Nikon's budget ultra-compact is the kind of budget cameras that looks a lot more expensive than it actually is. But does the performance match up to its looks?
Visually, the Nikon Coolpix S8 is quite impressive. It's sleek metallic texture and slim buttons look great in that compact body. The directional pad that you see in most digital cameras is accompanied by a cool jog dial through which you navigate the menus.
The shutter release, power button and the sliding zoom toggle can be located on the top of the camera and none of them are really convenient to use because of their small size. Sure, you can have a small menu switch and everything, but I hate it when they give you a tiny shutter release.
The 2.5 inch LCD screen, as expected, takes up most of the back section of the camera along with all the camera's configuration buttons and the jog dial.
Placing the lens of the camera on the top-right section of the camera face is pretty unusual as that's the part a lot of casual users tend to cover up when using the camera with both hands, but that's how it is in the S8.
Overall, the camera breaks away from the standard design in every way but not all of them are necessarily better.
I have to start this by saying that the jog dial is an absolute joy to use. Menu navigation is as simple as lightly rotating your thumb on the dial, which is a lot better than the directional sphere that most cameras come with. Unfortunately this one too has a little directional ring around the edge of the jog dial for quick access to the flash, macro and self timer function, and once again a person with full-sized adult hands like yours truly will not appreciate using the minuscule directional ring.
The rest of the buttons located at the back were quite comfortable to use even during single handed operation, but the zoom toggle on the top feels a bit sharp on the finger tips and the shutter release, once again, is simply too small.
The mode selection and the menu of the camera looks great. the camera offers you some great scene modes namely Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Beach/Snow, Sunset, Dusk/Dawn, Night Landscape, Close Up, Museum and Fireworks Show. In each of these options you can go further into the sub-menus to select the perfect scene mode for you.
If you want the short version, the cameras performance was highly disappointing.
The camera has a very limited range of lighting where it can give a good result. In bright sunlight, the image quality was pretty sharp and the colors were more or less accurate, but the images were somewhat overexposed.
Areas with soft lighting like cloudy outdoors and well lit indoors are the kind of places where this camera performs at its peak.
But if you make the mistake of using the camera in a place without adequate lighting, then you're in for a noisy disaster like the image below.
Of course, if you have trouble shooting in places with low lighting, there's no chance you can get anything decent from your night shot.
Thankfully the photos shot using the camera flash turn out perfectly exposed and perfectly color balanced.
The good news is that the street price of Rs. 13,000 is not too bad for a camera of this caliber. It looks great and I love the navigation. If it had performed a bit better in regular indoor lighting, I wouldn't have much of a problem with the S8, but the thing is—it doesn't. You want a good budget camera? Look elsewhere.
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