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

Ultra-zoom in a travel friendly package – Gadling reviews the new Nikon Coolpix P100

This is a great time to be in the market for a new travel friendly camera. Almost weekly, new cameras are revealed that add more of the stuff travelers can benefit from.

In this review, I’ll introduce you to the newest from Nikon – the Coolpix P100. The P100 is an “ultra zoom” – which means its zoom lens packs quite a punch.

The basics are all pretty impressive too – 10.3 megapixels, 1080p HD video, high-speed video (up to 240 frames per second), tilting screen, pop-up flash and an electronic viewfinder. But perhaps the best feature in the P100 is its 26x optical zoom.

Operating the Nikon is simple – its startup time is quick, and you can start shooting your first photo in about 2 seconds (more if you need the flash). Subsequent photos are equally fast – also about 2 seconds. On the top of the camera is the mode selector (auto, sports, scene favorite scene, subject tracking, user settings, manual, aperture priority, shutter priority and programmed auto). Next to the mode selector is the power switch and zoom button.

On the rear of the camera is the viewfinder button, display option button, a selector knob for high-definition or high-speed video, video record button, play button, menu button, erase button and of course a d-pad control for menu operation and quick access to flash, timer, macro and exposure.

The tilting display is a fantastic feature – the entire 3″ display swivels up or down, and because it is mounted on an arm, you can angle it in all kinds of ways. This makes it perfect for shooting above or below you without having to get down on your knees or hurting your neck. Angling the display also makes it easier to move it out of the glare from the sun, because the anti-glare coating isn’t always efficient.

Photos are good, not great – obviously you won’t get professional digital SLR results from a camera with a small(ish) sensor, but for most people, the results will be perfect for travel photos. Video clips are acceptable, but I found the colors to be a little washed out. Even though you are shooting in 1080p, the results are about the same as most HD cameras in this price range. Bottom line is that if you want “real” HD video, you’ll need a “real” HD camcorder.

Here are two examples of what the lens in the P100 can do for you:

Zoomed out…

And zoomed in… Both photos were taken from the same spot. Obviously, the 26x zoom and optical image stabilizer help make photos like this.

The menus are very easy to navigate and you can make things as simple or complicated as you want – amateurs (like myself) will want to stick to the scene or auto mode settings, but if you are little more demanding, you’ll find plenty of other settings to tweak.

Videos and photos can be viewed on a TV using the included composite video/audio cable. but you’ll probably want to invest in a miniHDMI to HDMI cable which allows you to connect the camera to your HDTV. On the side of the camera are the proprietary USB/video connector and the miniHDMI plug. Using a proprietary USB connector means you’ll always want to carry the included USB cable – I wish Nikon would switch to MiniUSB (like Canon uses). Thankfully, the P100 can be charged over USB, which means you can leave the charger at home.

The P100 uses SD and SDHC memory cards – no card is included, but it does offer 43MB of internal memory – which is enough for just a couple of pictures.

The P100 is not a compact camera – but it is quite a bit smaller than a dSLR with a comparable lens. Of course, many people with a dSLR wouldn’t want to be seen in public with a “point and shooter” – but sometimes you just want to turn your camera on and start shooting, without having to worry about the settings on your $2000 camera.

Battery life is pretty basic – the battery pack is a mere 1150mAH, which is rated for about 250 shots – I got just under 230 before I had to swap out the battery. Thankfully, Nikon has not made the switch to authenticated battery packs, so I was able to order a non-Nikon spare for under $10.

The P100 weighs just over one pound (with SD card and battery). Of course, because it is mostly made of plastic, the weight can be kept to a minimum.

Included in the (rather large) box is the camera itself, a lens cap, USB and video cables, a battery with charger, a stack of manuals and an installation CD with transfer software, a panorama maker and more.

All in all a solid ultra-zoom shooter with decent photos. Colors in the video clips are a bit disappointing, and there is no denying that you’ll get better shots from a more expensive camera – still, the quality is perfect for those of us that are still firmly stuck in the point and shoot world. Being able to charge the camera using USB is a huge plus.

The tilting display and ultra-zoom are what make this camera stand out in the crowd – but perhaps its best feature is its price. The MSRP is $399.99, but I was able to pick one up at the local electronics superstore for just $349.99. This makes it a fantastic bargain. Later this year, other companies will be releasing their own ultra-zooms, so the Nikon is in for some decent competition.

PROS: huge 26x optical zoom, charges over USB, tilting display

CONS: washed out colors in HD video clips, images are only “acceptable”, not outstanding

Product page: Nikon USA Coolpix P100
Shopping prices: Google price search

In the photo gallery below, you’ll find more photos, along with hi-res version of the zoom lens demo (large photos!)


Five new digital cameras from Samsung

As we pointed out in our TL225 DualView review last week, Samsung makes some pretty innovative digital cameras. Last night,, the company unveiled five new shooters for their Q1 2010 lineup. The new products include the HZ30W and HZ35W superzoom compacts, the effect-rich TL110 and TL105 cameras and a new budget camera – the SL630.

For travelers, the new HZ35W will be a real treat, offering HD video recording, integrated GPS with location data and get this – a 15x optical zoom, all in a package just 28mm deep.


The TL105 is a 12.2 megapixel camera with a 4x optical zoom. It features face recognition, blink detection and “smile shot” which ensures you only take photos of happy looking people. The TL105 shoots video in 720p HD with an optional HDMI cable. Available in February.


The new TL110 features a 5x optical zoom and a 14.2 megapixel sensor, in a compact form factor. It has the same scene and face detection features as the TL105, along with its HD video mode. Available in February.


The new HZ30W packs a 3″ LCD and a 15x optical zoom in its interior. It shoots in 12.2 megapixels and can record video in 720p. Available in March.


The new HZ35W offers the same 15x zoom lens found on the HZ30W, but adds a 3″ AMOLED screen and a GPS receiver. The receiver tags your photos with the location it was made, plus the camera can display your location on a visual map. Available in March.


The final newbie in the Q1 2010 Samsung lineup is the budget friendly SL630. Despite its low budget classification, it packs a 12.2 megapixel sensor and 5x optical zoom in its silver, black or red exterior. It does not feature HD video, but does do optical image stabilization and a variety of effects. Available in March.

Gadling gift guide – photography gadgets

An essential part of any trip is photography, and an essential part of photography is good photo gadgets. In this fourth and final Gadling gift guide, we’ll recommend a couple of great photo gadgets that will make even the most amateur photographer happy.

Be sure to check out our previous gift guides:

Gift guide for the lightweight traveler
Gift guide for famlily travel and kids
Gift guide for the business traveler
The top ten travel products of 2009

Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA photo backup unit

The Colorspace UDMA is one of the fastest photo storage devices on the market. Available with up to 500GB of space, the Colorspace UDMA supports most RAW photo formats and accepts SD and CF memory cards. It’ll do up to 250GB off a single battery charge, and can even be programmed with user scripts to automate certain features.

Price: From $249
Product page: HyperDrive Colorspace UDMA

Joby Gorillapod

The Joby Gorillapod is the perfect travel photography gadget. It is small, lightweight, and lets you take photos using it as a mini tripod, or by attaching it to a solid object (like a tree). The Gorillapod comes in several versions, including one for SLR cameras and a version with interchangeable mounts.

Price: From $21.95
Product page: Joby Gorillapod

Gigapan EPIC robotic imager

If you want to take your photos beyond the dull and boring, consider investing in the $299 GigaPan EPIC imaging robot. By attaching your camera to the unit, and setting some basic options, the GigaPan starts shooting away, turning 100’s of photos into massive panoramic photos. The unit includes the free stitching software from GigaPan, and image hosting on their site.

Price: $299
Product page: Gigapan EPIC

Epson Artisan 810

Making great photos is fun – but with a good photo printer, you can take them beyond the screen and show them off the old fashioned way. The Epson Artisan 810 features a sheet-feed scanner, fax and triple-source printer tray. It’ll print on blank CD’s and comes complete with Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

Price: $199 (after temporary $100 instant rebate)
Product page: Epson Artisan 810

Eye-Fi Wireless SD memory card

Eye-Fi cards turn your camera into a Wi-Fi enabled device. Photos and videos can instantly be uploaded to your PC or a variety of online photo/video sharing sites. The card is available with Wi-Fi geotagging and hotspot access.

Price: from $49.99
Product page: Eye-Fi

Epson P-6000 multimedia photo viewer

The Epson P-6000 is the professionals choice for a photo storage device. It features a large 4″ Premia LCD display with support for 16.7 million colors. Inside the unit is an 80GB drive. Photos can be loaded off one of the memory card slots, or directly off the camera with USB host and a neat tethering option.

Support is built in for almost every RAW format on the market, and the unit even allows for several powerful photo editing procedures, right on the device. Plus, at the end of the day, you can use it to watch some movies or listen to music.

Price: $599.99 (+ $75 mail in rebate)
Product page: Epson P-6000 multimedia photo viewer

Ipevo R7 Wi-Fi enabled photo frame

The Ipevo Kaleido R7 is another great way to view the photos you make. The R7 looks fantastic, but inside is where the real power is – thanks to Wi-Fi, you can view live photo channels, or even read the latest news through RSS. The unit features touch sensitive controls and its hi-resolution screen makes photos look fantastic.

Price: $149
Product page: Ipevo Kaleido R7

Manfrotto ModoSteady

The Manfrotto ModoSteady grabbed a top spot in our lineup of best gadgets of 2009 – and rightfully so. This 3-in-1 device works as a mini tripod, shoulder grip and steady-cam mount. Best of all, it is lightweight and can fold up into a compact unit.

Price: $115
Product page: Manfrotto ModoSteady

Manfrotto Modopocket

The final product in our gift guide is another Manfrotto invention – the ModoPocket is a tiny folding tripod, designed for smaller cameras or Micro Four/Thirds cameras. The ModoPocket screws to the bottom of your camera, and allows you to angle it up or down. When you are done, you simply fold it back up.

Price: $29.99
Product page: Manfrotto ModoPocket

Help for lost cameras

The folks over at Jaunted posted a story yesterday about a friendly-looking family who dropped their camera at some point while on a trip to Maui. A good Samaritan found the camera and posted one of the pics on Reddit last week, along with a plea for help in locating the family so that their camera could be returned.

According to HalogenLife, in a prime example of the power of social media, the family was located and the camera is on its way to be reunited with its rightful owners.

That news in itself is pretty cool. But what I found even more interesting is that there are apparently several websites dedicated to helping people recover their lost cameras. On photos from orphan cameras are posted each Thursday. I haven’t lost a camera recently, but I think I may become addicted to scrolling through the pics looking for familiar faces. There’s got to be someone I know on the site, right?

Jaunted has a better, smarter solution for digital camera owners though. Write your name and contact information on a card and snap a picture of it. Lock it on your memory drive and internal memory and voila – electronic dog tags for your camera! If someone should find the camera and scroll through your photos, they can easily get in touch via the info you’ve provided. You know, if they aren’t just going to keep your camera for themselves.