Nikon Coolpix S8100 review

11 Feb 2011

A worthwhile update to the excellent S8000, with Full HD video and excellent image quality

Price when reviewed 
280
5

When the S8000 came out last year, Nikon lauded it as the slimmest compact camera in the world with a 10x zoom lens. The S8100 is its successor, although many of the changes feel more like refinements than definitive upgrades.

Nikon has changed the body slightly, moving the power button and adding a comfortable strip of plastic to the right-hand grip, but the most interesting changes are on the inside. The resolution of the 1/2.3in CCD sensor has shifted into reverse, with the S8100 offering a 12.1-megapixel sensor to the S8000’s 14.2. The processor has had an upgrade, though, moving to Nikon’s Expeed C2 chip, which means 1080p video, up from the S8000’s 720p.

The S8100 has another nifty video trick up its sleeve: 120fps recording, which produces impressive results when filming fast-moving action, playing it back extremely smoothly. Don’t get too excited, though – the highest resolution available in 120fps mode is a heavily compressed 640 x 480, rendering footage unusable on anything larger than the S8100’s 3in, 921kpixel screen.

Nikon Coolpix S8100

The lens is one of the longest on offer on any compact. In 35mm terms it’s a 30-300mm, 10x zoom monster, and goes from wide-angle to true telephoto in just two seconds. The S8000 was criticised for chromatic aberration, and while purple fringing is still evident in some situations, our test images suggest an improvement has been made.

Despite fewer megapixels on the sensor, there’s been no increase in the S8100’s ISO capabilities, with ISO 3200 remaining the loftiest setting. At that level the S8100 surprised us by returning broadly usable test images. Softness begins creeping into images only at around ISO 1600; below that we had a hard time telling our shots apart. At the lower reaches of the ISO range, our test images were sharp and punchy, if a little blurred in the corners of the frame at the S8100’s widest angle.

The drawbacks are otherwise few and far between. It’s disappointing there isn’t more manual control. Exposure compensation and ISO can be adjusted, but not shutter or aperture. The continuous mode is reasonable, shooting five frames in one second, but the buffer expired after those same five shots.

Even if the S8100 doesn’t allow much creative flexibility, the lens remains an impressive achievement, and top image quality means it’s a good choice for those who want an accommodating camera and who treasure pocketability above all else.

Details

Price ex VAT £233
Price inc VAT £280
Overall rating 5
Performance 5
Features & Design 6
Value for Money 4

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 12.1mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 10x
Camera maximum resolution 4000 x 3000

Weight and dimensions

Weight 209g
Dimensions 104 x 30 x 59mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Aperture range f3.5 - f5.6
Camera minimum focus distance 0.01m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 30
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 300
ISO range 160 - 3200
Memory-card type SD
LCD resolution 921k
Secondary LCD display? no
Data connector type Mini-USB