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Nikon Coolpix 8700

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Nikon Coolpix 8700 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

Nikon Coolpix 8700
Photograph: Rick Rizner

Nikon's 8-megapixel 8700 is a straightforward upgrade of the 5-megapixel Coolpix 5700. The two cameras have nearly identical bodies and many of the same controls; both have 8X optical zooms with electronic eye-level viewfinders, and articulated LCD panels.

Priced about $200 more than the Coolpix 5700, the 8700 has a number of useful improvements beyond its rather sizeable bump in megapixel count--a larger LCD, for example. When we reviewed the 5700, we criticized Nikon for giving that high-end consumer camera a relatively puny 1.5-inch LCD. With the 8700, the company upped the size to 1.8 inches, which is still not as large as we'd like to see, but at least it's the standard size for advanced digital cameras.

Less obvious improvements include a higher-resolution electronic viewfinder--which we found sharper and faster than many competing models' (with no noticeable image smearing when panning)--and the inclusion of scene modes, which were missing in the older model. The 8700 has 12 scene modes, more than what most digital cameras offer, covering a wide variety of challenging lighting conditions. Too bad Nikon buried them in the 8700's menu system under the obtuse heading of 'User Setting'. Most cameras place at least some of the more commonly used ones on a mode dial, where you can get to them quickly.

That brings us to our biggest complaint about the Coolpix 8700: Its combinations of buttons and menus for changing the camera's copious settings are bewildering. We've griped about the problem before; little has changed from earlier models. This is an area where Nikon's designs seem well behind the curve compared with the competing models we've looked at from Canon, Olympus, and Sony.

For example, most cameras have a mode dial on which aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual modes are clearly marked. On the 8700, you press the Mode button and turn the unlabeled selector dial. Your selection, A, S, or M, appears on the small status LCD on top of the camera. However, if you have the camera in Automatic mode (a menu selection), that Mode/selector dial combination no longer works--if you spin the selector dial, expecting that it will switch you back to a semiautomatic mode, nothing happens. You'd never figure this out without carefully reading the 8700's documentation.

A small, saving grace is the adaptability of the 8700's controls. You can define which of the camera's 19 top-level menu-based controls make up the first five in the list. You can also assign a frequently used control--white balance, for example--to the camera's Function button (although that's not an uncommon feature in advanced digital cameras). Finally, there are three dedicated buttons for changing flash, image size, and focus settings.

Along with the other 8-megapixel models we tested this month, the Olympus C-8080 and the Sony DSC-F828, the Coolpix 8700 earned top-notch scores for image sharpness--the highest image-quality scores we've recorded to date--and it received high scores for color and exposure accuracy. We were especially pleased with the test still-life photos it produced: Taken under daylight-balanced lights, the shots had bright, true-to-life colors.

The 8700 is smaller and lighter than its 8-megapixel competitors. (At the time of this writing, we had not reviewed Canon's new PowerShot Pro1.) As noted above, the electronic viewfinder is especially fine--perhaps as close in usability to an optical viewfinder as we've seen. Boot-up time is a fairly fast 4 seconds, and there is little shutter lag once you have exposure and focus lock confirmation. The camera seemed a little slow locking its focus, especially in low light (even with the help of a focus illuminator).

This is one of the few cameras we've seen with a high/low zoom speed setting. Designed to give you better control over focal length, the "slow" zoom starts off at a reduced speed and then quickens the pace if you hold down the zoom button. It's hard to say if the feature is useful: Zooming from full wide-angle to full telephoto took about the same time in either setting.

All of the accessory lenses designed for the Coolpix 5700 also work on the 8700; they include a 1.5X telephoto converter and a .8X wide-angle converter for about $150 each, and a massive fish-eye lens.

Learning to use this model may take some time, but the camera provides a lot of imaging power and a long optical zoom in a relatively light and small package.

Tracey Capen

This story, "Nikon Coolpix 8700" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Nikon Coolpix 8700 Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating
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