Nikon Coolpix S8100 compared to Canon S95 and why Nikon needs a serious compact camera

I am very particular when it comes to small (pocketable) cameras and I wanted to find out how good (or bad) the top of the line Coolpix S8100 really is. I ignored the P7000 because it is in a different category - I wanted to see what a "real" point and shoot Nikon camera is all about. A natural choice for my comparison was the Canon S95 which is the top of the line compact camera currently offered by Canon. I know this is not  fair fight since the Canon S95 can shoot RAW, has manual mode and costs $100 more. I hope with the next Coolpix announcement on February 9th Nikon will address those issues in the upcoming 24-100mm f/1.8 compact camera the way Olympus did with their new ZX-1.

The Coolpix S8100 and Canon have very similar design with almost identical location of all major buttons and dials. The only difference is that the S95 has a rotating ring on the lens that can be assigned for different functions like zooming, aperture, ISO, WB, manual focus, etc. Nikon will also release a new Coolpix camera with a similar lens ring. Canon S95 is lighter and smaller in size.

Nikon's menu is clean, with only few options. The three main tabs are: "shooting menu", "movie" and "set up". Each of them has only few settings. The "shooting menu" lets you set the image mode, WB, metering, ISO, AF area and AF mode:

This is how Canon's menu looks:

In addition, the S95 has a separate functional settings menu that depends on the mode you are currently using:

I noticed that the S8100 has a slightly faster AF compared to the S95. The Coolpix has a direct video recording button and can be charged via USB while the Canon has a conventional battery charger:

I did a quick and simple comparison between both cameras by setting them in auto mode. Here are the results (click on images for larger view) - even in daylight, the Canon S95 provides better colors and flare resistance:

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95

The big advantage of Canon's S95 comes in low light - almost all S95 samples were significantly better than one taken with the Coolpix S8100:

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95

One area where the Coolpix is superior to the Canon S95 is the macro mode - you can take images much closer with the Nikon S8100:

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95

Update: I uploaded the full size jpg files on flickr. I also added few more S8100 samples.

Specifications comparison (green color indicates the better specs):

Nikon Coolpix S8100 Canon S95
Pixels 12.1 MP 10 MP
Sensor size 1/2.3 in. 1/1.7 in.
Sensor type BSI CMOS CCD
ISO range 100-3200 80-3200
Lens aperture f/3.5-5.6 f/2-4.9
Lens zoom 30-300 mm 28-105 mm
Screen 3" TFT 3" TFT
Video mode 1920x1080 at 30fps 1280x720 at 24fps
Max shutter 1/4000 sec 1/1600 sec
Dimensions (WxHxD) 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.2 in. 3.93 x 2.3 x 1.16 in.
Weight 0.46 lbs 0.35 lbs
Price $299.95 (rebate available) $399.95 (check latest)

The S8100 simply doesn't cut it to be a serious compact camera. Nikon has a hole in the Coolpix line between the S8100 and the P7000 and I think this is what they will be targeting with their next product announcement. Almost all major manufacturers have a model in that category. RAW shooting, manual mode, AMOLED screens, f/1.8 aperture, hot shoe, improved direct manual controls can quickly lead Nikon to the top of the serious compacts category. Let's see what will be announced next week.

Disclosure: the reviewed product(s) were loaned from B&H who is an affiliate sponsor of
This entry was posted in Nikon Point and Shoot, [NR] Reviews. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • texasjoe

    Collpix are cheap but they make make big bucks.

    • asdasd

      “serious compact”

      that is one of the most obvious oxymorons known to a man kind

      • texasjoe

        The P7000 and a MacBook Air are perfect for a road trip to the coast with my wife. Heck, my beach towel takes up more room than the two.

        • asdasd

          for that reason you will see no real saving in space against D3100 + 35Dx

          • texasjoe

            I don’t have dx. Just the P7000 and 2 D700’s. My wife has a p&s but wants her own dslr. I’m we’re happy with the P7000.

        • Billy Baxter

          Hmmm. Maybe you need to carry an Adventure Towl instead of your beach towel 😉

      • Mock Kenwell

        Ignorant statement. Any camera is better than no camera. And it’s much easier to carry a small camera with you everywhere. There are several instances of legitimate pro photographers who shoot largely with compacts. It’s the image stupid.

    • The thing I hate most about Coolpix is the fact the range is called Coolpix. Calling something cool is the least cool thing to do, I’d never buy one just because of the stupid name plastered across the front…

      • iamlucky13

        Oh come on. Show some sense of perspective.

        The name is nowhere near as bad as their use of that annoying guy from That 70’s Show as their spokesperson.

        Besides, most of them have corny names: Powershot (reminds me of Homer changing his name to Max Powers on the Simpons to sound more impressive), Finepix, Photosmart, Easyshare, and Cybershot.

        Panasonic’s “Lumix” brand is the only one that actually sounds somewhat inspired to me. Olympus doesn’t even bother with funny names, and Casio just made up a nonsense word.

      • Vandyu

        Say all you want about how much better the Canon S95 is. But, hey, Nikon has Aston Kutcher. So there!!
        Oh, yeah, I’ve always thought the Coolpix name was very attractive to teen buyers. But me? Nah.

  • Anonymus Maximus

    6 more days to the announcements


  • If I cant’s get a D800 in the near future, I’d like to get a PS that shoots RAW, 1080p and maybe even have GPS. Sometimes I’m in a situation where I don’t carry my D300S, yet I’d still like to have a small tool and not a toy to take pictures.

  • Narna

    This isn’t a fair comparison at all. The S8100 is designed as a big compact. If you want to compare it to a canon the closest model would be a powershot SX210IS. I’m not surprised the Canon S95 gave sharper pictures than the S8100.

    That said the Coolpix S8100 is one of the best in the big zoom compacts available, as a camera salesperson I play with them all and this is the one my partner and I chose for ourselves!

    • I agree, this is what Nikon will hopefully address next week. I just picked the top of the line compacts from Nikon and Canon (except the P7000 and the G12 which are in a different categoty).

      • “Top of the line” is a poor way of doing it. If you’re going to compare it, at least compare apples to apples

        • Vlad

          What a bunch of whiners! The admin clearly explained why he did the comparison this way. Give it a break.

  • Funduro

    Come on Nikon Do a retro F1.8 like Fujifilm did with the X100 or a F1.8 like the Lumix LX-5. Metal body, macro, OLED, EVF and cheese grater. Ok forget about the macro. jk I’m delaying a purchase to see if Nikon will fulfill my expectation in it’s announcement.

    • Good point, agree with you. BTW, I’d like to see a Nikon rangefinder.

    • Anthony D’Atri

      Cheese grater???

    • Vandyu

      Do you ever get the feeling that we get our hopes up year after year only to be disappointed when we learn the marketing department is secretly also doing the design work?

      • Funduro

        Your’re right on the mark. Japanese car Co. long ago transfered their design studios to California. They did that so the designers wouldn’t be influence by the conservative group think and old world corporate thinking back in Japan. The Japanese society look badly on independent non conformist individuals. Fujifilm will release a very popular X100. That camera will be featured in all the fashion, tech and style magazines. I’m hoping Nikon releases a very similar one. Oh cheese grater, why not? 🙂

  • J C

    Thanks for the great comparison! I look forward to more reviews/comparisons like this one. My sister got a s95, and I am amazed at its low light IQ. I was able to get one till I saw your post about a new s95 killer from Nikon that will soon be announced. It will be a great complement to my D90 or maybe D400 if that is announced too.

    • Eric Pepin

      Now wouldnt that be nice, im sure nikon will let all the dumb d300 owners buy d7000s first, and then release the d400 and make double the profit.

      • asdasd

        everybody dumb enough switching from D300 to D7000 would deserve it

        • Ronan

          100% Agreed… D300/s is better than D7k.

          • SGN

            I’d say that depends on who you are and what you do!

        • PAG

          I just went from a D90 to a D7000, which seems to me to be a logical upgrade. If I owned a D300S all along and had the cash for a D400 upgrade when it came, I would wait for the D400. I love both my D90 and D7000, but I understand their limitations compared to the next rung up on the product ladder.

          Unless, of course, I had lots of spare cash in which case I would have bought a D7000, then bought a D400, made the D7000 my backup / light travel camera, and given my D300s to a homeless person. But I don’t have that kind of cash.

          • Funduro

            Great, arm the homeless with a rugged, high FPS, pro level button functions and scariest of all, an all metal body.

            • Mock Kenwell

              I know, right? What is this group’s obsession with getting cameras to the homeless? Shouldn’t we focus on getting them homes first?

  • Eric Pepin

    I would love a serious compact, but oly will take my money it looks like as long as that thing has the art filters the ep’s have, love the grainy bnw. I dont want to have to post process my damn point and shoot pictures.

  • Joe in L.A.

    How do the shutter lags compare on these cameras? What if you also use flash?

    Those are usually the dealbreakers on compact cameras for me. My wife has a Canon point-and-shoot with decent image quality, but it takes what seems like hours after the decisive moment to capture the shot.

    • I did not notice any difference in the shutter lag, but the S8100 did focus faster, especially in low light. I never turn on the flash on a p&s camera – it’s useless, that’s why I did not cover it.

      • Joe in L.A.

        Thanks for that feedback.

        I do sometimes use fill-in flash, which makes the lag even longer as it recharges.

      • slightly fuzzy

        never say never…flash on point-and-shoot cameras is invaluable for pictures in midday sun (vacation pix) and for backlit subjects.

      • PAG

        We have an older Coolpix and put an SB-400 on it for low light pictures. It works great.

        • Mock Kenwell

          Never understood people who use flashes on cameras that are half the size of the flash. It would seem to defeat the purpose of a ”

          • PAG

            Actually, the SB-400 is half the size of the camera. I can easily fit the P&S in one pocket and the flash in the other. They slap together in an instant. I’d agree with you if I was trying to put an SB-900 on it, but the SB-400 is really small.

          • Discontinued

            To each his own.
            I never understood people who use build in flashes, regardless of the camera’s size.

            Pocketability does not necessarily mean ONE pocket to me. It means I neither need a camera bag, trunk or backpack nor do I have 5-10 pounds strapped around my neck, swinging annoyingly in unforeseeable directions as soon as I start walking.

            If Nikon announces a D800 with promising specs on the 9th of February, the day would become the day I make up my mind, to stay with the brand. That would be the very exact day I’d be out to buy a P7000.

            Do you hear me Nikon? Here is money waiting for a compact and a new DSLR as well as one or two new lenses. Just collect it for f### sake ! ! !

  • John

    Nikon’s Coolpix line is a complete embarrassment.

    Hard to believe the same company could be responsible for the D3S, the 85mm f/1.4G, and the 200-400mm f/4G.

    • harry couvert

      and for promising a 85 1.4G
      Im waiting for it since september…

    • Vandyu

      Therein lies the problem. It isn’t the same company, is it? Doesn’t Nikon farm out their Coolpix line to some no-name manufacturer that develops similar specs for several companies and then tweaks them and pops a name on the camera body?

  • Mock Kenwell

    Amen, Admin! Everyone bitches about the Coolpix line, including myself and rightly so. But it’s also ridiculous to say you only want a serious camera. Nikon has a shameful, gaping hole in their lineup. And frankly, I’d call the P7000 shameful as well. Considering how long Nikon has been making compact digital cameras, and how long they took to come to this party, the P7K was a lame effort. Too little too late.

    In the serious compact realm, Nikon is missing three entries:
    1. A serious compact to compete with the S95, LX5, GRD, etc.
    2. A serious fixed lens compact with a larger sensor to compete with the Sigma DP
    3. A quality TOUGH compact that’s water/weather resistant—all current offerings are weak

    Frankly, I could care less about a mirrorless if it isn’t a DX sensor with pancakes. And since Nikon has made, like 2 pancake lenses in its entire life, that’s bloody doubtful. I have no interest in a small camera that doesn’t have fast lenses and pocketability. The NEX cameras look fantastic until you throw a lens on them and realize you could just as easily be carrying a far more capable DSLR.

    If the new cam has the specs you say and good IQ, I am so there.

  • Lloyd

    The only thing that makes the fight unfair is the $100 price difference. The difference in capabilities is the point of comparisons in the first place.

  • venancio

    serious P&S elements are: wide (24mm), low light capability (f1.8), control (PASM), battery juice (300 shots per charge), 1080p video, autofocus system, and flash control. if Nikon just fails in one of these, it’s simply redux and no next gen vision.

  • JorPet

    I have had PowerShot film cameras in the past. They tend to be rock solid and I have always been impressed with them. It would be good to see Nikon step up their game a bit in this area to be competitive. Partly because this is where a lot of money comes in and partly because, for many these are the gateway drugs to DSLRs. Get’em in the family, keep’em in the family.

    My point and shoot is actually an Olympus due to its water proof abilities. Wanted a single camera to take snorkeling, skiing (in the rain or snow), etc. Would like to see Nikon get into that space as well.

  • avi

    The Nikon looks plain ugly and uncomfortable.
    Degisn is just as important

    • I really don’y agree at all.
      The S8100 design is the only reason why I even thought about buying it. On the design department – it really kicks Canon’s ass.
      That said, since there’s really no use in having a compact beside your DSLR and cell phone camera. Compact camera sales confuses me, and the term “serious” compact camera is a real oxymoron, yes :S

  • STOP IT!

    Just STOP IT! You are CONSTANTLY giving FALSE numbers on lenses. There is NO such thing as a 24-100mm f/1.8 . Not ANYWHERE in ANY way! No mater how you look upon it, it is not both 24-100 and F1.8 at the same time.

    If you want to write the 35mm eqivalent focal length, you HAVE to wrte the eqivalent F-stop. Anything else is just false.

    F-stop is focal length divided by aperture (thus no unit). Aperture is a diameter (thus a lengh unit, eg mm), nothing else, just as focal length is a length measure (usually mm).

    • asdasd

      looks more like some camel spider or sea horse

      • Discontinued

        Bits and pieces of broken glass, maybe?

    • Ola, the f/1.8 aperture will be on the wide angle side, the tele end will not have the same aperture of course. Don’t believe me? Come back next week and we will talk again.

      • Ola Forsslund

        Admin, I think you are missing my point, I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear. I’m not talking about the variable aperture!

        The problem is that you multiply the focal length to get an FX (35mm) format equivalent figure of 24mm. But you did not multiply the f-stop value, you kept it at F1.8.

        Since I do not know the crop factor of this camera, let me show you an example the well known DX vs FX:

        On a DX camera, my 70-200/2.8 is equivalent to 105-300/4.2 on FX.

        That is, an image taken on FX at 105mm F4.2 would be indistinguishable from an image taken on DX at 70 F2.8.

        Indistinguishable because they would have the same FOV, perspective and DOF. This is due to the fact that both sensor would get the same total amount of light, at the same angle.

        Thus, equivalence.

        105mm F2.8 on FX would not be equivalent, the DOF would be very different.

        Please read my first post again. If this is still unclear, please E-mail me.

        • I see what you mean now. The problem is that no website out there is reporting the aperture specs that way and if I start doing it, people will get confused.

    • Ren Kockwell

      Wow. That was an unexpected tirade.

  • I had not used compact digital camera, but I bought S8100 two weeks ago, because it was so cheap as 250USD in Japan, for emergency camera of travel to Egypt and Turkey.
    I did not expect good image quality and feeling but it was very nice. I enjoy the camera with me everywhere.
    I am asked to shoot video as well as still by my customer, and this will help me to shoot video too.

  • Javi

    And the Canon’s one is a serious compat camera?

    I think that both cameras are by the same way…

    • Markus

      I think that NR should stay with it’s core business…that of rumors, and by that leave the reviews to people who do…reviews 🙂 The “I am” should always be left out in reviews…because we are not “Ï am” Also if you compare and you already state yourself that it is not a fair comparison….I would change the title into: “Personal findings about 2 compacts which cannot be compared”

      • PaulRivers

        I think stupid people should stop commenting with stuff like “2 cameras which cannot be compared”.

        This probably sounds over the top, but seriously I’m tired of this murdering of the language. Anyone with an iq over 50 can tell that any 2 cameras, no matter what the type, “can” be compared.

        • litebyte

          Paul as a smart man you are of course it can be compared, apples and oranges can also be compared because it’s fruit…..good night, and don’t forget to drink your milk before going to school

          • Vlad

            And maybe some people instead of being condescending should try to understand what the article is all about. The article compares apples to oranges so as to show that there are apples missing on one side. I t was pretty clearly explained.

  • broxibear

    The Third Quarter of the Year ending March 2011 [February 3, 2011] results have been published here :
    This is the gist of it as far as imaging goes…
    “Imaging Company
    – Efforts are made to penetrate into emerging country marke
    competitiveness and customer satisfaction. Targets are se
    expansion at higher rate than market expansion and to imp
    the cost structure.
    – New generation digital cameras are under development. “

    • broxibear

      Oops, that didn’t copy & paste correctly…just follow the link, although most of it is confusing without any proper refrence point, unless you’re an accountant, which I’m not.

  • RGK

    One of the best lines of ‘pocketable’ P&S cameras is from Panasonic. I have their older Lumix DMC-TZ3 and it is amazing for what it can do. Their new Lumix DMC TZ20 is ight years beyond any competition, and this is coming from a long time Nikon guy.

    • I have a TZ5 and able to take good pictures with it when I don’t want to carry my D300S. I was hoping for a very good Nikon that shoots RAW but i’d rather have a D800 NOW. Please Nikon and a 80-400 replacement as well!

  • rhlpetrus

    I see all low light samples from s95 darker than similar from the coolpix. Not sure how much better they are. Likely in RAW, if the Nikon had it, differences would be less. Hope next camera has that and comes with a really good lens, and writing/buffer speed is better than P7000’s.

  • Kosta

    Sorry for my English!

    For me a serious compact must have

    Sensor 1’ 2/3’ or at least 1/6’
    Lens, Sharp, F1.8 or smaller
    Below 10mp
    PASM, C1 C2
    Raw possibility
    Many external controls, AE lock, control dial
    Small sze, like S95 or at least XZ1
    Price, under 400€

  • I just bought my first point and shoot ever. I went with the LX-5. It’s a little bigger than I would have liked, but it has very intuitive controls. I love how Lumix cameras can control the shutter and aperture on the same thumb wheel by simply clicking it in and then spinning. I am not crazy about the ring on the S95. It also feels cheap. Takes good pictures and fits in a pocket so there are some advantages to it! The Olympus seems nice, but bulky as well. It will be interesting to see Nikon’s attempt.

  • D700guy

    Is it just me, or does the S8100 seem to let in more light under low-light conditions?

  • Kosta

    Administrator you have any information for the sensors size, mp, or the ability to shoot RAW?

    Sorry for my English!

    • no, I don’t have anything reliable at that point

      • Kosta

        Ok thanks

  • PaulRivers

    It’s interesting – is there some link to look at the 100% view of the pictures? Because regarding “almost all S95 samples were significantly better than one taken with the Coolpix S8100” – I only barely and sometimes see a difference in resolution between the 2.

    I actually prefer the Nikon colors as well, the “way to punch” Canon colors I’m not as fond of (and I own an s95, it’s my main camera…where I also get pictures a little to punch for my taste).

  • Witty Nickname

    I’ve always disliked the “Coolpix” name.

    Sounds so cheap and childish.

    • litebyte

      I can’t say I dislike it, but it indeed sounds a bit cheapish to me too.
      However the name Coolpix sounds perfect for Japanese market, there are more product names in Japan who might have a bit childish/immature/flashy name for us westerners. Keep in mind that the name is already there since the end 90’s…feeling about what’s cool and marketing was a bit different around that time 🙂 I’ve heard that they wanted to make a whole line of different products with the name cool in it…for so far I know only some scanners and a whole lot of compact cameras’ made it to that…

  • NXNightmare

    Did the reviewer also use jpeg mode on the canon?

    • yes, full size jpg in auto mode for both cameras

  • Jim

    Had one got rid of it and got a P7000 and I am really pleased with it.

  • maxemil

    Owning the Canon S95 and a waterproof casing – its really amazing underwater. Im not religious about brands – Owning a Nikon D7000 for the same reason – shooting in low light without intruding people (or fish) with annoying flashes / introdusing shadows is important for me.

  • MB

    Current price for Nikon S8100 is $228.00, after all rebates for Canon S95 it is $399.95 or almost twice as match.
    These two cameras are really not in the same class so this comparison does not have any real meaning whatsoever.
    To compare we should probably wait for S9000 or something like that I think.

  • PaulRivers

    fyi, the Colony Hotel pic, if you right click on both and do “Open in New Window” (so I could see it at full size) was driving me crazy because they both looked exactly the same to me.

    This made sense when I looked at the exif info – both the 8100 pic and the “s95” pic say they’re from the 8100 in the exif info.

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