White Balance

Of all five eight megapixel cameras we tested at the same time the Coolpix 8700 delivered the best automatic white balance performance. Across our three lighting situations only the Incandescent light produced a faint pink color cast but even this is relatively (compared to other cameras) very good. Kudos Nikon for the best AWB of the bunch.

Outdoors, Auto Outdoors, Cloudy, Sunny Outdoors, Manual
Incandescent, Auto Incandescent, Incandescent Incandescent, Manual
Fluorescent, Auto Fluorescent, Fluorescent Fluorescent, Manual

Flash Performance

With its internal flash enabled the Coolpix 8700 exhibited good color balance with no blue cast we sometimes see. Exposures were 'conservative' meaning that the camera mostly under-powered the flash, this is good to one degree because it avoids blown highlights and over exposed images but also tends to mean that images will need post-processing. Luckily the 8700 does provide the option to manually boost flash power output (flash exposure compensation) so an additional +0.3 or +0.7 EV would probably take care of this.

Skin tone - No color cast, under exposed, natural skin tone Color patches - Good color balance, no color cast, under exposed

Night exposures

The 8700 has manually selectable noise reduction for long exposures which when enabled causes the camera to take a second exposure used to 'subtract' noise from the first exposure. Normal timed exposures max out at 8 seconds, however it is possible to select a 'timed release' of between 30 seconds and 10 minutes(!).

Manual exposure, ISO 50, 8 sec, F5.0, Noise reduction Off
Manual exposure, ISO 50, 8 sec, F5.0, Noise reduction On

Macro Focus

Ever since the 990 Nikon Coolpix digital cameras have had a reputation and positive following by users who demand very close macro performance. Generation after generation Nikon Coolpix digital cameras delivered the 'best in class' macro performance and the 8700 doesn't disappoint. In macro mode the camera indicates the macro 'sweet spot' by turning the macro and zoom indicator green, this range appears to be from approximately quarter zoom (50 mm equiv.) to three quarters zoom (107 mm equiv.)

The only downside being that at its absolute best frame coverage the corners of the frame do appear quite soft, in the samples below the lens wasn't stopped down and stopping down to F5.6 or F6.3 would probably improve corner softness considerably.

The macro tests below are using our new macro focus test chart and measurement system; each line on the grid is 10 mm, taken at shortest subject distance in each macro mode.

Wide side of sweet spot
41 x 31 mm coverage
78 px/mm (1981 px/in)
Distortion: High
Corner softness: Average (with CA)
Equiv. focal length: 50 mm

Tele side of sweet spot
28 x 21 mm coverage
113 px/mm (2878 px/in)
Distortion: Average
Corner softness: High
Equiv. focal length: 107 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The Coolpix 8700 performed identically to the Coolpix 5700, not surprising as they share the same lens. Barrel distortion is higher than we would expect from a zoom lens which starts at 35 mm equiv., especially when you consider that the 28 mm equiv. lenses on the Canon Pro1, Sony DSC-F828, Olympus C-8080 WZ and Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 delivered almost the same figure. There was also some very slight pincushion distortion at telephoto, nothing that would be noticeable.

Barrel Distortion, 1.3% @ wide angle Pincushion Distortion, 0.4% @ telephoto

Vignetting / Lens Shading

The Coolpix 8700 did exhibit some lens shading at wide angle and telephoto, especially at maximum aperture. It is possible that this may be visible in everyday shots. Stopping down even slightly improved things considerably.

Our vignetting measurement is made by taking the average luminance value of the darkest corner of the image and comparing it to the average luminance at the center of the image, any difference greater than 15% may be visible in everyday shots.

Wide angle, F2.8 (wide open)
16% maximum fall off, bottom right corner
Telephoto, F4.2 (wide open)
15% maximum fall off, top left corner
Wide angle, F5.0
9% maximum fall off, bottom right corner
Telephoto, F5.0
6% maximum fall off, top left corner

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

As mentioned in my other eight megapixel reviews, this small high resolution CCD does appear to produce more purple fringing than we would expect from high quality lenses used on these cameras. The Coolpix 8700 is no exception to this and certainly can produce visible purple fringing at wide angle and large apertures. However it's not as bad as we have seen and I wouldn't see it as a noteworthy issue for this camera.

Image thumbnail 100% crop
28 mm equiv., F2.4
28 mm equiv., F4.0

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

Considering that the Coolpix 8700's lens comes from its five megapixel sibling it's still capable of delivering good resolution and sharpness with few issues. Color balance is good and tonal balance generally more contrasty than other prosumer digital cameras, of course you could manually select a different tone curve if you like. One niggle could perhaps be the 8700's tendency to clip highlights more severely than other cameras, but that's not really an issue which would be noticeable in most situations (and is improved over the 5700). Also fixed since the 5700 are the Magenta / Yellow Bayer interpolation artifacts we saw, no sign of them on the 8700.

One area where the 8700 performed very well (as do nearly all Nikon digital camera's) is metering, Nikon's solid and very clever 256-segment Matrix metering nearly always gets the exposure just right providing the correct tradeoff between dynamic range and a natural tone response.

One area of complaint would probably be higher than 'hoped for' noise levels from ISO 100 upwards, just like the Canon PowerShot Pro1 (but unlike the Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 and Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom) the Coolpix 8700 appears not to apply any kind of high sensitivity noise reduction which can leave noise on flat areas of the image / shadows more noticeable than we would like.

Otherwise I had no major complaints about the Coolpix 8700's image quality and found no specific issues which needed further analysis.