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!)