Despite its slim profile the S8000 handles well. The square shape is easy to grip, and there is a good indented and textured thumbgrip on the back, which also doubles as a speaker grille. The controls are very basic, following the pattern of Nikon's simpler compacts. There are buttons for shooting, video and playback modes, a delete button, a menu button and a four-way D-pad which also has four secondary functions.
The S8000 has only four main shooting modes, selected by pressing the green Shooting Mode button and using the D-pad to choose between Auto, a Scene mode with 16 fairly typical scene programs, a Smart Portrait mode which includes the Smile Timer option and blink detection, and a Tracking AF mode which includes face priority tracking. Menu options can be displayed and a list or as icons.
The main shooing menu is very brief, with just seven entries; image size, white balance, ISO setting, drive mode, autofocus mode and metering mode. There are only two metering options, matrix or centre-weighted, with no spot metering available. There are four AF modes; auto, face priority, manual area selection and centre, with single or continuous AF available. Drive modes include single, continuous, Nikon's useful Best Shot Selector, which picks the sharpest of a sequence of shots, and the somewhat less useful Multi-shot 16, which shoots a sequence of 16 low-res shots and then presents then as a grid in a single image. Also available is the Sports Continuous mode, which can shoot up to 45 frames at 3fps, but only at 3MP resolution.
The S8000 has a few simple but useful features in playback mode too, including the options to apply D-Lighting for high-contrast shots, Skin Softening for portrait shots, and a three-level Quick Retouch feature which increases contrast and saturation. All of these produce good results, and can improve some lacklustre images.
The monitor is worthy of special mention. It has a 7.5cm (3.0 inch) screen with an exceptionally high resolution of 921,000 dots. It also has a very wide angle of view in all directions, and a good anti-glare surface, which I'd be delighted to test in full sunlight if only we had any.
Also of note is the S8000's video recording mode. It shoots at a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels at 30fps, recording in MPEG- AVC/H.264 format. Audio is recorded in AAC stereo via two microphones on the top of the camera. Video quality is very good for a compact camera. The stereo separation isn't brilliant as you can imagine, but sound quality is definitely better than average.