For being one of Nikon's highest end Coolpix cameras, the S8000's photo quality is pretty average. Photos taken at ISO 400 and below are good; they have low noise and decent fine detail, so light cropping and enlarging are possible, resulting in good prints up to 8x10 inches. With no cropping, you can probably go slightly larger without seeing soft, smeary details. Above ISO 400, images look more like watercolor paintings than photos. At ISO 800 they're still usable for small prints and Web use, but go any higher and you end up with soft, smeary subjects and blotches of yellow and blue color noise.
In Auto mode, you have a choice of two fixed-range auto settings for ISO: ISO 100-400 and 100-800. When possible, use the former. If you're using the full 10x zoom range, you're indoors, or in low-light conditions, switch to the latter.
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Just to further illustrate what happens at ISO 800, I present this picture of a squirrel. At small sizes it looks passable, but at 100 percent it looks like an artist's representation of a squirrel.
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In macro, the S8000 can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject. The results are pretty good, but not great and would benefit from a little sharpening.
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Though there are compact megazooms with wider and longer lenses, the S8000's 30-300mm lens is versatile enough to handle large group shots, scenic vistas, and the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
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Nikon for the most part controls lens distortion, but there is very slight barrel distortion at the wide end (top) and pincushion distortion when the lens is fully extended (bottom). Center sharpness is OK, but gets visibly softer in the corners.
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Fringing is average to above average in high contrast areas of photos. In the center of the frame it's not as bad such as in this shot. However, subjects off to the sides have more severe fringing, making it harder to edit out.
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Color performance is very good--bright, vibrant, and accurate; only blues were a bit off, looking slightly pale. Exposure and white balance are good, too, though the auto white balance is slightly green under fluorescent lighting. However, it performed fine when switched to the fluorescent preset or with a manual reading.