Nikon COOLPIX P7700 Review - The P7700 is one of the leading enthusiast compacts on the market at launch. Our full review sees how it fares in a competitive market
The Nikon Coolpix P7700 is the latest in a long line of enthusiast P-series compacts from Nikon.
The explosion of Compact System Cameras over the past few years led many to believe the days of enthusiast compacts were drawing to a close. If anything, the emergence of such systems has only reignited interest in high-performance, pocket-friendly cameras, with revised sensors, brighter optics and evolutionary increases in functionality helping to keep the format alive.
Nikon COOLPIX P7700 Review – Features and Design
The Nikon Coolpix P7700 is one of the most recent additions to the pool, and its key changes are likely to please and displease the target market in equal measure. Next to the Nikon P7100 it replaces, the camera’s resolution has jumped from 10.1MP CCD sensor to a backlit 12.4MP CMOS alternative, while the 720p video mode seen previously seen has now been upgraded to the full HD 1080p standard.
The P7700 also takes a significant leap with its burst shooting, from a paltry 1.3fps on the P7100 to a far more respectable 8fps here.
The 28-200mm lens has also seen its maximum aperture broadened, from f/2.8-5.6 before to f/2-4 here, although, presumably in order to make make the lens brighter, the camera has lost its viewfinder, leaving the 3in LCD – which now offers greater flexibility through a side pivot – as the only means of composing and reviewing all images and videos.
Nikon hasn’t deviated with the P7700 too greatly from the P7100 feature set for the camera’s remaining functionality, with the same combination of Raw capture, full manual exposure control and an neutral density filter integrated into the optic, together with options for controlling lens distortion and noise reduction. An exposure compensation dial is also joined by two customisable Fn buttons, with three spaces on the mode dial reserved for User Definable settings.
Design and Build
The Nikon P7700 is considerably more lightweight than its magnesium alloy shell may suggest, with a liberally-rubbered grip topped with a small but freely-rotating command dial, and metal dials on the top plate lending it an air of solidity.
The abundance of physical controls (particularly on the rear) is no doubt preferable to the menu-based option of selecting functions, and it’s welcome to see the exposure compensation dial being stiff enough for accidental turning to be minimised, although the menu pad – on which the thumb naturally rests when the camera is held – presses easily enough into the body for it to be accidentally keyed.
With the P7700’s viewfinder gone, it comes as some comfort that the LCD screen is as excellent a performer as it is. Clear, bright and fluid in its reproduction, with its only failing of being marginally more difficult to view in harsher light mitigated by its articulation.
Its pleasing performance is helped by a clear and fresh menu system, which does away with abbreviations and instead concentrates on providing a well-rounded set of options befitting the enthusiast user.
Performance and Image Quality
Nikon COOLPIX P7700 Review – Performance and Image Quality
The Nikon P7700’s average start up time is bearable, but the less than average write times are considerably less tolerable. Even with a relatively fast memory card loaded, the camera can take a good four seconds to fully return to being fully operational once a Raw image, or simultaneous combination of Raw and JPEG, has been captured.
The P7700 is hardly alone in having processing speeds that can’t keep up with processing images captured at their finest setting, but for the Raw-shooting target market this is likely to be disappointing nevertheless.
If it does have a fault, it’s the occasional failure of the Auto pattern from recognising key elements within a scene, making intervention with one of the other options often necessary.
General Image Quality
Thankfully, despite the P7700’s small handful of performance-related complications, image quality is very good, and often more so. The metering system seems unwilling to stray too far from accuracy, and the kinds of situations where many other camera’s would naturally underexposure are no bother for the P7700, although the very occasional overexposure can leave certain images lacking a touch of contrast.
Furthermore, the combination of ‘correct’ exposures in more contrasty conditions forces highlight details to be lost in skies and other brighter areas, although there is only so much dynamic range that can be expected from camera’s with a 1.17in sensor, and the P7700 doesn’t exactly fare badly next to its peers here.
The Auto White Balance system is nigh-on excellent in natural light, but it’s its ability to render scenes lit with artificial sources without any unsightly colour casts that impresses the most. In fact, it’s a little too good here, as it often chooses to remove some of the character of the light to produce a more neutral look, although this may even be preferable with certain subjects (people shots under fluorescent/incandescent sources being a good example).
Barrel and pincushion distortion exist respectively at the wideangle and telephoto ends of the camera’s zoom, which is barely surprising given its 28-200mm focal range, although in both instance this is very low, and only likely to be objectionable when shooting the linear subjects which easily highlight this.
The Distortion Control feature visibly reduces (though not completely eliminates) the extent to which this is visible.
Nikon COOLPIX P7700 Review – Verdict
There’s little doubt that that P7700 is a formidable compact camera, and only really compromised by its slow Raw write times and very minor handling issues. Images are detailed, exposures are largely accurate and the Auto White Balance system is particularly worthy of acclaim, while the lens performs admirably considering the focal range on offer.
While it certainly true that its image quality cannot match that of larger-sensor Compact System Cameras, it’s not far behind either. Indeed, for the target market, a slight trade off in terms of image quality may be a worthwhile sacrifice when the benefits of a pocketable camera with a 7.1x zoom range are considered.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of sample images taken with the Nikon Coolpix P7700. For a wider range, visit the Nikon Coolpix P7700 review sample image gallery.