Nikon Coolpix S8000 review – 10x wide zoom in an ultra compact point and shoot

The new Nikon Coolpix S8000 is another new camera in the 2010 Nikon lineup. Last week we showed you the new P800 ultra-zoom, but travelers looking for a more compact camera may be interested in the S8000. The S8000 is currently the slimmest 10x optical zoom camera on the market.

As always, we’ll open with the basics – inside the S8000 is a 10x wide angle NIKKOR ED glass lens. The camera shoots photos at 14.2 megapixels and videos at 720p/30 frames per second. Images are stabilized with a 4-way VR system that combines an optical image stabilizer with motion detection.

On the back of the camera is a stunning 3 inch high resolution display with just under one million pixels. Its anti-glare coating makes it fairly usable in sunlight.

The camera charges over USB (thank goodness!) but uses a proprietary Nikon connector that combines USB and audio/video. HD content (photos and video) can be output using a miniHDMI connector.

Controls on the rear are nothing special – you get a 4-way D-pad/scroll wheel, and dedicated buttons for video and playback. Scene selections are made through the menu. Those menus are easy to navigate, and well designed, so those of us that don’t care for user manuals won’t be lost.

The 10x optical zoom packs a huge punch – and in fully extended mode, it really pops out of the unit. Thankfully, since this is a point and shoot, the lens has a built in protector.

And speaking of that zoom lens – this is a shot zoomed out…

And this is one zoomed all the way in (no digital zoom used). As you can see – you really can get quite close to things. The zoom is relatively fast, but often takes a second or two to reach where you want it. Unfortunately, the impressive zoom lens does have a price when it comes to camera start-up time – from power-on till shooting is a tad over three seconds.

On top of the S8000 is a tiny pop up flash – which turns out to be quite a hassle – especially if you tend to hold your camera in that corner (like me). Thankfully, the camera offers a polite warning when the auto-popup doesn’t work (when you have your hands on it). Because the flash is so small, don’t expect wonders in large dark areas. Also, the flash does pop-up, but not down, so don’t forget to push it in when you are done shooting.

Behind a small plastic flap is the miniHDMI connector – the USB/charger/AV port is on the bottom, which is a pretty poor design choice, as it means you can’t keep it plugged in and upright on your desk.

As with most point and shooters nowadays, the Nikon Coolpix S8000 comes with a variety of nifty tricks designed to make better photos:

  • Smile timer and blink protection
  • Blink warning
  • In-camera red-eye fix
  • Skin softening
  • Subject tracking
  • Quick retouch (in-camera)
  • Auto or manual scene selection from 16 modes

These gimmicks are perfect for people like me – who just want to press “click” and hope for the best.

Photo quality is like the P100 we recently reviewed – good, but not outstanding. It makes great vacation photos, but don’t purchase this expecting amazing results on par with a digital SLR. Still, given its $299 (MSRP) price, you really can’t ask for much more. HD videos are decent, photos look good and the styling and operation are what you’d expect from one of the world leaders in photography.

Thankfully, the MSRP is more of a recommended price than anything else – because I found mine for a mere $254 – making it a really good bargain, especially since it has only been available in stores for about three weeks.

Fantastic lens, easy operation, extremely compact, cheap

CONS: Fairly basic picture quality, weak flash, no zoom in video mode, slow start-up

Included with the camera is a battery rated for 210 shots (without the flash). In my tests, I reached 196 before the battery was drained beyond usage. Included in the box is a battery, wall USB charger, USB cable, AV cable, manuals/DVD and wrist strap. No memory card is included, and the camera only features 32MB of internal memory.

Product page: Nikon S8000