Nikon Coolpix 8700Nikon moves into 8 megapixel territory with a long zoom, and a new body, but the same legendary Nikon feature set!
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8700 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 03/22/2004
Digital Cameras - Nikon Coolpix 8700 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!|
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 Coolpix 8700 handled the challenge pretty well.
The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, produced reasonably open midtones, but lost detail in the strong highlights due to the high default contrast. I also shot with the camera's low contrast setting, but with only limited success. (See the comparison below.) I chose the Auto white balance setting as the most accurate overall, as the Daylight setting was a little cool, and the Manual setting a little warm.
Color is quite good throughout the frame, with good skin tones. The blue flowers of the bouquet are a little darker than they are in real life, but without any strong purplish tints. (This is a difficult blue for many digicams to capture, but the Coolpix 8700 did very well with it.) Colors are bright and vibrant, despite the blown highlights. Resolution is very high, and detail is strong in the flowers and on Marti's face, even in the shadows. Image noise is pretty good, lower than I'd expected, given the camera's 8 megapixel sensor.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files CP87OUTAP0.HTM through CP87OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
As mentioned above, I played with the 8700's contrast adjustment control somewhat, hoping for an option that would reduce the camera's somewhat high default contrast. What I found was that (in this shot, at least), the contrast control only darkened the image overall. When I adjusted the exposure back up to match the image brightness of the "normal" contrast shots, the "low contrast" images looked every bit as contrasty as the "normal" ones. The earlier 5700 model had this same problem, it's a shame that Nikon couldn't have corrected it in this model. - The combination of high default contrast and the lack of an effective contrast adjustment puts the 8700 at a disadvantage relative to other 8 megapixel models currently on the market.
Excellent resolution and detail, and no distortion from the 8x lens. Once again, high contrast in response to the harsh lighting though.
This close-up shot looks similar to the wider shot above, with fairly high contrast. Despite the high contrast, midtone detail is good. The shot at right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, a little more than I generally find necessary on this shot. Even an exposure compensation of +0.3 EV produced very dark shadows though, so I opted to go with the +0.7 EV shot for the main example. The Coolpix 8700 features an 8x zoom lens, which helps avoid distortion of Marti's features. Detail is strong and well-defined in Marti's face and hair, thanks to the 8700's high resolution and sharp lens.
To view the entire exposure series from +0.3 to +1.0 EV, see
files CP87OUTFACP1.HTM through CP87OUTFACP3.HTM on the thumbnail
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Good intensity and coverage with the built-in flash, with excellent color as well.
The Coolpix 8700's built-in flash illuminated the subject fairly well at its default exposure setting, though I obtained the best exposure with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment. Color is pretty good, with a good white value on Marti's shirt and realistic results in the flower bouquet. The highlights are a little strong here though, but I felt the version with only +0.3 EV was too dark overall. I also shot with the camera's Slow-Sync flash mode, choosing a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost, though the default exposure setting also looked pretty good. The longer exposure time allows more ambient light into the image, which resulted in a slight warm cast from the background incandescent household lighting, but overall the onboard flash blended very well with the room lighting, and overall color was still quite good.
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.3 EV, see
files CP87INFP0.HTM through CP87INFP4.HTM on the thumbnail
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
An unusually good job: Very slight color casts, but still really good color overall. Average exposure accuracy.
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. The Coolpix
8700's Auto white balance produced
the best overall color here, despite a slight reddish cast
on the white shirt. - This is much better than most
cameras manage on this shot though. The Manual setting also
produced good results, albeit with a more greenish tint, and
the Incandescent setting resulted in a warm cast. I chose
a +1.0 EV exposure compensation
adjustment for the main image. (Here's a sample image at the
default exposure.) Color looks
nearly accurate, even in the difficult blue flowers. (There
is a slight purplish tint to them, but that's to be expected
given the difficult light source.)
Excellent color, resolution, and detail.
For this shot, I chose the Coolpix 8700's Manual
white balance setting, despite a very slight cool cast overall.
The Auto setting also looked good,
though slightly reddish, and the Daylight
setting resulted in a warmer, yellow cast. Despite the cool
tone in the bricks and grass, overall color looks really good.
Resolution is very high, with excellent detail. The tree limbs
above the roof and shrubbery in front of the house show great
detail, as does the house front itself. (Look at the shadow
patterns in the bricks.) The Coolpix 8700's 8.31-megapixel
CCD clearly stretches the limits of this poster as a test
target, even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan
of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens. Details are
sharp practically from corner to corner.
Excellent resolution and detail, with high contrast but decent 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 8700 does an excellent job. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show strong detail, with fine definition in the leaf patterns. The house front details are also well-defined. The image is pretty sharp from corner to corner, with only a little softness in the corners, but noticeable amounts of chromatic aberration. In-camera sharpening does a pretty good job, with crisp details throughout the frame, but some tendency to produce halos around high-contrast edges at its default setting. The bright white paint surrounding the bay window is a bit blown out (a trouble spot for many digicams), but there's surprisingly good detail in the deep shadows near the door. Color is quite good overall, well-saturated yet accurate. (Here's a sample image at the Black and White setting, for those who may be interested.) The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, contrast, and saturation series.
Lens Zoom Range
Excellent 8x zoom range.
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 (8x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The Coolpix 8700's lens is equivalent to a 35-280mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Good color with the Daylight white balance, excellent resolution.
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. The Coolpix 8700's
Daylight white balance setting did the best job here,
producing the most accurate overall color balance. (The Auto
setting fell prey to the overabundance of blue, producing
an image that was much too warm, while the Manual
setting resulted in an image that was too cool.) The blue
robe is about right, with only faint purplish tints in the
deep shadows. Resolution is excellent, and detail is strong
in the embroidery of the blue robe, as well as in the other
small details of the composition. (The original data file
for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the
Coolpix 8700 are definitely capable of showing more detail
than the poster has in it. - Don't look at this test for any
indication of resolution, only color in the skin tones.)
A *very* tiny macro area with good detail in the dollar bill. Flash is blocked by the lens, however.
The Coolpix 8700 performed very well in the macro category (as
do most Nikon digicams), capturing a minimum area of only
0.87 x 1.16 inches (22 x 29 millimeters). Resolution is very
high, showing a lot of fine detail in the printing of the
dollar bill. Details are well-defined, though corner softness
is strong in all four corners. The position of the 8700's
flash and the long lens barrel
result in a dark shadow throughout most of the frame. (Plan
on using external illumination for the closest macro shots
with the Coolpix 8700.)
"Davebox" Test Target
Great color and detail, despite a slight overexposure.
I chose the Coolpix 8700's Manual
white balance setting for this shot, though the Auto
option also produced good results (just slightly reddish).
The Daylight setting resulted
in a more pronounced warm cast. The exposure here is just
a little bright, but the camera distinguishes the subtle tonal
variations of the Q60 target without difficulty. Colors are
nearly accurate in the large color blocks, with good saturation.
(Here's a shot with the camera's Black
and White option as well.) The shadow area of the charcoal
briquettes shows good detail, with low noise, and the last
steps of the vertical gray scales are also visible. A great
Excellent low-light shooting capabilities, with pretty good color.
The Coolpix 8700 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color across the board. (Note though, that I had to use the Bulb mode for exposure times longer than 8 seconds, which could be a handicap at the lowest light levels.) The 8700 features an optional Noise Reduction system, but I was really hard-pressed to see any change in image noise with it turned on or off. - The good news with that though, is that the 8700 produces very "clean" images on long exposures, even without a noise reduction system engaged. (Very impressive.) The 8700's EVF is also better under low light conditions than most I've tested, usable down to 1/8 foot-candle, a good 3 f-stops darker than typical city night scenes. With an autofocus assist light, the 8700 is capable of focusing in total darkness, but in practice I found that it did much better at wide angle, with at least some background illumination, and definitely worked best with subjects having sharply-defined, high-contrast detail. In the dark, at telephoto zoom settings, and with less-contrasty subjects, focus could be pretty hit-or-miss. 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 my sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
Flash Range Test
Good intensity to the 10-foot distance at ISO 50, with slowly decreasing exposure from there. (ISO 100 would yield coverage to about 14 feet.)
In my testing, the Coolpix 8700's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, though with slight decreases in intensity from 10 feet on. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
Very high resolution, 1,600-1,650 lines of "strong detail." Average barrel distortion, though pincushion is low.
The Coolpix 8700 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It didn't start showing artifacts in the test patterns until resolutions as high as 1,200-1,300 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,600 lines, although some might perhaps argue for as high as 1,700 lines along the horizontal axis. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until right at 2,000 lines, although some detail is still visible here.
Optical distortion on the Coolpix 8700 is about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared better, as I measured a 0.2 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is fairly high, showing about six pixels of fairly bright coloration on either side of the target lines in the wide angle shot. (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.)
Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Resolution Test, Telephoto
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Good accuracy from the electronic optical viewfinder and LCD, though both are just slightly tight.
The Coolpix 8700's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) is just a little tight, showing about 96 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor turns in the same numbers, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 8700's LCD monitor has a little room for improvement here, but is still pretty accurate. The flash distribution shows a little falloff at the corners and edges of the frame at wide angle. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.