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First Specs of Nikon Coolpix 8700


New Member
I just bought an 8700 last week, and so far I'd have to say it's been more frustration than enjoyment. Maybe it's because I'm not very technically knowledgeable when it comes to the finer points of photography, but I find it next to impossible to get a sharp close-up without using a tripod. The flash seems to want to fire even in what seems to be relatively well-lit situations. Of course, if I turn off the flash the shutter speed is set even slower and camera shake becomes even more of an issue. I've tried auto/macro mode, as well as the macro scene mode, and various combinations of custom settings. I can't seem to get a good close-up without a tripod (and no, I'm not overly wired on caffeine). I found it easier to get sharp close-ups in low light with my cheap Sony DSC-P52 (3 megapixel) point and shoot camera. I'd find it hard to believe that the Nikon 8700 couldn't easily blow the Sony away in every category, but so far I'm disappointed with some of my early results. I hope it's just me and not my new camera. ANY tips or suggestions are welcome.


Well-Known Member
The CPx700 cameras are ultimately adjustable, so you need to quickly get beyond using it on auto. When you are doing so, you are abandoning photographic decisions to a programmer in Tokyo who can not see what you are seeing. The full auto mode is extremely restrictive. The designers of the top-end Coolpix cameras assume a brain in the buyer's head, which is good.

These are incredibly capable cameras, but demand a capable shooter to get the most out of them. There is no resemblance between these cameras and point-and-shoots. They are prosumer cameras, with the emphasis on "pro" and Nikon makes this clear in their advertising. This is not a class of cameras for casual snapshooters looking for instant gratification.

I think you will find that for auto-exposure, the Aperture Priority mode will improve your success greatly. When you are shooting without tripod, you can increase your shutter speed by setting the aperture to as close to f-2.8 as is comfortable and by increasing your ISO setting.

There is a rule of thumb among 35mm shooters, that the shutter speed should be the reciprocal of the focal length. Since the camera has an equivalent range of 35mm to 280mm, you should have at LEAST a shutter speed of 1/35th of a second at widest angle, and at LEAST 1/280th of a second at full telephoto. Increase that in direct proportion to amount of coffee consumed.

For macro-mode, support is always recommended with any camera. However, it is possible to make decent sharp shots in good light hand-held. Switch to manual focus mode, frame the subject and roughly focus on it. Now slowly move the camera back and forth until the main features of the subject are in focus. This is how the pros have done it from the first days of macro photography - do the final focus by moving the camera in and out. The control you gain is far beyond trying to focus the lens. I have a little rack and pinion rig on which the camera rides, made for this purpose alone. Use auto-focus only if you have infinite patience. Don't stomp the shutter - gently depress it.

This is another case when you may want to use the ISO to increase the shutter speed as well. With macro, depth of field does come into play so stop down to around f-5.6 or f-8.0. This means that the shutter speed will drop, and setting the ISO higher will increase it again. Higher ISO means more noise. However, with 8MP, it is not much of an issue. Much better a sharp picture with a little noise than a grain-free blur.

Realize as well, that you have a telephoto lens that is longer than what most pros will ever hold. Use is pretty much just for sports photographers and wild-life specialists. Even when working as a lead sports photographer, I rarely used anything over 200mm. Indoors, shooters rarely use anything over 90mm. At the maximum zoom, it is a lens for very skillful photographers. Don't let it scare you, but be prepared to do a lot of shooting to learn it. I shot for decades without even seeing a lens this long!!!

You have one of the most sophisticated image capture devices ever created. It has enormous power to work in almost any conditions imaginable, and it will take time to unlock that power. Work through the WHOLE manual with the camera in hand, trying each topic as you come to it. Once you have closed the last page, get out and shoot a lot. In a month or so, come back and go through the manual again in the same way. Pretty much everything that did not make sense the first time through will the second time.

I have shot with pretty much every type of camera there is, and I was quite unprepared for the learning curve I encountered with my first digital, a Nikon CP990. I had no idea that digital cameras were so deep in features and control. I did the "twice through the manual" before I really started getting consistent quality.

Be patient and practice a bunch. It costs nothing in film and processing, and the camera gives immediate feedback through the monitor. The rewards will make it all worth while. The camera will give you superb quality, but you will need to tell it exactly what you want. This means that you will have to learn its language in order to communicate.

Please visit my web-site. I have a good bit of information, tutorials and the like that may be of help and loads of Coolpix images which may give you a glimpse of what these cameras can do. (And no ads, pop-ups or spyware! Completely supported by me and contributions. You are welcome even if you don't contribute!)
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Hello Larry – Your recent response to Tony Kamin re “I just bought an 8700 last week†confirmed what I have learned over the past year with my 5700 – I just hadn’t articulated my thoughts like you have. I had been thinking that any good camera would work well (read “most shots are greatâ€) on auto setting, but your comments eased my guilt feeling about not being able to achieve that state of nirvana with the 5700. After a year of almost daily use, I’m still learning how to use the controls when shooting in different situations (yes, the manual is well worn by now).

BTW, your Web site is super! Thanks,

I hate to put it this way, but “the check is in the mail†($20). I encourage others to do the same.

Richard Evans (south shore of Lake Ontario)


Well-Known Member

Thank you.

Learning any new medium on an amateur level or beyond is non-trivial. Whether you want to become a Sunday painter, a member of a music group or a stage or dance troupe, time and effort will be spent getting there. Learning photography is no more difficult than learning music and how to play an instrument well, but it is also no easier.

Just as a musician spends time through their whole life practicing, so does a photographer. The learning never ends - and that is a virtue. As long as there are always new ideas to conquer, the challenge - the interest - remains.

Growing up on a ranch far from cities, I recall photographing toys with a box Brownie and a close-up lens I begged for, using flashlights for studio lights before electicity reached us when I was age 12. After a very long career, I am still learning - daily!

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Please, someone tell me how to reasonably use filters on the Coolpix 8700. There must be a better way than to apply 77mm filters to the end of the hood. It would seem that the filter should be as close to the lens as possible to reduce flare and distortion.