Review of the Nikon Coolpix 8700 Digital Camera – an 8-Megapixel CCD Powerhouse

In the search for a digital camera that’s packed with professional features but can be used by the amateur, coming across the Nikon Coolpix 8700 is to photographers what the Lost Dutchman mine is to treasure hunters. It has one of the largest megapixel resolution systems available – 8 effective megapixels – despite being two years on the market. The good news for consumers is that the camera is moderately priced, supported well by Nikon and can deliver excellent quality prints up to 20″ by 30″.

This is truly the last step before moving to a Digital SLR. The features of the 8700, however, are so advanced as to make moving to an SLR format unnecessary.

Size and Speed – recall that phrase about big things in small packages?
It’s arguably the lightest and the smallest of 8 megapixel though it features a rugged and powerful Nikkor ED-glass 8x fixed zoom lens that rates the 35mm equivalent of a 35-280mm autofocus telephoto. Add to that a choice of four metering options – center weighted, 256-segment Matrix metering, Spot or Autofocus Spot options. The center-weight is perfect for a central subject, especially portraits; the Matrix for most shots on the fly; Spot for targeting a specific area and AF spot to engage focus and metering on a specific area of a subject. Don’t overlook the shutter speed on this unit – as fast as 1/4,000th of a second and as prolonged as 8 full seconds. Artistic images caught by literally stopping time with the faster speeds and by drawing time out in slow motion (great for water and unusual lighting effects in both directions).

Adaptability – it came, it saw, it conquered
In a time crunch for that special shot? Don’t worry – the 8700 comes with 12 scene modes that offer incredible flexibility including night shots, fireworks, sunsets, portraiture and panoramas. Not easy enough? How about a Best Shot Selector that will turn the most unlearned novice into Ansel Adams. For true close-ups, such as heavy-duty Macro photography, the 8700 offers the ability to get right on top of a subject. The camera will produce clean, clear images within 1 inch of the subject (the company officially claims 1.2″ but you can get closer). The camera has several resolution modes available including normal, fine and RAW formats. Each step decreases the number of photos that can be taken due to increased size, but for those looking to print truly professional grade photographs, the flexibility of the modes is invaluable for lab-quality local processing and superior quality in an actual lab. Want to capture more than one image? Not a problem with the special video capture mode which turns the 8700 into a digital video camera which will allow the user to grab live video and sound and store it all as a Quicktime file.

Lighting Control – Flash Me, Baby!
The unit includes a powerful pop-up fill flash that incorporates Nikon’s proprietary red-eye reduction hardware and featuring five different modes of operation: Auto Flash, Flash Cancel, Red-Eye Reduction, Anytime Flash and Night Portrait (Slow Sync Flash). For those who want to incorporate advanced flash options, the 8700 has an open hot-shoe for external flashes. Connecting an external speedlight will disable the on-board speedlight.

Bells and Whistles – as if it wasn’t good enough already
In addition to the central components making this a complete winner in the field, Nikon has tossed in some goodies that will appeal to all consumers. The camera comes with a EN-EL1 battery by Nikon which delivers about 210 shots on normal mode. It’s a strong battery and about the size of two regular AA cells. A USB connection cable is included for a direct PC/MAC download as well as a AV connection for viewing photos on a standard television or for transfer to a VHS/DVD recorder. An AC power cable and a charger for the EN-EL1 battery are included as is a CD-ROM of Nikon View 5.

Affordability – Hey, good things can be inexpensive!
Here’s perhaps the nicest feature of the 8700 – price. When the camera debuted, it was priced at nearly $900. Currently, most vendors on Ebay are selling new-in-box outfits – which include a host of accessories – for about $500. Some stores will still list new units as high as $750, but the savvy shopper will look to Ebay or Froogle to find the lowest price. Additional EN-EL1 batteries can be found for about $10 each, giving the photographer on holiday a vast amount of shooting time. Further, the camera uses the slightly bulky CF card format (for those who consider a 2-inch square bulky), but prices on these cards have dropped dramatically. A 512-megabyte card can usually be found for less than $50, and a 1-gigabyte card can be had for about $75. Most auction sites will have new packages that include a 256-megabyte or 512-megabyte card for much less.

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