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(Pocket-lint) - Nikon seems determined to cover all their bases with innovations and models different enough to keep both consumer and professional interested. Their last major release was the D70, a universally well received sub-£1000 SLR system. Now, the Coolpix 8800, once again, offers a lot of camera for not a vast amount of cash.

Immediately noticeable is the vast 10x optical zoom, currently the largest on the market. Optics fans will note that the lens is made up of 16 elements, 2 of which are Nikon's ED molded glass, arranged in 10 groups. The zoom is equivalent to 35-350mm on a 35mm camera. Offering scalability, the lens can also have adapter rings added and either a 7mm fisheye or a 600mm telephoto converter attached. To make a lens of this size practical, Nikon have included, for the first time on a digital camera, a derivation of the pro-series lens vibration-reduction system. When activated this VR system detects, and automatically compensates, for movement in the CCD sensor. Heavy camera shake will need to be corrected by a tripod, but everything helps when at shooting at maximum focal length.

The body is a combination of a black magnesium alloy body shell, with battery and flash card doors made of matching plastic. The familiar red flash of the more professional Nikon cameras adorns the front of the rubberized grip area. The body is almost the right size to hold comfortably, measuring 116x85x121 and weighing 700g (inc Battery and compact flash). Those used to the feel of larger-bodied SLR cameras will not be quite so out of place with the 8800 and you can add bulk, grip and juice with the additional battery pack (MB-CP11) that's attached to the bottom. The viewing screen is Nikon standard top-end tilt n' swivel 1.8inch concealable TFT mounted on the reverse of the body, allowing free movement as shooting angles dictate. The layout of the buttons, rockers and releases is also improving. For some reason I always found myself reaching for the power button, that rotates around the shutter release, believing it to be the zoom rocker, as past cameras I've seen have also had this configuration. The zoom rocker is in fact located on the reverse plane of the body and could do with being made more prominent, for speed of use.

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Another big sell is the effective 8Megapixel CCD sensor. When going through the set up process to select the size of image you wish, the 8800 is the first camera to allow you to change no only the quality of the image (RAW, HI, EXTRA, FINE, NORMAL & BASIC) but also the related megapixel usage of the files depending on the size selected (8M 3264x2448, 3:2 3264x2176 5M 2592x1944, 3M 2048x1536, 2M 1600x1200, 1M 1280x960, PC quality1024x768, TV quality 640x480). This level of flexibility over the image parameters means that you do not end up wasting memory by taking image large enough to be billboards when not needed.

To recap

Top-end of the encapsulated zoom Nikon Coolpix range. Rugged with a good battery life. Well worth looking at for semi-professionals who want an expandable system.

Writing by Charlie Brewer.