Customer Review

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice, capable compact, 17 Oct 2012
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This review is from: Nikon COOLPIX S8200 Compact Digital Camera - Black (16.1MP, 14x Optical Zoom) 3 inch LCD (Electronics)
In the box
The camera comes neatly packaged in a commendably busy little box with a number of accessories and paperwork. You get:
= The camera
= A USB cable
= An AV cable
= A lanyard
= A rechargeable Li-ion battery
= A charger adapter
= A quick start manual
= A CD with Nikon's image processing software
= A second CD with reference information, including the detailed user manual.
= A veritable snow-drift of other bits of paperwork that can, for the most part, go straight into the recycling.

There is no SD card provided so you will need to buy one of these and neither is there a camera case.

The camera itself is about the size of a packet of cigarettes, but a little deeper and it slips into a pocket as easily as a small mobile phone. I was expecting something a lot bigger and bulkier. I'm sure that there are plenty of much more compact cameras on the market but this is no elephant by any means - certainly when compared to my elderly Canon 3xzoom model. It's light enough to be used comfortably one-handed but heavy enough to retain a nice heft.

Looks and layout
This is by no means a good looking camera. It's boxy and angular unlike its more ergonomic-looking cousin the COOLPIX L610. On the other hand it looks well engineered and is (in my opinion) at its best in the "traditional" black finish.

The top of the housing carries the zoom control, the on-off switch, the shooting mode setting wheel and the shutter button and on the left hand side of the top is a pop-out flash. The right hand side of the housing has a wee flap that gains access to the USB and HDML ports and below this is a lanyard loop. Underneath is a fitting for a tripod mount and another flap that provides access to the battery and the SD card port. On the front of the camera is the telephoto lens. When the camera is off, this is stowed away and it is quite comical to see the lens magically appear from such a small camera body.

On the back the camera is mostly LCD screen - it's a nice big one - but there are also a few familiar display and menu control buttons. Do bear in mind that there is no view finder. It seems that compacts these days don't have such devices and picture composition has to be done via the LCD screen. You can set the display up to show two horizontal and two vertical gridlines which will help you with framing, levelling and composition.

Getting started
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. It took me about five minutes from opening the box to getting a photo. Well, I exaggerate a little - I had to put the camera on to charge for about 20m to get a few electrons into the battery (full charge takes about 4 hours) but all that is needed apart from that is:

1. install the battery and SD card (assuming you have one to hand)
2. turn it on and set the language and date time
3. format the memory card (optional)
4. point and click and presto majesto, there you are!

Downloading the pictures to your laptop is equally simple. Attach the camera to the laptop via the supplied USB cable, wait for the laptop to download drivers from the web and watch as the photos are transferred from one to the other.

That's ALL you need to do to start taking and viewing photos.

LCD screen
Without a viewfinder, the screen is a critical piece of equipment. Fortunately it is big and easy to read. I haven't tried it in full sunlight yet (well it //is// October!) but in full daylight it is clear and bright and quite acceptable.

You can set up the screen to show gridlines which will help you frame the shot and keep the camera horizontal. The screen also shows information about the shooting mode and number of exposures available on the SD card.

Picture quality
My old 5MP camera produced what I though was quite acceptable photos (when printed off at 6x4 small) and the received wisdom was always that 5MP was quite sufficient for a good digital point-and-click camera. This is true I suppose but cropping a 5MP picture does push the final image quality to it's limits especially if you want to zoom in very close. Incidentally I think this is pretty much the gist of how "digital zoom" works - the camera basically crops and enlarges the image rather than actually zooming the lens. Which is why I have never bothered activating the feature - I do my cropping after downloading the photo. Anyway, cropping is where the big megapixel count comes into its own. You can crop a 16MP image (hyperbole warning) to your heart's content without a noticeable loss in quality in the final, small/medium format print. Clearly if you're displaying in large format you need to be a little more careful but at least at 16MP you have room for manoeuvre.

And yes, the images produced by the camera do appear to be of excellent quality - which is of course the important point. They are crisp, clear and colourful (and enormous). I will update this review after I've put some time in with the camera in different environments and played about with the images.

Auto focus works well and I suppose that the camera shake thingy does too - or maybe my hands aren't all that shaky.

The 14x zoom is a big plus and it increases the range of potential shots I can make over that which I could achieve with my Canon 3x. I don't know how best to describe this so I have added a couple of pictures as an example.

Annoyingly, this pops out automatically //right under your left hand index finger// so you will have to modify how you hold the camera to avoid interfering with the flash cube. The L610 seems to have solved this problem by placing the flash in the middle of the top side - a much better arrangement.

Taking photos inside the house in low light, the flash does a fine job, illuminating wide and far.

Image storage
I had an 8GB micro SD card going spare and an SD adapter (which is basically an SD card with a tiny little slot for the micro SD card), so I installed this and discovered that I had (at full reso) about 1000 shots to play with. This is overkill for me really - I tend to shoot and process pictures in batches of ten to fifty, depending on circumstances. Even on longish holidays, I can now transfer my photos to my Tablet for storage, backup and full size viewing at the end of the day's outings. Even the camera's internal memory of 90MB will take about 10-20 images at full resolution.

Of course once you start taking movies, then your card's capacity will begin to show. I rarely if ever use my camera for movies so I can't comment, however.

Image manipulation
Via the screen and menu system you can do basic tasks, such as view and delete images.

The camera comes with a CD providing Nikon's image import and manipulation software. I installed this and then wished I hadn't bothered. It's way too complex for me and I have no wish to learn how to use it (and it doesn't look THAT easy to use, at least to begin with). It is quite possible to import images onto your laptop, perform basic image processing functions (crop, resize, auto-adjust etc) with the software that comes with Windows, MS Office or even freeware off the net. As I mentioned earlier, I managed to do all these things with the most basic of software already on my laptop.

I have no doubt that the software is very capable and could be useful to pro or semi-pro photographers, but for my purposes it's just not necessary.

It's not a standard AA or AAA rechargeable, it's a dedicated/specialised unit and if it runs out in the field you won't be able to pop into the local corner shop to buy a replacement. So, buy a spare (or several!) - they're only about 6. You'll have to charge it in the camera and then find somewhere to store it, but it will save a good deal of embarrassment and annoyance.

Charging of the battery is done with it installed in the camera, which is handy, and you can also charge off your laptop (although the camera must be switched off, otherwise it won't charge).

As for battery life, well I haven't tested it to destruction yet but I took the camera out for a walk in the woods and got a bit snap happy. I took about 30 photos, several panorama shots and about four short videos and the battery icon ddn't change at all. The manual promises 250 shots at full res, so I suspect that battery life won't be too much of an issue for a casual snapper.

Other features & capabilities
The best feature is, I think, the Auto scene facility whereby the camera decides what sort of photo you're trying to take (landscape, portrait, indoors, outdoors, moving subject, blah blah) and selects the correct settings to optimise the picture. This works extremely well and takes a lot of the guess work (and putton pressing) out of casual photography.

As you might expect, the camera does have a number of "special" features (I'm sure most other makes can do very similar things). The camera will "recognise a smile" and automatically shoot when Grannie shows her gums at the sight of the fifteenth packet of Werthers Originals in her Christmas present haul. The camera can also recognise a pet and take an automatic pot-shot when Rover or Snuggles look at the camera. Whether they have to smile for this to happen is not explained, nor do Nikon tell us whether the camera will recognise a guinea pig, budgie or your reticulated python.

There's a rather nice panorama facility which allows you to take 180 or even 360 degree shots. This works very well and the images are very nice indeed. It is possible to see the join where the camera's software stitches individual images to make the whole, but the pictures are fine quality if a bit letterboxy. I've uploaded a picture to the camera's page by way of an example.

The movie camera facility seems fine - it's activated by a single on-off button on the back of the camera so it's easily selected, which I like.

The camera has a number of other settings, tailored to circumstances. It'll be a while before I can try them all out but one I had cause to play with recently was the "Fireworks" setting. This is quite effective and I think sets a long exposure to fill the image with lots of light and coulor. You do need a steady hand though. I've uploaded an image taken at our local bonfire night for your edification...

I don't have much experience with cameras or photography so it's hard to compare this with other current models. However, it seems to be a very capable compact camera; it does much what you would expect it to do and with no immediate vices or failings. It is certainly a big improvement over my old Canon 5MP 3x zoom (well, it bl00dy ought to be oughtn't it?) and it deserves at least a fence-sitting three star rating. It also compares well with the cheaper Nikon L610, where the main differentiator is the power-pack. I prefer the Li-Ion option of the S8200 and, feeling generous, I think I can bump the S8200 up to 4 stars without too much of a pang of conscience.
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