Camera Review: Nikon Coolpix P7700
DECEMBER 21, 2012
By Dan Havlik
It’s taken Nikon three tries to make a decent, high-end compact camera but with the Coolpix P7700, they seem to have finally done it. The problem is, the rest of the imaging world has already moved on from this type of camera.
While there are many photographers who will bemoan the deletion of the optical viewfinder on the P7700, the 3-inch, vari-angle LCD screen, which boasts a very good resolution of 921,000 dots, is a nice alternative. Unlike the previous model that had its vari-angle screen on a hinge that only tilted back and away from the camera body, the P7700’s display tilts and swivels to the side, allowing you to adjust it in a variety of angles for more composition options.Despite losing the optical viewfinder, the overall build and design of the P7700 feels more solid and serious than its P-series Coolpix predecessors.
The previous two cameras in this line, particularly the P7000, were plagued with performance issues, which could make shooting with them a frustrating experience. While the P7100 was an improvement with its overall operational speed ramped up considerably from the previous camera, it still suffered from slow shot-to-shot times, particularly when shooting RAW images.
The good news is the P7700 is noticeably faster shot-to-shot when shooting Large/Fine JPEGs, taking about a second between snaps to be ready to shoot again. I shot with this camera during the annual New York Comic Con event at the Javits Center and while it was a largely successful experience—I got lots of wacky portraits of Comic Con attendees in full costume—the P7700 often took an extra split-second to lock-in focus under the dodgy convention center lights. This was most annoying because it caused me to miss some colorful candid shots and while the lighting wasn’t terrific, the P7700 should have done better.
It’s also still glacially slow when shooting in the camera’s RAW mode, which uses a proprietary NRW format that is somewhat reduced in size compared to the NEF format in Nikon’s DSLRs. I averaged about eight seconds between shots in RAW. That’s a one-second improvement from the P7100 but still unacceptable.
Part of this might be due to the fact that the P7700 still uses Nikon’s EXPEED C2 image processor, which first appeared in 2010. While the camera can technically shoot at eight frames per second in its Continuous mode, it can only capture six frames before its buffer clogs up and it must pause for five seconds before it can shoot again.
In terms of image quality, I’d put the Nikon P7700 on par with the previous model but with a bit more detail thanks to the slight uptick in resolution. The faster lens in the P7700—the maximum aperture on the previous model was f/2.8—did make a difference in my image results, letting me shoot when there was less available light and helping to create more background blur in my portraits.
But because of the small, 1/1.7-inch size of the P7700’s sensor—which is bigger than what is in most compacts but nowhere near what you’d find in even an entry-level DSLR—the camera’s bokeh, even when shot at f/2, was not particularly dramatic.
For a camera with its sensor size, the P7700 did a decent job in low light with manageable image noise at up to ISO 1600. Like the previous model though, ISO 3200 and 6400 (Hi 1) produced images that were rather noisy and should be used sparingly. Interestingly, the Low Noise Night Mode on the previous model, which could shoot at up to ISO 12800 but at a drastically reduced resolution, is not available on the P7700. Good thing too since we found it produced only mixed results.
I was happy that Nikon has given the P7700 a full 1080p HD video mode (at 30p) and my movie results were quite good, particularly when I attached a stereo microphone to the 3.5mm jack for better sound. Again, this is not going to replace shooting 1080p with a full-frame DSLR, such as the Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D600, but it produced very usable results for most basic video projects.
The Bottom Line
No, the Nikon P7700 is not going to knock your socks off when stacked up against something like the Canon G1 X and its large, nearly DSLR-sized sensor but that camera is $300 more expensive and considerably bulkier than this new flagship Coolpix model. All of which shows how far these high-end compacts have come. Judged on its own merits, the P7700 is the top-of-the-line portable camera Nikon should have released a few years ago, with good image quality; a nice 7x zoom lens with a maximum f/2 aperture; a sweet, side-swiveling, 3-inch LCD screen; a full 1080p HD video mode; and a design that is attractive, functional and more original than previous P-series models. The P7700 is also a faster performer, all-around, than its predecessors even while using an older processor that had trouble, at times, quickly pushing through larger images. (In particular, the P7700 was still slow in processing RAW files.) Overall though, I generally enjoyed shooting with the P7700. Is it the first camera I’d buy if I were shopping for a high-quality compact? Probably not, but it would certainly be in the running.
Pros: Simpler, more original camera design; faster to use overall; nice, new 7x zoom lens with maximum f/2 aperture at the wide end; finally offers full 1080p HD video shooting; gorgeous, high-resolution, side-swiveling, 3-inch LCD screen
Cons: Still has some performance issues particularly when shooting RAW images; mediocre focus performance in bad lighting; no optical viewfinder; average low-light performance for a camera in this class
Price: $499; www.nikon.com
© MACK EditionsBroomberg and Chanarin Win 2013 Deutsche Borse Prize
© The Gordon Parks FoundationReasons to Love Photography Now: Part 3
© Florence LeungThe Look: Where Fashion Meets Art Photography Contest
© Nadav KanderPDN June 2013
- ADVERTISEMENT -
Articles available to all PDN and PDNOnline subscribers. Log in to access all the benefits of your PDN subscription. Log in now »
The Latest Exclusive Headlines
- ADVERTISEMENT -
- ADVERTISEMENT -
- ADVERTISEMENT -