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HolidayBuyer's Guide

ISO comparison

Macro

Color

HDR mode

Special Effects mode

Zoom range

Lens distortion

Fringing

Burst shooting

Easy Panorama mode

Pet Portrait mode

These are 100 percent crops from our test scene. The Nikon S8200's photo quality is generally very good, though it's not the good low-light performer I expected. It does very well with plenty of light, as do most cameras in this category. Once you get above ISO 200, though, colors start to desaturate, there's a noticeable increase in noise and artifacts, and subjects look soft and lack fine detail. Much of this is only visible if you view the shots at 100 percent, so those looking to make large prints or do a lot of enlarging and heavy cropping--especially of low-light shots or of things taken with the lens fully extended--will probably want to pass on this camera. The 16-megapixel resolution is really a waste in this case. But if your needs are more for prints up to 8x10 and online use, well then, you might really like the S8200.
Caption by / Photo by Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET
One of the areas the S8200 shines is in macro. It can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject and, as long as you keep the ISO below 200, it'll turn out nice sharp shots with fine details intact. This is a 100 percent crop from the inset photo.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The S8200 turns out nice colors, bright and vivid. If they're not to your liking or if you just want to experiment, there are sliders for adjusting hue and vividness.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
For scenes with challenging lighting, there is an HDR option that will fire off shots at different exposures and combine them into one well-balanced shot. Unfortunately, it takes awhile for the camera to process and store these, but you do get two shots: one HDR and one with a normal exposure.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
While the HDR mode isn't for creative effect, there are other options for spicing up your photos. The Special Effects mode includes filters for Soft, Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, High key and Low key, which let you brighten or darken tone, and Selective color (pictured) that creates a black and white image, but keeps the color you specify.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The S8200 has a 14x zoom that starts at an ultrawide-angle 25mm and zooms into 350mm (35mm equivalent). It was fast to focus at the wide end, but was noticeably slower with the lens extended and in low light.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
There wasn't much visible distortion at either end of the lens range. You can see slight asymmetrical barrel distortion at the wide end (top) and a touch of pincushioning with the lens extended (bottom). The lens had good center sharpness and didn't get soft out to the sides or in the corners.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Fringing in high-contrast areas was at acceptable levels, only really visible when shots were viewed at 100 percent. It was more noticeable when shooting video, though, likely because Nikon is able to process it out for photos.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The S8200 was able to shoot at up to 7.2 frames per second at full resolution. When used with the camera's tracking autofocus, you should be able to get some decent action shots.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
The S8200 lets you capture 180- or 360-degree panoramas with a swing of the camera. Press the shutter release and pan the camera up, down, left, or right and you'll get a nice wide shot. Just don't look too closely at the final results because they look like low-res movie clips.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
Of all the shooting options on this camera, Nikon chose to dedicate a spot on the mode dial to a Pet Portrait mode. It works just like face detection for people, but once it locks focus on a dog or cat, it'll quickly fire off three shots. If you take a lot of pictures of your pets, this could be a big selling point.
Caption by / Photo by Joshua Goldman/CNET
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