The black finished Coolpix 8700 is rather compact. The somewhat stiff handgrip offers good stability and the weight adds to the comfort of carrying the camera. The Coolpix 5700 and the 8700 are as like as two peas in a pod except for the red 'Nikon' line at the front of the handgrip. The design of the camera is fine. The thickset appearance is mainly dominated by the big but compact 8x optical zoom lens. Compared with the present competitors of the 8 Megapixel class, Nikon has the most compact and light weight camera in his stock. As said before, the handgrip offers good stability. The camera lies well in the hand, the soft and rough rubber surface of the handgrip make it comfortable to hold. The connection of the carrier strap of the handgrip could have been placed a bit upwards as far as I'm concerned. Because when the camera is held firmly in the right hand, the metal attachment tends to push into ones hand. Due to the compact format a number of necessary buttons have been placed on the side of the camera. One who uses the camera for the first time will have to get used to the location of the buttons, and will have to turn the camera frequently to localize the right button. It's only a matter of getting accustomed and after using the camera a few times and put it into practice the buttons will be found blindfolded. The advantage of operating the camera on the side is that the left hand is already present at that spot to support the lens. Why not make the optimum use of the left hand since it is already there?, one must have thought at the Nikon design department.
The Coolpix 8700 is equipped with a flip-out and adjustable (270°) LCD monitor. It is good to see that Nikon found the space to turn the 1.5 inch monitor (present at the Coolpix 5700) into a 1.8 inch monitor. Nowadays a 1.8 inch size monitor is standard rather than exception on an advanced digital camera. The adjustable monitor can be set to various positions which come in very handy, especially for those difficult-to-get shots that normally require a very elastic body to get them! Beside that the monitor is well protected from getting scratched when it is turned to face inwards, closed against the back of the camera. The monitor has an anti-reflection coating and can be used in bright sunshine without a problem. The resolution is 134.000 pixels, a resolution that could be looked at again. There are already some cameras on the market with (2 inch) LCD monitors containing a resolution of 235.000 pixels. Above the monitor Nikon has placed an electronic viewfinder. A handy feature is the possibility to adjust the color displayed in the viewfinder, an option that is rare but worth mentioning. Beside the color adjustment also the clarity can be set as desired.
The time of jerky and unclear images from an electronic viewfinder seems over. The viewfinder is clear with a resolution of 235.000 pixels and offers a smooth image. There is only one exception: mainly in difficult light circumstances the electronic viewfinders seem to have to use tricks to get a clear image. For example the speed of refreshing the images is lowered to make the electronic viewfinder stronger, with as a result a jerky effect in the viewfinder. This is not a feature from Nikon digital cameras only; practical every camera equipped with an electronic viewfinder has this problem. The viewfinder on the 8700 is equipped with a dioptric adjustment, so the sharpness can be adjusted.
Beside the presence of the monitor and the viewfinder we also find the necessary buttons on the back of the camera. The buttons lie just above the surface of the housing which makes them easy to find and to operate also for people with larger hands. The buttons are placed in a way so they immediately lie under control of the thumb of the right hand. Very useful is the 'Quick Review' button, to quickly view the digital image in recording mode. Of course the Coolpix 8700 doesn't lack the multi-functional navigation button.
Landing at the top side of the camera we find the Command Dial. The Coolpix has a small extra LCD monitor, handy to view some settings or the status of the energy capacity that is still left. The small display can be illuminated.
The front of the handgrip contains the shutter release button, a button with a good reaction and which offers a clear difference between pushing it to focus or to release. The internal flash is hidden and can pop out automatically but also manually. At first Nikon seems obstinate to have the internal flash pop out even when you turn the flash off. But the meaning of this contradiction is not to have the flash work but to activate the AF assist lamp if necessary. It is good to find the Coolpix 8700 equipped with the AF assist lamp. The operation under difficult light circumstances is improved tremendously by this AF assist lamp. Test images show that the camera hardly experiences any problems focussing in the dark. Although it is obvious that the Coolpix 8700 needs some time to get the focus right in the dark. Especially objects with little or hardly any contrast are a tough job for the camera.
On top of the camera we also find a hot shoe. The hot shoe supports external Speedlight flashes but also flashes from the Metz brand can be applied without a problem. (Adapter needed.)
On the right side of the camera (seen from the back) we find the memory compartment. The Coolpix 8700 supports CompactFlash type I and II memory cards. Also a Microdrive can be used, however from the point of view of stability the Flash memory is preferred. The compartment can be opened quickly and easily. To remove the memory card a pin has to be pushed down. The only problem is that when the pin is not completely pushed down, the memory card can still be removed, and then closing the lid of the compartment it pushes against this sticking out pin. This asks for a solution.
The bottom of the camera contains the battery compartment and a universal (metal) tripod connection. This latter one is placed in the center. If the lid of the battery compartment is opened quickly one should be careful the battery doesn't jump out and fall on the ground. The risk of this happening is not too big because the lid doesn't open completely immediately, it slows down half way.
The housing of the Coolpix 8700 is sheer quality. The compact, light weight size and the ergonomics add to the users' convenience. The handy adjustable LCD monitor is very useful and will contribute to a free way of photographing.