Design and features
The S8100 is a refined update to the earlier, equally zoomy S8000 camera. It's a slick-looking camera, with a soft-touch casing around the front and a 3-inch screen at the back. At the top is a mode dial with full automatic mode, plus a myriad of scene modes, backlighting mode and a continuous shooting mode. There's also two dedicated night modes on the dial, for portraits and landscapes taken under the cover of darkness. An instant-on video record button is provided around the back.
Improvements over the older model include a new backlit CMOS sensor and the inclusion of full HD video recording. The sensor allows the camera to take a quick succession of shots at 10 frames per second and like other backlit CMOS sensors, is designed to be better at taking clear night images. The sensor also allows the S8100 to take videos at different frame rates, including slow motion at 240fps or 120fps (there's also 60fps or 15fps options). An in-camera HDR mode is provided, too.
The other number to get excited about is the 10x optical zoom, packed on the front of a slim chassis that measures just 2.9cm deep. That said, the lens isn't particularly captivating, remaining the same as found on the S8000. Its widest is just 30mm, which isn't exactly great for landscapes and sweeping vistas, and its maximum aperture is an unexciting f/3.5-5.6. Still, it does better than the Canon IXUS 1000 HS's lens which tops 36mm at its widest.
Like all Nikon Coolpix cameras of late, the S8100 doesn't have a battery charger. Instead, the USB cable doubles as the charging cable, and all recharging is done with the battery still in the camera. Connectivity is provided via the proprietary USB AV out and mini-HDMI.
There are heaps of continuous shooting modes to choose from on the S8100. Also, acting like a pre-record button on a camcorder, the S8100 can take two images before the shutter button is fully released, meaning you are more likely to get your desired shot. (Credit: CBSi)
|Ricoh CX4||Canon IXUS 1000 HS||Nikon Coolpix S8100|
|10 megapixels (backlit CMOS sensor)||10 megapixels (backlit CMOS sensor)||12.1 megapixels (backlit CMOS sensor)|
|3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 230,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 920,000-dot LCD|
|10.7x optical zoom||10x optical zoom||10x optical zoom|
|No manual controls||No manual controls||No manual controls|
|HD video (720p, unknown frame rate)||HD video (1080p, 24fps)||HD video (1080p, 30fps)|
General shooting metrics (in seconds)
- Time to first shot
- JPEG shot-to-shot time
- Shutter lag
- Nikon S81001.42.70.3
- Ricoh CX188.8.131.52
- Canon IXUS 1000 HS184.108.40.206
Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)
- Nikon S810010
- Ricoh CX45
- Canon IXUS 1000 HS3.3
Note that the S8100 can only take five shots at its full 12-megapixel resolution at the 10fps speed. Nikon rates the battery for the S8100 at 210 shots, or one hour and 20 minutes of HD video.
It's clear that Nikon has worked hard to improve the overall image quality from this camera over the previous version in the S8000, due to a new sensor. Images are cleanest at low ISO levels, but there's still a noticeable film of digital noise even at ISO 160 when viewing images at full magnification. That said, unless you are making large prints or tight crops with images from this camera, you probably won't notice this issue.
As the lens itself hasn't changed, the S8100 still exhibits the same issues found on the earlier camera, including chromatic aberrations on video and slight flaring during longer exposures. On the plus side, night photo modes worked reasonably well with best results obtained during twilight hours, or when there's still a small amount of ambient light from the sky. The S8100 had a reasonably good dynamic range, but like the IXUS 1000 HS, highlights sometimes blew out.
Comparing images from the S8100 with those from the IXUS 1000 HS, the Canon's appear a lot punchier than the Nikon's. Exposures are about equivalent and they are both equipped to handle night shots well. The S8100 performed better when taking images at the full 10x telephoto reach, with sharper images than those from the IXUS.
Also worth noting is the S8100 can use its optical zoom while filming.
Click each image for full-sized samples from the S8100. No post-processing has been done to alter these photos.
Exposure: 1/98, f/3.5, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/10, f/3.5, ISO 400
Exposure: 1/470, f/3.5, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/288, f/5.6, ISO 160, 10x optical zoom
Exposure: 1/65, f/4.3, ISO 160
Exposure: 1/19, f/3.5, ISO 400
Offering a whole heap of shooting modes and generally good image quality, the S8100 is a tempting proposition for those looking for a 10x optical zoom compact.