Nikon Coolpix S8000 Pocket Megazoom Helps Casual Users Take Great Photos
At a Glance
Nikon Coolpix S8000 Compact Camera
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With automated controls and simple operation, the Nikon Coolpix S8000 is an ideal high-zoom camera for beginners. It's hard to take a bad photo with this model, but you get no manual controls.
There's a lot to be said for simplicity, and the almost fully automated Nikon Coolpix S8000 ($300 as of June 1, 2010) is the ideal high-zoom option for anyone who doesn't want to fuss with in-camera settings. More-advanced photographers and learn-as-you-go shooters won't like the lack of manual controls, but people looking for a dead-simple pocket megazoom will appreciate this Nikon camera.
The 10X-optical-zoom Coolpix S8000 offers a wide-angle-to-telephoto reach of 30mm to 300mm, 720p high-definition video capture at 30 frames per second, and one of the sharpest 3-inch-diagonal LCDs we've seen on a point-and-shoot camera. This camera pretty much drives itself: Shooting modes include full auto (which also lets you tweak white balance, metering options, autofocus mode, and ISO), 15 scene modes, and an automatic scene selector that chooses the right scene mode for the shooting environment.
Also in the mix are a Smart Portrait mode optimized for single or group portraits--it lets you tweak skin-softening filters, a smile-triggered shutter, and a blink detector--as well as a motion-tracking mode that locks in on a moving object and keeps it in focus. That's it for the shooting modes; you don't get any manual aperture or shutter controls. The automation tends to do a very good job, though.
In PCWorld Labs imaging tests, the Coolpix S8000 led our latest pocket megazoom test group in lack of distortion, and it was among the leaders for exposure quality and sharpness. Color accuracy and video quality were only mediocre, however, and as a result the Coolpix S8000 posted an overall imaging score of Good.
Here are sample clips that we shot in bright indoor lighting and in low light with the Coolpix S8000. For the highest-quality clips, select 720p from the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player.
Battery life is on the low side. The Coolpix S8000 has a CIPA battery life rating of 210 shots per charge of its lithium ion battery, well short of the 300-plus-shot performance of your average point-and-shoot camera.
In my hands-on tests, the Coolpix S8000 had the best macro mode of any of the cameras in our latest roundup. I was just about able to touch the lens to a subject and still get a crisp, well-focused photo without the autofocus searching in and out.
You can correct exposure problems easily within the camera itself thanks to Nikon's D-Lighting feature, which you employ during image playback. Rather than attempting to correct backlit or underexposed images while you're capturing them, you reprocess images with D-Lighting after you shoot, creating a modified copy of your photo while retaining the original shot.
The Coolpix S8000 captures decent video, but audio pickup is weak from its top-mounted stereo microphones. What's more, you're limited to digital zoom while filming rather than being able to use the full power of its 10X-optical-zoom lens.
This is a slim and lightweight camera, due to the lack of a protruding hand grip. It's a bit boxy, and despite its lack of bulk, you'll need both hands to secure it for shooting. Unfortunately, the doors that cover the HDMI port and the USB connector on the camera are also lightweight, made of rubbery plastic and prime candidates to tear off after about a dozen uses.
Build quality and manual shortcomings aside, the Nikon Coolpix S8000 is the easiest-to-use pocket megazoom in our latest test field. It takes almost no effort from the user to capture great images, which casual snapshooters will love.