Once upon a time (not so long ago) a point-and-shoot digital camera with a 10x zoom was about the same size as a brick. That was then and this is now; ultra-compact digicams with long zooms are now relatively common. Nikon's new Coolpix S8000 is about the size of an Altoids tin. I recently reviewed Fuji 's new JZ500 compact ultrazoom so I was geared-up for some serious compare and contrast testing when I received the Nikon Coolpix S8000 shortly after I sent the JZ500 back to Fuji. The two cameras are very similar - both are eminently pocketable, feature 14 megapixel resolution, 10x zooms, and HD video modes.
Nikon's new auto-exposure only Coolpix S8000 is a stylish and solidly-built 14 megapixel unit that provides an impressive DSLR equivalent 920k pixel 3.0-inch LCD screen, a 10x (30-300mm equivalent) Nikkor zoom, and what is arguably the best video capture system in its class. This includes a dedicated one-touch video record button driven HD video (1280x720 at 30 fps) mode with stereo sound and a mini HDMI port (purchasers will have to pay separately for the proprietary connection cable) for hooking the camera up to a flat panel TV.
The S8000's user interface is uncomplicated and straightforward. The control layout is quite basic and sufficiently similar to other current digicams in the compact ultrazoom class to provide most users with a comforting sense of déjà vu. Buttons are logically placed and come easily to hand for right-handed shooters, but they are all rather small.
The super tiny on/off button sometimes requires an extra push or two to power the camera up or down. The S8000's other controls are responsive and provide a confidence-inspiring tactile feel. If all that isn't enough, you can charge the S8000's battery via your computer/laptop USB connection as well as with the included plug-in charger. The multi-mode pop-up flash provides a bit more distance from the lens than the built-in flash units of most of the S8000's competitors - to help avoid the dreaded red-eye.
Not only does the Coolpix S8000 slip easily into a typical shirt pocket or small purse, but it carries nicely when gripped loosely in the palm of the hand with the wrist strap looped around the right hand. The diminutive S8000 is an elegant looking little unit, a bit classier in appearance than most of its competition. It's available in black, sliver, or brown. Construction is robust (metal-alloy/polycarbonate) with a solid quality feel and good dust/moisture seals. In addition to its DSLR-like LCD, the S8000 mimics its bigger brothers at the top of the Nikon line-up in AF speed.
The Nikon Coolpix S8000 seems like it would be an almost ideal choice to replace an aging first digital camera, an excellent choice as a family camera, and a very good choice for travelers who want a small tough, easy to use digicam. I'll follow-up in more detail in our upcoming full review, but so far I'm impressed with the Nikon Coolpix S8000.
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