Friday, November 12, 2010

Camera Review: The Nikon Coolpix S8100

By Brendan Keenan, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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Nikon has developed a reputation for having well-made, and most importantly, easy-to-use point and shoot cameras. In fact, a model from earlier this year took Consumer Reports top spot for sub-ompact cameras, the Coolpix S8000. So it was only natural that Nikon would build on a product that was very well received, and they have answered the call with the Coolpix S8100. A follow up to the top-rated S8000, the S8100 makes some important advances in technology.

The video mode has been upgraded to full 1080 HD video, versus 720 HD on the S8000. That goes for still photos as well, so you can shoot HD stills, and display them in full high definition by connecting to an HDTV. The camera is 12 megapixels, enough for printing enlargements up to 16x20, or for a good amount of cropping. Nikon also added a mode dial to help the user access the different camera modes quickly and easily and it's placement on top of the camera is convenient. The most significant change is something you won't see, but will make a world of difference in the pictures. That would be the image sensor itself.

The image sensor is the eye of the camera and collects all the information for the picture. In the new S8100, Nikon put in a backside-illuminated CMOS sensor, a far superior image sensor than the standard CCD sensors in most point and shoot digital cameras. The advanced CMOS sensor offers everything from better color reproduction, to better low light performance, even better power management that leads to longer battery life. The S8100 also has a better, brighter LCD screen, and the 3" size is more than enough to not only see your pictures clearly before you take them, but afterwards as well.

This camera also packs a big 10x optical zoom into its fairly compact frame, plus a lot more. You won’t miss a shot either, since it offers high speed shooting of ten frames per second in continuous mode (and at full resolution), as well as fast startup time, and very little shutter lag. With fast start up time, fast auto focus, and a very quick shutter, you can be ready at a moments notice to get those great shots other cameras might miss. It also has Nikon’s VR image stabilization, which will definitely come in handy, since this camera has a 300mm equivalent telephoto lens.

No Coolpix camera would be complete without Nikon's scene modes, for easy automatic use in tricky situations. Backlit subject, low light, can't use a flash? No problem. Just access the scene modes and set the camera for the type of photo you are taking. The camera will do the rest. Everything from portraits and sports, to sunsets, night shots and fireworks displays have a convenient, easy to access scene mode.

So Nikon answered the question, how do you make the best, better? You take a model with a proven track record and critical acclaim, and you pair it with the most cutting edge technologies available on point and shoot cameras. Make no mistake, the addition of a CMOS sensor is no small upgrade to the top rated compact digital camera of 2010. It further enhances an already great camera, and allows for anyone to get those great shots.