TECH ProDuct reviews
built-in zoom lens, is that there are no built-in shutters that automatically cover the
lens when it’s powered down. The unappealing but inevitable alternative is that the
P7700 now has a small lens cap that’s easy to lose track of. The other side effect is
more accidental smudging on the front glass element. Bring a lens cloth.
IMAGE QUALIT Y
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 (reviewed last
month), but it produced
very usable results for
most basic video projects.
Like its predecessors, the P7700 has plenty of external control, including dials on
the top deck to switch it into manual mode and to adjust exposure compensation.
The Quick Menu Dial returns on the camera’s top left shoulder, letting you quickly
adjust some of the most used settings, such as ISO, bracketing and white balance.
It’s a nice feature but the dial turns a little too freely
and feels imprecise.
While there are many photographers who will
bemoan the deletion of the optical viewfinder
on the P7700, the 3-inch, vari-angle LCD screen,
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.
THE BO T TOM 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.
Like its predecessors, the P7700 has plenty of external control, including dials on the top
deck to switch it into manual mode and adjust exposure compensation.
To read Dan Havlik’s reviews of the Canon PowerShot G1 X, Nikon
D600 and Canon EOS-1D X cameras mentioned in this month’s
“Product Reviews,” visit www.pdnonline.com/gear.
Nikon Coolpix P7700
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
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