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Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix 8700
Nikon Coolpix 8700 Review
Date: June 21, 2004
The Nikon Coolpix 8700 is a digital camera
targeted to advanced amateur photographers. It
has 8 megapixel resolution on a 16.7 mm (2/3 in.)
CCD image sensor and an excellent matrix metering
The Nikkor lens is a 35-280 mm (35mm format equivalent)
f/2.8-4.2, 8x optical zoom. This is the longest
telephoto reach among the 8MP digital cameras
(the others stop at 200mm), though it also has
a longer wide-angle focal length and the lens
is not as fast.
As expected, we find the overall image quality
of the Nikon Coolpix 8700 to be excellent.
|8x Optical Zoom
The Coolpix 8700 provides a 8x optical zoom,
with a maximum focal length of 280mm (35mm equivalent).
In the above pictures, we show the coverage for
35mm, and then delienate the area covered by 280mm.
This is the longest telephoto of the 8MP digital
cameras with an impressive reach in such a compact
digital camera. Though you may be able to handhold
it using a fast shutter speed, a tripod is necessary
at slower shutter speeds.
Another professional feature of the Coolpix 8700
that is directly related to image quality is the
ability to record images in RAW file format. It
takes about 12-15 sec. (though at times, it took
up to 30 sec.) to save a RAW (Nikon NEF) or HI
(TIFF) image (using a SanDisk Ultra II 256MB memory
card). Unfortunately, the 8700 does not have a
RAW internal buffer and you have to wait for the
camera to finish writing to memory card before
you can shoot the next picture.
Each RAW image is 3264x2448 pixels (about 23MB),
so you definitely need a large memory card. The
camera indicates space for 64 Fine images or 10
HI or 20 RAW images on a 256MB CF card, but your
mileage will vary depending on the images captured.
Interestingly, the JPG images are compressed
rather aggressively, resulting in images at around
3MP or less -- with no apparent degradation in
A very interesting feature is that you can instruct
the camera to additionally save all your EXIF
info into a text file. This allows you to refer
to the image number and find all relevant EXIF
info without having to open NikonView.
[The RAW file format records the image as captured
by the camera's CCD without further processing,
and allows you to precisely adjust white balance,
contrast, sharpness and saturation in an image
editing software without any loss of quality.]
|Macro (3 cm / 1.2 in.)
Nikon is famous for the macro capability of its
digital cameras and the 8700 allows you to focus
as close as 3 cm (1.2 in.) from the front element
of the lens.
You can still zoom while in Macro mode and in
fact, with my review camera, I find that I surprisingly
do need to slightly zoom in for the camera to
obtain focus lock in Macro mode. Depending on
your subject matter, AF lock is either quick or
it may hunt a bit. I find that the AF seems to
have a hard time focusing on small areas with
the AF locking somewhere else (even when the AF
area is positioned right on the spot I want to
be in focus, and I carefully measure the 3 cm
distance at wide-angle setting). At other times
(like in the picture of the spent dandelion above),
focus is incredibly precise.
Of course, I use a tripod for most of my macro
shots, and I usually also set the 10 sec. self-timer
on so as to avoid camera shake. You can also use
3 sec. self-timer by pressing the shutter release
twice. Once the picture is taken, self-timer mode
I use Shooting Mode 1 and set the AF Area Mode
to Manual. This is not to be confused with Manual
Focus; only the AF Area is now manually selected
(though it will always default to one of the five
focus areas), i.e. I can manually select from
five focus areas using the multi selector. I find
this especially useful when taking macro shots
since the razor thin depth of field means that
it is not quite feasible to pre-focus
by depressing the shutter button half-way and
then reframing; even a slight mm off can throw
your main subject out-of-focus.
A feature we are starting to see in more and
more prosumer models is Program shift. What I
like is that it is the default on the Coolpix
8700: just rotate the Command Dial to shift shutter
speed/aperture combinations in tandem while still
maintaining the correct exposure. There's no need
to press any button to engage program shift.
|Auto White Balance
||WB = Fluorescent
As the above two pictures show, the Auto White
Balance works pretty well indoors under Fluorescent
lighting, better than setting it to Fluorescent
WB. In our tests, AWB seems to work flawlessly
under sunny conditions. Fortunately, the 8700
allows you to set a Preset White Balance, and
our best results needed the use of the Preset
White Balance (see Long Shutter Speed below).
Of course, if you record in RAW mode, you do not
need to worry about white balance since you can
precisely adjust it after the fact.
The 100% crops
above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate
the noise at the available ISO Speeds of 50, 100,
200 and 400. At ISO 50, as we would expect, noise
is not apparent and barely noticeable. At ISO
100 noise becomes visible but is still acceptable.
Upward, noise is noticeably present.
We found minimal CA at the corner delimited
by the red square at top left (reproduced at 100%
crop at bottom right). However, in everyday shots,
it's not enough of a problem to bother with.
Partial, 8 sec., F5.7, ISO 50
Preset WB, Super Macro, 2 sec. Self-Timer,
The 8700 allows the use of a long shutter speed
of up to 8 sec. (plus 10 min Bulb) therefore allowing
night photography. Generally, with CCD image sensors,
noise usually becomes more prominent at slow shutter
speeds. The 8700 has special noise reduction algorithms
that automatically kicks in at shutter speeds
slower than 1/4 sec. and you'll notice a slightly
longer processing time before the next picture
can be taken.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided
to take a low-light indoors shot. Let's make it
also a Macro shot so we can more clearly see any
At only 3 cm (1.2 in.) away from the subject,
the camera lens focuses on Bamm-Bamm's eyes. Even
though we use a small aperture to maximize depth
of field, his nose still comes out blurred. For
a cheap DIY backdrop, we use a black fuzzy sweater.
Normal fluorescent light bulbs from the ceiling
are the only source of illumination. We experiment
a bit to obtain the optimum exposure, eventually
settling on 8 sec. at F5.7. Even at this long
shutter speed, the 8700's noise reduction seems
to be working great, producing a nice smooth blurring
effect of the background.
The last feature we will mention is the histogram.
The histogram can be displayed live during Record
Mode. You can see the histogram by pressing the
Display button until the histogram displays. The
histogram is not transparent on the 8700 so it
covers up a small area of the image. The histogram
is invaluable to give an indication of under-
and over-exposure (don't rely on the LCD/EVF since
the brightness is adjustable and may be misleading).
You can also display horizontal, vertical and
diagonal (what a great idea!) grid lines to aid
The pictures in the Nikon Coolpix 8700 Photo
Gallery page provide a good sample of what
the camera is capable of. I have provided samples
at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100
in Photoshop Elements).
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels
in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended
to the file name.
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious