Nikon Coolpix 8400By: Shawn Barnett & Dave Etchells
Nikon broadens its 8-megapixel lineup, with a "wide" angle 3.5x zoom model, but the same legendary Nikon feature set!
<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): 8400 Imatest Results>>
8400 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 09/16/2004, Updated: 12/13/2004
Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 8400 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumbnail index page for the test shots. The data on this page includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with all that detail, we're posting the thumbnail index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
Note: Astute readers who've already read my review of the Nikon Coolpix 8800 will see a lot of similarity in my comments below. I did indeed examine the 8400's images individually, but where I found results identical to those of the 8800, I left large chunks of the verbiage unchanged. As you might expect, given that they appear to use the same sensor and very similar internal electronics, the Coolpix 8400 and 8800 produce nearly identical images.
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Nikon Coolpix 8400 produced good color, but had a little trouble with dynamic range under the harsh lighting.
The shot at right was taken with a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is quite high for this shot. The brightest highlights are pretty much blown out, but midtones look good and the shadows have very good detail. (The image taken at +1.0 EV was just too dark overall.) The Nikon 8400's Auto white balance setting produced the most accurate color here, despite a very faint red tint. The Daylight setting resulted in a warm, yellow cast, and the Manual setting had a stronger red cast.
Marti's skin tones are very good here, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are only slightly dark. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue, and the Nikon 8400 does render them a little darker and more purplish than in real life, but comes very close.) The rest of the flower bouquet looks good as well, though also slightly dark. Colors are somewhat oversaturated (particularly the bright reds and greens), but the overall effect is quite appealing, in large part because the oversaturation doesn't extend to the flesh tones. Resolution is really excellent, and a lot of fine detail is visible throughout the frame, including Marti's face. Shadow detail is very good, and image noise is low, surprisingly so for an 8-megapixel prosumer digital camera. Aside from the high contrast and slight loss of highlight detail, results are good.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files CP84OUTAP0.HTM
through CP84OUTAP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent resolution and detail, though contrast is high and the highlights too strong.
The high-key lighting again results in high contrast, but the Nikon Coolpix 8400 required much less positive exposure compensation for this close-up shot. In the photo at right, I used a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get the midtones more or less where they needed to be, but this again left the highlights overly bright, despite my setting the 8400's internal contrast adjustment to its lowest value. However, detail is good in the midtones and shadows, though the overall image is a hint dark. The Coolpix 8400's 3.5x zoom lens helps prevent distortion in Marti's features, and renders sharp details. Resolution and detail even better in this close-up shot, with strong definition in Marti's face and hair (a truly embarrassing level of detail), and in the cloth weave of the green leaves.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files CP84OUTFACP0.HTM
through CP84OUTFACP4.HTM on the thumbnail index
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Quite a bit of underexposure with the normal flash mode, though a hefty exposure boost brightens the image somewhat. Slightly underexposure with Slow-Sync mode too, and a stronger orange cast.
Though still a little dark, I preferred the Nikon Coolpix 8400's built-in flash with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment in this shot, as the default exposure was quite dark. (The image taken with a +1.3 EV adjustment was definitely brighter, but color and highlights were too washed out from the stronger flash.) Color balance is slightly warm from the background incandescent lighting, though Marti's face and white shirt are cool from the flash. Still, overall color is quite good. The camera's Slow-Sync flash setting produced a brighter overall exposure, due to the longer shutter speed, but with an increased orange cast. I found the best exposure with a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV in the normal flash mode, see files CP84INFP0.HTM through CP84INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
To view the same exposure series in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files
CP84INFSP0.HTM through CP84INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Very good results, although slight color casts with all three white balance settings. Less than average exposure compensation required.
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. I chose the Auto setting as the best looking here even though it was a hint reddish. The Incandescent setting resulted in a stronger yellow cast, and the Manual white balance setting produced an image that was a little greenish-looking. The reddish cast turns Marti's skin tones a little warm, and color in the flower bouquet is a little reddish as well. The blue flowers are slightly dark and purplish, but that's almost to be expected with this difficult light source. The main shot was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, as anything brighter overdid the highlights on Marti's shirt.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see files CP84INMP0.HTM
through CP84INMP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Good color, with strong detail and high resolution. Slight softness in the corners of the frame though.
The Coolpix 8400's Manual white balance
setting produced the most accurate white value on the house trim, and
the best overall color. The Daylight setting
was warm and yellow, and the Auto setting
had a red cast. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the tree
limbs, front shrubbery, and in the trim and brick pattern of the house
front. Details are fairly sharp overall, but soften in the corners. (Though
detail is quite strong here, the Coolpix 8400's 8.0-megapixel CCD is capable
of picking up more detail than this poster has in it, even though it was
made from a 4x5 transparency shot with a tack-sharp lens.)
High resolution and strong detail, but high contrast limits the dynamic range.
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.
This is my ultimate "resolution shot,"
given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the
Coolpix 8400 does an excellent job with it. Leaf patterns in the front
shrubbery are very strong, and the bark in the tree limbs above the roof
shows a lot of fine detail. Likewise, detail is very strong in the brick
pattern on the house front, as well as in the fallen foliage on the ground.
Details are also quite sharp throughout the frame, with better than average
sharpness in the corners. The camera just manages to hold onto detail
in the strong highlights of the white paint on the bay window, a problem
area for many cameras. The whole image looks slightly underexposed to
my eye though, and detail suffers in the shadow area above the front door,
evidence of a limited dynamic range resulting from the camera's high default
contrast. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series,
followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, and saturation series. (Here is
a sample image taken with the camera's Black
and White setting.)
Lens Zoom Range
A good 3.5x zoom range, with a nice wide angle.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3.5x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The Coolpix 8400's lens is equivalent to a 24-85mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a very wide angle to a moderate telephoto, and is closer to the common zoom range chosen as a "starter" lens for an SLR, as it's good for portraits and scenery. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Color casts with each white balance setting tested, but very high resolution and strong detail.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue
in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing
a warm color balance, and both the Coolpix 8400's Auto
and Daylight settings did just that. However,
the Manual setting produced a cooler, more
magenta cast. It was tough to call here, but in the end I decided on the
Manual setting, as the overall color looked closest to that of the subject.
The models' skin tones are reddish, and the blue background and robe a
little purplish in places, but I still felt that the overall color was
closest to reality. (You could likely adjust the color balance via a small
adjustment in post-capture software on a computer as well.) Resolution
is very high, and detail is strong in the embroidered bird wings on the
blue robe, as well as in the models' accessories. (The original data file
for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the Coolpix 8400
are capable of showing more detail than the poster actually has in it.)
A very small macro area with great detail, though some strong softening in the corners. Flash has trouble up close though.
True to Nikon form, the Coolpix 8400 performed very well in the macro
category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.83 x 1.37 inches (46 x 35
millimeters). Resolution is very high, showing a lot of fine detail in
the dollar bill. Details are quite soft on the coins and brooch due to
the close shooting range, as well as some softening of detail in the corners
of the frame. (The soft brooch and coins are due to the shallow depth
of field at macro distances, so aren't the camera's fault. On the other
hand, the soft corners are, but most digicams produce images with soft
corners when shooting in their Macro modes.) The Coolpix 8400's flash
has trouble at such close range, overexposing the majority of the frame.
(A good idea to have alternative lighting for macro shooting with this
"Davebox" Test Target
Pleasing color, but somewhat oversaturated on the brightest colors. Good exposure as well.
No surprise here, the Nikon Coolpix 8400 delivered almost exactly the
same color rendition as did the Coolpix 8800 that I tested before it,
although I went with the 8400's Manual white
balance setting for the main image, despite a very slight magenta tint.
The Auto setting appeared slightly warm and
reddish, and the Daylight setting was quite
warm and yellowish. Exposure looks pretty good, though maybe a little
contrasty, and the Coolpix 8400 distinguishes the subtle tonal variations
of the Q60 target well. The large color blocks are all pretty good as
well, though the large, red block is slightly cool. Detail is strong in
the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with moderately low noise.
The large color blocks are fairly hue-accurate, but the most intensely
colored swatches (red, green, blue, magenta) are noticeably over-saturated.
Conversely, the bright yellow swatch is somewhat dark and under-saturated.
The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows good detail, with fairly
Good to moderate low-light performance. Good exposure and moderate image noise, but slight color tints. Very good low-light autofocus performance, IF you have the camera on a tripod and have a nice contrasty subject.
The Coolpix 8400 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, only at the 400 ISO setting. At ISOs 50 and 100, images were bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level. At ISO 200, images were bright down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, though the target is visible at the lowest light level of the test. Overall color was slightly warm, but still pretty good. Noise is fairly low in most shots. At ISO 400, image noise is fairly high, but the camera's Noise Reduction system does do a fair job of decreasing its effects. Without Noise Reduction enabled, the bright pixels redden the color balance. Noise level remains high with Noise Reduction, but the overall image still looks a little better. The Nikon 8400's autofocus system worked very well in dim lighting, focusing without its AF-assist light down to about 1/8 foot-candle, and in complete darkness with the AF-assist light enabled. NOTE though, that the camera struggled a fair bit with low-contrast subjects, and often had a very hard time focusing if hand-held vs tripod-mounted. Since average city street lighting at night equates to about one foot-candle, the Coolpix 8400 ought to do very well in average night conditions. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to
check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a
light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two
seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)
Flash Range Test
A weak flash, dim at eight feet, and with significant falloff from nine feet on.
In my testing, the Coolpix 8400's flash only barely illuminated the test target at 14 feet, showing significant decreases in intensity from the nine-foot distance on. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
High resolution, 1,650 lines of "strong detail." High barrel distortion at wide angle. Moderate to low chromatic aberration, good sharpness in the corners.
The Nikon Coolpix 8400 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,650 lines. (Compared to the Coolpix 8800, its images were just slightly less crisp, but there were fewer artifacts in the very fine detail. Overall performance was pretty equivalent though.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 2,000 lines.
Looking at the results from Imatest, the "MTF 50" numbers tend to correlate best with visual perceptions of sharpness, so those are what I focus on here. The uncorrected resolution figures are 1380 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge), and 1391 along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 1386 LW/PH. Correcting to a "standardized" sharpening with a one-pixel radius increases this number slightly, to an average of 1519 LW/PH, a very good number. (Very slightly lower resolution than I found with the Coolpix 8800, which came in at a corrected average of 1559 LW/PH.)
Geometric distortion on the Coolpix 8400 is quite high at the wide-angle
end, where I measured approximately 1.01 percent barrel distortion. (Perhaps
somewhat to be excused due to its excellent wide angle capability.) The
telephoto end fared quite a bit better, as I measured approximately 0.01
percent barrel distortion (about two pixels' worth). Chromatic aberration
is moderate at wide angle settings (better than average, I'd say, given
the very wide angle capability of the 8400), and very low at telephoto
focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe
around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution
target.) The 8400's lens also does a much better job than most at maintaining
sharpness into the corners of the frame.
Resolution Series, medium focal length
Resolution Test, Zoom Series
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Good accuracy from the EVF and LCD monitor.
The Coolpix 8400's "electronic" optical viewfinder (EVF) is fairly accurate, showing about 95 percent of the final image area at wide angle. At telephoto, the top measurement line is just cut off, but frame accuracy is probably close to that at wide angle. The LCD produced similar results, since it's really just the same view on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Coolpix 8400's LCD monitor has just a little room for improvement, but should be plenty accurate for typical shooting. Flash distribution is only a little uneven at wide angle, with a small amount of falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.
Reader Comments! --> Visit our discussion forum for the Nikon Coolpix 8400!