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Conclusion - Pros

  • Eight times optical zoom, nearly 300 mm telephoto reach
  • Excellent automatic white balance, best of group
  • Excellent macro performance, best of group
  • Good image quality, resolution not as high as expected
  • Smallest and lightest eight megapixel prosumer
  • Good ergonomics, sticky rubber on hand grip
  • Time-lapse feature
  • Wide range of accessories available
  • Programmable FUNC button and initial menu
  • Some unique features (Exposure BSS etc.)
  • Excellent Nikon Matrix metering
  • Framing assist lines option on live view
  • Tilt & Twist LCD monitor
  • High resolution electronic viewfinder


Conclusion - Cons

  • Slower than expected startup time
  • Limited latitude of image parameter adjustment
  • AF assist lamp requires flash to be up
  • Initially confusing 'User setting' concept
  • Lower than advertised continuous shooting speed
  • Battery life limited by low capacity Lithium-Ion battery
  • Loses out by not having 28 mm wide angle zoom
  • Lens being stretched past its resolution capabilities?
  • Some vignetting / lens shading
  • No record review histogram
  • Visible noise from ISO 100 upwards
  • Zoom lever not proportional
  • Relatively slow lens (F2.8 - F4.2)


Overall conclusion

At first the Coolpix 8700 looks like a simple upgrade for Nikon, take the Coolpix 5700 body, the same lens and controls and drop in an eight megapixel CCD. However it's clear that the 8700 has changed quite a bit under the skin, the camera starts more quickly (although is still not fast in that respect), feels more responsive and has slightly faster shot to shot times. From a design point of view it has a fairly standard 'SLR-like' prosumer digital camera look, nothing radical but not particularly inspired either.

On the whole image quality was good, Nikon's matrix metering ensuring that almost every shot is perfectly exposed helps a lot. Tonal balance was good and color response was neutral while still appealing, resolution performance was less than we had hoped although the 8700 did well in our side-by-side studio comparison shot. White balance was a revelation, the 8700 delivering the best automatic white balance results of all the eight megapixel digital cameras we tested in this group.

Unfortunately the Coolpix 8700, like a couple of other eight megapixel prosumer digital cameras just feels like another 'me too' product. It certainly delivers good image quality and has the required range of features but also doesn't break the mold and doesn't stand out in any particular way. It may also be less attractive to some buyers because of its 35 mm wide angle (compared to the 28 mm wide angle offered by the rest) and relatively slow F4.2 telephoto. To existing Nikon owners the Coolpix 8700 may well be the best choice, to others it should at least be near the top of their 'may buy' list.

Recommended

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8.5
Features 8
Image quality 8.5
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 8
Value for money 7.5

('Recommended' is our second highest rating, a camera has to be good to get this far!)

Digital SLR footnote: If you're considering an eight megapixel prosumer digital camera you should also not rule out a sub-$1000 digital SLR while initially more expensive (certainly if you want to achieve the 28 - 200 mm zoom range) these cameras offer higher quality image processing, cleaner images (virtually noise free up to ISO 1600), faster performance, more flexibility and for all intents and purposes (even large prints) as much resolution. On the downside they're not an 'all in one' solution and they're likely to be larger and need you to buy and carry at least a second lens. By sub-$1000 (at the time of publication of this review) we're talking about the Nikon D70 and Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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