Nikon P7800 Review
Overview by Roger Slavens with Tech Info by Mike Tomkins
Shooter's Report by Cullen Welch
Not a lot has changed with Nikon's latest P-series "Advanced Performance" flagship model, the Coolpix P7800. (It's important to note that this series no longer holds Nikon's overall compact flagship title, as that now goes to the APS-C sensored, fixed-focal-length lensed Coolpix A.) Comparing the P7800 to the previous model, the P7700, the 12.2-megapixel 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor is the same. The 7.1x optical zoom (28-200mm equivalent) lens is also the same, and so is the bright maximum aperture of f/2.0 to 4.0. Even the user interface, menus and settings navigation are mostly the same. None of this sameness should be considered a bad thing, since the P7700 earned a Dave's Pick from us for its serious photographic capabilities and class-leading image quality.
But what has changed on the P7800 should make lots of Nikon P-series fans happy. With the P7700, Nikon removed the built-in optical viewfinder found in previous generations to accommodate a bigger, brighter lens -- a move which many lamented (though not us -- we'd rather have a vastly better lens than a viewfinder). For this iteration, Nikon has brought the viewfinder back in the P7800, albeit an electronic one. It looks to us to be a good EVF, with 921K-dot resolution and dioptric adjustment.
The viewing upgrades don't stop there. The 3-inch LCD monitor, which on the P7700 was already fully articulating and sharp at 921K dots, is now an RGBW design. The addition of white pixels makes the screen brighter in sunlight, and also reduces battery drain. The P7800 is also Wi-Fi ready, and can be equipped with the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter to share still images and videos with iOS and Android smart devices using Nikon's free Wireless Mobile Utility app.
With the return of the viewfinder, the P7800's external appearance is somewhat different; it looks like a cross between the P7700 (and its more streamlined appearance due to the lack of an OVF) and previous P-series models that had viewfinders. Though it has roughly the same dimensions as its predecessor, the P7800 stands slightly taller to incorporate the EVF. The camera measures in at 4.7 x 3.1 x 2.0 inches, compared to 4.7 x 2.9 x 2.0 inches for the P7700.
The top deck has been changed substantially, with the Quick menu dial disappearing, and everything shifting slightly to the right to accommodate the EVF. There's more of a dropoff between where the hot shoe sits and the Mode dial which nestles up next to it. The back of the P7800 looks virtually identical to its predecessor, though, except that it adds a Display button that lets you toggle between the EVF and LCD monitor.
Other than these few, important changes -- the addition of the built-in EVF and Wi-Fi support, the improved LCD, the slight design changes -- the P7800's performance is the same as the P7700. Backed by its 12.2-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor and EXPEED C2 image processor, the Nikon P7800 is capable of continuous shooting at eight frames per second for up to six shots. The P7800 also records video at Full HD (1080p) with stereo sound, and supports zooming, manual adjustments and in-camera effects while filming (although not necessarily simultaneously as we'll see below). Of course, like past models, the P7800 can capture RAW image files and offers full Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual exposure controls -- with physical dials and buttons giving direct access to key settings -- not to mention a bevy of creative filters and modes.
The Nikon Coolpix P7800 is available in black only, and started shipping in September 2013 for a list price of US$550. That's $50 more than the P7700 listed for at launch.
Nikon P7800 Shooter's Report
by Cullen Welch
15.9mm (74mm eq.), f/3.2, 1/400s, ISO 80
Nikon claims that the P7800 offers “Genuine capabilities to awaken your potential,” and after shooting with this well-endowed compact camera, I tend to agree. As a regular Nikon mid-range DSLR shooter myself, I initially thought to dismiss this camera as limited and uninteresting, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover the high level of optics and functionality packed into the P7800. It faces formidable competition in its class but still manages to deliver a set of features and performance worth a second look.
Worth another look: that’s an 8-ft snake
17.7mm (85mm eq.), f/3.2, 1/160s, ISO 80, Creative Monochrome
Ergonomically, the camera handled excellently, and even put off a welcome semi-DSLR aura in terms of usability. It felt sturdy in my grip, and I shot handheld for several days with no strap and no concern. Given the level of optical quality and customization offered, I was thrilled to casually stow the P7800 away in my side pocket -- albeit with a noticeable bulge -- as a high quality camera at the ready.
It offers a full array of integral controls for the manual shooter, from front and rear command dials to two “Fn” buttons and a clickable multi-selector dial with designated functions. I personally found the Fn2 button difficult to locate initially without taking a look for it, but I ultimately didn’t need it often, as Fn1 covered my bases with its all-in-one designation as an ISO/metering/white balance controller via unique dial combinations. (Fn2 can only be programmed to show/hide info on the display (default), enable the virtual horizon, histograms and framing grid, or control the built-in ND filter.)
The most compelling aspect of the P7800 for me is its flippable, rotatable, vari-angle RGBW LCD monitor. This was my first experience with such a feature, and I loved it! I'm always trying to capture interesting angles by jamming my camera down into the dirt or up into the sky, but I’ve done so in the past with my DSLR with only a vague notion as to what I might be capturing. Now, to do so and to actually have a clear idea about what I'm shooting is fantastically convenient. I know that tilt-capacity in LCD screens is not the most novel idea out there, but a full tilt-swivel option is highly advantageous (especially for those shameless selfie opportunities). Also, the simple fact that you can store the LCD against the camera body when not in use is a great benefit in and of itself -- now you can avoid collecting those needless scratches during transportation and stowage.
The articulating LCD makes it easy to capture low-angle shots...
6mm (28mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/250s, ISO 80
...and also comes in handy for high angles and selfies
6mm (28mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/60s, ISO 80
The EVF in the P7800 is a welcome respite from the total absence of any viewfinder in the P7700. It’s positioned perfectly for a right eye-dominant photographer, and I was impressed by its full frame coverage after recently shooting with an optical viewfinder that covered only 95% of the final image and led to frustrating compositional issues.
That said, although the P7800's EVF is decent as far as resolution and size for the type of camera (there are certainly larger and higher-res EVFs, but they're usually found in larger mirrorless cameras), and I saw no rainbow tearing effect that can be seen on some lower-end field-sequential EVFs, I was still underwhelmed and found the colors to be a little washed-out. I must confess that I am still very much an OVF enthusiast. Electronic viewfinders generally make my head hurt -- to my eye, they lack in contrast and saturation, and they elicit impressions of watching TV from painfully close proximity. Perhaps I'm simply gun-shy holding a compact camera to my face after wielding a semi-pro, semi-massive DSLR for the past several years, but whatever the reason, I leaned very much towards using the live-view rear LCD display for all image composition with the P7800, and this worked brilliantly for me.
I do have to say that the great benefit of the EVF was pointed out to me recently and may yet make me a believer in its utility: I can now circumvent the dilemma of LCD glare in the noonday sun by using the EVF for image review and even menu/settings adjustment. Very convenient indeed. However, there's no eye-sensor for automatic switching between the LCD monitor and EVF. A button near to the EVF is used for that, but the camera will automatically switch to the EVF when the LCD is turned against the camera. The electronic viewfinder's diopter can be adjusted from -3 to +1 m-1, using the dial next to the EVF.
For the most part, shooting with the P7800 was intuitive, entertaining, and uniquely creative in light of its vari-angle monitor.
What I liked:
- Auto ISO: I normally establish my own ISO levels manually, but with the P7800 I was able to set the ISO to "Auto" with the added benefit of limiting the max to either ISO 200, 400, or 800 (the default max is 1600), as well as selecting the minimum shutter speed to attempt to maintain (selectable from 1s to 1/30s, however there's no auto 1/focal-length option). While not uncommon among enthusiast-level compact cameras, this was novel for me and a very useful feature, directly accessible with the Fn1 button and rear command or multi-selector dial in concert, or it can be enabled on a shot-by-shot basis by simply pressing shutter release while pressing Fn1. Nice.
Low light doughnuts: capped at ISO 800
6mm (28mm eq.), f/5.0, 1/8s, Auto ISO (800)
- Effects: I always enjoy toying with the embedded artistic features of digital cameras, and the P7800 was no different. The Creative Monochrome effect was especially enjoyable, with its easily customizable grain and contrast (by just rotating front and rear command dials), although it was possibly the only feature in the set that I would put into practical use. Nostalgic Sepia left me wishing that I hadn’t spilled coffee across my image, and most of the other creative modes were colorfully “artistic” to the point of a mild headache. I would also be most thankful to Nikon for future inclusion of full aperture and shutter control within these Effects modes.
6mm (28mm eq.), f/2.0, 1/640s, ISO 80, Creative Monochrome
6mm (28mm eq.), f/2.0, 1/320s, ISO 80, Nostalgic Sepia
6mm (28mm eq.), f/2.2, 1/1600s, ISO 80, -1.7EV, Painting
- User Settings: The P7800 scores big with its User Settings modes (U1, U2, U3), allowing for manual settings customization, and providing the ability to save complete setups for later use. This is especially useful with things like the self-timer, where I’d rather not sort through menu options every time I go to set up a shot.
- Macro: The macro capacity of the P7800 exists to impress. It may not be above and beyond any of the competition, but the results left me coming back for more.
Impressive macro capabilities
6mm (28mm eq.), f/2.0, 1/1000s, ISO 800
- Electronic Virtual Horizon: The electronic virtual horizon is a very cool feature, and is excellent when it comes to leveling horizons or interesting architectural features. It’s easily accessible via the Fn2 button.
6mm (28mm eq.), f/3.2, 1/1600s, ISO 80, Creative Monochrome
- Playback: I really enjoyed and appreciated the interface for reviewing images shot in continuous mode: rather than laying the images out linearly in the playback menu as per usual, the P7800 groups each set of continuous shots into a mini-folder for isolated playback -- a nifty feature.
However, despite some very commendable aspects of the camera, I did experience holdups in a number of areas.
What I didn't care for:
- Responsiveness: I shot exclusively on the P7800 in “RAW + Fine” image capture quality, and found that the time spent processing images and writing them to the card was dramatically slow for my taste, with 3+ seconds of downtime between camera readiness for playback or shooting in single-shot mode. When trying to capture the peak of the action in my scenes, this lag proved immensely frustrating. Granted, shooting JPEGs alone does yield a substantial decrease in processing time (with about a 1.6 second cycle-time according to the lab). Continuous shooting -- limited to 6 frames at just over 8fps -- might alleviate this concern in some instances, but buffer clearing is much slower after a burst, locking up the camera for even longer (in an informal test, I measured the downtime after a 6-shot burst of RAW + Fine JPEGs at over 20 seconds with a fast card), and I generally prefer to capture images individually than to click away indiscriminately anyway. I also found navigating and using the "Quick" menu felt a little sluggish at times, with responses lagging inputs.
- Focusing: Autofocus speed proved to be another noticeable hindrance throughout my time with the P7800. It's certainly workable for everyday purposes, especially in predictable and slow-moving scenarios. But in the case of a highly active and agile golden retriever, I found myself missing split-second photo opportunities due to the camera’s focus-lag and hardware constraints. (The lab measured the P7800's full AF lag at about 0.4 second at wide-angle using center AF in bright light, which is a bit slower than average for an enthusiast compact these days.)
With three dogs and a cat in full feast mode, it was a struggle to focus quickly
and capture peak action in process, especially in low light conditions
6mm (28mm eq.), f/5.6, 1/4s, ISO 800
- Accelerometer: For several of my creatively angled images, I attempted to rotate the camera in my hands to view the image on an even level, but was stymied by the camera’s accelerometer and auto-orientation. After some searching, I located a “Rotate Tall” option embedded in the “Set Up” menu and switched it off: problem solved. So not a significant problem; just a heads-up to others who might share my preference here.
- Manual Focus Point Selection: One slight user error I made repeatedly when shooting with manual focus points was to attempt to position a point on the display without initially activating the point adjustment. On my D7000, I simply raise the OVF to my eye and am ready to move the focus points at will, while the P7800 requires that the user first press “OK” on the rear pad before activating focus point mobility on the LCD or EVF. This is a trade-off that comes with having a clickable selector dial with designated functions for each directional press; ultimately it's a minor detail and is easily coped with.
6mm (28mm eq.), f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 400, -0.7 EV
The video features included in this camera are generally on par with the competition of its class, but Nikon did provide several features that set the P7800 uniquely apart. In addition to standard Full HD 1080p movie recording at 30fps, Nikon has incorporated 720p60 and even a 480p120 option for slow motion shooting. I’m not a well-experienced videographer by any means, but I was impressed by the presence and quality of the slow motion video capture, but I was also surprised by its complete lack of any audio recording when shooting slo-mo. Again, this is pretty much standard with high-fps video capture these days, but I'd envisioned that amusing garbled audio in the lower register that typically comes with slowed video footage. Probably nothing to be concerned about, but I'd love to have that option.
Nikon P7800 Slow Motion Sample Video
640x480, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, 120p
Download Original (32.2MB MOV)
Full HD video quality was quite good for its class with good detail, sharpness, color and contrast, though the usual foibles associated with the P7800's sensor size apply, such as limited dynamic range and a loss of detail in low light. Moiré and jaggies can also be seen in Full HD videos when examined closely (even more so in slo-mo), however aliasing artifacts didn't seem any worse than normal. Continuous autofocus generally did a good job during recording, as did autoexposure. Note that the P7800 does not have a dedicated movie record button, and you need to turn the mode dial to one of the two movie modes and use the shutter button to start and stop recording, which takes some time.
Nikon P7800 Full HD Daytime Sample Video
1920x1080, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, 30p
Download Original (38.4MB MOV)
The CSM ("Custom Setting Mode") video mode allows the user to manually adjust aperture and shutter speed settings by offering aperture-priority and manual exposure modes. I don’t know that I would necessarily use this feature often, as I found that the exposure compensation dial served well enough for my manual video control tastes while the camera controlled all other factors during recording. But I did appreciate having the options to customize, and I found that menu adjustments were made quick and easy by automatically limiting my menu to video-relevant options while in recording mode. CSM also enables access to a subset of Special Effects for movies, such as Painting, Cross Process, Soft, Nostalgic Sepia, High Key, Low Key and Selective Color. You can also select from single-shot AF (AF-S) and full-time AF (AF-F) as well as enable the P7800's built-in ND filter in CSM mode.
Nikon P7800 Full HD Nighttime Sample Video
1920x1080, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264, 30p
Download Original (29.0MB MOV)
CSM does however disable optical zoom during recording for some reason, but you can zoom the lens before recording begins if you need manual aperture and shutter speed control. Optical zoom is supported in standard movie mode, however motor noise from zooming is audible during recording. You can set the zoom speed to Normal or Quiet to tradeoff zoom speed for noise levels (an Auto setting automatically selects Quiet mode for movies), and while the very slow Quiet zoom mode isn't as loud as Normal mode, zooming is still audible when using the built-in mic.
The internal mic is stereo and is fairly sensitive to wind noise but there's a wind noise reduction option, and for any users interested, Nikon has graciously provided an external mic input.
Note that the Nikon P7800's lens, imaging pipeline and performance have not changed from its predecessor, so see our P7700 Review for Lens Quality, Image Quality, Print Quality and Performance test results.
Nikon P7800 Technical Info
Let's have a peak under the hood
Sensor. The Nikon Coolpix P7800'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.
Processor. 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.
ISO range. The Nikon P7800 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).
Lens. The P7800 sports the same 7.1x optical zoom lens as the P7700, and retains a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 28 to 200mm. It features 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.
Click to read more technical details about the Nikon P7800!
In the Box
The Nikon Coolpix P7800 retial box includes:
- Nikon Coolpix P7800 digital camera
- AN-CP22 camera strap
- EN-EL14 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- MH-24 battery charger
- EC-E16 USB cable
- LC-CP26 lens cap
- BS-1 hotshoe cover
- Quick start guide
- View NX2 CD-ROM
- Extra battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity SDHC/SDXC memory card. These days, 16GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity. Speed Class 6 or higher is recommended for movies.
- Medium camera case
Nikon P7800 Conclusion
The Nikon P7800 is an intriguing breed that mixes compact portability with DSLR functionality, while not necessarily taking either capacity to any extreme. It does a number of things exceptionally well, with its class-leading image quality (at low ISOs), intuitive interface, generous physical controls, easy customization, and commendable optics. It's also feature-packed and well-built, the "Swiss Army Knife" of premium compacts.
However the P7800 is certainly not without its faults, struggling in some key categories such as processing times (particularly with RAW files), responsiveness, focusing speed and buffer depth. And while the addition of an electronic viewfinder is certainly a boon to some, I'm not a huge fan of the P7800's EVF, preferring instead to use the camera's fully articulating LCD in most situations.
And although image quality is excellent for a 1/1.7"-type sensor, keep in mind newer 1"-type sensors are over 2.5x larger in area, and thus the new generation of compact enthusiast cameras using these larger sensors eclipse the P7800 in high ISO performance, though none thus far offer the zoom range of the P7800 in a similarly sized or priced package.
For me personally, as a mid-range DSLR user looking to upgrade further in the future, I prefer to keep my camera hardware well-delineated on either end of the functionality spectrum: in other words, let the compact be exceptionally that, and let the limit-pushing professional gear do exactly that.
The great strength of the Nikon P7800 in my mind comes down to the creative license that its vari-angle display provides. It was a pleasure to use, and I would be thrilled to have a similar feature on my next DSLR. However, at this price point, I personally would forego the P7800 in order to invest in higher-quality DSLR lenses and to allow my diminutive -- but effective -- point and shoot to continue serving its designated role as an unobtrusive pocket-cam.
We gave the P7700 a Dave's Pick back in 2012 as one of the better small-sensored cameras at the time and its successor improves on it by adding an EVF and a few upgrades and features, however we wish Nikon upgraded performance to be more competitive with current peers as well. Unfortunately this isn't the case, so we've decided not to award the P7800 with a Dave's Pick. But we still think the Nikon P7800 can be a good choice for those that understand its limitations and are willing to live with its performance issues in return for an otherwise very competent enthusiast compact.