Nikon Coolpix S800c Review
Backlighting (HDR) mode
Of the S800c's various scene modes, I want to give a specific mention to two of them - Backlighting and Easy Panorama. Backlighting uses the HDR technique to improve the tonal balance of pictures taken in tricky lighting situations. The camera takes two photos (proper HDR often involves 3 or more different captures), each at a different exposure. These photos are combined into one, with better shadow and highlight detail than you'd get otherwise. Here's a quick example:
|HDR Off||HDR on|
While the first thing you may notice is that things get a bit darker inside, the real changes can be found just aside the windows. Notice how the clipped highlights on the van and the street disappear in the HDR image -- nice. The S800c shoots its HDR sequence quickly, so unless you or your subject is moving pretty fast, you probably won't need a tripod. It does take several seconds for the image to be processed, though.
Easy Panorama Mode
The easy panorama feature lets you create 180 or 360 degree images simply by panning the camera from one side to the other. Here's a 180 degree panorama for you:
The S800c stitched things together pretty nicely. Unfortunately, the overall image quality isn't great and the resolution is relatively low. Easy panorama will work for web viewing, but not much else.
Now let's talk about movies. The S800c records Full HD video at 1920 x 1080 at 30 frames/second with stereo sound. You can keeping recording until the file size reaches 4GB, or the time elapsed reaches 29 minutes -- whichever comes first. At either of the two 1080p settings (high or normal, recorded at 14 and 12 Mbps, respectively), you'll hit the time limit first. You can also record at 1280 x 720 or 640 x 480, both at 30 frames/second. Do note that since there's no dedicated movie recording button on the camera, you must switch into that mode if you want to take videos.
The optical zoom lens can be used while you're recording a movie, and the lens moves slowly so the motor noise isn't picked up by the microphone. Continuous (full-time) autofocus is available, so your subject will stay sharp as they move around the frame. You can use the VR (image stabilization) function, as well.
As you might've guessed, there are no manual controls in movie mode on the Coolpix S800c. The only real option is a wind filter, which comes in handy when recording movies outdoors.
The S800c can also record movies at frame rates other than the standard 30 fps. Choose from 15 fps (at 1080p), 60 fps (at 720p), 120 fps (at 640 x 480), or 240 fps (at 320 x 240). Movies taken at 15 fps will appear to move twice as quickly when played at normal speed, while the opposite is true when the frame rate is 60, 120, or 240 fps.
Here's a couple of samples for you, taken at the highest quality setting.
|Download movie (1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 33.8 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)|
|Download movie (1920 x 1080, 30 fps, 70.5 MB, QuickTime/H.264 format)|
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