Nikon Coolpix 800

Menus and Playback Features

Here's the Shooting Menu while in M-REC mode.

  • White balance: Automatic, Incandescent, Flourescent, Sunny, Cloudy and a manual set mode for use with a white card or target.
  • Metering: 256-element Matrix, Center-Weighted or Spot
  • Continuous: (see next screen shot)
  • Image Adjust: Standard, Contrast+, Contrast-, Brightness+ or Brightness-
  • Sensitivity: Auto-ISO (default) or ISO 100, 200 or 400
  • Best-Shot Selector: Camera takes up to 10 shots (within 1.5fps) and records the most detailed image of the 10 using anti-jitter logic, not available when Speedlight is on.
  • VGA: Sets image size to 640x480 VGA mode

Nikon Coolpix 800

Single: approx 1fps for full size or smaller. Users need to release the shutter button after every shot.

Continuous: approx 1.5fps for full size or smaller up to 10 images.

16Shots: approx 2fps, camera captures 16 images and puts them into one full size image

VGA Seq: approx 2fps for VGA size images up to 60 images.

Ultra HS: 30fps up to 40 frames at 320x240 (1/4 VGA) resolution.

Nikon Coolpix 800

This is the next menu in M-REC mode

  • Folders: The user can define folders on the memory card for picture storage
  • Lens: As with the Coolpix 950, the 800 can accept add-on lenses, settings for Fisheye, Wide, Telephoto and Normal
  • B&W: Sets the black and white mode
  • User Set: You can predefine 3 sets of features to be quickly recalled by selecting "1", "2", or "3" these include: 1) Metering, 2) capture mode, 3) Sensitivity, 4) White balance, 5) Tone compensation, 6) Best-shot selection, 7) Monochrome, 8) Digital zoom, 9) Lenses, 10) Auto file numbering
  • Card Format: Format the CompactFlash card
  • Reset All: Resets all menu options back to factory default
  • Setup: (see following menu)

Nikon Coolpix 800

The Setup Menu includes:

  • LCD Brightness: Settings available are -, O, +
  • LCD On/Off: Controls LCD display on startup to be On or Off
  • Auto Off: Sets the timeout value to put the camera to sleep in record mode, 30s, 1m, 5m, 30m
  • Seq Xfer: When enabled the camera will keep incrementing the filenames regardless of how many cards are used. When disabled it always starts with dscn0001.jpg
  • Date: Set the time and date
  • Language: Sets the language for the menu displays, either English or Japanese

Nikon Coolpix 800

The sensitivity (film speed) is manually adjustable for ISO 100, 200 or 400 speed, by default it is on Auto-ISO.

Nikon Coolpix 800

Menu available during Playback allows for deleting of selected or all images on the card. Change folders, start a slide show, protect selected images, hide selected images, set printing options or enter the setup menu.

Nikon Coolpix 800

This is the thumbnail playback screen, here you can quickly move to and select any image for full-screen playback.

Nikon Coolpix 800

A typical playback image showing the onscreen information for the time and date, folder, filename, image quality, frame number and total number of frames.

Nikon Coolpix 800

During playback the user can zoom in for a 2x or 3x magnified view.

Steve's User Review

Nikon has significantly upgraded the Coolpix 700 with the addition of a newly designed 2x Nikkor zoom lens. I must admit my ignorance to the Coolpix 700 because Nikon never sent me one to evaluate and owning a 950 gave me no reason to buy one.

My first impression after taking it out of the box was "oh no, not another plastic camera." But after holding it and using it for a while it just simply didn't seem to matter anymore. It has a nice fat handgrip area like the Coolpix 950 and feels very secure in your hand and all the controls are where they should be with no surprises.

The combination power switch and mode dial is around the outside of the shutter button. It takes some effort to turn it so I don't see a problem with the camera inadvertantly getting switched on while bouncing around in a camera bag.

The buttons have been kept to a minimum and are clearly labeled with icons as to what their functions are. Across the top are four buttons that do double duty, their secondary functions are indicated between the "[ ]" characters:

  1. Infinity focus, macro, selftimer [manual focus when held down and operated in conjunction with the zoom buttons]
  2. Exposure compensation [delete during playback]
  3. Image Quality [thumbnail display during playback]
  4. Flash mode [magnify during playback]

The command dial turns the camera On in A-REC (fully automatic) or M-REC (manual) record or Playback modes. The camera is turned Off by setting this dial to the Off position or waiting for the auto timeout to put it to sleep.

Fast Operation

From a cold start the Coolpix 800 is ready to take a picture in 3.5-5 seconds. Switching the camera on in Play mode brings up a large, fine mode thumbnail image in about 4 seconds and the full image is on the LCD about a second later.

2x Nikkor Zoom

Many of us Nikon 950 owners pleaded with Nikon to change the firmware so that the zoom lens would start out in the "normal" or wideangle focal length rather than full telephoto. The Coolpix 800 thankfully does start out at an equivalent of about 50mm.

The 2x (f=7-14mm) optical zoom is not that fast, it's F3.5-4.8. The 800's adjustable ISO sensititivity makes it works quite well though even in low light, handheld situations. The Nikkor lens is all glass, multi-coated 7 elements in 5 groups with aspherical elements.

The lens may not be as powerful as the 3x optical zoom on the Nikon 950 but it's every bit as sharp. The 800's macro abilities are almost as good as the 950, it can focus down to about 2.5 inches when set in the "sweet spot." Put the 800 into macro mode and slowly run the zoom out to telephoto and just before you get all the way--the white macro flower icon on the LCD will turn a yellow-green color. This is the sweet spot!

The really good news is that the new 2x zoom lens is threaded and accepts the same fisheye, wideangle and 28mm filters and stepup rings that go on the Nikon 950 now.

The 480-step autofocus system works consistently well in average or brighter light conditions but suffers in dimly lit conditions as is expected. It uses a contrast detection method of autofocusing and it can't focus if it can't see.

I saw little to no barrel distortion when in full wideangle and the telephoto position lets you get closer to things without having to physically move closer. The lens mechanism is swift and quiet and is coupled to the optical viewfinder.

1.8-inch LCD

The color LCD on the Coolpix 800 is quite good. The refresh rate is very close to realtime in average to bright light conditions and is probably every bit of 30fps. It does slow down when the camera is used in dimly lit environments and the ISO is boosted up. I don't think the average user will be able to properly judge focus on the LCD so it's a good thing that the distance is also displayed onscreen when using the manual focus mode.

During playback the small screen is sufficient for thumbnail display of nine smaller images. When you have an image onscreen during Playback you can zoom in 2x or 3x into it to check for critical focus or centrally located objects. You can not pan while in zoomed playback.

Exposure Metering

The same as the 950, the 800 features a 256-element matrix metering mode to insure great point-n-shoot pictures but when in the M-REC mode allows the user to choose between either Center-Weighted or Spot metering options. Call me old fashioned but I spend most of my time in Center-weighted metering and occassionally go Spot when the conditions require it. When in Spot metering mode a white rectangle appears on the LCD to show you exactly where the critical metering is taking place in the frame.

Adjustable ISO Speeds

By default the Coolpix 800 operates in what they call auto-ISO mode which most of the time is ISO 100. When the lighting conditions call for it, the 800 will boost its gain up to ISO 200 or 400. In M-REC mode the user can manually lock the 800 into any ISO speed he desires although the ISO 400 mode does tend to get a little noisey.

Menu System

For the most part the menu system is highly functional and easy to figure out without a lot of reading of the manual. A most annoying feature is that when you select to enable or disable a major feature you are quickly returned to shooting mode. Good if all you wanted was to change one setting but a pain in the you know what if you wanted to change two or more items.

I guess this is where the custom shooting settings come into play. You can setup three different sets of options from: Metering, capture mode, Sensitivity, White balance, Tone compensation, Best-shot selection, Monochrome, Digital zoom, Lenses and Auto file numbering. These selections are saved and recalled as modes "1" "2" or "3"

Other Features

Shutter speeds up to 8 seconds. Unfortunately you can't manually set them like you can on the 950 but if you put the camera on a tripod and trip the shutter it will use the longer shutter speeds if necessary.

Best-Shot Selector, the jury is still out on this feature. I've used it on the 950 and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. The specs say the camera will take up to 10 pictures and then using "anti-jitter logic" it will save the best one to disk. I press the 800's shutter button and hold it firmly down and it stops taking pictures after 8 shutter clicks. Sometimes it is better than if I just snapped one picture and sometimes it isn't.

Ultra High Speed capture in quarter VGA resolution. The 800 takes up to 40 of these 320x240-pixel images at a rate of 30fps -- in another words it's like a high speed recorder that's good for one and a half seconds. Great if you need to capture a speeding bullet or a three year old on amphetamines but other than that I don't see the average consumer getting much use out of it.

Manual focus - Now this is highly useful. Granted that you can't really do critical focusing on a 1.8-inch LCD but when using manual focus the distances are displayed on the LCD in feet or meters. Autofocusing is half or more of the lag time in a digital camera so by eliminating it and locking the focus in manually means the camera captures the picture faster.

Manual white balance is another highly desirable feature for all digicams. Many times due mostly to mixed-light conditions our cameras have a hard time finding a white point to reference. Now you can carry a white card with you and use it to calibrate the camera's white balance to the specific lighting conditions at hand.

Improved Battery Life

I'm not usually one who believes the marketing hype, especially when it comes to battery life in a digital camera. I set out to test their claims of increased battery life and put a freshly charged set of 1350mAh NiMH batteries in the Coolpix 800 and switched it on. I left the camera in M-REC mode with the auto shutoff timer on 30 minutes and every couple of minutes I reached over and moved the camera to make it use the autofocus and then shot a flash picture. Mind you the whole time the LCD monitor was turned on and I was quite amazed when the camera lasted for one hour and eighteen minutes being used in this fashion.

It got warm behind the hand grip but not hot and it seemed to go into some kind of sleep mode after a time even though the LCD remained on. After many minutes of being left alone, I pressed the shutter button and the viewfinder LED blinked red, it wouldn't take the picture until I released the shutter and pressed it again. Occassionally the first flash picture shot after "waking" the camera up would come out badly under- or over-exposed but not the next shot or any subsequent shot after that.

I might repeat the test with a set of alkalines but don't really see the reason to waste a set of "landfillers" just to test their endurance. Any serious user of this camera or any other digicam will soon learn that it pays to buy a set or two of NiMH rechargable batteries and a charger. Suffice it to say that I was impressed with the power management of the Coolpix 800. It didn't even lock up once the batteries ran down below the point of usability. It simply turned off gracefully. Had it been the Nikon 950 it would have required the user to open the battery door (aka master power switch) to shut it off.

Some Bad Engineering

Some of the really bad engineering has been carried over from the 950. Take that crappy, plastic door that covers the CF card slot. Well it is on the new Coolpix 800, albeit a slightly wider version. I imagine it won't be long before it is flipping open on its own and begging to be ripped off by a pair of pliars. And speaking of needing a pair of pliars ... who designed the CF card slot eject mechanism? You push in the button and the card comes out barely far enough for someone with inch-long fingernails to grab a hold of it.

And believe it or not -- the macro and selftimer functions are once again on the same button. Hello Mr Nikon, are you listening to us at all ??? How many times do I have to point out that you NEED to use both of those functions at the same time to do decent macro pictures when on a tripod! I complained about this on the Coolpix 900 and was assured it would be fixed by the time the 950 came out - guess what? It's still not!

If you're not going to give us a $5 remote control or a remote shutter port or even a cable release-threaded shutter button ... at least put the damn selftimer and macro functions on different buttons! I guess it's time to remind Nikon that the Olympus C-2000Z comes with a remote control, for free.

This isn't rocket science Mr Nikon, it's simply common sense.

The tripod socket is plastic (not good) and is located directly under the lens (good) but it's also located to the extreme other side of the heavy battery compartment (not good). Speaking of tripods, if you use one you will have to remove the camera to get at either the battery compartment or the CF card slot.

Steve's Bottom Line

The Coolpix 800 is a very good camera, it takes pictures that equal the more costly Nikon 950. For those just getting into digital photography it offers a relatively inexpensive way to enjoy excellent quality images capable of generating photo-quality 8x10-inch prints with today's inkjet printers.

It is small enough and light enough to be easily carried all day in your hand or in your pocket. The engineers have managed to squeeze out 25-35% better battery life without sacrificing any major features, they just used a slightly smaller LCD.

I think Nikon has another winner here. It's not perfect, no digicam is but it takes great pictures, it's easy to use and it won't send you to the poor house to buy it.

"I give the Coolpix 800 a solid two thumbs up!"

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