Tuesday, January 18, 2011

# 10: Nikon Coolpix S8100 12.1 Megapixel CMOS Digital camera with 10 x Zoom-Nikkor ED and 3.0 inch LCD (black)

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153 of 157 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars S8100 was worth the wait!, October 22, 2010 This review is from: Nikon Coolpix S8100 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 10x Zoom-Nikkor ED Lens and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (Electronics) OK, I was really wanting the RED Nikon S8100 but apparently only black is available unless you buy it directly from Nikon. I decided to go black because I live in Oregon where there is no sales tax, and Nikon was going to tax me and add $10 to the shipping. Black isn't all that bad looking anyway and it matches my Cooler Master HAF-X PC case.

I'm upgrading from a Sony DSC-V1. The size of the Nikon is a hair wider, a hair shorter and about half as thick. The DSC-V1 had a po-pup flash in the same area as the S8100 so I was used to holding the camera the correct way already. For those of you that can't think outside the box, the proper way to hold this camera is to make a gun with your left hand, thumb pointing up, then bend your wrist so the gun is pointing to your right, then place the camera in the gun. RTFM. This tip is printed (and pictured) in the quick start booklet that came with the camera. Once you get used to it, you won't mind pop-up flashes at all. The only issue you will have is when your dense friends take pictures of you with it and hold the flash down, not knowing any better.

The downgrade from the S8000's 14 megapixel CCD to the S8100's 12 megapixel CMOS sensor is no downgrade whatsoever. Megapixels are nearly irrelevant to point and shoot cameras above 12 anyway, and the image quality increase, and low light shooting improvements you get with the CMOS sensor EASILY trump a 2 megapixel increase. I am continuing to be surprised how good my pictures keep turning out, in all light levels.

The 10x optical zoom is great, but what is amazing is how clean the digital zoom is beyond that. I am used to fuzzy or blurry shots when using the digital zoom, but this camera somehow gets around that. The placement of the zoom lever forces you to use your right forefinger instead of your thumb which I'm used to. It felt kind of odd at first, but makes complete logical sense from an ergonomic point of view when you are holding the camera properly. On the opposite side, the macro function floored me. For a point and shoot camera, I never expected a macro this good. It macro shoots better than my Cannon DSLR. I can rest the lens up against the object I'm shooting and the image will still focus good.

The LCD screen on the back is a typical 3" screen, but a very untypically high quality resolution. It has the highest resolution screen of any point and shoot I could find. You can really see the detail of what you are about to shoot with it. It's bright and the colors are accurate.

The 1080p video this camera produces is better than I expected. Far better. You can use the zoom feature while rolling AND take stills simultaneously. It also records in stereo sound. Great stuff.

Some people complained that this camera is still a bit too large for their liking. If it was any smaller that it is now, you would not be able to hold it without accidentally pressing a button or something, and it fits in my pocket just fine. Those people must have toothpick fingers or don't realize that size much smaller than the S8100 really isn't much of an advantage unless you are some kind of top secret spy or something.

The camera has all the basic features you would want, and several that are kind of neat. Manual on the fly brightness, hue, and vividness adjustments can be handy, the skin softening feature turns your subjects into super models, and the ISO sensitivity range is above average. It has a wind noise reduction option while taking video, and all the features you would use the most are easily and quickly accessible.

I know I'm sounding like a Nikon fanboy now but I'm just so happy with this camera. The only thing I can think of I don't care for is the rubber stop that plugs the USB port on the bottom of the camera. I prefer a flip door, but this is just my preference.

It comes with surprisingly good full version photo editing software, and even a panoramic stitching program that I've yet to try. The full manual is on a CD that comes with it though I prefer a book to look at. The start-up speed (power on to photo ready) is just under 2 seconds. Holy cow batman!

One feature that I haven't taken advantage of yet but look really useful in action shooting is the high-speed shooting at five full resolution frames at up to 10 frames'per'second, and a pre'shooting cache that records up to two shots before the shutter'release is fully pressed. This will really make it easy to get the action shot you really want. The other feature that I'm very impressed by is the advanced Night Landscape mode which combines a series of five consecutive shots taken at a fast shutter speed into a single image with reduced noise when taking hand held shots. Dark backgrounds turn out very visible without over lighting the subject. Very cool technology idea.

In summery, I feel like the $299 I paid for the Nikon S8100 is very justified. DSLRs should be nervous that these point and shooters will start stealing their market considering the lower price, quality and technology improvements. Nikon has a winner!

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235 of 254 people found the following review helpful: 1.0 out of 5 stars Out of focus, October 23, 2010 This review is from: Nikon Coolpix S8100 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 10x Zoom-Nikkor ED Lens and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (Electronics) First of all, I must apologize to all the people who read my first review of this camera and gushed over how much I liked it. After owning it for less than a month, it seems I must retreat on what I previously stated. This camera is completely out of control and I haven't had a day's luck with it for nearly a month.

The major problem is with the instant focus control. While initially, the camera was able to focus on everything. Lately, it focuses on nothing. Unless I have zoom all the way out in wide angle, the auto focus control does not adjust when the camera zooms in on a subject; not in normal mode, not in macro, and not in video mode. When I think of the time and money I spent on making this the "ultimate" camera experience, I am so sorry now that I wrote such a glowing review and convinced other people to rush out and buy it. I have dozens of pictures that are blurred, out of focus, or improperly exposed (usually overexposed). I tried to reset the camera. I tried different styles of focusing control. Nothing works. I will never buy an "autofocus" camera again. Just give me a lens I can turn until I have the subject in focus. Then snap the picture and have perfect focus. This camera has become a huge disappointment to me.

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159 of 175 people found the following review helpful: 3.0 out of 5 stars Great Still photos & features, poor focusing in video & zoom noise, October 21, 2010 This review is from: Nikon Coolpix S8100 12.1 MP CMOS Digital Camera with 10x Zoom-Nikkor ED Lens and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (Electronics) UPDATE: I have returned the camera today after observing two issues that are dealbreaker for me. We finally had a bright sunny day today and I took some videos to compare against my 3 year old Canon Powershot TX1 that shoots 720p. I also received my mini-HDMI cable so I could watch the video on my 42" LCD TV directly without post-processing thru Apple TV box.

ISSUE #1: The video keeps going out of focus while I zoom or pan - whether I set center, weighted focus and/or single AF or continuous AF. The recorded video looks really bad. On the other hand my TX1 stays rock steady with the focus.

ISSUE #2: There is a loud zoom motor noise that gets recorded in the clip. I initially thought that continuous AF or Image Stabilization is causing the noise. I put the camera on a tripod and disabled continuous AF and the noise remained and it was clearly there when I operated the zoom.

The still photography feature of the camera is stunning, but video is important for me as well as I want to carry only one camera on my travels.

I love the 3" LCD on this camera, but the two issues pushed me over the edge.

Original review below:

This is my 1st Nikon. I have always purchased Canon ever since I used a Canon A1 35mm film SLR nearly 30 yrs back. I own a Canon Digital SLR, Canon DV Cam, Canon Powershot TX1. Most of my photography during travel/vacation has been with the TX1 shooting both stills as well as 720p Video which I edit on my Mac and then stream thru my Apple TV.

I have been looking forward to replacing my TX1 with a camera that is:
- compact like TX1
- bigger and better LCD screen (TX1 has very tiny one)
- shoots 1080p with full optical zoom (not handicapped like Canon has done with all their 1080p shooting compact cameras that don't allow optical zooming during video recording)
- good range of optical zoom
- image stabilized lens
- reasonable number of pixels
- better low light shooting
- shoot moving objects
- separate shutter button and video recording buttons - this is very useful when the subject is not waiting for you to fiddle with the rotary selector as with most cameras (except for TX1 which had this feature).

It is important for me give all this preamble to relate to what my expectations were from this camera.

Gave up on Canon finally, looked into Panasonic ZX7 - didn't like the reviews and waited patiently for the release of Nikon S8100. Received it today. Have taken some shots and here is my first impression.

1. I am happy with the image quality of the stills
2. Great quality of 1080p video (haven't tried the 720p mode as yet)
3. Optical zoom is very good (the rate of zooming slows down during video recording)
4. Controls are simple to use
5. Very fast focus response
6. Very fast start time
7. Very good image stabilization
8. Face detection works very well (even on images on TV)
9. Very good build quality (feels robust) - just like my TX1

Only negative: The position of the flash. It is the place where you would normally grip the camera with your left index finger. If the flash wasn't a pop up type, this could have been avoided.

Overall, I am very happy with the camera. Will move on to try the remaining features in the next few days. Have to get hold of the mini-HDMI cable to test the direct to TV playback of 1080p video.

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