DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix 775
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001
Last Updated: Friday, October 26, 2001

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Of the major camera manufacturers, Nikon probably has the smallest product line. There's the Coolpix 995 at the top, the 885 in the near-top, and the 775 at the bottom. Of course, the 775 isn't really a "bottom of the line" camera -- it's more like a midrange camera, like the Olympus D-510Z (see our review), Fuji FinePix 2600Z, and Sony DSC-P50 (see our review). Along the way, I will compare the Coolpix 775 ($449) to the competition, as much as possible. (Note that I won't have the FinePix 2600 for several weeks, so it will just be the Olympus and Sony for now).

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix 775 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.14 Mpixel (2.01MP effective) Nikon Coolpix 775 camera
  • 8MB CompactFlash card
  • EN-EL1 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring NikonView 4 and drivers
  • 166 page manual (printed) and QuickStart guide

You'll be ready to start taking pictures right out of the box, thanks to an attractive bundle with the CP775. The two downsides in my opinion are the relatively small 8MB CompactFlash card, and the proprietary battery.

I've been knocking nonstandard batteries for some time. Lately, though, battery life with these special batteries has improved. Unfortunately, the price hasn't gone down for buying a spare, which is why I think most people would be better off with good old AA cells. (Of course, you can use 2CR5 non-chargeable batteries, but that won't do the environment, nor your wallet any good.) For comparison's sake, the Olympus D-510Z uses AA's, and the Sony P50 can use either a proprietary battery or AAs.

The EN-EL1 Lithium-ion battery lasts about 100 minutes in normal use, according to Nikon. There's a separate battery charger in the box so you can "fill'er up" when you need to. An AC adapter is optional for powering the camera without batteries. (The Sony DSC-P50 includes one in the box.)

Since the CP775 has a built-in lens cover, you won't need to worry about a lens cap.

The Coolpix 775 is compatible with Mac OS X 10.0.4 or greater. The NikonView 4 software seemed buggy to me when I used it during my Coolpix 995 review.

For a midrange camera, it's nice to see that the Coolpix 775 supports converter lens. You'll first need to pick up the UR-E3 lens adapter, but then you can use the WC-E24 and -E63 wide-angle converters, as well as the TC-E2 2X telephoto converter.

The manual (known as the Nikon Guide to Digital Photography with the Coolpix 775) included with the camera is a bit cluttered at times, but is better than average.

Look and Feel

I must say, I was shocked to see just how small the Coolpix 775 was. It's small. Not Canon Digital ELPH small, but certainly smaller than the competition from Sony and Olympus.


The Coolpix 775 with the classic CP950 at left

I know this picture doesn't really help show you how small it is, but it's a good comparison. If you throw a deck of cards into the photo, the CP775 is the same size, just a little thicker.

The CP775 is also very light. The body is made of plastic that is, dare I say, "cheap-feeling". I'm not saying the competition is a whole lot better, but everyone I gave it to commented on the "cheap" plastic body. The plastic also scratches very easily (oops).

The camera is easy to hold, with most controls easy to reach. One-handed operation is no problem.

The dimensions of the camera are 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs 185 grams (6.5 oz.) empty. Let's start our tour of the Coolpix 775, shall we?

Here's the front of the CP775. The F2.8 Nikkor zoom lens features a 3X optical, 2.5X digital zoom. The focal range is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, equivalent to 38 - 115 mm. The lens is not threaded, and I'm not sure how you get the conversion lenses on this thing.

The built-in flash has a working range of 0.4 - 1.7 m at full telephoto, and 0.4 - 3.0 m at full wide-angle. There is no support for an external flash on this camera, which is not too surprising I hope.

If there's something missing here, it's an AF illuminator, for help focusing in low-light situations. And, being the geek that I am, I'd like to see a microphone for recording sound to go with those movies.

Now onto the back of the camera. The 1.5" LCD is a little smaller that most, but given the size of the camera, it's reasonable. The quality of the LCD is very good.

Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder. It covers about 82% of the frame. There is no diopter correction for those of us with less than perfect vision.

Below the LCD are three multifunction buttons, which do the following (left to right):

  • Landscape, Macro, Self-timer [record] / Delete photo [playback]
  • Flash [rec] / Thumbnails [play]
  • Menu

Since there was some complaining about the self-timer on the Coolpix 995, here is the sequence of options when you press the button:

  • Self-timer
  • Landscape
  • Macro
  • Macro + Self-timer

Unlike the CP995, there is a choice for just self-timer, which is nice.

To the right of the LCD there are two buttons: Transfer and Quick Review.

The Transfer button is used in playback mode, and lets you a) mark photos you want transferring automatically and b) to start the transfer of images when the camera is connected to your PC.

Pressing the Quick Review button once will put a thumbnail of the photo you just took in the top left corner of the LCD. Pressing it again will make it a full-screen image, where you can do all normal playback operations on it.

The four-way switch on the back of the camera is used for menu navigation, as well as operating the zoom lens.

And here is the top of the camera, home of the mode wheel, power switch, and shutter release button.

The mode wheel is chock full of options, some of which aren't easy to figure out just by looking at it. Since it's my job to figure this stuff out, here are the selections (starting from Auto, working counterclockwise):

  • Auto
  • Playback
  • Movie Mode
  • Sunset - captures the beautiful reds in sunsets or sunrises exactly as you see them
  • Beach/snow - vividly captures the brightness of snow and beaches, or sunlit expanses of water
  • Landscape
  • Night portrait - for flash pictures of a subject in front of a dark (night) background
  • Portrait
  • Backlight - when subject is in front of a bright background
  • Party/indoor - for indoor shots that include details of background behind main subject (Nikon's words, not mine)

Since there's no LCD info display up here, you'll need to turn on the battery draining LCD to see how many photos are left, and your current settings. I'm not sure if they could fit one up there, but I thought I'd mention it.

Here's one side of the CP775, with the a single port for both USB and Video Out.

And here's the side, featuring the CompactFlash slot and the power port (under a rubber cover). The CF slot is Type I, so no Microdrive compatibility. The included 8MB is also shown.

Finally, the bottom of the camera. Down here is the battery compartment, as well as a plastic tripod mount. The EN-EL1 is shown at right.

Using the Nikon Coolpix 775

Record Mode

The Coolpix 775 takes just over 4 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. Depressing the shutter release button halfway will lock the focus in about a second. When you depress the button fully, the photo is taken after a brief, but noticeable lag. The zoom lens is responsive and smooth.

Shot-to-shot speed is decent; you'll wait about 3 seconds (Fine quality) before you can take another shot. One feature that the other Coolpix cameras have that was lost here is the ability to "pause" and delete a photo right after it's taken.

While not having nearly as many choices as the CP995 for resolution and quality, the CP775 still has its share. Here they are (for an 8MB card):

  Image Quality
Image Size # Fine photos # Normal photos # Basic photos
Full
1600 x 1200
8 16 32
XGA
1024 x 768
19 37 88
VGA
640 x 480
48 88 161

Note that there is no TIFF mode on the 775. The Sony P50 and Olympus 510Z both have it.

While the Coolpix 775 doesn't have all the bells and whistles of its more expensive siblings, it's certainly not stripped. Here are the menu choices available:

  • Image Size / Quality - see chart above

  • White balance (Auto, Preset, Fine, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Speedlight) - You can shoot a white piece of paper to choose what you want to be white, using preset (manual) mode.
  • Continuous (Single, Continuous, Multi-shot 16)
    • Continuous mode shoots at 1.5 frames/sec until memory buffer becomes full
    • Multi-shot 16 takes 16 shots in a row and puts them into one Full sized image (like a collage)

  • Best Shot Selector (on/off) - take up to 10 pictures, and camera picks the sharpest one and saves it. Best for macro and low-light shots.

  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, in 1/3EV increments)

  • Image Sharpening (Auto, normal, high, low, off)

As you can see, there's no manual control of the aperture, shutter speed, or focus. Then again, the competition doesn't really let you do this either. The Sony DSC-P50 has a limited manual focus mode -- I believe the Olympus doesn't have any manual controls.

The camera doesn't remember settings after its shut off, which I found irritating at times.

Let's do our usual tests now:

While the colors were accurate, I can't help but notice the noise in the photo. Blow up the image, and check out the red part of the figure to see what I mean.

You can get as close as 4 cm (1.6") in macro mode on the CP775.

The night shot test wasn't great either. This is a real world shot I took at Disney's California Adventure, using a flat wall as my tripod. Most cameras without exposure controls have trouble with these kinds of shots, so I wasn't surprised with what I got.

If you want another sample, here's one I took of the Bay Bridge one night (noise city!). It was shot on a tripod. To see what the PowerShot G2 took minutes before, click here.

To sum up, as far photo quality goes, I must admit that the 775 disappointed me a bit. The Coolpix 995 is pretty much set the benchmark for photo quality, and the 775's photo quality is just average amongst the competition.

The things that stood out to me were jagged edges, and chromatic aberrations. Neither of them were terrible, but they were noticeable in many pictures. The jaggies are easy enough to see - just look at most of the photos in the gallery. Here's a sample of a photo I took in a grove of trees, which show off the chromatic aberrations (purple fringing).

This photo and many more are available in our extensive gallery, so check it out and judge for yourself.

Movie Mode

The Coolpix 775's movie mode isn't as nice as on the 990 and 995. You can record only 15 seconds of video (320 x 240), with no sound. You can't change any options -- no macro, no white balance, etc.

You can, however, use the zoom lens during filming.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format.


Click to play movie (QuickTime format, 3.8MB)

Playback Mode

The Coolpix 775 has a pretty basic playback mode. The available features are Delete, Slide Show, Protect, DPOF Print Marking, 4/9 thumbnail mode, and Auto Transfer. The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom in 2X only, and jumps, rather than scrolls, through the zoomed-in area.

One of my favorite features from the other Coolpix cameras was spared -- the ability to delete a group of photos at once.

Looking for more info on your photos? Well you won't find it here -- what you see above is what you get.

Moving between photos takes about 3 seconds. After a second or so, a low res image "blinks" onto the screen. 2 seconds later, the LCD goes dark for a moment, and then the high resolution image appears.

How Does it Compare?

I've been a fan of Nikon's Coolpix line of cameras for a long time. I even bought a Coolpix 950 back in the early days of this site. My advice here is to skip over the Coolpix 775, however. It's not that it's a bad camera -- not at all -- it's just average. Most of the photos were decent, but I couldn't help but notice that many photos had case of the "jaggies". The feature set is pretty basic -- there are no bells and whistles here. If you're looking for a basic point-and-shoot camera, do consider the Coolpix 775. But my honest advice would be to consider the competition instead.

What I liked:

  • Very good bundle
  • Support for conversion lenses
  • Very small and light
  • One touch image transfer

What I didn't care for:

  • Proprietary battery
  • Lackluster photo quality
  • Feels "cheap"
  • Not competitive with Sony and Olympus models in this price range

Other 2 Megapixel cameras that I suggest considering include the Canon PowerShot A20, Fuji FinePix 2400Z and 2600Z, Olympus C-2040Z and D-510Z, Sony DSC-P50, and the Toshiba PDR-M61.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Coolpix 775 and its competitors before you buy, assuming you can find them!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Check out Coolpix 775 reviews from Steve's Digicams, Imaging Resource, and Digital Photography Review.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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