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Nikon Coolpix S8200 review: Nikon Coolpix S8200

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The Good The Nikon Coolpix S8200 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.

7.2 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

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.

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.

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