Nikon Coolpix P7700

It's a solid enthusiast "compact" that will please a lot of shooters, but the Nikon Coolpix P7700 doesn't quite deliver at mid-range ISO sensitivities and its image-processing overhead might annoy impatient photographers.


7.5
CNET Rating


Design and features

The physical design of the camera is very appealing in a lot of ways. It has a true grip, not just a bump, and though it's the largest in its class, its size works in its favour for a lot of folks. Unlike the G15, which has a nice built-in lens cover, the P7700 still has one of those annoying pop-off lens caps.

On the top, there are three dials: a mode dial with the usual manual, semi-manual and automatic modes, a special-effects mode, plus three slots for custom settings, manual and automatic movie modes; a dedicated dial for exposure compensation; and a quick-menu dial for frequently accessed settings. That last offers the options for quality, ISO sensitivity, white balance, bracketing, picture controls and a slot that aggregates the rest of your needs — metering, autofocus type and area, and drive mode.

The camera has two customisable function buttons, one in front and one on top, which can be configured in conjunction with the front and back dials. Unlike on the G15, the command and subcommand dials sit in comfortably accessible locations.

On the back, an AF/AE-lock button is next to the pronounced thumb rest, with a large navigation dial for accessing the AF modes, flash, self-timer and AF types. The P7700 has two close-distance options: a typical macro setting and a "close-range only" setting that's a bit annoying to have to use.

While it offers a lot of straight shooting features, there aren't a lot of other capabilities. No GPS or Wi-Fi, and only a few creative effects — which I'm not crazy about. For example, there's an interesting-sounding Zoom Exposure mode, which produces the effect of zooming the lens toward the subject, but it only works in really dim light since it has to fix the shutter speed at 2 seconds. There's also an interval-shooting mode, but it's a really stripped-down implementation: your choices are 30 secs or 1, 5 or 10 minutes, with no control over the duration of the session or start and end times.

Like the G15 it lacks an Adobe RGB colour option, which may be important only to me. Unlike that model, it doesn't retract the lens when reviewing images, which can be a real timesaver.

As with Canon's G series, we are really struggling to identify the particular needs that models like the Nikon Coolpix P7700 serve. We can only arrive at them by process of elimination: you want better photo quality than a point-and-shoot (but can't afford the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100), you don't care about a big zoom range, don't care about size and don't care about speed. They're perfectly fine cameras, with lots of photography-friendly twiddly bits, but there are other cameras like them that are smaller, faster, better and comparably priced.

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 0.91.11.20.3
    Fujifilm X10
  • 1.41.11.90.3
    Olympus XZ-1
  • 2.72.54.50.4
    Canon PowerShot G1X
  • 1.81.53.20.4
    Nikon Coolpix P7700

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in seconds)

  • 7.5
    Fujifilm X10
  • 2.1
    Olympus XZ-1
  • 2
    Canon PowerShot G1X
  • 7.9
    Nikon Coolpix P7700

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The time to focus and shoot in good light runs 0.4 second and in dim rises to 1.1 seconds; the latter is really a bit too sluggish. When shooting RAW+JPEG we frequently had to wait uncomfortably as it finished processing before changing settings or reviewing. Even the flash recycles faster, taking 1.7 seconds to shoot back-to-back JPEGs with flash.

This isn't a camera you use for burst shooting. It can only take six shots — either RAW or JPEG — and though it's rated for 8fps, that's at the default Normal quality rather than the better Fine setting. While it tested out at 7.9fps for the default, for Fine or RAW, it's a more sedate 3.3fps. That would be a fine speed if it could handle more than six shots.

The LCD remains visible in sunlight, and one of the advantages of the articulated screen is the option to twist it when it gets hard to see.

While not quite as nice as the lens on the Canon PowerShot G15, the P7700's lens stays useably fast across the zoom range, especially given that it covers the broadest set of focal lengths of its class. Here's where the apertures change as you zoom in:

  • f/2 at 28mm

  • f/2.2 at 35mm

  • f/2.5 at 42mm

  • f/2.8 at 50mm

  • f/3.2 at 66mm

  • f/3.5 at 105mm

  • f/4 at 175mm.

The lens does suffer from quite a bit of distortion, though; it defaults to distortion control off.

Image quality

We like the P7700's photo quality, though we're not a huge fan of BSI sensors. Most surprisingly, the P7700 performs better in bright light than dim. That said, JPEGs start to show artifacts at even as low as ISO 200, though, depending upon subject matter and final size, you can still get usable shots as high as ISO 1600. Processing RAW files helps a bit in improving the tonal range, but you can't do much about sharpness.

JPEGs start to show artifacts at as low as ISO 200, and by the time you hit ISO 400, there's obvious degradation in the details.
(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

Colours render relatively accurately, even with the default Standard Picture Control profile. It pushes saturation and contrast a little, and there seems to be some slight hue shifts in the reds, but only the kind that you notice in side-by-side comparisons.

Though we're not crazy about the colours in low light, in good light, the camera produces relatively accurate, saturated colours.
(Credit: Lori Grunin/CNET)

Video looks typical for this class of camera. It's nicely saturated in bright light, though there's quite a bit of edge aliasing (jaggies), and it really clips the shadows and blows out the highlights. In low light there's some colour noise, but mostly, there just isn't a lot of dynamic range. Also, the mic seems a little less sensitive — at least in Auto — than what is found in many other cameras.

You can see more image samples from the camera over at our photo gallery.

Conclusion

The P770's image quality is slightly better than its predecessor's, if only because of improved colour rendering. Overall, unless you really need the optical viewfinder, it's a reasonable upgrade. It is also more ergonomic than the Canon PowerShot G15, generally because of its shooting design. But most of its competitors are faster, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 still beats them for photo quality.

Via CNET.com

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