Nikon Coolpix 8400
Review Date: May 23rd 2005
(out of 5 stars)
The Nikon Coolpix 8400 is a fantastic digital camera in most respects, but frustratingly poor in a few crucial areas. As I said when I started this review, it is the only digicam to feature a 24mm wide angle lens. Other cameras offer 27mm and 28mm lenses, and whilst 4mm doesn't sound like much, it does make quite a big difference at this field of view. Lovers of wide-angle photography should obviously strongly consider the Nikon Coolpix 8400. It is also a very capable digital camera in terms of build quality and features - this is a camera that will withstand a lot of abuse and also one which rivals digital SLRs in terms of being feature-rich. Despite that level of complexity the Nikon Coolpix 8400 is still fairly easy to use, with the rotating LCD screen adding an extra creative element and the EVF being very useable. Image quality is also very good, with chromatic aberrations only noticeable by their absence, true-to-life colour and little distortion even at the wide end of the zoom.
There are a couple of things that prevent me from recommending the Nikon Coolpix 8400 more strongly, however, namely the high levels of noise at the relatively slow ISO speed of 200, and the camera's slow operational speed at the best quality file settings. I had to double-check that I wasn't looking at the ISO 400 file when I first opened an ISO 200 image. ISO 200 is not a fast speed by any stretch of the imagination, and although ISO 50 and 100 are perfectly acceptable, they are not going to be suitable in a lot of situations. The noise levels at ISO 200 make the Nikon Coolpix 8400 a less adaptable camera that it should be, limiting its use to outdoors on bright days, with the flash or tripod-mounted. The Nikon Coolpix 8400 offers RAW and TIFF file formats but they are frustratingly slow to work with as the camera takes a long time to save the files to the memory card, during which time you can't take another shot. Most people will probably never use these modes because of this. There is a even a short delay when using the best quality JPEG setting. This is frustrating because the Nikon Coolpix 8400 is quick in most other aspects of operational speed.
With a price-tag of over £500 / $700, the Nikon Coolpix 8400 would be able to compete with an entry-level digital SLR if the image quality and operational speed were better than they are. DSLRs like the Canon EOS 350D, Olympus E-300 and Nikon's own upcoming D50 are all available with a lens for not much more money than the Coolpix 8400. All three cameras will offer better image quality and faster speed than the Coolpix 8400, albeit with a slightly longer wide-angle focal length of 28mm. The Nikon Coolpix 8400 is still a very good camera, but I imagine that Nikon will have to discount heavily for it to remain competitive in a market where DSLRs are becoming ever cheaper and more people are buying them in preference to a bridge-style camera like the Nikon Coolpix 8400.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Nikon Coolpix 8400 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.