Nikon Coolpix 8800 & 8400 Take your pick: 35–350mm with built-in Vibration Reduction, or superwide 24–85mm
The Editors, January, 2005
Nikon has introduced an intriguing pair of high-end 8-megapixel consumer digicams,
each with an great “hook”: The new Coolpix 8800 combines a 10X optical
zoom range (equivalent to 35–350mm on a 35mm camera) with a built-in Vibration
Reduction system, while the new Coolpix 8400 offers the widest-angle lens of
any compact digicam on the market, via its 24–85mm (equivalent) optical
zoom. Both feature durable, compact magnesium-alloy bodies with vari-angle LCD
monitors plus electronic viewfinders, and use the same 8.31-megapixel image
sensor with 8.0 effective megapixels.
new Coolpix 8800 eliminate two of the biggest limitations of consumer
Both cameras feature Zoom-Nikkor ED lenses with extra-low dispersion elements
for sharper images with less flare and better contrast. The 8800’s is
an 8.9–89mm f/2.8–5.2, the 8400’s a 6.1–21.6mm f/2.6–4.9.
The 8-megapixel image sensors in the cameras are considerably smaller than a
full 35mm film frame, hence the 35–350mm and 24–85mm 35mm-camera-equivalent
focal lengths. The smallest aperture on the 8800 is f/8, on the 8400 it’s
Macro capabilities are excellent; both cameras can focus as close as 1.2 inches
from the from of the lens in macro and manual modes. Both cameras accept accessory
wide-angle, fisheye and telephoto attachments, which provide focal lengths from
7mm fisheye to 255mm for the 8400 and from 7mm to 600mm for the 8800.
The 8800’s Vibration Reduction system (activated via a switch on the side
of the lens) has two modes, Normal and Active. Active mode, which resists camera
movement in both horizontal and vertical directions, is handy when shooting
from a moving vehicle. Normal mode, best for most situations, automatically
takes panning into consideration, reducing only vertical shake when the camera
is panned horizontally, and only horizontal shake when the camera is panned
vertically. The VR works; we got sharp results hand-holding the camera at 1¼30
second, and reasonably sharp results hand-holding the camera at shutter speeds
as slow as 1¼4 second, at the 350mm focal length.
Both cameras use a TTL contrast-detection AF system, with AF-assist illuminator.
Each camera has nine AF areas, and the default focus-area mode utilizes the
central area for spot autofocusing. You can also (via the LCD-monitor menu options)
select any of the nine AF areas manually, or let the camera select among the
five central AF areas automatically (it will select the area containing the
closest subject to the camera). In the default central-area mode, you can choose
(also via monitor menu) hybrid AF (which uses a ranging sensor to speed up response),
or standard contrast-detection AF. Spot metering can be linked to the active
AF area via one of the monitor menus.
Both single-shot and continuous AF are provided (also selected via the monitor
menus). In single-shot, the camera focuses when you press the shutter button
halfway; in continuous AF mode, the camera focuses continuously until you press
the shutter button halfway for quicker shooting. Note that this is quite different
from continuous predictive AF found in most AF SLRs—the SLRs are far better
than consumer digicams for serious action shooting.
Coolpix 8400 also eliminates two of the biggest limitations of
A button on the side of the lens lets you toggle through AF, landscape (infinity
focus), close-up, and manual-focus modes. If the subject is far enough away,
landscape mode speeds things up for action subjects.
Both cameras let you choose among four metering modes: 256-segment matrix, center-weighted,
spot, and spot AF area. The matrix system produces the highest percentage of
good exposures in overall shooting, comparing measurements from 256 areas of
the frame with a library of typical compositions to determine the exposure.
Center-weighted metering measures the entire image area, placing 80% of its
weight on the central quarter of the frame. Spot metering reads only a small
portion of the image area, about 1¼32, handy when you want to base exposure
on a specific portion of a subject or scene. Spot AF Area links the spot AF
area to the active AF area.