HandlingThe S8200 looks a lot like the S8100. There have been a few slight changes in design—the strip of buttons next to the screen is now flat and level with the display, for example, and the flash housing is more discreet. However, the body has the same nondescript grip and the same well-made, high-quality front face but slightly less flattering plastic rear. The 'two-face' design is something of a Nikon speciality, although 8- and 9-series compacts come off much better than entry-level models.
The S8200 mode wheel has the same strange choice of settings as the S8100—the 'scene heart' mode (which is actually an intelligent auto mode), a 'scene' mode for access to the usual range of pre-set scene types, then shortcuts to the night-scene, backlight and pets scene modes. Why have shortcuts to those three? Who knows! Plus, those three options aren't available in the actual 'scene' mode—surely it'd be easier to have them all in one place?
The screen is nice, with a sharp 920,000-dot definition and good viewing angles. Curiously, it's not calibrated in the same way as the S8100. Here, light greys are washed out to white (which can be a bit of a pain when you're choosing which photos to delete), but for once, colours aren't way off the mark—the deltaE of 4.7 isn't perfect but colours are still reproduced relatively accurately for a digital camera screen.
As in the previous model, the interface is geared up for beginners with no manual mode and a limited choice of settings available directly via buttons and controls (flash, self-timer, exposure correction and macro). There aren't a whole lot more settings on offer in the menus either—even in P mode.
ResponsivenessThe S8100 was one of the speediest compacts around, and while the S8200 is a little slower, it's still very good.
The S8200 is half a second slower to start up, but it still takes under two seconds to get going, which is very good for a superzoom compact. Photo saving is slower too, but that's logical—since the resolution has been increased by a third (12 Megapixels to 16 Megapixels), so has the time required to save a photo.
There's been hardly any change in the autofocus speeds, although it's a little less effective in low light. On the whole, the S8200 is a fast, responsive compact that won't hold you back or slow you down!
Picture QualityThe 12-Megapixel BSI CMOS sensor used in the S8100 has been replaced in the S8200 with a 16-Megapixel version. The updated camera has also been treated to an all-new 25-350 mm zoom lens. Let's take a look at how this new technology performs.
The sensitivity is decent enough. Like in some Sony cameras, the move from 12 to 16 Megapixels has in turn increased smoothing—no doubt in an attempt to control the slight increase in digital noise. In practice, the boosted resolution isn't really all that noticeable and finer details (contour lines on the map and text in our test scene, for example) are a little more likely to get wiped out. On an 8" x 10" photo (20 x 27 cm) detail starts to look less sharp from 800 ISO. However, it's only at 1600 ISO that any loss in quality would be visible on a photo print this size.
The new 25-350 mm lens is something of a nice surprise, behaving in a pretty typical way for a good-quality superzoom compact lens. In other words, at wide-angle settings the frame is very sharp in the middle but a bit hazier around the edges. At 200 mm the image is a little less sharp in the middle but quality is very consistent across the frame. At anything beyond that, sharpness drops, probably due to diffraction, but 8" x 10" prints still look excellent. On the whole, Nikon's new lens is pretty good. In fact, it's been a while since we've been so pleased with a Nikon S-series compact lens (including the S9100, which is sharper in the centre but less consistent over the frame)!
VideoThe S8200 has a fairly standard video mode recording 1080p HD at 30 frames per second. The image is smooth and nicely detailed, and while a smattering of noise is visible, contrast is controlled well in most day-to-day situations.
The stereo sound is decent, with an audible stereo effect and reasonably detailed recording. The microphones are a bit prone to echoes, though. All in all, we've seen better video modes, but the S8200 can certainly hold its own.
- Responsive, especially for a superzoom compact
- Picture quality up to 400 or even 800 ISO
- Lens quality is consistent - corners of the frame are nearly as sharp as the middle
- LCD with decent definition and good viewing angles
- Easy to use
- Some lenses are sharper in the middle of the frame
- Smoothing at 800 ISO, pictures look more smoothed than in the previous model
- Not many settings (no manual mode)
- No automatic image rotation
The Nikon Coolpix S8200 is a nice surprise. While it's never truly excellent, it's above average in every respect. It's not every day we see a Coolpix S-series compact with no real weaknesses! Even though we still have a slight preference for the Fuji F550 and F600, Nikon's S8200 would be a good choice of anyone looking for an easy-to-use pocket camera with a powerful zoom.