I have gone through some of the exact same problems, and I have exactly the same camera and fisheye, and I came to tourweaver/panoweaver from iPix, as well. First, Smooth is the man! He helped me with many of the problems I was having. Listen to anything he says.
My suggestion is to do some test VTs in your own house or apartment, and pull them up in the software. What I found was, I would use the old iPix tripod rotator (2 shot). Try taking one pair of shots with a lot of light, one in the middle, one with low light, and finally, one with AE lock on. This is what I do at most houses where I go to take VTs (I am not the most conusmate profession in photograhy, but I do get paid, and often!). Most of the time, the set of pics that look the best is the pair with the AE lock on. I just learned where this was on my camera recently. If you don't know where that is on the Coolpix 8700, I can tell you. Also, position the camera away from any strong light source (usually 45 degrees). This will seem awkard at first, becasue sometimes, you are not pointing the camera directly at what you want to be the emphasis of your shot, but it still works.
I have a lot of other tricks I use. Let me know if you want me to share. But I do have the same camera, the same fisheye, the same Easypano software, and use to deal with iPix, so feel free to contact me, if you need to.
Hang in there.