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Nikon COOLPIX S8000 Ken McMahon, July 2010
   
 

Nikon COOLPIX S8000 verdict

The Nikon COOLPIX S8000 is a 14 Megapixel compact super-zoom with a 10x optical range and a high-rseolution 3 inch LCD screen. It's slim too, at least compared with other super-zoom compacts: indeed at its launch in February 2010, Nikon claimed the S8000 was the world's slimmest camera with a 10x zoom.

The S8000 packs in the features. It has a large and detailed 3 inch 921 thousand pixel screen, optical image stabilization, four AF modes including Face detection and manual focussing, scene detection and can shoot full-sized images at 3200 ISO

It also scores well for video performance, capable of 720p HD recording with a dedicated video shooting button, stereo mics and an HDMI connector. So how does the competition measure-up?

   

 

Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

 
 
     

Physically, the Nikon COOLPIX S8000 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 share a lot in common. A 10x zoom with optical image stabilization, 14 Megapixel CCD sensor, and a 3 inch LCD screen. The COOLPIX is slimmer and lighter, but the difference isn't all that noticeable either in your hand or pocket.

Although both cameras have 10x optical zooms, the Sony Cyber-shot H55 has, in our view, a more useable range starting at a 25mm super-wide angle extending to 250mm at the tele end. The COOLPIX S8000's 30mm starting point is a respectable wide angle, but it won't give you quite the same scope in cramped interiors or the great outdoors. It may be more important to you to get close-in to distant action though, in which case the COOLPIX has a 50mm advantage at the tele end.

The S8000 also features a built-in standard HDMI port (as oppose to Sony's proprietary and optional cabling), along with a screen with a much higher resolution of 920k pixels compared to the Sony's bog-standard 230k. You can also recharge the S8000 over a USB connection with your computer.

In use though, we found the Cyber-shot H55 easier to handle. It fits more comfortably in your hands and the mode dial and menu system combination makes for quicker, less fussy access to shooting modes and other settings than the S8000's mode button and menus. That said, this is largely a matter of personal preference and, as always, we'd recommend you first get your hands on models you're considering buying.

The H55 outshone the S8000 in both our outdoor real-life resolution and indoor high ISO noise tests. If all your images end up no bigger than 800 pixels wide on your Facebook or Flickr pages, this isn't going to be an issue for you. But if you like to view your photos on screen at close to full resolution, or make big prints, the H55 will look better. For photographers who like full manual control of exposure the H55 also wins out. And if you're as keen on video as still photography, the H55's ability to 10x zoom while shooting movies will also count in it's favour. The H55 also boasts Sony's Sweep Panorama mode.

For more details, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 review.

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 / ZS5

 
 
     

On paper, there's more to separate the COOLPIX S8000 and Lumix TZ8 / ZS5. First, the TZ8 / ZS5's maximum image size is 12 Megapixels compared with the S8000's 14 Megapixels. But unless making big prints is imperative, the difference in pixel resolution is largely irrelevant, as the actual image quality is much more important.

Both cameras feature super-zooms, but the Panasonic Lumix TZ8 / ZS5 has a huge 12x range, matching the S8000 at the tele end of the range and out-reaching it at the other with a 25mm super-wide angle.

We also preferred the TZ8 / ZS5's handling to the S8000. Of all three cameras, the TZ8 / ZS5 is the one that best combines ease-of-use with advanced features. It has point-and-shoot auto modes with scene recogniton and face detection, but also provides a good range of exposure over-rides extending all the way to full manual control.

Like the H55, the TZ8 / ZS5's optical zoom remains fully functional during video shooting and both it and the Cyber-shot performed better in our real-life resolution and high ISO noise tests. Do remember though, it's not all one-sided, as the Nikon S8000 enjoys an HDMI port and a higher resolution screen than the Panasonic, not to mention the ability to recharge over a USB connection with your computer.

For more details, see our upcoming Panasonic Lumix TZ8 / ZS5 review.

 

Nikon COOLPIX S8000 verdict

Nikon's entry into the hugely popular 'travel zoom' market, the COOLPIX S8000, has a lot to recommend it. At only 27mm thick it's the world's slimmest 10x zoom camera; it's also light and looks the part with its stylish flat, metallic sheened surfaces. Though it doesn't perform any better in sunlight than other screens, its high-resolution 921 thousand pixel screen looks great whether composing shots or shooting HD video, and the thoughtful inclusion of a standard HDMI port means you'll also be able to enjoy detailed playback on an HDTV.

The S8000 is quick-off-the-mark both in startup and general use, with a choice of four AF modes and a range of continuous shooting modes including low resolution Sport continuous and the ingenious (albeit arguably frivolous) Multi-shot 16 mode. And it has some nice touches that set it apart from the competition too including stereo mics, a wheel controller, pop-up flash, a dedicated video recording button and the ability to charge it while connected to your computer via the supplied USB cable.

Compared to the competition, though, the S8000 falls short in a few crucial respects. It's 10x zoom lens has impressive range, but at the wide angle end it falls short of the increasingly common 25mm super-wide-angle starting point for intermediate and advanced compacts. It also lacks any form of manual exposure control other than exposure compensation in Auto mode, while the lack of a mode dial or quick access menu makes choosing the settings that are available a more involved and fussy operation than it should be. It's biggest asset - the 10x optical zoom is also disabled during movie shooting (though you can, of course, zoom to frame your shot before pressing the record button).

Lastly, the COOLPIX S8000 failed to match up in image quality terms to either of the cameras we tested it against - the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 / ZS5.

If that all sounds a little negative, remember that in some regions, the COOLPIX S8000 costs less than either of those two cameras and therefore represents good value for money. In other regions though, the Sony and Panasonic rivals are available at similar or even lower prices, at which point they become the better choices- and even in regions where they're more expensive, some buyers may prefer to spend the extra for their superior quality and arguably better feature-set.

Ultimately keep your eye on the prices here. If the S8000 works out cheaper in your region and you can't stretch to the other two models, then it represents a good buy: it's an easy-to-use stylish compact with a very capable zoom, effective image stabilization, detailed screen, HDMI output and HD video. As such, it's recommended if the asking price is lower than the competition, but if the rivals are available at a similar price, or you're happy to spend the extra, we'd go for the Sony or Panasonic instead.

 



Good points
Slim and stylish with large detailed screen.
Dedicated video shooting button.
HDMI output.
Stereo audio mics.
Can recharge from computer over USB.

Bad points
Poor image quality compared to rivals.
Poor battery life.
No video optical zoom.
Lacks manual exposure control.



Scores

(relative to 2010 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
15 / 20
15 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20

81%


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