Review: Nikon Coolpix 3700
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 21, 2003
December 26, 2003
Coolpix 3700 ($399) is a compact, all-metal 3.2 Megapixel
camera with a 3X zoom lens. It's unique in that it's Nikon's
first camera to use Secure Digital (SD) memory. It's also one
to have an AF-assist lamp -- hopefully this is the start of a
trend. The CP3700 is a point-and-shoot camera, geared toward
rather than enthusiast. Is this a good take-anywhere camera?
Find out now!
in the Box?
Coolpix 3700 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 Mpixel Nikon Coolpix 3700 camera
SD memory card
Li-ion battery (rechargeable)
featuring NikonView and drivers
page camera manual + foldout Quick Start Guide (both printed)
other Nikon cameras, the Coolpix 3700 includes a Lexar "starter" memory
card. The one included here is 16MB, which is okay, but you'll
want a larger one right away. Might I suggest 128MB as a good
place to start? The CP3700 does not support MultiMediaCards!
Coolpix 3700 uses the new EN-EL5 battery, a proprietary lithium-ion
battery with 4.0 Wh of energy. Nikon estimates that you can take
about 200 photos per charge, which is typical of a compact camera.
I knock a camera that uses proprietary batteries, and I do so
for two reasons. One, because they're expensive. An extra EN-EL5
battery will set you back around $30. The other thing is that
you can't just stuff in alkaline batteries when your rechargeables
die. That's still true here, but there is another option. In
addition to using the EN-EL5, the CP3700 can also use a CP1 lithium
prismatic battery (not rechargeable). The CP1 lasts about 25%
longer than the EL5, but here's the catch: they're not easy to
find. You can't walk into a store in the middle of nowhere and
pick one up -- at least, not yet. But I like the concept.
it's time to charge the EN-EL5 battery, just drop it into the
included charger. It takes about two hours to fully recharge.
This isn't one of those cool "plug it right into the wall" chargers
-- you must use a power cable.
CP3700 is one of those cameras with a lens cover built right
into the lens. As you can see, it's a very compact little camera!
unusual thing Nikon includes with the 3700 is an eyecup. If you
wear glasses, or just want to keep ambient light from seeping
into the viewfinder, just slide it on.
are limited on this small camera. All I could find (beside extra
batteries) is an
AC adapter ($30) and a soft case ($15).
includes the latest versions of NikonView with the 3700 (version
6.1). You can use the software to organize and to do basic photo
editing (one of the new features in version 6 is redeye reduction).
It's not Photoshop, but it's decent.
screen, NikonView 6 in Mac OS X
screen, NikonView 6 in Windows XP
you can see, you can edit quite a few properties of your images.
cluttered at times, the manual included with the Coolpix 3700
is decent. Do note that the NikonView manual is on CD.
Coolpix 3700 is a compact camera with an all-metal body (and
snazzy brushed metal face). Be warned that metal cameras scratch
easily, and then don't look quite as nice -- take care of them!
The CP3700 is very easy to hold and operate with one hand, and
it fits into any pocket with ease.
does it compare in size with other cameras in its class? Have
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 2.2 x 1.1 in.
x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
x 2.6 x 0.8 in.
x 2.0 x 1.2 in.
x 2.2 x 1.3 in.
x 2.0 x 0.8 in.
x 2.0 x 1.4 in.
mass includes Memory Stick and battery
you can see, the CP3700 is one the lighter, but bulkier cameras
in its class. The Pentax and Casio models shouldn't really be
on that list, because they're much thinner than everything
that out of the way, we can now begin our tour of the CP3700,
beginning with the front of the camera.
Coolpix 3700 has an F2.8-4.9, 3X optical zoom Nikkor lens. This
lens has a focal range of 5.4 - 16.2 mm, which is equivalent
to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded, so you cannot add a
the upper-left of the lens is the built-in flash. This flash
has a working range of 0.4 - 3.0 m at wide-angle, and 0.4 - 1.7
m at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash to this camera.
the left of the flash is the microphone. On the opposite side
is the AF-assist lamp, which as I mentioned, is a rare sight
on a Nikon camera. This little orange light will help the camera
focus in dim lighting, where other cameras will throw up their
hands and give up (metaphorically speaking, of course).
to the AF-assist lamp is the optical viewfinder.
the back of the camera, without that eyecup I mentioned in the
CP3700 has a small, but beautiful 1.5" LCD display. With
134,000 pixels, this is one sharp screen, and you'll know as
soon as you see it. Images are bright and motion is really fluid
on the screen (the refresh rate must be 60 fps). If you want
to adjust the brightness, you can do so in the setup menu. The
LCD shows 97% of the frame.
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is about average
size for a compact camera. It lacks a diopter correction feature
(as does most of the competition),
which you use to focus what you're looking at. The optical viewfinder
shows 80% of the frame.
the right of the optical viewfinder is the display button, which
turns the LCD and what is shown on it on and off.
is a lot to talk about with regard to the items to the right
of the LCD, so I'll start at the top and work my way down.
first item is the four-way controller, which you'll use for menu
navigation as well as adjusting the following settings:
- Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash off, fill flash,
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Macro (on/off)
- Self-timer (Off, self-timer, sound release)
don't normally spend much time discussing the self-timer function
in my reviews, but the one on the Coolpix is somewhat unique,
and is worth talking about. When you're in self-timer mode and
you press the shutter release once, the camera will count to
10 and take a picture. Double-pressing the shutter release will
do a 3 second delay (great for night shots on a tripod!).
the really cool feature is called voice release. Frame your shot,
press the shutter release button, get in position, and then make
some noise and the camera takes the picture. You can set the
noise level required to take the picture in the setup menu. I
found level 1 (the quietest) to be way too sensitive -- just
setting the camera down set it off. Level 3 (the loudest) required
me to yell "cheese!" from 6 feet away.
the four-way controller are two more buttons: one for deleting
photos, and the other for entering the menu system.
Voice recording mode
item below that is the mode dial, which has the playback button
inside it. The options on the mode dial include:
- point-and-shoot mode; most menu options locked up
mode - you choose the situation, camera picks best settings
recording - record up to five hours of audio (with a big memory
card); voice clips saved in WAV format
mode - still point-and-shoot, but with full menu access
you can see, the CP3700 has a really impressive scene mode --
great for beginners!
final item to discuss here is the zoom controller, located at
the top-right of the photo. The zoom controller moves the lens
quickly from wide-angle to telephoto in under 1.5 seconds. By
quickly pressing the buttons, you can make very precise movements
of the lens. If I had one wish, it would be to have those buttons
stick out a little more from the back of the camera.
on the top of the Coolpix 3700, you'll find the the speaker and
shutter release button, which has the power switch wrapped around
must confess that I don't like having the power switch in that
location. That's because I'm used to having the zoom controller
in that position, rather than the power switch. So every time
I wanted to zoom on the CP3700, I turned the camera off instead.
Your mileage may vary.
to see here!
this side of the CP3700, you'll find the I/O ports, memory card
slot, and battery compartment. The A/V and USB outputs share
one port, which can be accessed by opening the little plastic
door on the left.
get at everything else, you must open the side door.
a look under that plastic door (which seems like it could snap
off if forced), where you can see the battery compartment and
memory card slot. As I mentioned, the CP3700 uses SD memory cards
-- the first Nikon camera to do so.
included memory card and battery are shown at left.
last stop on our tour is the bottom of the camera. Down here,
you'll find a plastic tripod mount.
the Nikon Coolpix 3700
takes less than 3 seconds for the CP3700 to extend its lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures.
in record mode
you're up and running, you'll find autofocus speeds to be better
than average. Unless the camera has to "hunt" or use
the AF-assist lamp, expect a delay of under a second for the
camera to lock focus. The AF-assist lamp helped the camera focus
well in dim lighting conditions.
lag was not a problem at fast shutter speeds, and noticeable
(but not horrible) at slower shutter speeds (where you should
be using the flash or a tripod, anyway).
speed is excellent. You can take another picture in about 1.5
seconds. There's no way to turn off the post-shot review, so
you'll have to halfway press the shutter release if the previous
photo is still being displayed on the LCD.
you take a picture, you can delete it by pressing the delete
photo button on the back of the camera.
with the easy-to-use theme, the Coolpix 3700 has just a few image
quality choices, including:
Images on 16MB card
Coolpix 3700 does not support TIFF or RAW file formats.
are named DSCN####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering
is maintained even if you replace and/or format memory cards.
Coolpix 3700 has a very simple menu system, also seen
on the Coolpix 2100/3100. The full list of settings is only available
in manual mode -- in auto mode you can only change the image
mode (see chart)
balance (Auto, preset, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent,
(Single, continuous H, continuous L, multi-shot 16, interval
timer) - see below
Shot Selector [BSS] (on/off)
sharpening (Auto, high, normal, low, off) - in-camera sharpening
Area Mode (Auto, manual, off)
you can see, the 3700 has a manual white balance feature, which
lets you get perfect white balance in any lighting by using a
white or gray card as your reference. This is the only true manual
control on the camera.
are a bunch of interesting continuous shooting modes on the camera.
Continuous H will take up to 3 pictures at a rate of up to 2.5
frames/sec. Continuous L will take up to 5 shots at 1.5 frames/sec.
Multi-shot 16 takes sixteen shots in a row (at 1.5 frames/sec)
and assembles them all into one 2048 x 1536 collage. The interval
timer mode (I believe this is new to Nikon cameras) lets you
take photos at a set interval (30 sec, 1, 5, 10, 30, or 60 min)
until you tell it to stop or the 1800 shot limit is reached.
You can choose to lock the exposure after the first shot, as
well. Do note that the AC adapter is basically a requirement
for the interval mode.
exclusive Best Shot Selector (BSS) feature will let you take
up to 10 shots in a row, and then the camera chooses the best
of the bunch -- and that's the one that is saved to the memory
card. This feature is useful in situations where "camera
shake" may be an issue.
manual AF Area mode will let you choose one of five areas in
the frame for the camera to focus on. The auto AF Area mode will
pick one of 5 areas automatically. Or you can just turn the whole
thing off, and always focus on the center of the frame.
is also a setup menu, which is accessed via the mode wheel. The
choices here include:
(Disable, Nikon, animation, custom) - the custom mode
lets you pick a photo on the memory card to use
zone - choose a home and travel time zone
imprint (Off, date, date & time) - print the date/time
on your photos
sound (1-3, off) - choose a fake shutter sound
release level (1-3) - the higher the number, the louder the
noise required to activate the self-timer
off (30 sec, 1, 5, 30 min)
(German, English, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Swedish,
Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Korean)
(PTP, Mass Storage)
mode (NTSC, PAL)
version - displays the firmware version of the camera
up there should be self-explanatory. Since it relates to USB
mode, I suppose this is as good a place as any to mention that
the CP3700 is PictBridge-enabled.
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
shooting has always been one of the trademarks of the Coolpix
series, and the 3700 continues that tradition. You can get as
close as 4 cm to your subject. In order to get that close, you'll
need to adjust the zoom to the middle position, at which time
the macro flower on LCD will turn green.
standard test shot looks great, with an image that's sharp and
smooth at the same time. Colors are accurate, and noise levels
night test shot was decent, but could be better, for two reasons.
One, the camera has an auto ISO feature, which cranks the sensitivity
up to 200 when light levels are low. That adds noise to your
pictures, which you can see above. The second thing is that you
cannot manually set a shutter speed -- you must rely on the camera
to choose the right one for you. The Night Scene mode is your
best bet for taking night shots like this.
distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle,
and no vignetting (dark corners).
redeye test shows noticeable redeye, which is quite common on compact
cameras like this. You can remove it fairly well using the NikonView
software included with the camera. Something else to note is the
high noise levels, which is due to the
auto ISO system I just mentioned.
that's really my only complaint about the CP3700's photo quality.
It's excellent outdoors, with low noise levels, sharp edges,
and accurate color. Indoors, or in low light, watch out for that "ISO" warning
on the LCD -- it means that the camera is bumping up the sensitivity,
which leads to noisy images. I really wish there was a way just
to keep the ISO sensitivity fixed at the lowest setting (50 in
the case of the 3700). Purple fringing (chromatic aberrations)
was really only an issue in one or two of my test shots.
please, please, don't just take my word as gospel -- have a look
at the photo gallery and decide for
yourself if the photo quality is acceptable.
has finally gotten their act together regarding movie mode. You
can record movies at 640 x 480, 30 frames/second, until the memory
card is full. Nikon recommends using a high speed SD card (Panasonic's
are quite fast) in order to take advantage of this, though I
was able to use a regular SanDisk card without any issues. Sound
is recorded along with the video, as well.
addition to that mode, there are other movie modes available:
of seconds on
16MB memory card
|Black & white
the only thing in that chart requiring explanation is the time-lapse
movie mode. It works in the exact same way as the still picture
interval mode I discussed earlier, except all the frames are
shoved together into one 640 x 480 silent movie.
movie mode you can also choose between single and continuous
autofocus. The latter is very useful when your subject is moving,
and it is the default option in movie mode. Be warned though:
you'll hear the lens focusing in your movie, which is really
first noted in the Steves
Digicams review of the 3700, you may have some audio/video
synchronization issues in your movies at the VGA setting. I noticed
this as well, but couldn't reproduce it consistently.
a short sample movie for you:
to play movie (7.4MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Coolpix 3700 has an easy-to-use, yet complete playback mode.
The standard playback functions include slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode, image protection, and zoom & scroll.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you zoom into your image
as much as 10 times, and then scroll around in the enlarged photo.
This feature is very well implemented on the 3700.
picture enhance option lets you do some tricks with your photos.
The "halo filter" will keep the center of your photo
sharp, but blurs everything else. The monochrome and sepia filters
create black & white and yellowish copies of your image,
small pic option lets you downsize your image to 640 x 480, 320
x 240, or 160 x 120.
movie trim feature lets you cut unwanted footage from the beginning
or end of your movie. For all of the items I just discussed,
the original still/movie are saved.
Coolpix lets you mark photos that you want to be automatically
transferred when you connect the camera to your PC. Another nice
feature that's all too uncommon these days is the ability to
delete a group of photos, rather than just one at a time or all
3700 unfortunately doesn't give you any useful information about
your photos. Even beginners would appreciate seeing some basic
information about their pictures!
camera moves through images very quickly in playback mode. A
lower resolution image is shown instantly, with the high resolution
version appearing less than a second later.
Does it Compare?
Coolpix 3700 is a very nice, compact point-and-shoot camera that
addresses one of the two big issues that I've had with previous
entry-level Nikon cameras: low light shooting. With the inclusion
of an AF-assist lamp, the Coolpix can finally compete with cameras
from Canon and Sony that have had this feature for years. My
other complaint, which was not addressed here, is the auto ISO
system, which bumps up the sensitivity -- and hence image noise
-- in low light. If you see the ISO warning on the LCD, do your
best to get rid of it (add more light, recompose the shot), otherwise
your images will be noisy. Thankfully, that ISO warning is rare,
and you'll get great photos most of the time, both indoors and
outdoors. The CP3700 is a capable performer, with fast startup,
shooting, and shot-to-shot speeds. The scene modes are great
for beginners -- just pick a scene and go. The camera's movie
mode is top-notch as well, though it has a few annoyances (A/V
sync, focusing noise). Two other nice things are the excellent
LCD display and unique voice-activated self-timer. Beside the
auto ISO issue, other downsides to the CP3700 include the lack
of manual shutter speed, aperture, or focus controls, and the
omission of any photo information in playback mode. While I applaud
the support for the new CP1 lithium prismatic batteries, I'm
yet to find them for sale.
the Coolpix 3700 is a good camera for those who don't mind the
lack of manual controls, and want something compact that they
can take anywhere. Take a look at it!
compact, all-metal body
photo quality in most situations
movie mode (but note issues below)
use CP1 lithium batteries as well as proprietary rechargeable
-- but good luck finding one
I didn't care for:
can be noisy if ISO boost is used
from white balance, no manual controls
exposure information in playback mode
issues with A/V sync in movie mode; annoying AF sounds in movies
when camera is in C-AF mode
don't like the placement of the power switch (but that's just
other compact 3 Megapixel cameras worth looking at include the
Canon PowerShot SD100 and S400,
Casio Exilim EX-Z3 and Z4U, Fuji
FinePix F700, Kyocera
Finecam S5R, Minolta DiMAGE G400 and Xt,
Olympus Stylus 300 and 400, Panasonic
Lumix DMC-F1, Pentax Optio 555 and S4,
and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 and DSC-P8.
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the Coolpix 3700 and it's competitors before you buy!
out the sample photos in our photo
a second opinion?
out another review of the Coolpix 3700 over at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.