Sitting at the top of Nikon's Coolpix S (for Style) series, the S8100 is certainly a good-looking, stylish camera that is small enough to slip in a jacket pocket. It also feels well built, has a reassuring weight to it and is comfortable to use either one or two handed.
The controls are also responsive and its nice to have the option to use button pressed or the scroll wheel to navigate the menus and make selections.
The first few times that raised the S8100 to turn on and take a shot I mistook the bright red spot on the video activation button (which works whatever shooting mode is selected) for a light and thought that the camera had powered up accidentally. After a little use I got used to it though.
With a fairly limited number of controls, you might expect the S8100's menus to be lengthy, but they are mercifully short and easy to navigate. In fact, the camera as a whole is very easy to get to grips with. The only feature that eluded me for a while was the option to create black and white images in-camera.
After a few moments, I discovered that this is accessed via the exposure compensation control on the back of the camera. In fully automatic mode or continuous shooting mode, pressing this button provides access to three creative controls; a hue, saturation and exposure compensation slider. Setting the saturation to its lowest point results in monochrome images.
I found the S8100's LCD screen provides a clear view of the scene being composed in most conditions apart from bright sunshine, when reflections become an issue – though the S8100 is not alone in this.
You can expect to be taking images within around 2 sec with the S8100 as it starts-up pretty smartly. In reasonable light it also manages to focus pretty quickly and there's no discernable shutter lag. As is often the case with compact camera AF systems, the S8100 focus slows down a little in low light. It also isn't really fast enough to use with moving subjects, even in Subject tracking mode.
All things considered, however, the Coolpix S8100 is a very nicely camera to shoot with.