Nikon Coolpix S8100 Review

February 2, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Coolpix S8100 is Nikon's second travel-zoom camera, featuring a 10x zoom lens with a versatile focal range of 30-300mm. Measuring just 29.9mm thick, key features of the S8100 include a 12 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, high resolution 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080p high-definition movies with stereo sound, lens-shift Vibration Reduction, 1cm macro mode, shooting mode dial and a fast "DSLR-like" auto-focus system. The Nikon Coolpix S8100 also offers in-camera HDR imaging and advanced Night Landscape and Portrait modes. Available in three colours, Black, Red and Gold, the Nikon Coolpix S8100 costs £249.99 / €299.99 / $299.95.

Ease of Use

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 has a conservative yet still appealing design, with the metal body finished in a glossy black coating that's now helpfully rubberised on the front half. The S8100 is very slim for a camera with a 10x zoom lens, but note that the camera does measure nearly 70mm deep when the zoom is fully extended. At 183g it's also quite a light camera, and just about fits in both the palm of your hand or a shirt pocket.

The lens dominates the front of the S8100 and has an attractive rounded appearance that helps distinguish it from rival models, as does the neat pop-flash which automatically appears whenever a flash mode is selected. Otherwise the design is pretty conventional, with nothing to surprise or scare anyone who has used a digital camera in the last five years, making it easy to get up and running in no time at all.

That's certainly helped by the S8100's lightening fast reflexes. As promised by Nikon, this is certainly one speedy compact camera. Start-up time is almost instant, with the camera ready to go in less than half a second. Thankfully there is no longer a 3 second delay until you can actually access the main menu, zoom the lens, or take a picture, one of our major criticisms of the previous S8000 model. The new S8100 is ready to go straight after the half-second startup, making it one of the faster compacts that we've tested recently.

The S8100 also is something of a speed demon when it comes to focusing on your subject. The 10x zoom lens provides a versatile focal range of 30-300mm, impressive given the overall size of the camera, and is just wide enough for landscapes and with more than enough reach for candid portraits. The lens has a fairly fast maximum aperture of f/3.5 at the wide-angle end but a rather slow f/5.6 at full telephoto. The Nikon S8100 is very quick to find focus, locking onto your target in less than 0.2 seconds, regardless of the lighting conditions or which end of the zoom range you're using. Very impressive given that the S8100 is using a contrast AF system, which is traditionally slower than the phase detection system that most DSLR cameras use. In addition, the Subject Tracking scene mode detects, tracks, and focuses on the main subject, making it easier to capture moving subjects successfully.

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Nikon Coolpix S8100
Front Rear

Nikon have included their excellent VR (Vibration Reduction) image stabilisation system to help prevent camera-shake, an essential feature nowadays, which is turned on and off in the Setup main menu. In practice the VR system makes a noticeable difference to the sharpness of the images, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page, but don't expect to get sharp results every time at the longer focal lengths without the use of a suitably fast shutter speed. Thankfully leaving the anti-shake system on didn't reduce the battery-life too much, with the camera managing just over a rather average 200 shots or 1 hour and 20 minutes of Full HD video using the supplied Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. The S8100 can be charged using the USB socket on a computer or via the main power using the included AC adapter.

In addition, there are a range of other functions and modes that also help to prevent camera shake. High ISO light sensitivity up to ISO 3200 at full resolution throughout the range reduces the risk of blurred images, while the Motion Detection option automatically detects and compensates for both camera and subject movement. The Best Shot Selector (BSS) mode automatically selects the sharpest of up to 10 sequential shots.

The Night Portrait mode takes consecutive shots which expose the portrait subject and background separately, then immediately combines the exposures to create a blur-free portrait. The Night Landscape mode combines a series of five consecutive shots taken at a fast shutter speed into a single image with reduced noise, useful when taking handheld shots. The Backlighting mode offers an in-camera high dynamic range (HDR) function, merging several images of the same scene to achieve a single image with a broad range of tonal detail. All of these options and the Vibration Reduction system can be used at the same time if so desired.

There aren't too many external controls and buttons (just 13 in total) on the Coolpix S8100, reflecting the fact that this is a point and shoot camera with no manual controls. On top of the camera is the pop-up flash, left and right stereo sounds mics, small recessed On/Off button, shutter release button and tactile push/pull zoom lever.

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Nikon Coolpix S8100
Front Top

New for this model is a handy Shooting Mode dial with 8 options, which means that you no longer have to use the main menu just to change mode, and it has a positive action to prevent unwanted movement. There are 17 scene modes to choose from, including the clever Scene Auto Selector, which automatically recognizes the scene in your picture from 6 presets (Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Closeup and Backlight) and adjusts the camera settings accordingly.

On the bottom the S8100 has an compatible memory card slot, allowing the use of either SD, SDHC or SDXC cards, and there's also 32MB of internal memory, which can store 5 images at the highest quality level. The memory card slot is shared with the battery compartment. There's also a metal tripod socket which is inconveniently located in the far-left corner of the camera and the A/V Out port.

The rear of the S8100 is quite traditional in design, with all of the controls located to the right of the large LCD screen. The large 3 inch LCD monitor has a excellent resolution of 921k dots, resulting in a detailed and vibrant display that puts standard LCD screens to shame. It also offers five levels of brightness, an anti-reflection coating and a wide viewing angle. There's a round navigation wheel and a central OK button, surrounded by three buttons above and two below. The navigation wheel is a nice touch that can be used to scroll through menu settings and pictures, but doesn't really serve any other purpose. The four corners of the wheel also double up to access the flash, exposure compensation, macro and self-timer settings (starting at 12 o'clock and going clockwise).

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Nikon Coolpix S8100
Pop-up Flash Side

Above the navigation wheel is a button for playing back your images and there's also a handy dedicated button for starting and stopping movie recording (more on this below). Below the navigation wheel are the self-explanatory Menu and Delete buttons. Unfortunately there's no quick way to change the ISO speed or other key settings, forcing you to delve repeatedly into the menu system.

D-Lighting is a long-standing Nikon technology that brightens the shadow areas of an image, and on the S8100 it can be applied to an image after it has been taken. Face-priority Autofocus can detect up to 12 faces in a scene just so long as they're looking directly at the camera, whilst In-Camera Red-Eye Fix automatically processes the picture to remove red-eye. Blink Warning alerts you if someone in the frame had their eyes closed, and the Smile Timer automatically takes the picture when a smile is detected. The Skin softening function magically makes your subject look 10 years younger by smoothing out any perceived imperfections, and the Creative Slider instantly adjusts the brightness, saturation and colour tone of an image.

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 can now record full 1080p HD quality video complete with stereo sound. It offers 1920x1080, 1280x720 and 640x480 pixel movies at 30 or 15fps, and 320x240 pixels at 15fps saved in the Quicktime .mov format. There's also a range of high-speed options available - 240, 120, 60 and 15 fps - which give your movies a slow-motion effect. An HDMI Mini port allows the S8100 to be easily connected to a HDTV, although no suitable cable is supplied in the box. You can also now use the 10x optical zoom lens during recording, complete with the optical vibration reduction system, also its painfully slow in operation, presumably to avoid recording the noise of the zoom mechanism. There's also the new premium and self-explanatory feature of Wind noise reduction.

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Nikon Coolpix S8100
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

In the Sport Continuous shooting mode the S8100 can capture an impressive 120 frames per second, but sadly only at 1 megapixel resolution. The standard continuous mode offer around 1.8fps for 5 shots at full resolution, which is below average for this class of camera. The camera's pre-shooting cache records up to two shots before the shutter-release is fully pressed. There is also a Multi-shot 16 mode that quickly takes 16 low-resolution photos and arranges them into a single image.

Once you have captured a photo, the Nikon Coolpix S8100 has quite a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 16 onscreen at the same time), zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, apply D-Lighting, the Skin Softening feature, and Quick Retouch (improves the contrast and saturation), set the print order, view a slide show, delete, protect, rotate, hide and copy an image, plus create a smaller version and choose your favourite images.

The Monitor Settings menu option toggles between various views, including showing detailed settings information about each picture, such as the ISO rating and aperture/shutter speed, framelines and no information. Unfortunately there is no histogram available during composition, but a small one can be displayed during playback with a press of the OK button. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the well-written and easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Nikon have bucked the recent trend of not providing hard-copy manuals by supplying it in printed format.

In summary the Nikon Coolpix S8100 is a fast and intuitive point and shoot camera with some significant improvements on the previous model - now let's take a look at the image quality.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 produced images of above average quality during the review period. The 1/2.3 inch, 12 megapixel sensor used in the S8100 produces noise-free images at ISO 160 and 200, with ISO 400 also looking good, although there's some grain at 100% magnification and slight loss of saturation. ISO 800 shows some quite obvious noise, softening of fine detail and further loss of saturation, and ISO 16000 is even noisier, although still OK for small prints and web images. The fastest setting of ISO 3200 seems to have been included just to look good on the list of specifications.

The S8100 handled chromatic aberrations quite well, with some purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good exposure. The night photograph was OK, with the maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds limiting what you can achieve after dark. The Vibration Reduction system works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is excellent, allowing you to focus as close as 1cm away from the subject. The images were soft straight out of the S8100 and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera setting.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Nikon Coolpix S8100. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 160 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix S8100's 10x zoom lens offers a very versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.



File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

14M Fine (4.5Mb) (100% Crop) 14M Normal (2.6Mb) (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S8100 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix S8100 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Off, On and Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (30mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (30mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (300mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (300mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any red-eye.


On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Nikon Coolpix S8100's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Fireworks scene mode, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 2 seconds at ISO 160. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Night Landscape

The Nikon S8100's Night Landscape mode combines a series of five consecutive shots taken at a fast shutter speed into a single image with reduced noise, useful when taking handheld shots.

Night Landscape

Night Landscape (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/13th sec / 30mm
1/8th sec / 300mm

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix S8100 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 31.1Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Pop-up Flash

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Isometric View

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Rear of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu


Nikon Coolpix S8100

Top of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Bottom of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Side of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Front of the Camera

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Memory Card Slot

Nikon Coolpix S8100

Battery Compartment


The Nikon Coolpix S8100 is an appealingly simple-to-use yet powerful travel zoom camera that is a marked improvement on the original S8000 in many ways, but its 30mm lens and average image quality prevent us from recommending it more highly.

Nikon are promoting the speed of the S8100, and it certainly doesn't disappoint in this regard. Focusing is on a par with most entry-level DSLRs, quickly locking onto the subject without too many misses. The S8100 also bursts into life very quickly, and the inexplicable 3-second delay of the S8000 has thankfully gone. Other standout features include the excellent high-resolution LCD screen, handy shooting mode dial and the full 1080p video mode, now accompanied by a range of high-speed modes and the very welcome ability to use the 10x optical zoom during recording.

Despite the move to a back-illuminated 12 megapixel sensor, image quality is still only just above average, delivering acceptable results in terms of noise from ISO 100-400, although it becomes all too apparent at ISO 800, with the faster settings of 1600 and especially 3200 not really worth using. Chromatic aberrations are also visible in high contrast images and pictures are soft straight out of the camera with no ability to sharpen them. On the upside the 1cm macro mode is an excellent feature, as is the built-in anti-shake system, although the Night Landscape and Portrait features are more miss than hit.

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 solves a lot of the issues that we disliked about the original S8000, but it still has a few key deficiencies, most notably the not-very-wide 30mm lens, so-so image quality, especially at the higher ISO speeds, frustrating need to access the main menu for commonly used options like ISO speed, and the lack of any manual controls for more advanced users. The Nikon Coolpix S8100 is therefore recommended for more casual users looking for a versatile all-rounder.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix S8100 from around the web. »

The advancements made in the digital compact world within the last year have really given us hope for the future of the industry, and the Nikon Coolpix S8100 is a premiere example of why the low light revolution should be proud. Ever since we reviewed the Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS, we knew that the game had been changed, and it would never remain the same. Canon has done wonders with basic imaging sensors that specialize in high ISO quality. We've also seen it from Sony with their DSC-TX7, and Panasonic is gradually catching up.
Read the full review » »

The S8100 looks like a typical compact zoom, and is almost indistinguishable from the S8000, which was released in early 2010. It’s about the length and height of a smartphone, and about an inch thick -- small enough to fit in a pants pocket, but not a tiny camera. It’s a little bit heavy, but that heft makes it feel well-built. The 30-300mm (10x zoom) lens is a little bit narrow at the wide angle, but the telephoto setting is handy for nature shots. For a camera meant to shoot well in low-light, the max aperture of f3.5 is concerning, but that’s an expected trade-off for such a versatile lens.
Read the full review »


Compact Digital Camera
Effective Pixels
12.1 million
Image Sensor
Sensor Size
1/2.3 in.
Total Pixels
12.75 million (approx.)
10× optical zoom, NIKKOR ED glass lens
Lens Focal Length
5.4-54.0mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 30-300mm lens in 35mm[135] format)
Lens f/-number
Lens Construction
10 elements in 8 groups
Lens Zoom
Digital Zoom
Up to 4× (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 1200mm lens in 35mm[135] format)
Vibration Reduction
Combination of
Lens-shift and Electronic VR (still pictures)
Lens-shift VR (movies)
Autofocus (AF)
Contrast-detect AF
Autofocus (AF) Focus range (from lens)
[W]: 50cm (1 ft. 8 in.) to ∞ (approx.)
[T]: 1m (3 ft. 4 in.) to ∞ (approx.)
Macro mode: 1cm (0.4 in.) to ∞ [W] (approx.)
Autofocus (AF) Focus-area selection
Auto (9-area automatic selection)
Face priority
Manual with 99 focus areas
Subject tracking
Focus Range
[W]: Approx. 1 ft. 8 in. (50 cm.) to infinity
[T]: Approx. 3 ft. 4 in. (1 m.) to infinity
Macro close-up mode: Approx. 0.4 in. (1 cm.) to infinity
Monitor Size
3.0 in. diagonal
Monitor Type
Wide Viewing Angle TFT-LCD with Anti-reflection coating
5-level brightness adjustment
Monitor Resolution
Monitor Frame coverage (shooting mode)
97% horizontal (Approx.)
97% vertical (Approx.)
Monitor Frame coverage (playback mode)
100% horizontal (Approx.)
100% vertical (Approx.)
Storage Media
SD memory card
SDHC memory card
SDXC memory card
102MB internal memory (approx.)
Not compatible with Multi Media Cards (MMC).
Storage File System
EXIF 2.2
DPOF compliant
Storage File formats
Still pictures: JPEG
Sound files (Voice Memo): WAV
Movies: MOV (Video:MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, Audio: AAC stereo)
Audio file format: AAC stereo
Full HD: 1920x1080p / 30fps
Movie file format: MPEG-4 AVC H.264
Small Size: 320x240 / 30fps
Standard TV: 640x480 / 30fps
HDMI cable not included.
Image Size (pixels)
4000 x 3000 (12M)
3264 x 2448 (8M)
2592 x 1944 (5M)
2048 x 1536 (3M)
1024 x 768 (PC)
640 x 480 (VGA)
3968 x 2232 (16:9)
Unless otherwise stated, all figures are for a camera with a fully-charged Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 operated at an ambient temperature of 25°C (77 °F).
ISO Sensitivity
ISO 160-3200
Auto (auto gain ISO 160-800)
Fixed range auto (ISO 160-400)
Sport continuous (ISO 160-3200)
Exposure Metering
256-segment matrix
Spot (digital zoom 2X or more)
Exposure Control
Programmed auto exposure with motion detection
Exposure compensation (-2.0 to +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Exposure Range (auto mode)
[W]: 0.7 to 15.9 EV
[T]:2 to 17.3 EV
(exposure values achieved with automatic ISO sensitivity adjustment converted to ISO 100 values)
Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Shutter Speed
1/4000-1/120s (sport continuous mode)
4 sec. (when scene mode is set to Fireworks show)
Unless otherwise stated, all figures are for a camera with a fully-charged Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 operated at an ambient temperature of 25°C (77°F).
Top Continuous Shooting Speed at full resolution
Up to 5 shots at approx. 1.8 frames per second
Electronically-controlled ND filter (-2 AV) selection
Aperture Range
2 steps (f/3.5 and f/7 [W])
Can be selected from 10 and 2 seconds duration
Smile Timer
Built-in flash Range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto)
[W]: 0.5 to 4.0m (1 ft. 8 in. to 13ft.)
[T]: 0.5 to 2.5m (1ft. 8in. to 8ft. 2in.)
Built-in Flash Control
TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
Hi-speed USB
Interface Data transfer protocol
Video Output
HDMI Output
Can be selected from:
I/O terminal
Audio/video (A/V) output
Digital I/O (USB)
HDMI mini connector (Type C) (HDMI output)
Supported Languages
Chinese (Simplified and Traditional)
Power Sources
One Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12 (supplied)
AC Adapter EH-62F (available separately)
Charging Time
3 hours and 50 minutes (when using Charging AC Adapter EH-68P and when no charge remains)(Approx.)
Battery / Batteries
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL12
Battery Life (shots per charge)
Still pictures*: Approx. 210 shots
Movies: Approx. 1 h 20 min (HD 1080p)
*Based on Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA) standards for measuring the life of camera batteries. Measured at 23(±2)°C (73(±4)°F); zoom adjusted with each shot, flash fired with every other shot, image mode set to 4000 × 3000.
*Battery life may vary depending on shooting interval and length of time menus and images are displayed.
Tripod Socket
¼ (ISO 1222)
Approx. Dimensions
Height: 2.4 in. (59.2mm)
Width: 4.1 in. (104.0mm)
Depth: 1.2 in. (29.9mm)
Excluding projections. Method of noting dimensions and weight is in accordance with CIPA DCG-005-2009 guideline.
Approx. Weight
7.4 oz. (209.0g)
with battery and SD memory card. Method of noting dimensions and weight is in accordance with CIPA DCG-005-2009 guideline.
Operating environment
Temperature: 0 to 40°C (32 to 104°F)
Humidity: Less than 85% (no condensation)
Supplied Accessories
AN-CP19 Strap
EN-EL12 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
EH-68P Charging AC Adapter
UC-E6 USB Cable
EG-CP16 Audio Video Cable
COOLPIX Software Suite CD

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