Nikon’s Coolpix S8200 is small and compact, yet packs a punch with its 14x optical zoom lens. Able to deliver a 25mm wide-angle through to 350mm telephoto there’s plenty of scope to capture groups of people, landscapes, or zoom right in to pick out far away action.
But without the manual modes of some of its rivals, can this latest Coolpix score highly in the competitive medium-zoom market?
The Coolpix S8200’s small body doesn’t look as though it could accommodate a 14x optical zoom lens, as it’s a similar size to a lesser-lensed compact camera. For those of us looking for a small, but mighty, camera this can only be a good thing.
Pop the camera on and the 25-350mm lens is ready to go in a flash, as controlled by the zoom toggle around the shutter button. Having such a focal range puts plenty of shooting opportunities at your fingertips, and you can grab shots way beyond what your standard Smartphone would be able to thanks to the Nikon’s extensive zoom. Furthermore there’s an optical Vibration Reduction system that helps to keep shots steady. The benefits of this can be seen on the rear screen when composing as well as relayed into final shots for crisp images.
The S8200’s focusing is quick off the mark too, confirmed by a series of green squares that promptly lock on to subject areas around the screen to show where focus has been attained. This works well for the most part, though there were occasional issues with focusing at the more extreme focal lengths. It wasn’t that the camera failed to focus, it proclaimed to have done so, but upon review off-camera some shots were a little soft (though this wasn’t a consistent issue).
Back Illuminated Sensor
As technology improves so imaging gets better and better, and the 16-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor as found in the S8200 adheres to the upward curve. The sensor is built differently by placing the wiring to the rear of the design to allow a freer light path and, therefore, better image quality. However, as Nikon has crammed some 16 million pixels onto this small sensor its images aren’t without some issues – though this depends on how much of a pixel peeping image connoisseur you are.
Viewed at 100 per cent on a computer screen and the shots we nabbed with the S8200 look reasonable, though finer detail isn’t always well resolved. Compared to its nearest rivals, such as the Panasonic Lumix TZ20, however, and the Coolpix puts up a pretty good fight. It’s the perfect camera for point-and-shoot snapping and if you’re not going to be using shots at a large scale then it’s more than good enough.
Reviewing images is made all the more pleasant thanks to the 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD on the S8200’s rear. Considering the camera’s £279 asking price it's an added bonus to get such a high resolution screen. On the downside, bright sunlight can make it tricky to see your composure and exposure level with a great deal of accuracy.
No Manual Modes
Here is one of the S8200’s restrictions; with no full manual controls it feels quite different to its main competitors, as instead the S8200 is more a point-and-shoot fare for the novice snapper.
There are a handful of scene and effects modes that can be selected from the top mode dial and these should be ideal for the target audience. Select between soft, sepia, high contrast black & white, high/low key and selective colour - the latter isolates a colour as defined from a sliding colour selector.
There’s even an Easy Panorama mode in order to capture a panoramic shot that’s auto-stitched in camera - all you have to do is move the camera through the scene in real time.
Full HD movie
The Coolpix S8200 isn’t all about still shooting however, as the 1080p movie mode can attest. Able to record at 30fps for its highest resolution, there are also slow motion options at 120fps when recording 640x480px clips.
When recording it’s possible to utilise the effects modes should you so wish and the camera’s zoom is also operable, though at a drastically reduced pace. Autofocus also means the camera will adjust for changes in the scene, though it’s slow and steady so fast moving subjects will be problematic to keep in focus.
The stereo microphone atop the camera is adequate for recording sound, though wind is an ongoing problem as per most compact cameras given that the slightest gust is likely to cause distortion.
The S8200 is a solid all round compact that’s an ideal match for the point-and-shoot photographer. Its 14x zoom range is ample for most scenarios and, despite no manual controls like some of its competitors, plenty of scene and effects modes provide an altogether different angle.
Both image and movie quality are good, and the only qualm we had to mark the S8200 down on was the occasional focal issue at the telephoto end of the zoom. Otherwise this small sized compact is a winner thanks to its significant zoom. It shows Nikon’s Coolpix range is headed in the right direction.