Nikon Coolpix S800c Review

Performance & Photo Quality

Aside from the lengthy delay while Android is initially booting up, the Coolpix S800c is a pretty responsive camera. The table below summarizes its performance:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 1.8 sec * Average
(Normal light)
0.1 - 0.5 sec (W)
0.3 - 0.8 sec (T)
Above average
(Low light)
~ 1 sec Average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Above average
(No flash)
2.0 secs Average
2.0 secs Above average
* Only a few photos can be taken (and no settings adjusted) when the camera has not loaded the Android OS, which takes around 30 seconds

Overall, a pretty good performance, at least after Android is booted up.

There are six continuous shooting modes on the Coolpix S800c, though only three take photos at full resolution. Here's a description of each, including performance numbers:

Setting Measured performance
Continuous high Takes three shots in a row at 7.5 frames/sec.
Continuous low Keeps shooting at 1.6 frames/sec until memory card is full (at least with a high speed card).
Continuous H: 120 fps Takes fifty photos at 120 fps (per Nikon). Resolution is set to 640 x 480.
Continuous H: 60 fps Takes twenty-five photos at 60 fps (per Nikon). Resolution is set to 1280 x 960.
Best Shot Selector Camera takes up to ten shots in a row and saves the sharpest one.
Multi-shot 16 Camera takes 16 pictures at about 30 fps and combines them into a 5 Megapixel collage.

Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 UHS-I SDHC card

Don't expect too much from the high speed option -- the burst is over as soon as it begins. The low speed option is fast enough for photographing fast action. The high speed modes shoot really quickly, but at substantially lower resolutions.

Let's move on to photo quality now, shall we?

The Coolpix S800c struggled with our studio lamps. There was a noticeable color cast, regardless of whether I used a preset WB value, or used the custom function. I ended up going with the incandescent setting, which made things a little brown. The figurine itself came out a bit soft and fuzzy, but not horribly. The nose is out of focus due to the depth-of-field (and you can't adjust the aperture to help out with this). There is some noise reduction artifacting visible, especially around the "mouth", which is probably the cause of most of the softness seen here.

The minimum focus distance in macro mode is 10 cm, at the full wide-angle end of the lens. It quickly rises to 30 cm once you leave that position. Nikon doesn't publish the focal ranges once you leave the "green zone" (indicated on the OLED display), but I can tell you that once you hit full telephoto, the minimum distance is a full meter.

Since the Coolpix S800c is a point-and-shoot camera, you're at the mercy of its scene modes for taking long exposures like the one you see above. I used the night landscape scene mode for the shot above and, as you can see, the camera didn't bring in nearly enough light. That makes it pretty hard to judge sharpness, though it seems okay from what I can see, at least on edges. I do see some detail loss on the buildings, which isn't too surprising, given that the 800c boosted the ISO to 400. If you enjoy taking long exposures like this, I'd find a camera that lets you manually adjust the shutter speed.

Since I can't control the ISO and shutter speed at the same time, I am unable to perform the night ISO test. You'll find the studio ISO test further down the page.

The Coolpix S800c takes a two-pronged approach to redeye reduction. First, it fires the flash a few times, ahead of the actual exposure. After the picture is taken, the camera detects any leftover redeye, and removes it digitally. I had mixed results with the S800c -- sometimes I had horrible "demon eyes", while other times I got what I've shown above. I think it all comes down to whether the camera's digital removal system kicks in or not. Based on my time taking photos of the family over the holidays, I'd say that you'll encounter redeye at least some of the time on the Coolpix S800c.

While there's very little barrel distortion at the wide-end of the S800c's 25 - 250 mm lens, there seems to be some pin-cushioning, which is normally seen in telephoto shots. Not sure what's going on here -- maybe too much digital correction? My S800c had some blurring in the top-left corner on the frame, which may or may not be a problem for you. Vignetting (darn corners) was not an issue, however.

Now we're going to take a look at our studio test scene. Since the lighting never changes, you can compare these images with those from other cameras that I've reviewed over the years. As with the photo tests above, there's a brownish color cast courtesy of the S800c's white balance system. Keep in mind that the crops below show only a small portion of the total scene, so be sure to view the full size images too.

ISO 125

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

There's not much in the line of noise at ISO 125, with just a tiny bit showing up at ISO 200. Noise begins eating away at details when you reach ISO 400, making this a good stopping point if you plan on making larger prints. ISO 800 is still usable, but only for small prints or web viewing. I would avoid both ISO 1600 and 3200 entirely.

Since the Coolpix S800c lacks support for the RAW format, I cannot do a RAW vs. JPEG comparison in this review.

The Coolpix S800c definitely won't win awards for its photo quality, which unfortunately can be said for most of Nikon's compact cameras. Exposure was generally accurate, though like most compacts, highlights will be clipped at times (you can try using the HDR feature to reduce this). Away from our studio lamps, colors were nice and saturated -- no complaints there. The biggest photo quality issue is that images are soft, over-processed, and filled with smudged details, with these two photos being excellent examples. Nikon definitely has the noise reduction cranked up, which replaces grain-style noise with mush. I'd rather have the grain, myself. If I owned the S800c, I wouldn't let it go above ISO 400 in order to minimize noise as much as possible. Purple fringing was rare.

As always, you are the best judge of image quality. Have a look at our photo gallery and decide for yourself if the S800c's image quality meets your expectations.

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