The perfect point and shoot.

Oct 22, 2010
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Image quality, zoom, LCD, macro, HD Movie, speed, user friendly, good features.


The Bottom Line: Definately the best point and shoot camera that I've found for the money.

OK, I was really wanting the RED Nikon S8100 but apparently only black is available unless you buy it directly from Nikon. I decided to go black because I live in Oregon where there is no sales tax, and Nikon was going to tax me and add $10 to the shipping. Black isn't all that bad looking anyway and it matches my Cooler Master HAF-X PC case.

I'm upgrading from a Sony DSC-V1.  The size of the Nikon is a hair wider, a hair shorter and about half as thick.  The DSC-V1 had a po-pup flash in the same area as the S8100 so I was used to holding the camera the correct way already.  For those of you that can't think outside the box, the proper way to hold this camera is to make a gun with your left hand, thumb pointing up, then bend your wrist so the gun is pointing to your right, then place the camera in the gun. RTFM. This tip is printed (and pictured) in the quick start booklet that came with the camera. Once you get used to it, you won't mind pop-up flashes at all.  The only issue you will have is when your dense friends take pictures of you with it and hold the flash down, not knowing any better.

The downgrade from the S8000's 14 megapixel CCD to the S8100's 12 megapixel CMOS sensor is no downgrade whatsoever. Megapixels are nearly irrelevant to point and shoot cameras above 12 anyway, and the image quality increase, and low light shooting improvements you get with the CMOS sensor EASILY trump a 2 megapixel increase. I am continuing to be surprised how good my pictures keep turning out, in all light levels.

The 10x optical zoom is great, but what is amazing is how clean the digital zoom is beyond that. I am used to fuzzy or blurry shots when using the digital zoom, but this camera somehow gets around that. The placement of the zoom lever forces you to use your right forefinger instead of your thumb which I'm used to. It felt kind of odd at first, but makes complete logical sense from an ergonomic point of view when you are holding the camera properly. On the opposite side, the macro function floored me. For a point and shoot camera, I never expected a macro this good. It macro shoots better than my Cannon DSLR. I can rest the lens up against the object I'm shooting and the image will still focus good.

The LCD screen on the back is a typical 3" screen, but a very untypically high quality resolution. It has the highest resolution screen of any point and shoot I could find. You can really see the detail of what you are about to shoot with it. It's bright and the colors are accurate.

The 1080p video this camera produces is better than I expected. Far better. You can use the zoom feature while rolling AND take stills simultaneously. It also records in stereo sound. Great stuff.

Some people complained that this camera is still a bit too large for their liking.  If it was any smaller that it is now, you would not be able to hold it without accidentally pressing a button or something, and it fits in my pocket just fine. Those people must have toothpick fingers or don't realize that size much smaller than the S8100 really isn't much of an advantage unless you are some kind of top secret spy or something.

The camera has all the basic features you would want, and several that are kind of neat. Manual on the fly brightness, hue, and vividness adjustments can be handy, the skin softening feature turns your subjects into super models, and the ISO sensitivity range is above average. It has a wind noise reduction option while taking video, and all the features you would use the most are easily and quickly accessible.

I know I'm sounding like a Nikon fanboy now but I'm just so happy with this camera. The only thing I can think of I don't care for is the rubber stop that plugs the USB port on the bottom of the camera. I prefer a flip door, but this is just my preference.

It comes with surprisingly good full version photo editing software, and even a panoramic stitching program that I've yet to try. The full manual is on a CD that comes with it though I prefer a book to look at. The start-up speed (power on to photo ready) is just under 2 seconds. Holy cow batman!

One feature that I haven't taken advantage of yet but look really useful in action shooting is the high-speed shooting at five full resolution frames at up to 10 frames‐per‐second, and  a pre‐shooting cache that records up to two shots before the shutter‐release is fully pressed. This will really make it easy to get the action shot you really want. The other feature that I'm very impressed by is the advanced Night Landscape mode which combines a series of five consecutive shots taken at a fast shutter speed into a single image with reduced noise when taking hand held shots.  Dark backgrounds turn out very visible without over lighting the subject. Very cool technology idea.

In summery, I feel like the $299 I paid for the Nikon S8100 is very justified. DSLRs should be nervous that these point and shooters will start stealing their market considering the lower price, quality and technology improvements. Nikon has a winner!

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