In TIFF mode it takes around 16 seconds to record the huge 22MB files to the memory card, during which time the camera is locked, so this mode should only be used for maximum quality. RAW mode is slightly faster, taking around 9 seconds to record each shot.
The autofocus can also be a bit slow, especially at the long end of the zoom range or in low light situations. The camera is fitted with an AF illuminator, but it only has a range of about 2 meters.
I’ve also got to mention the zoom control, which is frankly bloody awful. It’s awkwardly positioned, jerky and difficult to control. A manual mechanical zoom control on the lens barrel would have made this camera 10 times better.
The 8800’s trump card is its almost flawless image quality. The lens makes up for its enormous bulk and weight by providing pin-sharp edge-to-edge clarity even at its widest setting, while the 8MP sensor captures every detail. Exposure metering is also virtually perfect, producing exceptionally accurate colour rendition even in low light sunset shots.
The only Achilles heel seems to be image noise at 200 and 400 ISO. At lower settings there is no noise problem at all, but I was surprised by how noisy the 400 ISO test shots were. To be fair I discovered later that the default setting for noise reduction is off, presumably to preserve fine detail at lower speed settings. Since I used the camera mainly at 50 ISO for maximum quality I would have turned it off anyway.
All in all, an outstanding performance from one of the best cameras on the market. There haven’t been many cameras in the past 12 months that I’ve really wanted to keep, but the CoolPix 8800 is certainly one of them.
The CoolPix 8800 is an awesome camera for any enthusiast with deep enough pockets. Thanks to the big sensor and superb Nikkor ED lens its image quality is among the best available, while the exceptionally versatile exposure and AF systems provide plenty of creative controls and ensure accurate results under a wide range of circumstances. It’s not without its problems, such as high-ISO noise and sluggish focusing, but it is one of the few a real alternatives to a digital SLR.