Activating the camera sets it automatically in the P-mode. This fully automatic mode is supported by a number of preset scene modes. The Coolpix 8700 is equipped with twelve subjects that lie emphasis on a certain situation. The standard objects like: Portrait, Landscape, Sunset and Close-up are completed with Scene mode options like: Party/Indoors, Night portrait, Beach, Night landscape, Fireworks, Copy, Backlight and Panorama assist. This latter object is a handy aid to shoot a series of photos without great difficulty that is later on put together to one single shot. The only disadvantage is that the camera uses the first shot as a reference for white balance, exposure correction, focus distance and zoom so every next image will not get a correction on these items.
Someone who wants to get more out of the camera will soon turn on the half-automatic settings, like Aperture- and Shutter priority. The Coolpix 8700 features a relative bright lens with an aperture of f2.8 to a maximum of f8. In Aperture priority mode, the camera will choose the shutter speed depending on the chosen aperture, depending on the metered exposure. The aperture value is shown on the electronic viewfinder as well as on the LCD monitor. The Shutter priority has a range from 8 seconds up to and including 1/4000 second. The slower shutter speeds (until 10 minutes) are only available when in full manual mode (M). Also I have to mention that the fast shutter speed of 1/4000 second is only possible at an aperture value of f7.4 with a fully zoomed in lens or between f5 and f8 with a fully zoomed out lens. At shutter speeds slower than ¼ second the automatic noise reduction will be activated, unless it is turned off through the Menu of the camera.
A welcoming function is the AF assist lamp. This assist lamp is placed in the internal flash of the camera so it is necessary to have the flash pop up by the camera. Presumably it is not possible to place this lamp next to the lens (for example between the lens and the handgrip). According to the technical data the range of the AF assist lamp is approximately 1.2 meter. If the user turned the internal flash off, it still has to pop out to activate the AF assist lamp. One condition is that the Pop-up function of the internal flash is activated in the Menu of the camera (default setting).
Zooming from wide angle (35mm) to telephoto happens in about 2.3 seconds. Activating the camera and the time needed to have the camera ready to use is about 3 seconds. Focussing of diverse objects in various focus ranges is smooth, however, sometimes the telephoto lens needs more time to focus on some subjects. You see the focal point pass by the object for a second as it were and directly after that it focuses.
The internal flash has a number of basic flash settings. The AUTO mode makes the flash pop up automatically when there is not much light and when pushing the release button half way down. This function is suitable for most situations. The flash images are good to excellent, a nice light partition. Color saturation when taking flash images remains good also. Some images need a small correction in + in order to make these images also look fresh and clear as far as exposure is concerned. The white balance is adjustable but the test images show a very well operating automatic white balance. It is remarkable to see that images from competing cameras need a manual adjustment of the white balance where Nikon does succeed to get the desired result through an automatic white balance. Personally I find this a very important feature on a camera. There are not that many camera users who actually use the full capacity of the manual white balance, so a perfect performance from the automatic white balance is indeed very welcome!
The lens used on the Coolpix 8700 is the same one used on the Coolpix 5700. There is some distortion in wide angle with this lens (35mm) but not in a disturbing way. The resolution can be referred to as excellent, there is a high detail sharpness in which the color rendering and the color balance are maintained. It is possible to correct the color saturation through the menu of the camera but as far as I'm concerned that is not necessary because the color feature is lively and true-to-life. The exposure is perfect without any exceptions.
Different images made under various conditions and light circumstances show an excellent exposure, each and every one of them.
In addition to still images the Coolpix 8700 is also capable of recording motion movies. Almost every camera belonging to the new generation digital cameras has a resolution of 640x480 pixels and a frame rate of 30 images per second. Just like the Coolpix 8700. The video files are recorded in the .MOV format (QuickTime). The maximum recording time in highest quality is 35 seconds. Beside that it is also possible to record a video with a resolution of 320x240 pixels and also to record a sepia movie in which the emphasis lies on the old-fashioned color tone. Beside these options there is a special setting: the Interval movie. In this setting the camera will take pictures at certain set intervals and will put them together into a movie (Time laps movie) without sound, in a resolution of 640x480 pixels and a frame rate of 30 images per second. A movie created this way will consist of a maximum of 1050 images and has a maximum length of 35 seconds. This option is meant to reproduce slow processes in an accelerated way, like the blossoming of a flower etc.
Beside recording different types of movies, the user can also record short voice memos. These memos are added to the image and have a maximum recording time of 20 seconds.
The Coolpix 8700 has four different ways of light metering. The standard light metering, 256-matrix metering serves great and meets the expectations in most situations. During taking the test images a striking few images were not well registered by the matrix metering. For the connoisseur there is the Spot metering, at which only the middle part of the total image (1/32) is metered. Beside that the camera has a Center-weighted metering at which the center part, containing about ¼ of the total image, counts for a larger value (80%). This latter, handy metering is called the Spot AF Area. The earlier mentioned spot metering is then linked to the active focus field, in fact a substitute for the AE-Lock. As mentioned before the 256-matirx metering offers more than sufficient security for a well metered exposure.
A very handy function of the camera is the BSS function (Best Shot Selector), already applied to some generations. This function chooses automatically the best shot out of a series up to ten images. This image is selected on the highest details. In practice this works surprisingly precise! Beside the average selection it is also possible to have the image with the least overexposure chosen, (High light BSS) or the least underexposure (Shadow BSS). The Histogram BSS selects the image with the least combined over and underexposure and we also find the AE Exposure BSS. This function enables capturing 5 images with only pushing the release button once. The images are compared and the one image that meets the required standards is stored. A limitation using this function is capturing a moving object or a frequently changing composition.
The possibilities of settings on the Coolpix 8700 seem unlimited. The camera has a awful lot to offer; especially the enthusiastic photographer will find enough material to grow to a high level of digital photography.