart Portrait, enabling the Smile Timer feature. And just to make it up to her, I also left Skin Smoothing on. Could the Coolpix S8000 capture her smile?

It recognized her face right away, framing it with a big green box. The box turned yellow when focus was achieved, tracking her so that the instant she smiled, the shutter snapped. The very first shot was the sweetly smiling Mary we had never managed to capture before.

She thought I was kidding when I raved about my success. So I showed her the shot and she was impressed. But she still didn't believe the camera had decided when to take the shot. She thought maybe my luck had changed.

So I let her try it on a few of her sisters and the same thing happened. As soon as they smiled, the camera caught them. Perfectly.

The only time the Coolpix S8000 had a problem was when the faces were backlit and in heavy shadow. Not enough contrast, I guessed. Otherwise, it did a much better job than I had been able to do.

Subject Tracking required a moving subject. I tried woodchucks, squirrels, birds, and children. It actually worked well (better than expected, that is) as long as there was sufficient contrast to distinguish the subject from the background when identifying the subject.

Pressing the OK button to target a subject (or release it) wasn't a problem. I'd thought I would prefer using the Shutter button for that, but I preferred having a different button for targeting the subject.

And when I got ambitious and tried ISO 3,200, I was surprised it wasn't a complete flop. There was accurate color and detail good enough to render sharp type on an old Brownie.

Carnival. One of the few good shots, obtained with the old-fashioned method of prefocusing on a nearby subject; subject tracking couldn't keep up with multiple cars.

A trip to the carnival by our senior editor netted some different results, however, with the camera often refusing to take a shot at all when it couldn't lock focus on a child in a moving ride. Though he managed to eke out a few very good shots, it was only through extreme effort and years of experience using wayward cameras. In the end, he resorted to using the Nikon S8000's video mode for most of the rest of the evening.

We found the same unwillingness to fire quite often in the lab, including when we were testing for "Early shutter penalty," where a camera refuses to shoot if you press the shutter release too early after the previous shot. Though our lab target doesn't move for this test, our tester noted, "sometimes it just refuses to take a shot even after multiple press and release attempts." That jibes with what we saw in the field as well.

Click to view movie. QuickTime player required.

720p HD Video. Stereo sound and 2x digital zoom. A five second clip in 5.5MB.

With a dedicated video capture button on the back panel, making movies was pretty easy, and a good fallback when excessive motion overwhelmed the Nikon S8000. Just be sure to select the format you want (HD or SD) before you start recording. Video quality is a little soft for something called HD, though, and zoom while recording is digital only.

 

Nikon Coolpix S8000 Lens Quality


Wide: Slightly soft at center
Wide: Softer in upper left corner
Tele: Slightly soft at center
Tele: Slightly softer, upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Nikon S8000's zoom is slightly soft at the center, despite aggressive sharpening indicated by visible halos around elements of high contrast. Corners are softer, with the upper left corner being the softest. The corner softness doesn't extend very far into the frame, though. At the full telephoto end, the lens is also slightly soft in the center, and the corners are somewhat softer, but not dramatically so. Corners on the left-hand side were a bit softer than the right.

We did however notice at an intermediate focal length of 20.9mm (116mm eq.), the image is quite soft along the left-hand side. See our ISO 100 Still Life shot.


Wide: Less than average barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
Tele: Average pincushion distortion; slightly noticeable

Geometric Distortion: The Nikon S8000's lens shows much less than average barrel distortion at wide-angle (about 0.3%), and about average pincushion distortion at telephoto (0.2%). In both cases, the distortion is only slightly noticeable. We suspect the camera's image processing is correcting for this type of distortion, as these are really good results for a 10x zoom.


Wide: High
Tele: High

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is bright and quite noticeable in areas of high contrast. Chromatic aberration at full telephoto is also quite high and noticeable. In both cases, the color fringing gradually reduces in brightness and width as it approaches the center of the image, where it is negligible. Dark areas of both targets are also rimmed with very strong sharpening halos.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Nikon S8000's Macro mode captures reasonably sharp details at the center of the frame, though blurring is fairly strong in the corners and around the edges. (Corner softness is quite common at these distances.) Chromatic aberration is visible in brighter areas, and the camera focuses so closely that even ambient lighting is difficult to achieve. Minimum coverage area is 0.94 x 0.71 inches (24 x 18mm), which is very small. Exposure with the flash is also uneven, with the lens blocking the flash in all but the extreme top left of the image.


 

Nikon Coolpix S8000 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Nikon Coolpix S8000's LCD monitor showed about 100% coverage accuracy at both wide-angle and telephoto. Excellent results here.


 

Nikon Coolpix S8000 Image Quality


Click for larger version

Color: The Coolpix S8000 increases saturation of blues and reds, as well as orange, green, purple, and brown, but undersaturates yellow and some aquas. Overall saturation is good, and not quite as pumped as many consumer digicams. Color accuracy is actually quite good, with relative small shifts in hues from their ideal values. (The blue to cyan shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) Lighter Caucasian skintones have a robust, healthy-looking pink tint but darker ones are a bit warm and sometimes yellowish.


Auto WB :
Warm
Incandescent WB:
Still too warm
Manual WB:
Very good

Incandescent: Auto white balance mode produced a warm image under incandescent lighting. Incandescent white balance did a bit better, but results were still a bit too warm. Manual white balance performed well and was quite accurate, perhaps just a touch cool.


Horizontal: 1,800 lines
Vertical: 1,800 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height horizontally and vertically. That's a bit low for a 14-megapixel camera, and there are obvious sharpening artifacts. Extinction of the pattern occurred just a little past 2,600 lines per picture height.


Wide: Dim, ISO 640
Tele: Slightly dim, ISO 1,000
AE, Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows dim results at the specified wide-angle distance of 18 feet or 5.5 meters, even though the camera increased ISO to 640. The image at full telephoto was slightly brighter, though still on the dim side at the rated distance of 12 feet or 3.7 meters, despite the use of a whopping 1,000 ISO sensitivity.

Auto exposure which selected Portrait scene mode with Auto flash produced a reasonably bright image of our indoor test scene, but the camera raised ISO to 250. Shutter speed was 1/40s, which should be sufficient to avoid most instances of camera and/or subject motion blur for typical portraits, though we would prefer to see a slightly faster shutter speed such as 1/60s. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail starts out a little soft at ISO 100, and progressively degrades as ISO increases. Still, the amount of detail preserved up to ISO 400 is pretty good for its class. Chroma (color) noise is fairly well controlled up to ISO 400, and becomes more of an issue at ISO 800 and above, especially in shadows and midtones. Luminance noise begins to really interfere with detail by ISO 800, and by ISO 3,200, most fine detail is smudged away by aggressive noise reduction. Saturation also takes a noticeable hit at ISO 3,200. See Printed results below for more on how this affects printed images.


Printed: ISO 100 images look pretty sharp printed at 13x19 inches, though with slightly soft curves and low-contrast areas. Higher contrast areas look more sharp. In our sample camera, though, the entire left side of the photo is soft at some focal lengths, an issue that is noticeable down to 5x7, regardless of ISO sensitivity.

ISO 200 shots are also usable at 13x19 inches, with a little more softening in low-contrast areas.

ISO 400 shots are good at 11x14, with a hint of chroma and luminance noise in the shadows, but not bad.

ISO 800 shots look good at 8x10 inches.

ISO 1,600 images are a little darker, but still print well at 5x7 inches.

ISO 3,200 images lose much of their vibrance, with some reds almost looking brown, but detail quality is good enough for a 4x6 with fairly low noise.

Overall, the Nikon S8000 would have done better in our printed test if it weren't for the noticeable blur down the left side of the frame, which is visible in prints as small as 5x7 inches.


 

Nikon Coolpix S8000 Performance


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.33 second at wide-angle and 0.40 second at telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.128 second, which is slower than average but still pretty snappy.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is about average, capturing a frame every 1.84 seconds in single-shot mode. Nikon claims 0.7 frames-per-second for up to 10 JPEGs in full resolution continuous mode, but we didn't test that. The Nikon S8000 also has a Sport Continuous mode rated at 3 frames-per-second for up to 45 3-megapixel JPEGs.


Flash Recycle: Nikon S8000's flash recycles in 6.3 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is about average.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was only able to focus down to just below the 1/2 foot-candle light level without AF assist lamp enabled, but in complete darkness with AF assist.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Nikon Coolpix S8000's download speeds are moderately fast. We measured 8,023 KBytes/sec.


 

In the Box

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 ships with the following items in the box:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Nikon Coolpix S8000 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • 10x 30-300mm equivalent optical zoom
  • Optical image stabilization
  • 3-inch high resolution (921K dots) LCD
  • Attractive, pocketable design
  • 720p HD movies
  • Stereo audio recording in movie mode
  • Dedicated movie record button
  • Smart Auto Scene mode
  • HDMI output
  • Good corner sharpness for class of lens
  • Low levels of barrel distortion at wide-angle
  • Sports continuous mode captures up to 3fps at 3 megapixels
  • Fast autofocus
  • Fast startup time
  • Subject Tracking AF
  • Smile Timer and Blink Proof
  • Slightly soft lens at both wide-angle and telephoto
  • Left side of our sample was soft at middle focal lengths
  • 14-megapixel sensor does not deliver the same detail as a 12-megapixel design
  • Heavy anti-noise processing softens detail even at low ISOs
  • High levels of chromatic aberration
  • Few manual controls
  • Sluggish burst mode at full resolution
  • No control over noise reduction
  • Lens does not go as wide as most of the competition these days
  • No optical zoom in movies
  • Shutter sometimes won't fire
  • Below average battery life
  • Difficulty accessing USB port
  • Auto white balance and incandescent leave our incandescent test target too warm

 

The Coolpix S8000 made a good first impression on me -- but with a high resolution 3.0-inch LCD that wasn't hard to do. As I shot with it, it kept impressing me -- and that was no easy feat.

At first I stuck to what I know: Auto mode (or Program Auto on any other camera). And I could have lived happily ever after doing just that for HD movies or stills. But I had to try Smart Portrait and Subject Tracking and Auto Scene mode too. Part of the job, after all.

Smart Portrait actually did better than I could in Auto. Auto Scene handled a number of common problems with such dispatch that I was tempted to leave the camera set there instead of Auto. And even ISO 3,200 achieved accurate color and good detail at full resolution.

The 10x zoom was just the ticket, starting at 30mm. I really didn't have to jump into digital zoom, but when I did, the results were acceptable. You can't always say that. Even the flash showed uncommon intelligence, throttling down to hold the highlights on a white porcelain water pitcher.

Still, when it came to capturing action, we got the impression that the Nikon S8000 just wasn't up to it. It's designed to be sure of what it sees, and if things are happening too fast for it, it just won't fire until things settle down. Family events frequently have movement, and it was at these times--and a few others--that the Nikon S8000 just stopped working. So as a long zoom for casual shooting around town, the Nikon S8000 will do just fine, but leave the action shots to other cameras.