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Nikon Coolpix S8000 review: Nikon Coolpix S8000

Nikon claims the S8000 has ultrafast start-up, autofocus, and shooting and that's true, at least partially. The camera starts up and shoots very fast at 0.8 second, but that's if you're ready to shoot as soon as the camera comes on and your timing is good. If you wait for everything to get loaded up and ready, though, it is more like 4 or 5 seconds from off to first shot. Shot-to-shot times are good for its class at 1.7 seconds without the flash and 2.1 seconds with it on. Shutter lag---how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed--is average for its class at 0.5 second in bright lighting and 0.9 seconds in dim conditions. The S8000 has a couple continuous shooting options; we test with its full-resolution continuous setting, which shoots at about 1.2 frames per second. There is a faster Sport Continuous option for capturing up to 45 photos at approximately 3 frames per second. In order to do this, the maximum resolution is reduced to 3 megapixels; the focus, exposure, and white balance are fixed at the first picture in the series; and the ISO is set to a range of 400-3,200. These things aren't unusual for burst modes on compact cameras, and it does allow you to capture something. However, you won't be able to do much with them beyond Web sharing and 4x6-inch prints, which is probably enough for most people.

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 with 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.

Nikon for the most part controls lens distortion, but there is very slight barrel distortion at the wide end and pincushion distortion when the lens is fully extended. Center sharpness is OK, but gets visibly softer in the corners. Fringing is average to above average in high contrast areas of photos. In the center of the frame it's not as bad. However, subjects off to the sides have more severe fringing making it harder to edit out.

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.

Movie quality is on par with a pocket video camera; it's good but jittery when the shooter or subject is moving. On top is a stereo mic, and it works well, too. If you want to hear your clips in stereo directly from the camera, though, you'll have to invest in a Mini-HDMI cable.

The Nikon Coolpix S8000 is a strange camera, mostly because I'm not sure who the target user is. Is a person who would appreciate paying extra for a 921K-dot LCD and stereo mic the same one who would be satisfied with mainly snapshot shooting modes, no use of the optical zoom while recording movies, and poor high ISO photo quality? The addition of slider controls for brightness, saturation, and color tone and the use of the Rotary Multi Selector seem to suggest the S8000 may at one time have had semimanual and/or manual controls in its feature set. Maybe next time around, Nikon can take the design and key features, pop in a better sensor, and add more control over results to make this a more attractive package. As it stands, it's just an above average compact megazoom.

Shooting speed
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
Fujifilm FinePix JZ500
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS
Nikon Coolpix S8000
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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