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The list of features and options available on the 8800 is too long to explore in detail in a short review, so I’ll just concentrate on the highlights. Naturally, it features a full range of manual exposure options, as well as program, auto and 15 scene modes. The range of shutter speeds goes from 10 minutes on ‘B’ setting to 1/3000th of a second, which while not quite up to SLR standards is still one of the fastest on any digital compact.
Like most SLR-style compacts the 8800 has an electronic viewfinder, but it is an exceptionally high resolution 235,000 pixel unit with a very fast refresh rate. It also has a flip-and-twist LCD monitor, which although only 1.8 inches in size is also very sharp, with 134,000 pixels.
The flash hot shoe has full TTL metering compatibility with Nikon’s excellent SB-600 and SB-800 Speedlite flashguns. However, you may not need one because the built-in pop-up flash has a range of 6 meters at wide angle and 3 meters at telephoto, more than enough power for most situations. However it has to be said that the flash does feel very flimsy when popped up, and seems to be mounted on rubber.
The AF system features a 9-point manual AF target grid, and the exposure meter can also be set to take a spot reading from the AF point, ideal for awkward compositions with unusual lighting conditions. Standard metering is a 256-point matrix.
However the best feature doesn’t relate directly to picture taking at all. With a camera this complex, controlling it all could be a nightmare, but Nikon has given the 8800 an awesome fully customizable menu, which lets you copy your most often used settings to the front page, and then adjust them with the data input wheel. It’s easily the fastest and most versatile menu system I’ve seen on any camera. White balance, ISO and image quality can also be adjusted via the top dial.
In terms of overall performance however, things are not all so rosy. Thanks mainly to that gigantic lens, the start-up time is a leisurely 4.5 seconds. Once it’s had a stretch and put its shoes on however, actual shot-to-shot times are quite respectable, at least in JPEG mode. In continuous mode it can fire off a burst of 5 maximum quality shots in around 2.5 seconds, or 11 fine quality shots at 1.9 frames per second. An additional Ultra HS mode shoots 100 640x480 pixel shots at 30fps and saves then to a separate folder, presumably for use as animation frames.