DCRP

Nikon Coolpix P7700 Review

Performance & Photo Quality

Shooting performance on the Coolpix P7700 is average in most respects. The area in which it was most disappointing was in low light, where it's noticeably slower than the competition (I really noticed this while taking our night shots). RAW write times were also poor. Here's a summary:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 1.0 sec Above average
Autofocus
(Normal light)
0.2 - 0.4 secs (W)
0.4 - 0.9 secs (T)
Average
Autofocus
(Low light)
1.0 - 2.0 secs Below average
Shutter lag Slightly noticeable at slower shutter speeds Below average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
1.5 secs Average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW, no flash)
4.0 secs Below average
Shot-to-shot
(With flash)
2.0 secs Average

Yikes, what's up with those slow RAW write times? Doesn't bode well for continuous shooting, that's for sure.

Speaking of which, there are a whopping seven continuous shooting modes on the Coolpix P7700. There are three at full resolution (at 1, 4, and 8 frames/second), two at 1280 x 960 (at 60 or 120 fps), plus two unique features. One of those unique features is Best Shot Selector, which has been around for almost as long as this website. In that mode, the camera takes up to 10 photos in a row and saves the sharpest one. The other feature is called Multi-shot 16, which takes 16 photos at 30 frames/second and puts them into a 5 Megapixel collage.

How does the P7700 perform in the full resolution burst modes? Let's find out:

Image quality Continuous L Continuous M Continuous H
RAW + 12M/Fine JPEG 30 shots @ 0.3 fps 6 shots @ 4.0 fps 6 shots @ 10.0 fps
RAW 30 shots @ 0.3 fps 6 shots @ 4.0 fps 6 shots @ 9.0 fps
12M/Fine JPEG 30 shots @ 1.0 fps 6 shots @ 4.0 fps 6 shots @ 9.0 fps
Tested using a Panasonic Class 10 UHS-I SDHC card

I was not impressed with the full resolution burst modes on the Coolpix P7700. The camera can shoot quickly, but the buffer fills quickly and then takes up to 15 seconds to clear, with the camera unusable during that time. The LCD is also blacked out while shooting at the medium and high speed settings. The low speed option lets you take a much larger amount of photos, but the burst rate is poor. Something else that concerned me is that my camera crashed while a couple of times while saving photos to the memory card at the high speed settings.

Let's move on to our photo tests now!

While the Coolpix P7700 did a good job with our macro test subject overall, it did struggle a bit with color accuracy. Most of the colors look good, though the "face" is a bit too pink, and the red cloak is way more "fluorescent" than in reality. Aside from that, the figurine is super sharp, with lots of detail captured. I don't see any noise or detail smudging here, and I certainly wouldn't expect to.

There are two macro modes on the P7700. In normal macro mode, your minimum focus distance ranges from 2 cm at wide-angle to 4 cm from roughly 1X - 3X (the macro flower will turn green on the LCD). At full telephoto, the minimum distance rises to 45 cm. If you want to restrict focusing to just close-up subjects, there's a second macro mode for that.

The P7700 turned did an impressive job with our night scene. The exposure looks good, with less highlight clipping than you usually see from a compact camera. The buildings are very sharp, and there aren't any funny color casts. Noise wasn't an issue, and purple fringing levels were very low.

Let's use this same night scene to see how the Coolpix P7700 performed across its entire sensitivity range:


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400 (H)

As you'd expect, there's nearly no difference between the ISO 80 and 100 shots. Noise increases a bit at ISO 200, and more so at ISO 400. Detail loss doesn't become noticeable until ISO 800, which makes this setting my recommended stopping point for JPEG shooters (more on RAW in a moment). While the ISO 1600 photo may be usable for small prints or web viewing, there is quite a bit of mottling and detail loss. Things continue to go downhill at ISO 3200, and the "high" setting of ISO 6400 should be avoided.

I always like throwing in a good RAW vs. JPEG comparison, and here it is for the night shots, at the ISO 800 and 1600 settings:

ISO 800

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 1600

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.1 RC)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

The first thing that I noticed when doing these conversions was the improvement in color. Look closer and you'll also see that highlight clipping has been reduced slightly. And, of course, there's also a lot more detail in the RAW conversions, making the retouched ISO 1600 photo a lot more usable than the original JPEG.

We'll do this test again under our studio lamps in a moment.

I must admit that I was a bit worried about redeye problems when I saw how close together the flash and lens are. Thankfully, the P7700 has no such problem, due to the digital removal system that runs after the photo is taken.

Distortion Correction off (default) Distortion Correction on

There's a moderate amount of barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the Coolpix's 28 - 200 mm lens. Nikon has provided a distortion correction feature that does a good job of "flattening" everything out. My only question is why this feature is on by default! Two lens issues that I did not see on the chart or in the real world were corner blurring or vignetting.

Now it's time to see how the Coolpix P7700 performed in our studio ISO test. Since these photos are taken under consistent lighting, you can compare the results with those from other cameras I've reviewed over the years. As I noted in the macro test, the camera seemed to struggle a bit with the white balance in our studio, producing rather flat-looking colors. Since we're looking at noise in this test, I'm going to overlook that. Here's how the P7700 performed from ISO 80 to 6400 in normal lighting:


ISO 80

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400 (H)

Everything is clean through ISO 200, with just a touch of noise appearing at ISO 400 (as well as a drop in color saturation). Things are still looking pretty good at ISO 800, and even ISO 1600 is usable for smaller prints or downsizing for the web. Things really start to go downhill at ISO 3200, where quite a bit of detail is lost. Once again, I'd avoid using the ISO 6400 setting.

Let's do another RAW vs. JPEG comparison, this time with the two highest sensitivities: ISO 3200 and 6400.

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 6400 (H)

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

As with the night shots, color gets a nice boost when you shoot RAW and convert the files with Photoshop. You get a lot of detail back at ISO 3200, making larger prints a possibility at that sensitivity. While there's also an improvement at ISO 6400, I'm not convinced that you can do much with photos taken at that sensitivity.

Since many people are comparing the Coolpix P7700 against the Canon PowerShot G15 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7, I put together a comparison of how those three cameras compare at ISO 1600 and 3200 back when I reviewed the G15. Here it is again:


Canon PowerShot G15

Nikon Coolpix P7700

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7

Canon PowerShot G15

Nikon Coolpix P7700

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7

It's pretty obvious that the PowerShot G15 was the winner here, at least when using the JPEG format. The other two cameras may be able to match or exceed the image quality of G15 by using RAW, but using that format opens up a whole other can of worms due to all the variables in image processing. The Coolpix P7700 isn't bad by any means, but the Canon does a bit better.

Overall, I think that the Coolpix P7700 produces the best image quality of any compact Nikon camera on the market today. The camera's biggest flaw is related to exposure: it frequently overexposes by anywhere from 1/3 to 1 stop. Good thing the P7700 has that handy exposure compensation dial. As with most compacts, the P7700 will clip highlights at times, though you can use the Active D-Lighting feature to reduce that. While colors were relatively dull in our studio, they were more vivid in real life. Naturally, you can use the Picture Control feature to crank up the color saturation if you want photos with more "punch". Subjects were nice and sharp, from one edge of the frame to the other. As you saw in the preceding tests, the P7700 keeps noise levels low through ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light -- both better than average. Purple fringing was moderate at times, though it was not frequent enough for me to knock points off of the P7700's score.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at the photo gallery for the Coolpix P7700, and then decide if its photo quality meets your expectations!