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Nikon Coolpix P7700 Review

by Dan Havlik, Shawn Barnett, and Zig Weidelich
Hands-on Preview Posted: August 22, 2012
Review Posted: December 20, 2012

Nikon revamps its flagship enthusiast digital camera with the Coolpix P7700. The new design loses some of its predecessor's distinctiveness, lopping off the top, but it also looks less like its main competitor as a result. The Nikon P7700's sensor also steps up from a 10-megapixel CCD to a 12-megapixel CMOS sensor, and upgrades to a new left-hinged vari-angle screen. Though the lens is still 7.1x (ranging from 28-200mm), it's brighter, starting at f/2, moving to f/4 at full telephoto. Nikon says the larger, brighter lens left less room for the optical viewfinder, so deleting it was the natural choice, rather than increasing the vertical size. The resulting camera is a little easier to slip into a camera bag alongside your SLR. Some will miss the optical viewfinder, but when you have a 7x zoom, they're far from practical anyway, with noticeable parallax and poor accuracy. I will not miss it; others will. Nikon says there's no plan to offer an electronic viewfinder, nor a hot-shoe-mounted optical viewfinder either.

Not only is the optical viewfinder gone, the Nikon P7700 also has no rectangular mask around the optic, which also means the built-in lens shutters are no more, replaced by a lens cap. The lens does have 40.5mm filter threads, so an optional HN-CP17 lens hood can be attached, and a 58mm filter can be attached to it. Lens adapters are supported requiring the removal of the lens ring which simply screws off, though Nikon currently doesn't list any accessory lenses for the P7700.

Microphone holes are now roughly centered in front of the hot shoe. The Sub-command dial has moved to a new position on top of the ample, rubbery grip, just forward from the shutter button. Although I liked the old position, this is just fine too. The dial is angled forward just right for comfortable activation. Other elements, like the Function button, AF-assist lamp, and infrared remote port, are in the same positions as on the P7100.

On the right of the image above, you can see rubber doors for the stereo Mic jack and the GPS/Wired remote ports. The speaker grille is on the left side of the camera (not pictured here).

Despite being chopped flat, the top deck looks most familiar. The pop-up flash is tucked more discretely inside the confines of the top panel, maintaining a cleaner rangefinder look from the front. The Mode dial adds one new mode: Movie Custom Scene Mode. The dial is a little loose for my taste, but it's inset well enough that it's unlikely to turn accidentally in a bag. As for the rest, it's the essentially the same.

Note the tiny LED set between the Power button and the Exposure compensation dial: It only shines when the dial is set to a position other than 0. That means even if the EV dial is adjusted accidentally while the camera is in a bag or pocket, powering the camera on will illuminate the LED, warning you that exposure adjustment is active. Nice. The Quick menu dial's LED also lights up when you press the dial's center button, but that's not quite as important, as you have to look at the rear LCD screen to make menu changes.

Now's a good time to point out that there are no less than six dials on the Nikon P7700, three for quick access to important settings and three for adjustments to key photographic controls. Most of them have good, firm detents, but are still easy enough to turn when you want to. The rear Command dial is moved over a bit from its predecessor, leaving more room for your thumb, a welcome change. The rubber thumbpad shrunk a bit, but the rather pronounced ramp makes for a secure grip. The pop-up flash now releases with a sliding switch rather than a button.

Finally, the articulating LCD is considerably more useful, not just tilting up and down, but swinging out to face forward or downward.

Interestingly, if you face the screen inward toward the body, the camera's power button is disabled. Because you can't frame images without the LCD thanks to the lack of an optical viewfinder, this is an intelligent use of this screen position; not only does it protect the screen, it prevents the camera from powering on while in a bag.

The right side of the camera has a stiff, hinged door that protects the mini (Type C) HDMI port, and the USB/AV-OUT ports. Card and battery are accessed via the door on the bottom of the camera.

Although it seems Nikon has stepped back from a design that closely resembled Canon's G12, the front grip with the Sub-command dial is quite reminiscent of the dial/grip arrangement on the Canon G3 and G5. That's just trivia for camera fans, though. There's no question the Nikon P7700 is an enthusiast camera-lover's camera. Nikon fans can rejoice in a faster lens, a more versatile articulating screen, a simplified design, and a noticeably faster interface. The Nikon P7700's Quick menu seemed more responsive than the P7000 and P7100, and even the main Menu seemed cleaner. Though some will balk at the lack of an optical viewfinder, I'd rather have a faster lens, further differentiating the P7700 from the modern G-series.

 

Shooting with the Nikon Coolpix P7700

by Dan Havlik

The most striking thing about the Nikon Coolpix P7700 is how different it looks from its two recent predecessors. Both the Nikon P7000 (released in 2010) and the Nikon P7100 (released in 2011), so closely resembled Canon's flagship G-series PowerShot models, it was uncanny. The fact that Canon's top-of-the-line compacts have been some of the most popular out there with photographers for over a decade appears not to have been lost on Nikon, making this a case of "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

But that was then and this is now. With the 12-megapixel Nikon P7700, the company has created a new camera with a new sensor and a new, more rectangular look -- minus the optical viewfinder -- that is distinctly its own. The P7700 also adds 1080p Full HD video for the first time in Nikon's flagship Coolpix line and a fast 7.1x zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.

The Nikon P7000 and P7100 closely
resembled Canon's G-series Powershots...
...but the Nikon P7700 has a
classic, distinctive look all its own.

Another change is the 3.0-inch, vari-angle LCD screen, which now is a left side-swiveling display, letting photographers compose their images from a wider variety of angles, including for self portraits. (The display on the previous model only tilted back and away from the camera body.)

So yes, the Nikon P7700 is a much different camera than Nikon's previous two supreme compacts, and in many ways it's a much better camera than those two models. But how much better is the P7700 and is it worth your hard-earned cash? I set out to find out.

In the hand. First off, I'd like to say I really like the design of the Nikon P7700 and I don't miss the optical viewfinder as much as I thought I would. I haven't done a poll so I'm not sure if I'm in the minority on this but I have a feeling other photographers probably won't miss it as much as they thought they would too.

The optical viewfinder, along with the top section of the P7700, have been lopped off to make room for the camera's bigger, brighter lens. Instead of making the Nikon P7700 top heavy by stacking the optical viewfinder above the larger built-in lens, Nikon decided to get rid of the viewfinder altogether.

While I depend on an optical viewfinder with a DSLR, I've grown less fond of them on compact cameras because of their tiny pinhole sizes and poor accuracy. When zoomed in using the P7700's 7.1x (28-200mm equivalent) lens, a small viewfinder would be even less accurate.

The only situation where I usually miss having an optical viewfinder is when shooting outdoors in bright light. However, the P7700's high contrast, high-resolution, vari-angle screen did a good job of not washing out even in midday light, so the lack of a viewfinder didn't slow me down.

Overall, the Nikon P7700's tough but lightweight camera body -- 14 ounces (397 grams) with batteries -- felt professional while still being highly portable. The Nikon P7700's new rectangular design with rounded corners also means it's easier to stash in a bag when travelling and is less likely to get tangled up with the rest of your gear.

I also liked the Nikon P7700's sturdy, black-matte magnesium alloy body and the comfortable, rubberized handgrip. Another side effect of the P7700 having a bigger, faster, zoom lens is there are no longer built-in, protective shutters that automatically cover the lens when it's powered down. Instead, you have a small lens cap, which is an unappealing if inevitable option. (Keep track of it. It's easily misplaced.) Even with the lens cap, I found that the front glass element on the P7700 got smudged easily -- you'll want to carry a lens cloth at all times.

Controls. One thing Nikon has done right with its last three P-series flagship Coolpix cameras is to give them ample external controls. The Nikon P7700's top deck alone is loaded with options including an exposure compensation dial, a programmable Function 2 button (the main Function button is on the front of the camera below the handgrip), a generous but loose-turning mode dial, which includes the traditional PASM set-up with full manual control, three programmable User settings, a movie setting, a new Custom movie setting, and Scene and Effect settings, the latter offering canned, pre-set shooting options.

On the left shoulder of the P7700, the Quick Menu Dial has returned, letting you quickly adjust some of the most used settings, such as ISO, bracketing and white balance. It's a nice feature that accesses and engages settings quicker than on the previous models, but I felt the dial turned a bit too erratically and felt a little imprecise.

The top of the camera also includes a responsive but slightly mushy shutter button surrounded by the zoom ring. There's a hotshoe and a fully recessed -- when not in use -- pop-up flash, giving the Nikon P7700 a clean and classic look not unlike a rangefinder. Underneath the shutter button on top of the handgrip is the Sub-command dial.

One button that's conspicuously missing from the Nikon P7700 is a one touch-movie button. Instead, you must turn to one of the two movie settings on the mode dial, press the shutter and then wait for a second while the screen blacks out before it starts recording a movie. The set-up is slow and seems a bit dated.

On the back is the big LCD screen which, when turned with the display facing the camera body, prevents the camera from powering on. While I understand why this is done -- it stops the camera from accidentally powering up when stowed in a bag and protects the screen from abrasions -- it could have been explained better in the Nikon P7700's manual. I'm sure there are quite a few P7700 buyers who at first got frustrated when their new camera wouldn't turn on.

Other rear controls are pretty basic, but well positioned, including the small switch to activate the pop-up flash -- it has what looks like a Pac-Man symbol on it -- and the Main Command Dial on back, which you'll find yourself frequently twiddling with your thumb.

Side-swivelling LCD screen. While the rear, fold-out vari-angle screen on the previous camera wasn't bad, the Nikon P7700's 3-inch left-hinged, side-swivelling LCD is a great addition. While resolution is the same, the camera's 921K-dot LCD seemed sharper and easier to read, particularly outdoors, than its predecessor's.

While side-swiveling LCD screens are nothing new, the feature is particularly suited for a portable camera like the P7700, letting you squeeze into tight, crowded places and still compose overhead and down-low shots. I used the Nikon P7700 extensively at the annual New York Comic Con convention at the Jacob Javits Center and the event was crowded, to say the least.

With the Nikon P7700, I was able to easily shoot overhead portraits of the colorful costume-clad characters at Comic Con just by turning the screen out and slightly towards me. The crisp display's high resolution also made it easy to see and adjust settings in the menu, which feature high-contrast, easy-to-read text in a reverse color display (white text on a black/gray background).

In playback, images and HD videos looked crisp on the new LCD, giving me a good idea of sharpness, especially when I zoomed in, which is achieved by toggling the zoom control. All in all, the Nikon P7700's revamped screen is a welcome addition.

Performance. One of my biggest gripes about the previous two flagship Coolpix models was how slow they were to operate. To be fair, the P7100 was a dramatic improvement over the P7000, which was marred by sluggish overall performance. Things have further improved on the P7700 but I still wouldn't call this a fast camera to use, particularly if you like shooting RAW images.

The good news is that, for JPEG shooting, the Nikon P7700's shot-to-shot times are improved over its predecessor. When shooting Large/Fine JPEGs, the camera took about 1.5 seconds between snaps before it was ready to shoot again, versus about 2 seconds for the P7100. While this is not by any means a scintillating speed for a digital camera, it's more than adequate for capturing quick, candid photos.

At the same time, I felt the Nikon P7700 was sometimes slow to lock in its focus in challenging light. For instance, while using the camera at Comic Con, the dodgy convention center lighting proved problematic for the P7700, occasionally taking an extra split second to find focus. This, unfortunately, caused me to miss some colorful candid shots of attendees in full costume. This is ironic given the faster lens, but our lab results bear this out, with the P7700's autofocus speeds testing slower than the P7100's. On the upside, when shooting at the maximum f/2 aperture at the wide, 28mm-equivalent setting, I was able to capture sharp images in low lighting.

The Nikon P7700 captured very good images of the colorful characters at Comic Con,
often in poor lighting conditions, but it sometimes had trouble locking in focus.

Where the Nikon P7700 and its two recent predecessors have struggled, speed-wise, is when shooting RAW images. Shot-to-shot times in the P7700's RAW mode, which uses a proprietary NRW format that is somewhat reduced in size compared to the NEF format in Nikon's DSLRs, were slow, at about 3.3 seconds between shots. That's about one second slower than the P7100.

Part of the Nikon P7700's slow speed is likely due to the fact that the camera still uses Nikon's EXPEED C2 image processor, which first appeared in 2010. While the P7700 can shoot at eight frames per second in its Continuous mode (the lab measured close to nine, which is very good), it can only capture six frames before its buffer clogs up and then must pause for 4 to 14 seconds depending on the file type before it can shoot again; even longer with a slower card. (We tested with a very fast 95MB/s UHS-I SDHC card.)

Image quality. Nikon has traded in the old 10MP CCD imaging sensor from the previous two Coolpix flagship models for a new 12MP CMOS sensor in the Nikon P7700. Despite the slight uptick in resolution in the 1/1.7-inch sensor, the P7700 didn't suffer from extra imaging noise when shooting at high ISOs. In fact, it performed quite similarly to the previous camera, producing usable images at up to ISO 1600.

The Nikon P7700's Painting mode
produced an interesting glowing effect
on the Knicks' court.
In the dim lighting of Madison Square Garden, the P7700 was just fast enough to freeze the action when shooting in Sports mode.

Most of my Comic Con shots were captured at ISO 800 and 1600 and they tended to be on the oversaturated side, captured with the P7700's default Standard setting. If this bothers you -- and it didn't for my Comic character shots but it did for my portraits of regular folks -- you can change to the Neutral picture setting via the Quick Menu Dial.

As with the previous model, the ISO 3200 and 6400 (Hi 1) settings 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 12,800 but at a drastically reduced resolution is not available on the P7700. Good thing, too, since we found it produced mixed results.

As with most 1/1.7 inch sensors, ISO 6400
shows some noise, as is evident here, but
produced good results up to ISO 3200.
For portraits of people, the P7700's sharp,
f/2 lens captured nice images with
slightly blurred backgrounds.

Along with helping me shoot sharper images in lower light, the Nikon P7700's faster lens helped produce more professional looking portrait images, with moderately background blurring, which is commonly known as "bokeh." But a word to the wise if you've shot with an f/2 lens on a DSLR: the "bokeh" produced by the P7700's f/2 lens was noticeable but not particularly dramatic.

Some of the camera's effects modes, including
Creative monochrome, produced interesting results
in less-than-ideal shooting conditions.

Landscape mode in the Nikon P7700 gave
me a clean shot with good overall focus
of the Hudson River.
While the P7700 isn't a super zoomer, its
7.1x lens performed well in finding these
park buildings on the other side of the river.

Video skills. I'm glad Nikon has added a full 1080p HD video mode (at 30p) and my movie results were quite good. My one complaint -- mentioned earlier -- is that it takes too long to switch the camera from regular shooting mode to video mode. A one-button option for entering movie mode, rather than a dial plus shutter button plus wait a second or two, would have been appreciated.

Optical zoom is supported during recording, but oddly not when Custom Movie Setting mode is set to Aperture-priority or Manual exposure mode.

While the Nikon P7700's built-in stereo microphone produced decent sound, if you want more professional audio results, do yourself a favor and attach a stereo microphone to the P7700's 3.5mm jack for better audio.

Overall, while the P7700's HD video shooting skills aren't on par to a good HD-shooting DSLR with a decent lens, it produced solid results for most video projects. Plus, its relatively small size and side-swivelling screen lets you shoot video in tight spaces.

See below for more details on the Nikon P7700's video capabilities.

 

Nikon P7700 Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

 

The Nikon Coolpix P7700's heart is a 1/1.7-inch type, backside illuminated CMOS image sensor. That's the same size used by most enthusiast-friendly compacts, and much larger than those in consumer-oriented compacts.

Effective resolution is 12.2 megapixels, from a sensor resolution of 12.76 megapixels.

Data is processed by Nikon's EXPEED C2 image processor, which was first seen in cameras from late 2010. This allows for eight frames-per-second burst shooting, albeit with a depth of just six shots.

By dropping the resolution to one megapixel, a whopping rate of either 60 or 120 fps is possible.

The Nikon P7700 offers an ISO sensitivity range of 80 to 1,600 equivalents at all times.

When set to Program, Priority, or Manual exposure modes, you can also access two additional positions: ISO 3,200 or Hi 1 (ISO 6,400).

Although it's still a 7.1x zoom, and retains a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 28 to 200mm, the P7700's lens is brand new.

It's much brighter than that in the earlier P7100, with a maximum aperture varying from f/2 at wide angle to f/4 at telephoto. There's also a built-in ND filter (3-stops).

To combat blur from camera shake, Nikon has included a lens-based VR image stabilization system.

Mechanical systems like this are far preferable to software-only stabilization.

Like almost all compacts, the P7700 uses contrast-detect autofocus. The system has 99 user-selectable focus points, and operates in nine-area mode by default. It can locate and prioritize faces, and track moving subjects.

A key change since the P7100 is the removal of the viewfinder. Instead, images and movies are framed on a three-inch LCD panel with a high resolution of about 921,000 dots. That equates to an array of 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel made up of separate red, green, and blue dots.

The P7700's display is articulated on a tilt/swivel hinge. This allows viewing from a wide variety of angles, including from in front of the camera. Cleverly, if you close the LCD panel facing inwards for protection, the Power button is disabled to prevent accidental power-up in a camera bag.

For those times when there's just not sufficient ambient light to get the shot handheld, Nikon has included a built-in flash.

The P7700's strobe has a range of 32 feet (10 meters) when using Auto ISO at wide angle.

If that's not sufficient, you can opt for external flash strobes, courtesy of the hot shoe on the top deck of the P7700.

The built-in flash can also act as a wireless commander for multiple remote Creative Lighting System strobes.

The Nikon Coolpix P7700 offers the Program, Priority, and Manual (PASM) modes you'd expect to find on a camera aimed at enthusiasts.

It also includes a Flexible Program function, which makes it easy to bias the exposure to your preference even in Program mode, without having to select a specific aperture or shutter speed.

Additionally, there's a raft of friendly Scene modes aimed at consumers: Back Light, Beach, Black and White Copy, Close Up, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Food, Landscape, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Panorama Assist, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Scene Auto Selector, Snow, Sports, Sunset, and 3D Photography.

Exposures are determined using 224-segment metering that operates on info from the image sensor. As well as Matrix mode, you can also opt for center-weighted or spot metering. If the autofocus point is manually set, you can also have metering determined from the same point.

Flash exposures use i-TTL metering.

By default, the Nikon Coolpix P7700 offers a shutter speed range from 1/4,000 to one second.

However, if you set the exposure mode to manual and restrict your ISO sensitivity within the range of 80 to 400 equivalents, you can unlock much longer exposures -- as long as a full 60 seconds, if needed.

Nine white balance modes are available in the Nikon P7700. There's a standard Auto, an Auto position that yields a warmer result, a Manual position, color temperature, and five presets: Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, and Incandescent.

To help combat tilted horizons and converging verticals, the P7700 includes a dual-axis electronic level gauge--or Virtual Horizon Display, in Nikon parlance--which offers the user a choice of two different display types.

Although it's primarily aimed at enthusiasts, Nikon has included quite a range of consumer-friendly tools in the Coolpix P7700, beyond the obvious Scene modes.

For example, the face detection function allows allows automatic red-eye correction, and can trip the shutter only once your subject is smiling.

You can also edit raw files in-camera, and there's a lengthy list of pre- and post-exposure effects and editing functions like skin smoothing, D-Lighting (tone curve adjustment), fisheye and miniature effects, selective color, vignette, and more.

And if you forget to check the electronic level or are off in your framing, you can crop and straighten images, as well.

Of course, you can shoot movies with the P7700. Whether shooting at 1080p, 720p, or VGA, the frame rate is 30 fps. Nikon has selected MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression for its new enthusiast flagship compact.

Unusually for a fixed-lens camera, you can opt for Aperture-priority or Manual movie exposure. Picture Controls and noise reduction settings are also applicable in movie mode.

We mentioned the P7700's high-speed still image mode earlier; there are also similar movie modes. These allow slow-motion 120 fps at VGA resolution, 60 fps in high-def 720p, or fast-motion 15 fps at Full HD 1080p.

Fast- and slow-motion movies don't include audio, but other movies feature stereo audio. By default, this comes courtesy of two tiny mic ports above the lens, but unusually you can also use external microphones via a 3.5mm stereo jack.

We've already mentioned the external mic jack and flash hot shoe; the P7700 also includes USB 2.0 High Speed, standard-def audio/video, and high-def mini HDMI audio/video connectors.

The Nikon P7700 is also available with the company's GP-1 GPS Unit accessory, which mounts on the hot shoe, and geotags images with their capture location.

As we've alluded to, the Nikon P7700 can store images as JPEG compressed or raw (12-bit NRW) files. 3D images are saved in MPO format, and voice memo sound files in WAV format.

Data is stored in 86MB of built-in memory, or on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types.

Power comes courtesy of a proprietary EN-EL14 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, included with an MH-24 quick charger in the product bundle.

Battery life is rated as 330 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards.

An optional AC adapter (EH-5b) and dummy battery connector (EP-5A) are available.

 

Nikon Coolpix P7700 Lens Quality

For more detailed lens test results, click on the Optics tab.


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Quite soft at upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Noticeable blurring, upper right corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Nikon Coolpix P7700's zoom shows fairly strong blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, particularly in the right corners. At telephoto, performance is a little better, with blurring again strongest in the right corners of the frame.


Wide: High barrel distortion; noticeable
Tele: Average pincushion distortion, slightly noticeable

Geometric Distortion: The Nikon Coolpix P7700 produced high barrel distortion at full wide angle (1.2%), and about average pincushion distortion (0.4% barrel) at telephoto. The P7700 does offer a Distortion Control setting which reins in visible distortion pretty well, though.


Wide: Moderate
Tele: Fairly Low

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide angle is moderately high in terms of pixel count, though pixels are only moderately bright, so it's not as noticeable as in some cameras. At full telephoto, distortion is lower, though still slightly noticeable.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Nikon Coolpix P7700's Macro mode captures a sharp image with good detail throughout most of the frame, and manages to do so without much noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Chromatic aberration is noticeable further out from the center though. Minimum coverage area is 1.55 x 1.16 inches (39 x 30mm), which is quite good. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens, resulting in a harsh shadow and equally harsh overexposure in flash shots. Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shooting.


 

Nikon Coolpix P7700 Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Nikon Coolpix P7700's LCD monitor showed just under 100% coverage at wide angle and close to 101% telephoto which is quite good. The minor variations from 100% coverage in these shots is a result of trying to frame the images in the face of the barrel and pincusion distortion. (Our tester noted that enabling Distortion Control actually reduced accuracy, however, as part of the image is cropped.)


 

Nikon Coolpix P7700 Image Quality

For more detailed image quality test results, click on the Exposure tab.


Color: The Nikon Coolpix P7700 produced fair color overall, though bright yellow, orange, cyan and purples are a little muted. Bright blues and reds are a bit oversaturated, though not more than average. In terms of hue, the P7700 pushes red toward orange and cyan toward blue, but other colors are just about right, with a mean hue accuracy that's a bit better than average. Dark skintones show a small push toward warm orange tones, while lighter skin tones shift more toward pink. Overall, pretty good results, though less saturated than most cameras, at least at base ISO.


Auto WB:
Too orange
Incandescent WB:
Fair, but warm
Manual WB:
Good, though some cool tints
2,600 Kelvin:
A bit too cool

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall here, though it still had some places that appeared cool and greenish. Auto white balance resulted in a strong orange cast, while Incandescent was just a bit too warm. The 2,600 Kelvin setting, which matches the light source, was a bit too cool.


Horizontal: 2,000 lines
Vertical: 1,900 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,900 lines vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred between 2,400 and 2,600 lines per picture height.


Wide: Inconclusive
Tele: Good
Auto Flash

Flash: Our test shot at the manufacturer's specified flash range (shown at right) showed inconclusive results at full wide angle, as the very bright foreground caused underexposure on the test target. The telephoto test showed good exposure at the rated distance of 18 feet, but with an ISO boost to 640 to do so.

Auto flash produced somewhat dim results in our indoor portrait scene, retaining little ambient light with the 1/60 second shutter speed (ISO 200). Brighter results are likely possible with a little exposure compensation. The shutter speed used should be sufficient to prevent typical motion blur in portraits. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


80
100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200
6,400

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is quite good at ISO 80 and 100, with slight visible blurring beginning at ISO 200. By ISO 400, blurring is stronger. At the higher ISOs, chroma (color) noise becomes more evident, along with visible luminance noise that detracts from detail definition. However, overall performance is pretty good here, with the Nikon Coolpix P7700 holding onto a lot of detail even at the higher sensitivities. See the Print Quality section below for more on how this will affect printed images.



Print Quality Assessment: Good 16 x 20 inch prints at ISO 80/100; ISO 800 prints are better at 8 x 10; ISO 6,400 make usable 4 x 6-inch prints, but colors are washed out.

ISO 80 and 100 images look good at 16 x 20 inches, and fine for wall display at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 200 images are great at 13 x 19. Many would be happy with the 16 x 20s, with the slight exception of some noticeable softness in our target red swatch.

ISO 400 prints almost meet our standards at 13 x 19, but minor softness and noise lead us to make the call for 11 x 14 inch prints here.

ISO 800 prints are better at 8 x 10.

ISO 1,600 prints are usable at 8 x 10, but better at 5 x 7.

ISO 3,200 prints are better at 4 x 6, with minor softness in some areas and noise in others.

ISO 6,400 shots are usable at 4 x 6, but solid colors are a bit flattened, and image noise is quite visible.

Overall, the Nikon P7700's prints look good and make a nice print at most available ISOs. Oddly, when image detail is soft in the printed image, it also appears overexposed.


 

Nikon Coolpix P7700 Performance

For more detailed performance test results, click on the Performance tab.


Startup Time: The Coolpix P7700 takes about 1.8 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's good for its class.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is slightly better than average for its class, at 0.42 second at wide angle and 0.53 second at full telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.139 second, not exactly slow, but also not the fastest out there.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is pretty good for JPEGs, capturing a frame every 1.51 seconds in single-shot mode. RAW cycle times are slower though, at 3.25 seconds, and RAW+JPEG even slower at 3.56 seconds. The P7700's continuous mode speed is very good, though, at about 8.8 frames per second for all file types, but the buffer is shallow at 6 frames.


Flash Recycle: The Nikon Coolpix P7700's flash recycles in a quick 3.4 seconds after a full-power discharge.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just below the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Nikon Coolpix P7700's download speeds are fast. We measured 7,485 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: The Nikon Coolpix P7700's battery life has a CIPA rating of 330 shots per charge, which is about average.


 

In the Box

The Nikon Coolpix P7700 retial box includes:

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Nikon P7700 Conclusion

Pros: Cons:
  • Sleeker, new design makes camera more compact and less reminiscent of competitor's models.
  • Excellent 3-inch LCD vari-angle screen flips out to the left, letting you compose images from difficult angles.
  • New 7.1x (28-200mm equivalent) zoom lens is brighter with f/2 (wide) to f/4 (telephoto) maximum aperture
  • Built-in ND filter
  • Close Macro mode
  • Camera can correct distortion and suppresses chromatic aberration
  • Solid magnesium alloy camera body with many good design touches including comfortable handgrip; handsome black matte exterior; and recessed pop-up flash
  • Crisp, easy-to-read menus
  • Active D-Lighting helps with high-contrast scenes
  • Very fast 8+ fps full-resolution burst mode (but see Con about buffer size)
  • Fast f/2 maximum aperture performed well in low light and produced very good portraits with some bokeh
  • Full 1080p HD video shooting with built-in stereo sound produced solid results
  • Quick startup, and good shot-to-shot times in JPEG mode
  • Very good image quality at low to moderate ISOs
  • Good hue accuracy
  • Good flash range
  • Built-in flash can control wireless slave flash units
  • i-TTL flash hot shoe
  • Wired and IR remote support
  • GPS support
  • External stereo mic jack
  • No more optical viewfinder, which some photographers will miss
  • Lens no longer protected by built-in shutters so you'll have to use lens cap; lens frequently smudges
  • High barrel distortion at wide angle (though can be corrected automatically)
  • Lens produces some soft corners, particularly when wide open
  • Auto white balance too warm in incandescent light
  • Slow to switch camera into movie mode because of lack of a one-touch video button and long black-out period during video transition
  • Sluggish single-shot cycle times with RAW files
  • Autofocus speeds and shutter lag are slower than predecessor (but still good)
  • Occasionally had problems achieving quick focus lock in low light
  • Buffer size limited to 6 frames in full-resolution continuous mode
  • Default colors somewhat muted at base ISO
  • Field reviewer reported slightly oversaturated colors at higher ISOs in camera's default mode

 

It's taken three tries but Nikon has finally produced a flagship Coolpix camera that stacks up well against its main competitor's class-leading cameras. No, the Nikon Coolpix P7700 isn't perfect and it still only uses a 1/1.7-inch sensor compared to the 1.5-inch chip in the Canon PowerShot G1 X and the 1-inch sensor in the Sony Cyber-shot RX100, but those are both considerably more expensive cameras.

But we genuinely liked the new, more original design of the Nikon P7700, which makes it more portable and more handsome looking. It's small and light, but boasts a solid magnesium body with several nice ergonomic touches, including a comfy handgrip. Yes, the optical viewfinder is gone, which will likely upset some photographers. And, truth be told, we have never really liked optical viewfinders on compact cameras because of how inaccurate they are, particularly when you're zooming in.

Speaking of zooming, the P7700 has an excellent new 7.1x (28-200mm equivalent) lens with a bright f/2 (wide) to f/4 (telephoto) aperture range. While it won't produce the dramatic bokeh in portraits that you get from a good lens on a DSLR, it captured very sharp portraits for us at f/2 and did well when shooting in low light. We also really liked the new, 3-inch LCD vari-angle screen that flips out to the left, letting you compose images from difficult angles. (Another reason not to get too upset that the camera doesn't have an optical viewfinder.)

On the downside, while some performance metrics such as burst speed are much better than its predecessors, the P7700 is actually slower when capturing RAW images in single-shot mode. Autofocus is also slower, though still good for its class. We also wish Nikon had put a one-touch video button on this camera. The P7700's full 1080p HD video mode is very nice but it takes unnecessarily long to engage it. Image quality overall was good, with just a few saturation quirks, and the P7700 produced large, high quality prints, especially at lower ISOs.

Nikon made some significant improvements to its flagship compact digital camera, and the P7700 is certainly worthy of ranking as a Dave's Pick.