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Compact digicams don’t normally set my bells a-ringing but this one intrigued me, big time.
What on earth is Nikon doing with the Nikon Coolpix S8000? A pocketable picture taker that is just 27mm thin and extends only another 41mm when the stabilised 10x optical zoom pokes its nose into the world. 10x in a compact? Yup.
Then there’s the high megapixel count: 14.2 million of the things, packed into a tiny 11mm CCD. This means its maximum image is 4320×3240 pixels — or, as a print, 37x27cm in size.
While we all know that these mouth-watering specs are driven by the experts in the marketing department and look great in the ads, it doesn’t mean a camera like this can shoot level pegging with a $2000 DSLR.
Despite this, the attractions of a 10x zoom and large image size can have its compensations in educated hands.
For instance: with this lens you can shoot a full shot of a doorway from three metres; then, from the same position you can capture a full head shot. See what I mean?
With an image that could eventually print out to the equivalent of two A4 pages it means you have enormous cropping power well after the shot is downloaded and you’re having second thoughts about what you shot.
Of course, there is no optical viewfinder and while the rear LCD does have very good definition, it does present a poorly viewable display in bright sunlight.
There is a tiny pop-up flash, poorly sited right under your left finger when holding the camera. This means it has a good chance of avoiding red eye but can be a damned nuisance.
There is only an auto exposure setting, so you cannot twiddle with various aperture or shutter speed settings. The scene modes on offer can be of help when you’re faced with more challenging shots like beach or snow scenes, fireworks etc.
Maximum image size in movie mode is 1280×720 pixels — not full HD — but still quite presentable on a large screen. Replay is helped by an HDMI output on the camera.
The camera has an unusual method of taking movie clips: there is a dedicated record button right next to the LCD screen; you don’t have to select movie mode — just push movie record!
There is something quite odd with the zoom in movie shooting: it appears to have only a 3x range; move the zoom in tighter before shooting and you appear to access only a 3x range in that area. Auto focus is of course out of action: preset before you shoot.
The ISO range is pretty good: 100 to 3200 plus a jump to ISO 6400 — but this is only accessible when you select Sports Continuous mode. The latter mode, however, gains you entry into a continuous shooting which delivers a run of 45 shots, taken at 3fps. Pretty good in my book!
Shot of a coloured window taken at ISO 3200 and f3.5 at 1/60 second shows how a high ISO shutter speed can still be used with specific subjects: in this case one that is highly detailed.
When checking for optical distortion, I was surprised and delighted to find the Nikkor 10x was straight up and down! No sign of any spherical distortion in the wide or tele ends of the zoom. As far as I can recall, the best performance in any compact I have ever handled. Quite a lens.
From startup to first picture took two seconds, with follow-on shots coming in at a rate of about a second apart. Quite a good performance.
Quality: an above average compact, this camera will take fine images if you understand its limitations.
Why you’d buy the Nikon Coolpix S8000: high powered zoom in a compact body; high pixel count; small form factor.
Why you wouldn’t: the lens at f3.5 maximum aperture is quite slow.
Image Sensor: 14.2 million effective pixels.
Metering: Centre-weighted (224 segments).
Sensor Size: 11mm CCD.
Lens: Nikkor f3.5-5.6/5.4-54.0mm (30-300mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speed: 8 to 1/2000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 45 pictures (2048×1536) at 3 fps.
Memory: SD, SDHC cards plus 32 MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4320×3240, 4224×2376, 3264×2448, 2592×1944, 2048×1536, 1024×768, 640×480. Movies: 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240 at 30 fps.
LCD Screen: 7.6cm LCD (920,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, WAV, Motion JPEG.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200 or 6400xxxx??? sport.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 103x57x27.3 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 183 g (inc battery and SD card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon Coolpix S8000 at Amazon.