Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Nikon COOLPIX 8400
- High-quality shots, many automatic settings, comfortable grip
- Counter-intuitive menus, inadequate zoom, manual focus awkward and slow
Wide-angle lens lovers will be thrilled with the shots the Coolpix 8400 can take. It's a powerful, flexible camera; but it's not the easiest or fastest camera to use.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
The 3.5X optical lens on Nikon's new $900 Coolpix 8400 starts at 24mm - the widest angle in its class, and excellent for shooting massive monuments and vast landscapes.
We admired the high-quality shots the 8400 produced. Pictures were sharp and precise. Colour precision was slightly less impressive, but still very good. You have to spend some time learning the controls on the Nikon. The menus, though not hopelessly labyrinthine, can seem that way. The 20-plus items in the main menu betray no organising principle.
The camera's magnesium alloy body, relatively light at 400g, fit nicely in the hand, with a rubberised grip for comfortable holding. And the buttons, dials, and jog dial-type "multi selector" controls are conveniently located and easy to operate. Regrettably, the ring for the camera strap on the right-hand side can dig into your hand if you don't hold it in exactly the right way.
The 3.5X optical zoom and 4X digital zoom are adequate, though not impressive on an eight-megapixel camera. The 1.8" LCD swings out and rotates a full 180 degrees, but it's small for a camera in the 8400's price range. You also get an electronic viewfinder, with easy-to-adjust focus controls. Both offer good colour and relatively sharp picture quality in the image preview.
Users who don't want to fiddle constantly with white balance, image contrast, aperture, and dozens of other settings will find a good range of automatic options, including 15 presets for specific shooting situations like fireworks displays, night landscape and backlit subjects. You also have the usual "tweener" settings, like aperture priority and shutter priority, if you don't want to go fully automatic or fully manual.
The 8400 theoretically lets you store two user-designated settings for specific shooting conditions. It would have been nice to get a few more--and to get more than one that behaves like a typical saved setting. All changes you make to settings while in manual mode get stored in whichever of the two User Settings you happen to be in. You can successfully store a set of values in Setting Two if you're careful to use that setting only under your chosen conditions, but Setting One will inevitably reflect the last manual shot you take. The camera's auto-bracketing, which includes both exposure and white balance, is a bit better than that of many cameras in its class; but the manual focus is somewhat awkward and slow: you hold down a button and spin and spin the selection dial.
Nikon also includes a Best Shot Selector--after taking an initial reading to set focus, exposure, and white balance, the camera turns off the flash and snaps a series of up to 10 shots of the subject, selecting the one with the best detail and sharpness to save. Nikon recommends using this feature in situations where you can't use the flash and where accidental movement may blur the picture. As you might expect, Nikon's idea of a best shot may differ from yours.
The rechargeable lithium ion battery lasted nearly three hours in our test. The wireless remote is a nice step up from an autotimer. The unit comes without media.
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