Nikon Coolpix S8200 Review
The Nikon Coolpix S8200 is a compact travel zoom with a stabilized 14X ultra-wide-angle optical zoom lens equivalent to 25-350mm paired with a 16 megapixels high-speed CMOS sensor capable of full 1080p HD video capture and 6 FPS continuous shooting at full-resolution. Video features include a built-in stereo microphone and high-speed 120 FPS capture at VGA resolution.
This point-and-shoot puts its high-speed CMOS sensor to great use with a number of powerful functions like Easy Panorama, Built-In HDR, Multi-Frame Noise-Reduction and Pre-Shooting Cache, plus continuous shooting up to 120 FPS at VGA resolution. The only completely manual feature of the S8200 is Custom White-Balance.
This digital camera review looks at the features, usability and performance of the Nikon Coolpix S8200.
Nikon Coolpix S8200 Specifications & Key Features
- 16 Megapixels BSI-CMOS sensor
- 14X Ultra-wide 25-350mm optical zoom
- Optical image stabilization
- 2-Stop ND-Filer aperture simulation
- ISO Sensitivity from 100 to 3200
- Shutter-speeds from 1/1600s to 4s
- Automatic white-balance, 5 white-balance presetsDaylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy and Flash and custom white-balance
- Evaluative and center-weighed metering
- Exposure-Compensation, ±2 EV, 1/3 EV steps
- Normal and macro focus modes
- Single shot and continuous focus drive
- Auto, Manual, Center, Subject-Tracking, Targer-Finding & Face-Priority AF point selection
- Optional AF assist lamp
- 6 FPS Drive, maximum 5 images at full resolution
- 6 FPS Drive with preshoot cache, maximum 20 images at 3 MP
- 60 FPS Drive without preview, maximum 60 images at 1 MP
- 120 FPS Drive without preview, maximum 60 images at 0.3 MP
- Best-Shot-Selection mode
- 16 Multi-Shot mode
- 2s, 10s & Smile Self-Timers
- Auto, Redeye, Off, On, Slow-Sync flash modes
- 3" LCD 920K Pixels
- 1920x1080 @ 30 FPS 16:9 HD video
- 1280x720 @ 60 FPS Slow-motion video
- 640x480 @ 120 FPS Slow-motion video
- 1920x0180 @ 15 FPS Speed-up video
- Single-shot and continuous AF for video
- Stereo sound
- Automatic HDR mode, 3 levels
- Multi-Frame NR Night & Landscape modes
- Easy Panorama, 180° or 360°
- 18 Independent scene modes
- Special effect modes
- SDXC memory cards
- Lithium-Ion battery
- USB charging
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Nikon Coopix S8200 falls in the travel-zoom category, meaning it is a compact camera with a powerful zoom. In fact, while being a rather small travel-zoom, the S8200 packs on of the widest and longest zooms among its peers. Its 14X optical zoom lens is equivalent to 25-350mm in 35mm terms.
The focal-range of the S8200 is suitable for wide subjects like architecture and interior shots as well as distant ones such as street photography and wildlife. The 16 megapixels resolution is sufficient for rather large prints, particularly at low ISO sensitivities where noise is relatively low.
The sensitivity range of 100 to 3200 at full-resolution is generally sufficient for typical low-light conditions. To combat noise resulting from high-sensitivities, this Coolpix features Multi-Frame noise reduction that averages out noise among a burst of images. On the wide-end, the aperture of F/3.3 is rarely decent but it goes down to a rather dim F/5.9 at the long end. This is fixed per focal-length and smaller apertures are simulated by a built-in 2-stop ND-filter. The result is that depth-of-field is always the same at a given focal-length.
Shutter-speeds vary from 1/1600 to 4s. This is a limited range suitable for general purposes but can neither freeze fast action nor clearly capture scenes in very low-light. Consider this a limitation only if you are willing to carry a tripod or other camera support, since slow-shutter-speeds are not suitable for hand-holding.
As a strictly point-and-shoot with fixed aperture, the S8200 lacks creative power at the photography level. It does include a number of built-in post-processing effects which can be done by almost any imaging software. CMOS sensors are fast and allow for multi-exposure processing to occur quickly. This is the case for in-camera HDR shown here:
Above is a normal image obtained from a single exposure. Below is an image made from 3 blended exposures to capture more dynamic range. This particular scene worked very well since the contrast is not excessive. Note that the dynamic range of a JPEG images is constant, so capturing more scene dynamic-range reduces local contrast. The 100% crops on the right shows slight softness introduced by the HDR blending process. Click on images to see the full-size original.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Nikon Coolpix S8200 has a rectangular shape with slightly protruding lens and a thin vertical protrusion on the front to provide prevent slipping. It is reasonably comfortable to hold securely for its size. In hand, this digital camera feels of average build-quality except for the battery-compartment door which is a little thicker than usual.
The camera is powered on and off by a small recessed button on the top plate. It makes it next to impossible to turn it on accidentally or intentionally with gloves on. The top plate has a standard two-stage shutter-release with short travel and a soft halfway point. It is surrounded by a rotating zoom controller. There are quite a few steps along the zoom range but there are too coarse for precisely framing, particularly towards the wide-end.
On top is also found an 8-position mode-dial with good detents to prevent accidental changes. Since the Nikon Coolpix S8200 is strictly point&shoot, each mode is a variant of Auto. The main Auto mode is shown with a green camera icon. In this mode, the camera's basic features except Drive Modes are accessible. EC, WB, ISO, Flash and Self-Timers can all be used.
Going counter clockwise, the next mode is Auto Scene which automatically chooses a scene mode to shoot with. EC is still accessible, Flash can be turned Off and both 2s and 10s Self-Timers. Next is the Scene mode which accesses 15 scene modes via a linear menu. A number of these modes have 2 versions. Notably, Panorama is divided into Panorama Assist to line-up full resolution images taken in any direction and into Easy Panorama to obtain a low-resolution panorama by spanning the panorama across 180° or 360° all around
The next position on the mode-dial is Night Landscape. This one is divided into Hand-Held and Tripod modes. The important distinction is that Hand-Held mode uses a short burst of images to perform multi-frame noise-reduction while Tripod captures a single long exposure. Rotating the dial one further, we get to Backlighting mode. This mode also has two versions. One uses the flash to fill shadow areas in a backlighting situation. The other creates and tone-maps an HDR image right in the camera from a bracketed exposure. Three levels of HDR blending are available. It would have been clearer if these two modes would be separate as they differ greatly. The next mode is Pet Portrait. Not sure why it is there.
The next mode is Continuous which makes a lot of sense for a camera like this one. This mode is where all the different continuous shooting rates and frame sizes are chosen. Logically, it disables flash. At full resolution, the S8200 shoots at 6 FPS but it can go to 120 FPS at VGA resolution. The final mode is Effects which applies one of size image effects automatically.
The final item on the top plate is the popup flash. This is a true popup design and the first time the camera judges the flash is needed, assuming it is not forced to off, it pops up. The serious annoyance here is that it cannot be pushed back down unless the camera is powered off.
The back of the camera has a crystal-clear 3" LCD with 920K pixels. The view is sharp, bright, well saturated and motion fluid. The anti-reflective coating does its job well. The preview is accurate and Exposure-Priority which is a welcome improvement from previous Coolpix cameras. When applying EC, a histogram appears and is updated live.
The LCD shows 100% coverage most of the time. Multi-Frame modes are the exception to this where the LCD shows more than 100% of the final image, making precise framing rather difficult. While it is normal that these modes reduce the field-of-view, a camera with an LCD preview like this one should have no trouble showing the right coverage.
To the right of the LCD are all remaining controls of the Nikon Coolpix S8200. At the top right is a large Video-Record button. There is no video mode on this camera, so when the video button is pressed, it is not ready for video. This makes it impossible to correctly setup video framing and causes a 2s delay before video recording starts. Honestly, that Pet Portrait position on the mode-dial should be replaced by a true Video mode.
Further down and next to the LCD is the Playback button which enters and existed Playback mode. Below it is the combined 4-way controller and control-dial. The dial serves to quickly navigate options in various menus and item lists. Each direction of the 4-way controller is assigned an action:
- Up is Flash Mode: This one selects from up to 5 options: Auto, Redeye, Off, On and Slow-Sync.
- Right is Exposure-Compensation: This one makes the Live-Histogram appear and gives access to a special menu to change Hue and Saturation (called Vividness).
- Down toggles Macro mode. In Macro mode, the camera focuses as close as 1cm from the lens.
- Left is Self-Timer. Depending on the mode, choices include Off, 2s, 10s and Smile. The Smile-Timer automatically focuses on a face and takes a shot when that face smiles. Except for Smile, timers automatically reset after each use.
Near the bottom of the camera are the Menu and Delete buttons. These buttons work as expected. As a bonus, pressing Delete in Capture mode prompts for deletion of the last photo or video. The final item to see is a poorly placed metal tripod mount at the bottom of the camera.
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
The performance of a camera is divided into image quality and speed. Image quality determines maximum print sizes and how reliably it produces images which representing the scene. Speed is about how fast shots can be taken.
Image noise on this digital camera is very well controlled. The base ISO sensitivity of 100 is clean and usable to maximum prints sizes from a 16 megapixels sensor, about 20"x15". This is an incredible achievement for such high pixel-density. As noted in previous reviews here on Neocamera, small sensor digital cameras have been dropping in image quality over the last few years due to the increased megapixels. The Nikon Coolpix S8200 is the first such camera to catch up in image quality, so kudos to Nikon!
ISO 200 is also very clean and usable for large prints. Noise limits print sizes at ISO 400 but produces nice mid-size prints, say 12"x9", come out great. Noise eats fine details at ISO 800 which produces nice but slightly grainy mid-size prints. ISO 1600 shows plenty of noise and reduces overall contrast but is usable for small prints and web use. The maximum sensitivity of 3200 is even more noisy and soft but remains usable for small 4"x6" prints.
Colors of the S8200 are controlled by 11-step Hue and Saturation scales. These are accessible in Auto and Continuous mode via the EC button. Default color is used in all other modes and are oversaturated and too warm to be realistic. Dialing both down by one step improves things but this digital camera never produces entirely realistic colors.
White-balance is noticeably better. This digital camera copes well with a variety of lighting conditions with minor difficulties in low-light. Using Preset or Custom white-balance can improve things but these options are only available in some modes. So, there is no way to fix poor white-balance in Low-Light, Backlighting (HDR) and most Scene modes.
Exposure accuracy is better than average and quite consistent. The camera is tuned to produce a moderately bright exposure suitable for direct prints which may show blown out highlights in scenes of high-contrast. As such, the S8200 rarely under-exposes but may over-expose by up to 1 EV scenes with bright lights. Backlighting mode works by either filling the foreground with flash or blending a burst of images. The choice is manually taken by the user, so may often result in an under-exposed foreground when the built-in flash does not reach.
The S8200 has trouble resolving fine details, probably due to noise-reduction, but produces relatively sharp images. There is good consistency across the frame with a very gradual increase in softness towards edges of the frame. Keep in mind that the lens aperture is always fixed, so it does not get sharper of softer by stopping down which is done using a 2-stop ND-filter.
The optical zoom performs well with little change in sharpness at different focal-lengths. There is barely any barrel distortion in the first half of the zoom range and it disappears entirely beyond that. Chromatic aberrations are not a problem either. Given the size of this lens, the S8200 shows excellent optical quality.
The Nikon Coolpix S8200's speed is characterized by the following performance numbers:
- Power On and Off: 1½s, good.
- Focus: ½ - 1s at wide-angle, reasonably good. 1 - 2s at telephoto, on the slow side.
- Shutter-Lag: Under ¼s, average.
- Black-Out-Time: 1s, a little below average.
- Shot-To-Shot: 2 - 3s, slower than average.
- Capture-to-Playback: 3/4s, average.
- Playback-to-Capture: ½s, average.
- Video-Recording Delay: 2½s, way too slow.
- Zoom: 2s, good considering the zoom range.
Overall, the speed of this digital camera is about average. In good light, near the wide-angle end, focus speed is sufficient for slow moving subjects. Zooming in, it takes a lot more time and the S8200 has trouble locking on moving subjects. Focus accuracy, however, is very good.
The quoted battery-life is 250 shots-per-charge according to the CIPA standard. This is below average, even for a modern travel zoom. If you do not use flash flash much - or at all - you can get a good deal more shots though.
The Nikon Coolpix S8200 packs a long 14X ultra-wide-angle optical zoom, equivalent to 25-350mm, along with a 16 megapixels CMOS sensor in a compact body. Both the lens and sensor perform exceptionally well for their size. There is good sharpness across the frame with virtually no distortion or fringing and only a slight gradual softness towards edges. The crowning achievement of the S8200 however is its 16 megapixels sensor which delivers a class-leading performance.
Exposure is tuned for print-ready output with extra-saturated and punchy colors. This may be more appealing to typical buyers of point-and-shoot cameras. White-balance is not perfect but works generally well. The weakness of the S8200 is slowness at focusing. The long-end of the optical zoom is rather demanding and can take over 2s to lock onto something.
Nikon produced a well-built travel zoom with a simple interface. The camera itself is generally responsive and rarely get in the way of photography of still subjects. However, the recording delay and impossibility of setting up HD framing make it unsuitable for video, despite a plenty of video features. Given, its very versatile zoom range and great image quality, the Nikon Coolpix S8200 makes a compelling choice for photographing travel images without any bulk.
Nikon S8200 Facts
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