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Nikon Coolpix S8200 review: Nikon Coolpix S8200

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The Nikon Coolpix S8200 seems to be just a shrunken-down version of the 18x Coolpix S9100, with most if not all of the same shooting features. Instead of an 18x zoom, it packs a 14x f3.3-5.9 25-350mm lens in a camera body 1.3 inches thick. It also has a higher-resolution sensor than the S9100: 16 megapixels compared with 12.

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7.2

Nikon Coolpix S8200

The Good

The <b>Nikon Coolpix S8200</b> is easy to use, has an excellent feature set for its price, and has a lot of fun shooting options to experiment with.

The Bad

The S8200's autofocus can be slow at times, its flash is poorly placed, and its photo quality isn't for everybody.

The Bottom Line

The Nikon Coolpix S8200 might not be as easy to recommend as its predecessor, the S8100, but it's still a very good compact megazoom for the money.

I'd argue that while the lens is nice, the extra megapixels are not important. They don't bring anything to the table other than a big-number spec to get your attention. That said, the S8200 is capable of taking some very nice photos. It has some other issues that might not thrill you, though, so please read on to see if any of them are deal breakers for you.

At its MSRP of $329.95, the S8200 would be a hard sell, but with it currently selling for around $250, it's definitely worth considering if you're looking for a little extra zoom in your pocket.

Key specs Nikon Coolpix S8200
Price (MSRP) $329.95
Dimensions (WHD) 4.1x2.4x1.3 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.6 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 921K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 14x, f3.3-5.9, 25-350mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080p at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 250 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; wall adapter (included) or computer via USB
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software Software Suite for Coolpix (Windows/Mac)

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 on screen, 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; I even printed shots at 11.5x15 that looked very good.

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. There wasn't much visible distortion at either end of the lens range. I saw some slight asymmetrical barrel distortion at the wide end and a touch of pincushioning with the lens extended. The lens had good center sharpness and didn't get soft out to the sides or in the corners.

Video quality is good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. Panning the camera will create judder that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. I also noticed fringing around high-contrast subjects and some slight barrel distortion when the lens was at its widest position. The zoom lens does function while recording and moves smoothly and quietly. You will hear it moving in quiet scenes, but potentially more irritating is how slowly it focuses.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix S8200
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Recording modes Auto, Scene auto selector, Scene, Special effects, Night Landscape, Continuous, Pet Portrait, Subject Backlighting/HDR
Focus modes Face priority, 9-area auto, manual with 99 focus areas, center, subject tracking
Macro 0.4 inches (Wide)
Metering modes Multipattern, Center-weighted
Color effects Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, High key, Low key, Selective color
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 5 shots

If you're looking for much beyond automatic shooting modes on the S8200, you won't find it; it's a pure point-and-shoot. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Scene Auto Selector, located under the Scene modes. It adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn't match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Among the scene types are Night Landscape and Night Portrait which use multiple shots that get processed in camera into one for improved exposure and reduced noise and blur, so you'll have to be careful using Scene Auto Selector with moving subjects.

Then there is a regular Auto mode, which is basically the Program auto mode you'd find on other cameras. It'll handle shutter speed and aperture settings, but you can also adjust things like ISO and white balance.

Aside from the Scene Auto Selector there are 16 other scene modes such as Landscape and Portrait as well as a Pet Portrait mode (which gets a dedicated spot on the mode dial) and Easy Panorama mode that just requires you to pan the camera left, right, up, or down to capture 180- or 360-degree shots. A separate Special Effects mode gives you some creative options like High-contrast Monochrome and Selective Color, which turns everything black-and-white except a color you specify. (The playback menu also has other effects filters you can apply after you shoot like Painting for a hand-painted look and Fisheye.)

Other shooting options include several burst shooting options, including 120fps and 60fps bursts that capture up to 60 shots at VGA and 1-megapixel resolution, respectively, and an HDR (high dynamic range) mode that combines photos taken at different exposures to help bring out highlight and shadow detail.

If you like shooting close-ups, the S8200 is excellent at it. It can focus as close as 0.4 inch from a subject and, as long as the sensitivity is set below ISO 200, the 16-megapixel resolution will give you sharp shots with fine detail.

Lastly, movie options include full HD capture at 30 frames per second as well as iFrame, which is 960x540-pixel resolution at 30fps designed for easier editing and playback on mobile devices, and VGA at 120fps for slow-motion clips.

Shooting performance, at least on the surface, is very good. Shutter lag--the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture--is 0.3 second when shooting in good light and 0.6 second in low-light conditions. However, extending the lens really slowed down the autofocus system and during my testing I found myself regularly prefocusing over and over to get a clear shot. That might be acceptable if you're shooting stationary subjects like landscapes and architecture, but not active kids and pets. From off to first shot is a quick 1.1 seconds and shot to shot it's just 1.5 seconds. Even using the flash was pretty quick at only 1.7 seconds between shots. It can also continuously shoot a burst of five photos at a rate of 7.2 frames per second. But, if you use any of the multishot modes, like HDR or Night Landscape, or any of the burst shooting options and you'll be waiting much longer as the camera processes and stores images.

Aside from all the features and performance, the camera is nice-looking and easy to use, too. Available in black, red, and silver, the S8200 is compact given its ultrawide-angle 14x zoom lens, though still a bit chunky. The metal casing has a slight rubberized texture on it for added grip, but I wish there was more than a slight ridge on the front of the camera to hold. If there is one big problem with the design it's the flash. It pops up from the left side, so it's easily blocked by fingers when it rises and then once it's up, it won't go back down until you shut off the camera.

Nikon S8200 controls
Despite the camera's compact size, the controls are easy to press.

The controls and menu system are fairly uncomplicated, so out-of-the-box shooting shouldn't be much of a problem. The menu system is broken into three tabs: Shooting, Movie, and Setup. The layout keeps you from doing too much hunting through settings. And thanks to the high-resolution screen, menus are nice-looking, sharp, and easy to read. The LCD gets reasonably bright as well, so you shouldn't struggle too much when framing shots in bright direct light. It's great for playback to boot.

A mode dial sits on top for quickly changing your shooting mode. On the back, a large thumb rest separates the screen from a record button for movies; there is no standalone movie mode you have to switch to in order to shoot video. Below that is a playback button and a four-way control pad/wheel with an OK button in its center (Nikon calls it a Rotary Multi Selector), and then there are Menu and Delete buttons at the very bottom. The control pad is used for menu and image navigation as well as setting the self-timer, adjusting flash and exposure compensation, and turning on macro focus. Should you want to move more quickly through menus, images, and videos, you can spin the wheel instead of doing single presses with the underlying control pad. Although it moves easily, you can feel stops.

The S8200 is powered by a lithium ion rechargeable pack that is rated for 250 shots; this was supported in testing, though it was a mix of stills and movies. Plus, the camera doesn't give you a battery life reading until it needs to be recharged. The battery is charged in the camera by connecting via USB to a computer or the included wall adapter. The battery and card compartment are on the bottom behind a locking door. On the right side is a small door covering a Mini-HDMI port and a Micro-USB/AV port (but not the version currently used by most smartphones).

Conclusion
I'm slightly less enthusiastic about the Nikon Coolpix S8200 than I was about its predecessor, the S8100. It's still a nice camera for its price, features, and performance compared with other compact megazooms with BSI CMOS sensors. But because of little things like the pop-up flash and more important things like the slow autofocus with the lens extended, it's not as easy a recommendation.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10
1.9 
1.1 
0.7 
0.4 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX7V
1.7 
1.4 
0.7 
0.4 
Nikon Coolpix S8200
1.1 
1.5 
0.6 
0.3 
Canon PowerShot Elph 510 HS
2.5 
2 
0.6 
0.3 
Fujifilm FinePix F600EXR
1.9 
2.2 
0.8 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

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7.2

Nikon Coolpix S8200

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7Image quality 7