Saturday, January 16, 2010

Neglected Gem - Coolpix 8400

The "GEM" in question is the Nikon Coolpix 8400 point and shoot digital camera I bought way back in 2005.

When the camera was launch in late 2004 it features the widest-angle of coverage of any digital camera available then, it was the answer to my search for true wide-angle photography from a compact digital camera!!

The Coolpix 8400 came with 8.0 effective mega pixel and a very sharp and low distortion ultra-wide 24-85mm (35mm equivalent) zoom with Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass.

I also bought the optional WC-E75 wide-angle converter lens which takes the build in zoom lens even wider to an unmatched 14 mm (equiv) of ultra-wide coverage!

The 8400 with the WC-E75 wide angle accessory lens attached.
During the silly season we were invited to a get together with our friends from Brisbane at a friend's spanking new house in Churton Park.

I decided to take some shots of our get together with the long neglected 8400.

A major weakness of most P&S digi-cam is their tiny build in flash which usually give you ugly shadow and harsh lighting! Some camera like the 8400 came with a hot shoe where you can attach an external flash.

Due to the small size of the camera, it would be silly to attach a flash that is larger than the camera! Then I remember the tiny Nikon SB-400 Speedlight I bought 2 years ago.

The SB-400 is a compact yet powerful external flash with a tilting front (horizontal, 60, 75 and 90 degrees) which allowed horizontal bounced light! It has a relatively powerful guide number of 21 (m at ISO 100 at 18mm) and has a shooting distance of 60 cm to 20 m (2 to 66 ft).

A quick search in the net told me that I can actually use the SB-400 flash with the 8400, best of all; I can actually bounced the light from this little strobe!

The 8400 with wide attachment and SB-400 set to bounce

The following shots of the living room and the front staircase of the expansive interior of the expensive mansion were shot with the above set up.

The ultra-wide WC E75 lens and the bounced light from the SB-400 did a good job but the attachment lens exhibit quite a bit of barrel distortion. Notice the curving of the door on the right hand door of the bottom picture?

This distortion can usually be fix in Photoshop or Camera Raw. Although it is hardly noticeable in normal landscapes and general photography to be a problem.

The small size of the Coolpix is especially good to go travelling with. The down side is the 8 mega pixel ccd is noisy at high ISO, using it above 400 is a waste of time! The RAW performance of the camera is also a dismay when you have to wait nearly 10 seconds after you click and the 8400 go into its locked mode while you watch your second decisive moment fade away in front of you! ;)

But even with those killer weaknesses, I still love it's marvelous 24 mm wide angle coverage and the ultra wide attachment lens!

On a bright and sunny day, the 8400's 24 mm lens absolutely shines!
8400 can be fast provided you fine tune your reflex!
Those two pictures were shot at the Oversea Terminal and Oriental Parade, Wellington.

I used the compact point and shoot when we were visiting friends in Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia.

Rainbow over Brisbane, shot with the 8400 on a small tripod.
Th iconic Flinders Street Station, a grab shot while waiting for the "walk" sign at the crossing.
"Feed The Birds" was taken at Collins Street, Melbourne. One chance and one shot, fine tuning of your reflexes needed for this camera!
Another feature I find very useful on the 8400 is the movable, flip-out and twist LCD review screen that I often used in my "monopod-over-my-head" high angle shots. The picture below will show you how this was done.

The movable LCD screen let me see, albeit tiny; view of my overhead shots!
With shots like this, I can trigger the 8400 with the self-timer or the tiny remote control that came with the camera which I always misplaced!

No ladder needed! This "high view point" shot of the Victoria Market in Melbourne was shot with the 8400 on a raised monopod.
Same technique was used to capture the massive crowd at the launch of Peter Jackson's King Kong at the Embassy Theatre in Courtenay Place, Wellington; New Zealand.

Famous Last Words:

Quality point and shoot has came a long way since the 8400, sadly; Nikon has given up providing serious photographers the 24 mm wide lens the like of the 8400!

The only P&S that came close to what this tiny gem is the Canon G10 which brought back the ever useful flip and twist LCD review screen! Kudos to Canon! But why only 28 mm? ;)

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