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© 2004 KenRockwell.com
The 8700 was announced on January 28th 2004. I tried one in February 2004. It's an upgrade to the current 5700 and looks and works a lot like it. The 8700 is a small-CCD point-and-shoot with a permanently attached long zoom lens. It's similar to the Sony DSC-F828 and Canon PRO-1.
The only reason people seem to be impressed with tese cameras is the sole banner specification of 8MP, which means nothing as you can read at the megapixel myth. This 8MP camera has at best less than 10% more resolution than a 6MP camera, so what. 8MP thus looks the same as 6MP, and since the pixels on the CCD of the 8700 are far smaller than those of a true SLR the overall quality is less than that of a 6MP true SLR.
This camera is state-of-the art, however the state of the art in today's digital compact cameras is still quite limited compared to the DSLRs that used to cost much more. It is a wonderful camera in its class, just that it's class (fixed-lens small CCD cameras) still has a long way to go. Don't take my comments as specific to the 8700; most are just the way the industry is today. For my money I'd prefer a Nikon D70 or Canon Digital Rebel any day for about the same price.
I have a page explaing the differences between this sort of camera and the DSLRs I prefer here. To summarize,
A real SLR like the Nikon D70 or Canon Digital Rebel offers far better image quality due to the larger image sensor and far faster operation. These small-sensor fixed lens electronic viewfinder cameras like this 8700 and the have much more noise (grain) and slower ISO speeds and slower operation than real SLR cameras. The true SLRs have much bigger pixels on their CCDs which gulp in far more light for cleaner images at faster ISO speeds which allow you better to stop motion and get sharp images of things that move.
The 8700 is not an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, although some sell it as such and it is styled to suggest it. It is just a fixed-lens point-and-shoot. A true SLR camera uses a reflex mirror to allow direct optical viewing through the lens, thus the phrase "SLR." Compact EVF (electronic viewfinder) cameras have no reflex mirror and have their lenses permanently attached. One cannot view directly through the lens live: instead one sees a slightly delayed electronic image on an LCD panel made from the CCD.
8 MP, 3,264 x 2,448 pixels. A 6MP true SLR gives a cleaner image, and 8MP looks the same as 6MP anyway; see the megapixel myth.
8x zoom, probably very nice.
Too slow with too many menus. For me it locked up after every shot, and for this reason I would not consider buying this camera. Yes there is a rapid repeat mode, but that's still not a solution. My Canon A70 works far faster and doesn't lock up after every shot. I would hope I was wrong about this lock-up issue, but other reviews seem to confirm it as specifying how many seconds you have to wait after each shot. Proper cameras have a buffer that allows a camera to record the image while you make the next one, the Nikon 8700 seems to lack this. Have a look at the Canon Pro-1 instead, and of course a DSLR like the Nikon D70 has none of these issues.
Overall Image Quality
As noisy as all other small-sensor cameras and inferior to a true SLR like the D70 or Digital Rebel.
Lens and Sharpness
This is really funny for me to watch. This is the only thing most people worry about, and most digital cameras are almost identical here!
The lens is more than OK.
Nikon knows all about microscopes, which has been one of their big product lines for decades. If you can find the command to put the 8700 into macro mode I'm sure it's impressive.
Noise and Grain
You have to use slow ISO speeds, since the results at ISO 200 and 400 are getting very noisy, just like other compact digital cameras.
Here's a big advantage of the fixed-lens cameras like the 8700 over the SLRs: with no lens to come off there is no problem with dust in the images. This is the weakest part of the true SLR cameras (D100, D1H and Canon 10D and Digital Rebel etc.)
Viewfinder and LCD
Not that great, just like the other cameras like it. There is way too much junk written all over the image.
There is a time delay between reality and what you see through the viewfinder, ensuring you'll always miss action shots.
The resolution is pretty fuzzy compared to a real SLR.
Like most Nikons it's solid, sturdy and well built with a lot of metal.
As if you haven't read, I'm not a fan of these sorts of cameras since today you can get far better quality for the same price in a slightly bigger true SLR like the Nikon D70 or Canon Digital Rebel. I have a whole page here about that.
The 8700 is probably a swell camera for anything that holds still. If you want a tiny digital camera that is state of its art with a great long telephoto lens then by all means go for it. If I was going on a long trip and wanted to pack as much into one tiny digital camera as I could this might be it. Actually I prefer the much smaller Canon A70 at one third the price and make do with a shorter zoom range. Just don't kid yourself that the long telephoto lens will let you shoot sports since the 8700 is way too slow.