I’ve had a few digital cameras, the last one being a 1.5 megapixel Fuji. I’ve been waiting for improvements in resolution AND storage before I bought a new one. The minute leaps in resolution from 1.5 megapixel to 2.1 megapixel were just not exciting enough to warrant me buying a new camera. Finally, we have moved into the 3.3 megapixel, and storage has increased to the point were a 128MB Compact Flash card is readily available, and more importantly, affordable.
I’m also very anti-convergence when it comes to gadgets. A digital camera should be a digital camera, not a poor resolution MP3/DV/Digital Camera/PDA/mobile phone all-in-one gizmo. I like each device to do one thing and do it well. So with that in mind, I wanted to buy a small, high-resolution digital camera that takes GREAT pictures.
I know from owning several Nikon 35mm cameras that the Nikon brandname is a good one. As a huge fan of Sony, I also knew I would lean in that direction. I eliminated the Nikon 990 because while that would actually be my premier choice, it was just too bulky and I wanted something small. On the flip side of that is the Digital Ixus, which is really small, but just didn’t measure up in terms of resolution and picture quality.
My choice came down to the Nikon 880 and the Sony DSC-P1. After doing all my homework, I chose the Nikon. The reason was two-fold: 1) the Nikon is supposed to take slightly better photos, and 2) the Compact Flash has much better storage capacity options than the Memory Stick. Even though I could plug the Memory Stick directly into my Picturebook. The USB connection on the 880 worked just as well for me. After using the Nikon 880, I know I made the right decision.
The Nikon 880 is a nice, compact digital camera but it’s not going to win any design awards. It’s bulkier than other models available today and isn’t exactly the best looking camera, but the size and appearance is acceptable considering its features. I chose the silver colored model because the black one was just a bit too dull. The plastic shell that makes up the body, while cheap in feel, looks outstanding especially in the silver color. The screen is bright even in daylight. All of the buttons are easily accessible and the camera is light and feels highly durable. I also like the fact that I can easily operate the camera with just one hand, a major factor for me, which is another reason I did not choose the Nikon 990.
One irritating point is the “noise” the camera makes as it tries to focus. The Nikon 880 makes a lot of “whizzing” sounds as it focuses — a bit too conspicuous in quiet environments.
The most important element for me is the quality of the pictures. In that regard, the Nikon 880 does an outstanding job compared to past digital cameras. Although I never owned a 2 megapixel digital camera, the Nikon 880 takes excellent pictures by my standards and from what I’ve seen. Sharpness, brightness, etc. are all pretty good. In fact, I printed out one picture the other day and I like the quality even better than I do my Contax APS camera. At the Fine Quality/Full Image mode, I can squeeze 81 pictures onto a 128MB Compact Flash card – perfect for a full day’s use. I also bought the rechargeable battery, which is an absolute must given that digital cameras eat-up batteries. I like the fact that the camera can also fit a CR5 battery, which is readily available in most shops. That way, if I run out of juice half way during the day, I can always just walk into almost any photo shop and buy an extra battery (some of my older models did not support this simple option).
Nikon has preset scene modes that are great to use. I like the fact that I can easily switch to a landscape or indoor mode with a few clicks. The menus are also very well laid out and quite intuitively easy to use. I was a little distraught though when I went to install the software and the computer refused to recognize the USB connection. Then I realized that I had to download the USB drivers from the Nikon website in order for the USB connection to be recognized (the software included is for the “serial” connection and the updated software has to be downloaded). This was extra burden I would rather have avoided, but maybe this was a problem only for the early Nikon 880 shipments.
I cannot sing enough praise for such a detailed, yet easy to use camera. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, and that perhaps is its biggest selling point. There is an excellent, complete review of the Nikon 880 available here that goes through all of its finer aspects.
In the end, the Nikon 880 is simply an outstanding digital camera that should last me at least two more generations of digital photography. The only thing that bugged me was that I had to dish out extra money for the rechargeable battery, which in my opinion should have been included. Nevertheless, this is the new ESSENTIAL product for digital photography — well at least for the next few months before the 4 and 5 megapixel cameras hit the streets.
danchan’s Second Opinion
Until Sony releases the pack-of-gum sized digital camera, I won’t consider any of the digital cameras currently available as truly “convenient” — even the Digital IXUS, which is tiny, is not small enough, and it weighs a ton! For a secondary camera, I’d want something that fits on my keychain.
For a primary camera, I must have the best picture quality and as many manual controls as possible. One caveat: I can’t afford the Nikon D1. I haven’t done the research on this one, I don’t know how the 880 stacks up against the Nikon Coolpix 990 in these two areas (see www.dpreview.com for the best digital camera reviews on the planet) but I do know that the swivel lens of my Coolpix 950 – the older model that the 990 replaced – has been indispensible.
Since you don’t have to hold the camera up to your face to see the LCD screen, it makes weird angle shots easy (take pictures from ground level or over the top of a crowd). And it also makes taking pictures less obtrusive. So catching your subject in candid poses is more likely. The Coolpix 990 comes with a better zoom lens and a tough magnesium alloy body. The 990 also uses 4 AA batteries which are easily obtainable anywhere in the world, even in the small jungle towns of Borneo! My pick, until its successor comes out (probably sometime late spring 2001, hopefully 5 megapixels), is the Nikon Coolpix 990. For me, the Nikon Coolpix 880 reviewed here is just a WASTE OF TIME.