Nikon P7800 Preview
by Roger Slavens and Mike Tomkins
Not a lot has changed with Nikon's new 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 last year's 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 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 last year's 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). This year, Nikon has brought the viewfinder back in the P7800, albeit an electronic one. It looks to us to be a very good EVF, with 921K-dot resolution and dioptric controls.
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 EVF and Wi-Fi, the improved LCD, the slight design changes -- the P7800's performance should be the same as the P7700. Backed by its 12.2-megapixel, 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor and EXPEED C2 image processor, Nikon claims the camera 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. 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 will be available in black only, and starts shipping in September 2013 for a list price of US$550. That's $50 more than the P7700 listed for at launch. Are the upgrades worth it? Definitely, for those who've been eager to see the return of a viewfinder and those wanting the ability to share files wirelessly.
Nikon P7800 Technical Info
by Mike TomkinsSensor. 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.
Autofocus. Like most compacts, the P7800 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.
Electronic viewfinder. Nikon brought back the viewfinder to the P-series, though this time its an electronic viewfinder with a moderately high resolution of about 921,000 dots. The EVF features a dioptric knob to adjust for eyesight.
LCD display. The P7800's monitor is a 3-inch, RGBW LCD display with 921K-dots of resolution. The newly-added white pixels are designed to make the screen brighter in daylight, and to consume less power. (And consume less it does: Nikon rates battery life at 350 shots, up 20 shots from the earlier model.)
Like that of its predecessor, the P7800's LCD 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.
Built-in flash. For those times when there's just not sufficient ambient light to get the shot handheld, Nikon has included a built-in flash. The P7800'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 P7800. The built-in flash can also act as a wireless commander for multiple remote Creative Lighting System strobes.
Exposure modes. The Nikon Coolpix P7800 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.
Scene modes. 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.
Metering. 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.
Shutter. By default, the Nikon Coolpix P7800 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.
White balance. Nine white balance modes are available in the Nikon P7800. 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.
Dual-axis electronic level. To help combat tilted horizons and converging verticals, the P7800 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.
Other functions. Although it's primarily aimed at enthusiasts, Nikon has included quite a range of consumer-friendly tools in the Coolpix P7800, 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.
Movies. Of course, you can shoot video with the P7800. Whether shooting at 1080p, 720p, or VGA, you can set the frame rate at 30p or 25p. Nikon has selected MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression for this enthusiast 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 P7800'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.
Connectivity. We've already mentioned the external mic jack and flash hot shoe; the P7800 also includes USB 2.0 High Speed, standard-def audio/video, and high-def Mini (Type C) HDMI audio/video connectors.
Add-on Wi-Fi and GPS. Wi-Fi sharing and transferring of image and video files is possible with the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter. The P7800 must be paired with an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet using Nikon's free Wireless Mobile Utility app.
The Nikon P7800 also is compatible with the company's GP-1 GPS Unit accessory, which mounts on the hot shoe, and geotags images with their capture location.
Power. 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 350 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards, a slight improvement from the 330 shots of the P7700 that's likely due to the new RGBW display.
An optional AC adapter (EH-5b) and dummy battery connector (EP-5A) are available.
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