Nikon Coolpix P7700 Review
The Nikon Coolpix P7700 is a premium compact camera that holds up well against the best cameras in its class. It's a mid-sized camera with a solid, magnesium alloy body that feels good in your hands. While it has a lot of buttons and dials, I didn't find them to be overwhelming. Something I definitely did not like is the Quick Mode dial, which is much more cumbersome than the shortcut menus used by everyone else. Two other design annoyances include an exposure compensation dial that's too easy to accidentally turn, and the lack of a dedicated movie recording button. One of the biggest improvements since the Coolpix P7100 is in the lens department. The P7700 sports a fast F2.0-4.0, 7.1X optical zoom lens with a focal range equivalent to 28 - 200 mm. As you'd expect, the P7700 sports an image stabilization system, which Nikon calls Vibration Reduction. On the back of the camera is another new feature: a 3-inch LCD that flips out to the side and rotates 270 degrees. The screen is sharp (thanks to its 921k pixels) and both outdoor and low light visibility are good. Something that got axed on this latest Coolpix is the optical viewfinder, which is a shame. The P7700's flash is fairly powerful and can serve as a wireless controller, which is rare for this class. The camera supports both wired and wireless remote controls, an external flash, stereo microphone, and GPS receiver.
The Coolpix P7700 has a broad set of features which should satisfy both the beginner and enthusiast. If you want a point-and-shoot experience, then you'll be able to choose from a standard auto mode or the handy auto scene selector. And since every camera in 2012 must have special effects, Nikon has equipped the P7700 with ten of them. There are also HDR and sweep panorama features, though the former could be better. The enthusiast crowd will really dig the Coolpix P7700. You'll find the usual manual controls: shutter speed, aperture, white balance (with fine-tuning and bracketing), and focus. An Active D-Lighting feature will reduce highlight clipping, and an electronic level (single-axis) will prevent your horizons from being crooked. You'll also get two customizable shortcut buttons, a menu you can create yourself, and three spots on the mode dial for your favorite settings. And yes, the Coolpix P7700 can shoot RAW files, too. The P7700 has a capable movie mode, with 1080/30p resolution, stereo sound recording, and manual controls. Unfortunately, you need to switch the mode dial to one of two spots in order to use it, which makes spontaneous video recording difficult. Something else that slows things down is a 1 second lag between the time you press the shutter release button and when the movie starts recording.
Camera performance is a mixed bag. The Coolpix P7700 starts up quickly enough, taking just one second to extend its lens and prepare for shooting. Autofocus speeds are about average in most situations, except in low light, where it's on the slow side. I noticed a tiny bit of shutter lag at slower shutter speeds, though you should be using the flash or a tripod in those circumstances anyway. Shot-to-shot speeds ranged from 1.5 seconds for JPEGs to a sluggish 4 seconds for RAW images. The P7700 has a ton of continuous shooting modes, though only three shoot at full resolution. The camera was able to shoot at well over the advertised 8 frames/second number, though only for six photos. However, since the LCD is blacked out during shooting, tracking a moving subject is nearly impossible. There are also lengthy 15 second write times when shooting RAW in the faster continuous modes. While its battery life has dropped a bit since its predecessor, the Coolpix P7700 still produces numbers that are above average in the premium compact class.
The Coolpix P7700's photos definitely left a positive impression. The only real flaw is that the P7700 overexposes (by 1/3 to 1 stop) pretty consistently. Thankfully that's easy to work around, using either exposure compensation or bracketing. Highlight clipping can also be an issue at times, though it's no worse than other cameras in this class, and it can be reduced by the aforementioned Active D-Lighting feature. While colors were a bit dull under our studio lamps, they were a lot more pleasing in the real world. Sharpness is very good, with minimal corner blurring. Noise is kept under wraps until you hit ISO 800 in low light and ISO 1600 in good light, which is better than on your typical compact camera. You will be able to shoot at sensitivities one stop higher by using the RAW format and performing some easy post-processing in Photoshop. Purple fringing popped up at times, though it was never horrible. Much to my surprise, redeye was not an issue, so hat's off to Nikon for that.
Overall, the Coolpix P7700 is arguably Nikon's best flagship compact in a long time. It takes great photos and has a host of features that enthusiasts will appreciate. That said, it's not my favorite camera in this class, due to its sluggish RAW write times, clunky Quick Mode dial, and movie mode annoyances (namely lag and the lack of a dedicated recording button). Despite these issues (and a few more), the Coolpix P7700 is still well worth your consideration.
- Very good photo quality, with better-than-average noise performance
- Impressive F2.0-4.0, 28 - 200 mm lens
- Sharp 3-inch rotating LCD has good outdoor/low light visibility
- Tons of manual controls, including RAW support
- Continuous shooting at over 9 frames/second (though not for long)
- Customizable buttons, menu, and spots on mode dial
- Active D-Lighting reduces highlight clipping
- Handy HDR and sweep panorama features
- Built-in ND filter
- Electronic level (though only single-axis)
- Full HD video recording w/stereo sound, continuous AF, and manual controls
- Redeye not a problem
- Nice playback mode, complete with RAW editing
- Wireless flash control (a rarity on compact cameras)
- Above average battery life
- Stereo mic input + support for GPS and wired/wireless remotes
What I didn't care for:
- Frequently overexposes
- Low light focusing can be sluggish
- Lengthy write times when using RAW
- LCD is blacked out when shooting continuously (at medium/high speeds)
- Quick Mode dial not so quick; a traditional shortcut menu would be a lot better
- No more optical viewfinder
- One second lag before movie recording begins; no dedicated movie recording button
- Can't access memory card or battery when using a tripod
- Full manual on CD-ROM
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Coolpix P7700 and its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the Coolpix P7700's photos turned out? Then check out our gallery!