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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix 8700

Nikon Digital Cameras


Nikon Coolpix 8700 Review

Review Date: June 21, 2004

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Nikon Coolpix 8700


Self-Portrait: 1/91.8 sec., F4.2, and ISO 50
11.6mm, Programmed Auto, Partial, 1/91.8 sec., F4.2, and ISO 50

The first thing you notice when you unpack the Nikon Coolpix 8700 from its box is how compact and light it is. With dimensions of 113W x 105H x 78D mm (4.4W x 4.1H x 3.1D in.), and weighing 480g (17 oz.), it is the most compact of the 8MP digital cameras.

Nikon engineers have been able to squeeze a 8MP image sensor, a 8x optical zoom, a fully swivelling LCD, and all the professional features one would desire into a well-built compact body. Thanks to its deep handgrip, the 8700 is easy to hold and handle. The lens barrel is just large enough to hold comfortably with the left hand.

Readers know that I make no pretense that compactness is a preference of mine. There's something to say about having a camera that is both discreet in appearance and quiet in operation, and the Coolpix 8700, in its professional black magnesium alloy body, is both.

However, due to its compact size, there are a few compromises that make certain operations a bit arkward to operate. The Multi Selector is located a bit too low on the back of the camera and is also quite small. It's usually not a problem, but since I use the Focus Areas a lot, I need to select the latter using the Multi selector, and I find my thumb just can't get low enough to press the Multi selector without letting go of the shutter release button.

Control buttons are divided between the back and the left side of the camera (viewed from the back). The Coolpix 8700 is the only prosumer digital camera I've used that does not have a mode dial. Instead you select functions by using the control buttons and Command Dial. The control buttons toggle and/or work in combination with the Command Dial.

On the left of the camera, there are the Size, Flash/ISO, AE/AF Lock, and Focus Mode/MF buttons. You select a function by pressing the appropriate button a number of times to cycle through available options, and/or pressing a button and rotating the Command Dial to select an option.

I like the toggle aspect especially when there are only a couple of options to cycle through. However, because you also have to hold a button while rotating the Command Dial to select other functionality, you may inadvertently change the underlying setting. It's also easy to brush against one of the control buttons and change a setting by mistake; I find that at first I would inadvertently press one of the buttons and not realize I changed some function: e.g. switching from Fine to HI image size, and wondering why it takes so long to save the image. I quickly get used to them and come to appreciate the layout and operation.

The 1.8 in LCD can be folded into the body for protection, and swivels to face forward or downward, and any other angle in betwen. It is really the best type and invaluable for macro shots. At 134,000 pixels resolution and 1.8 in., it is quite clear, though not as high in resolution or as large as what we are starting to see more and more in the prosumer models.

The EVF is similar in resolution than on most of the other 8MP digital cameras, at 235,000 pixels. When the LCD is folded closed against the camera body, the monitor defaults to the EVF. If you wear glasses like I do, you will appreciate the easily set diopter adjustment (I mention this because on too many digital cameras, it's quite difficult to adjust the diopter).

There is also a monochrome LCD control panel display on the top with a backlight button.

The AF assist lamp is on the pop up flash, so when the camera measures the need to use it, it automatically pops up the onboard flash. It feels a bit strange when this happens, especially if you don't want the flash to go off, and you're not sure if the flash will fire or not.

To turn the camera on, you turn the Power Switch that surrounds the Shutter Release button. If you are used to having a zoom toggle at that location, you end up switching the camera off inadvertently until you get used to it.

The Zoom buttons are at the back and activated by your right thumb. I personally would like them just a bit higher, perhaps flush against the top of the body.

It takes about 3 sec. for startup, with the lens extending 3 cm (1.2 in.). At full telephoto, the lens extends almost 5 cm (2 in.). It's a good idea to put the lens cap on after switching off the camera as I found out. I usually place the lens cap on, put the camera on the table (on a protective bubble sheet) and switch the camera off. Because the diameter of the lens cap is bigger than that of the front lens element, the lens cap can snag something between itself and the camera body (finger, paper, bubble sheet) as the lens retracts. It's always a good idea anyway to always switch the camera off first, and wait for the lens to fully retract, before putting the lens cap on.

The Nikon Coolpix 8700 has excellent ergonomics and handles very well for a compact prosumer digital camera. If you value compactness, you will value this professional 8MP.

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