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Nikon CoolPix 775

Nikon packs advanced Coolpix technology & superior ease-of-use into a tiny, affordable 2 megapixel camera!

Review First Posted: 07/23/2001



Click to Buy Now at Ritz Camera!
MSRP $449 US

 

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1,600 x 1,200-pixel resolution
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3x optical zoom, 2.5x digital zoom
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Seven pre-programmed "Scene Modes" for great ease of use
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One-Touch image upload to the Internet
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Super-compact size



Manufacturer Overview

Long a powerhouse in the world of film-based photography, Nikon has made an equally significant impact on the digital imaging world. Combining Nikon's famous high-precision optics with innovative design, the Coolpix digicams are among the most popular digital camera models in recent memory, as are its Coolscan film scanners, which continue to set the highest quality standards in the professional imaging community.

The Coolpix 775 brings several new features to the lineup, including an ultra-compact design, very simple point-and-shoot user interface, and "One Touch" access to the Internet via an external "Transfer" button, which automatically uploads images to Nikon's new image sharing website: www.nikonnet.com. Together they offer a very inviting package for the novice photographer who is looking for a user-friendly entry into digital photography, combined with the sophisticated technology required to get great photos in difficult situations. We expect the 775 will quickly find its place in the popular Coolpix family.


High Points



Executive Overview
The Coolpix 775 is the perfect digicam for the point-and-shoot photographer on the go. Its ultra-compact body (measuring just 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 inches / 87 x 66.5 x 44mm) fits just about anywhere -- shirt pocket, jeans pocket, waist pack -- it's the ultimate travelling companion. It's also quick on the draw, with easy, one-handed operation, and a simple user interface that will appeal to the most digitally challenged. The high-quality 3x Nikkor Zoom lens and 2.1-megapixel CCD strike a nice balance between image quality and performance, providing enough resolution for razor-sharp 5 x 7-inch prints, or even 8 x 10 prints if you prefer, and plenty of flexibility for composing great shots -- especially close-up portraits of family and friends.

With this latest model, Nikon has added some interesting new features. Most notable is the Transfer button, which is billed as a "One-Touch Upload to the Web." Functionally, it's similar to the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF), which marks specific images in-camera for digital output on a DPOF-compatible printer. In this case, One-Touch Transfer marks the images for automatic upload to the computer as soon as a USB connection is made. If used while the camera is already connected, it immediately uploads selected image to the computer or the Internet, using the NikonView software supplied with the camera. In this mode, images are automatically sent to Nikon's photo-sharing website: www.nikonnet.com, where they can be e-mailed to friends and family or stored in online photo albums. (The software also provides the option of e-mailing images through your own Internet service provider.)

Its other very consumer-friendly feature is an *awesome* Mode Dial that makes setting the right exposure a no-brainer. Like most Mode dials, this one has an Auto exposure setting, a Movie mode, and a Playback function. Beyond that, Nikon has added *seven* scene presets -- all optimised for special shooting situations. These Scene modes cover most of the common, as well as some extra tricky, exposure challenges, including: Party / Indoor, Backlight, Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Snow / Beach, and Sunsets. Granted, they don't cover every shooting situation you'll come across, but they come pretty close! The beauty of this is that the scene presets let you take photos in all sorts of tricky lighting conditions, without requiring you to learn the ins and outs of apertures, shutter speeds, ISO settings, etc. This makes the 775 a great camera for people who want more from their camera than a pure point & shoot ("point & hope"?), but who aren't ready to delve into the depths of photo technology.

The 775 offers an optical viewfinder that zooms along with the lens, and a 1.5-inch LCD monitor that turns on automatically when you power up the camera. When the LCD is turned on in full information display mode, it shows camera settings in the form of icons distributed around the edges of the screen. These include Auto, Scene, or Movie mode indicators, Flash mode, Image Size and Quality, and the number of remaining images. Other settings are displayed as they are engaged, for example Digital Zoom, Self-Timer, Best Shot Selection, Continuous Shooting, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Image Sharpening are all indicated on the monitor when they are in use. The low-battery indicator only appears when the battery is nearly drained. The on-screen information display can be turned off, leaving only the image display on-screen, and the LCD monitor can be turned off completely to conserve battery power.

The Coolpix 775 has three Image Size options, including: Full 1,600 x 1,200 pixels; XGA 1,024 x 768 pixels; and VGA 640 x 480 pixels, plus three JPEG compression levels: Fine (4:1), Normal (8:1), and Basic (16:1). Images are saved to a standard CompactFlash Type I storage card. (An 8MB card is provided with the camera, but you can buy optional upgrades as large as 512MB from third-party manufacturers.)

The 3x Zoom Nikkor lens is made of high-quality Nikon optics, with a 5.8-17.4mm focal length (equivalent to 38-115mm lens on a 35mm camera), and an f/2.9–4.9 maximum aperture, which varies depending on the zoom setting. Focus is automatically set by the camera's autofocus system, in either Single or Continuous AF modes, using a through-the-lens (TTL) contrast detection system. Single AF, which is activated when the LCD monitor is turned off, sets focus whenever you depress the Shutter button halfway. Continuous AF, which is automatically engaged when the LCD monitor is turned on, adjusts focus continuously as you move the camera around, or as the subject changes position within the frame.

Although the camera doesn't have a manual focus, it does have three focal range presets for various shooting conditions. The Normal (default) setting focuses on subjects 12 inches (30cm) or more from the lens. Infinity focus fixes the focal setting on infinity, so objects in the distance will remain in focus, and the Macro (close-up) mode focuses on subjects as close as 1.6 inches. Unlike most digital cameras, the Macro range extends from its minimum focus distance to infinity, however it restricts the zoom to approximately half of the full telephoto extension. There's also a Self-Timer function that is available in Normal or Macro Focus modes, with a shutter release delay of 3 or 10 seconds.

The Coolpix 775 is designed primarily for the point-and-shoot photographer, with a basic Programmed "Auto" exposure mode and seven preset "Scene" modes -- each of which automatically determines the aperture, shutter speed, flash, and focus settings. While this is great for novice photographers, it might be somewhat limiting to more experienced users who prefer to have access to full manual controls. The 775 is not completely devoid of exposure control though. The Auto mode menu offers Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Flash settings, and Image Size and Quality settings. The Scene mode menus, on the other hand, offer only Image Size and Quality settings.

The Movie mode records movie clips (without sound) at 15 frames per second, 320 x 240-pixel (QVGA) resolution. Movies are stored on the memory card as QuickTime files (designated by .MOV at the end of the name). The 775 also features a Continuous shooting mode with three recording options: Single, Continuous, and Multi-Shot 16. Single capture is the default setting, in which the camera records a single exposure at a time. The Continuous option records a rapid sequence of images at a rate of about three photos every two seconds, for as long as you hold down the Shutter button or until the CompactFlash card runs out of memory. Multi-Shot 16 records 16 consecutive 400 x 300-pixel thumbnail images and combines them into a collage measuring 1,600 x 1,200 pixels.

Coolpix cameras are well known for their unique Best Shot Selection (BSS) feature, which records up to 10 continuous exposures in the same manner as the Continuous mode (above), except that the camera then analyses the series and chooses the sharpest image to record to the memory card. This is particularly useful in situations where there is an increased potential for camera shake, such as in Macro mode, at maximum telephoto range, or when lighting is poor. (We're big fans of BSS - It's let us bring back usable images in situations where a conventional camera wouldn't have a prayer.)

The 775 also features an Auto Sharpening feature, which can be adjusted through the Auto menu to suit special shooting situations. For example, Auto Sharpening makes adjustments based on the subject and its surroundings, so the amount of sharpening will vary from shot to shot; Normal applies the same level of sharpening to all images; High increases image sharpness, making edges more distinct; Low reduces the amount of sharpening normally applied; and Off shuts down the sharpening function completely. These options are only available in the Auto exposure mode. In Scene modes, the camera determines the level of sharpening based on the subject matter.

In Playback mode, the LCD monitor displays captured images as single, full-screen shots or in multiple thumbnails (Index mode). Single images can be viewed with or without a complete information display, which includes the date and time when the image was captured, the image size and quality, file number and type, and current frame number / total picture count. When engaged, the Playback screen also displays the low-battery, image transfer, print-order, and protect icons.

A unique feature of the 775's Playback mode is its Quick Review function, which enables you to view thumbnails of previously captured images while still observing the live action taking place on-screen. You can scroll through stored images just as you would in Playback mode, without having to switch the Mode dial. Quick Review is activated by pressing the Quick Review / Playback Zoom button on the back panel while in any image capture mode. Press the button twice, expands the review image to full screen size.

The Coolpix 775 is powered by a single rechargeable Nikon EN-EL1 lithium-ion battery supplied with the camera. You can also use a non-rechargeable 2CRS (DL245) lithium battery, available separately, as a backup. (Lithium batteries make good backup batteries because they have long life and do not discharge when not in use.) A lithium-ion battery charger is provided for with the camera, and an optional AC adapter / battery charger is available for supplying AC power directly to the 775.

The camera connects to Windows and Macintosh computers via a fast USB connector. The USB socket also doubles as a Video Out port for viewing images on a TV or VCR. An NTSC cable is supplied with the camera in the US and Japan, and a PAL-compatible cable is shipped with European models.

The 775 ships with a robust set of programs for managing and manipulating images, including NikonView 4, which enables you to upload images to your computer and distribute them via the Internet. Selected images can also be copied to a floppy disk directly from the camera's memory card and delivered to a photofinisher for processing. In addition to NikonView, the software package includes Canto Cumulus 5.0 Trial and iView Media Pro (Mac only) for image storage and management, plus a full suite of ArcSoft digital imaging programs, including: PhotoImpression 2000, for editing, retouching, and applying special effects to your images; VideoImpression for viewing and editing QuickTime movies; PhotoPrinter Pro 2000 for preparing images for printing; and Panorama Maker 2000, which allows users to stitch together multiple images to create panoramic photographs.

All in all, the Coolpix 775 brings an amazing level of capability to novice photographers, in a compact package, at an affordable price. Big kudos to Nikon, we think they have a winner with this one!


Design
The Nikon Coolpix 775 is the ultimate pocket camera, measuring just 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 inches (87 x 66.5 x 44mm) with the lens retracted, and weighing only 8 ounces (226 grams) with the battery and memory card installed. The camera body is constructed primarily of moulded plastic, with aluminium trim along the top panel and around the lens barrel. The brushed metallic surface is silver in color, with black and red accents, giving an appealing combination of high-tech and "retro" looks.

A good-sized hand grip on the right side of the camera likens it to familiar 35mm styling, with a small, red plastic strip along the front edge of the hand grip and a raised plastic thumb rest on the back panel to provide a better hold. (Though less pronounced than the earlier Coolpix 800, the red accent on the front of the camera echoes similar design touches on Nikon's high-end 35mm SLRs.) A nylon wrist strap comes with the camera for more secure toting.





The front of the camera houses the telescoping 3x zoom lens, optical viewfinder, built-in flash, and a small round sensor window for flash exposure control. Instead of a removable lens cap, the 775 has a retractable lens cover that opens when the camera is powered on in any capture mode, thus eliminating the problem of keeping up with a separate lens cover.





The top panel contains the Shutter button, surrounded by the On / Off switch, and an expanded Mode dial with 10 settings: Playback, Movie, Auto, and seven Scene capture modes -- all of which are programmed to give you optimum exposure for specific lighting situations ( Party / Indoor, Backlight, Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Beach / Snow, and Sunset).





The memory card compartment resides on the right side of the camera, with a set of ridges on the back panel to push open the plastic cover. Inside the compartment, at the bottom, is a small black button that when pushed, pops out the CompactFlash card far enough to easily grab the edge and pull it out. A small rubber flap next to the memory card door covers the DC In connector, and the wrist strap eyelet is located at the top of the panel.





The left side of the camera is relatively smooth, except for a slight bulge where the side of the lens barrel protrudes. At the bottom of the panel is a small USB interface connector that doubles as a Video Out port.





The majority of controls reside on the camera's back panel. At the top left is a real-image optical viewfinder with two LED lights on the right side: one to indicate flash power and the other to show the status of the autofocus, digital zoom, and images being written to the memory card. To the right of the viewfinder is a four-way arrow pad designated as the Multi Selector / Zoom button. In Record mode, the left and right arrow buttons function as the wide-angle / telephoto zoom buttons, the top button scrolls through monitor display options (no image, image on with minimal information, and image on with full information), and the bottom arrow button adjusts the screen contrast. In Playback mode, the left and right arrow buttons control the information display and the up and down arrow buttons scroll through captured images.





Below the viewfinder on the left side is the 1.5-inch color LCD monitor, surrounded by five external control buttons. The Transfer button (top right) is used to select images for transfer and to transfer selected images from the camera to the computer. The Quick Review / Playback Zoom button (bottom right) is used to review recently captured images without having to switch to Playback mode. Pressing this button once in any Record mode brings up a small thumbnail of the photo in the upper left corner. Pressing it a second time brings up a full-frame review of the photograph. In Playback mode, pressing this button enlarges the currently displayed image on-screen by 2x. The Focus / Delete button (bottom left) controls the Focus options (Infinity, Normal, or Macro) in Auto, Snow / Beach, and Sunset capture modes, and sets the Self-Timer in all still capture modes. In Playback mode, this button is used to select images for deletion. The Flash / Index button (bottom middle) controls the built-in flash while in Record mode, and switches from full-frame to Index preview (four or nine thumbnail images) in Playback mode. The Menu button (bottom, right) calls up the on-screen menu for the current operating mode and scrolls through multiple pages.





The bottom panel houses a plastic threaded tripod mount and the battery compartment door, which is opened by sliding the gray plastic latch in the middle of the door. Unfortunately the tripod mount and battery compartment door are much too close to allow for quick battery changes while the camera is mounted on a tripod (something we pay close attention to when working in the studio).


Viewfinder
The 775 offers both an optical viewfinder and LCD monitor to assist in image composition. The optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but does not provide any center target brackets or framing guidelines. The LCD monitor turns on automatically when you power up the camera, but it can be turned off by pressing the top arrow button twice, or letting it sit idle for more than 30 seconds to 30 minutes, depending on the Auto Off setting (adjustable in the camera's Set-Up menu). This same button also controls the information display on the monitor. When the LCD is turned on, it shows a full information display in the form of icons distributed around the edges of the screen. Pressing the top arrow button once turns off the information display, but leaves the image display turned on.

When the 775 is in Record mode, the information display includes an Auto or Scene mode indicator in the top left corner, Flash mode in the upper right corner, and the image quality and number of remaining images in the lower right corner. Other camera settings are displayed on screen as they are engaged, for example Digital Zoom, Self-Timer, Best Shot Selection, Continuous Shooting, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and Image Sharpening are all indicated on the monitor when they are in use. Unlike most other Coolpix cameras, the 775 does not show shutter speed or aperture settings -- a feature we definitely miss, but that's probably not an issue for the point & shoot users the 775 is intended for. However, it does let you know if you've forgotten to set the Date and Time in the camera's Set-Up menu, by showing a continuously flashing icon at the top of the screen (a very annoying distraction when you're trying to frame a shot!).

In Playback mode, the LCD monitor displays captured images as single, full-screen shots or in multiple thumbnails (Index mode). Single images can be viewed with or without a complete information display by pressing the left Arrow button. The information displayed on-screen includes the date and time the image was captured (top left of the screen), the image size and quality (bottom left), file number and type (top right), and current frame number / total picture count (bottom right). When engaged, the Playback screen also displays the low-battery, image transfer, print-order, and protect icons.

A unique feature of the 775 monitor is its Quick Review function, which enables you to view thumbnails of previously captured images in the upper left corner of the monitor, while still observing the live action taking place on-screen. You can scroll through stored images just as you would in Playback mode, without having to switch the Mode dial to the Playback icon. Quick Review is activated by pressing the Quick Review / Playback Zoom button on the back panel one time while in any image capture mode. If you press the button twice, the review image expands to full screen size.

Nikon reports the viewfinder coverage at 82 and 97 percent accuracy (respectively) for the optical and LCD viewfinders. Our own measurements showed the optical viewfinder's accuracy as between 84 and 88 percent, depending on lens zoom (quite a bit better than Nikon's claimed number) and the LCD viewfinder at 98 percent. Our measured viewfinder accuracy is a bit better than average for the optic finder, and a good bit better than average for the LCD.


Optics
The Coolpix 775 features a 3x Zoom Nikkor lens with a 5.8-17.4mm focal length (equivalent to 38-115mm lens on a 35mm camera), and an f/2.9–4.9 maximum aperture, which varies depending on the focal length setting. Focus is automatically set by the camera's autofocus system, in either Single or Continuous AF modes, using a through-the-lens (TTL) contrast detection system. Single AF, which is activated when the LCD monitor is turned off, sets focus whenever you depress the Shutter button halfway. Continuous AF, which is automatically engaged when the LCD monitor is turned on, adjusts focus continuously as you move the camera around, or as the subject changes position within the frame.

Although the 775 does not offer manual focus, you can adjust the camera's focal range by pressing the Focus / Delete button below the LCD monitor. The default setting automatically focuses on subjects 12 inches (30cm) or more from the lens. By pressing the Focus button twice, you can fix the focus at Infinity (indicated by the mountain range icon), which automatically disables the camera's flash. This mode is best used for photographing distant outdoor scenes like seascapes or colorful autumn trees. (The User Manual also suggests that you can use this mode to shoot through foreground objects like windows.) Pressing the button a third time activates the Macro (close-up) mode (indicated by the flower icon), which allows the camera to focus on subjects as close as 1.6 inches. Unlike most digital cameras, the 775's Macro range extends from its minimum focus to infinity, however it restricts the zoom to approximately half of the full telephoto extension. The Focus / Delete button also activates the Self-Timer function in Normal or Macro Focus modes, with a shutter release range of 3 or 10 seconds.

The 775's 3x zoom lens enables you to zoom in on subjects at a distance, enlarging the image area up to three times its normal size. The Digital Zoom function magnifies an image by 1.25, 1.6, 2.0 or 2.5x, however, it achieves this magnification by interpolating data from the center portion of the CCD's active area, rather than enlarging the scene optically. Digital Zoom may be useful for low-resolution imaging, like Web pages or photos for emailing, but it does not provide the quality magnification of an optical zoom lens. To activate the camera's optical zoom, you simply press the right Arrow button until you've reached the furthest end of the optical telephoto capability. If you continue to press the right Arrow past this barrier (the LCD monitor must be turned on), it will automatically activate the Digital Zoom, displaying the enlargement factors at the top of the monitor next to the zoom range indicator. You'll notice a change in quality as the digital zoom increases, such as a loss of image sharpness or increase in image artifacts (a good reason to avoid using the Digital Zoom if at all possible).


Exposure
The Coolpix 775 is designed primarily for the point-and-shoot photographer, with a basic Programmed "Auto" exposure mode and seven preset "Scene" modes -- each of which automatically determines the aperture, shutter speed, flash, and focus settings -- based on existing light levels and (in the case of Scene modes) the nature of the subject and its surroundings. The user has limited exposure overrides in Auto mode, including Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Flash settings, and Image Size and Quality. Some of these options carry over into the Scene modes, depending on the subject and its specific exposure requirements, but for the most part, all of the exposure decisions are left up to the camera.

The primary advantage of this system is its simplicity. The Auto and Scene modes are selected by turning a large, clearly marked Mode dial on the camera's top panel. Each mode is marked by an easily identifiable icon (we particularly like the party hat and confetti, which marks the Party / Indoor setting). The Flash mode is quickly adjusted by pressing the middle button located under the LCD monitor, and the remaining exposure options are selected through the on-screen menu system, which is relatively short compared to most digicam models, with only two pages of options (the second one with only two menu items).

The obvious disadvantage of this system is its lack of flexibility. While the previous 800 model offered a choice of ISO settings, three metering modes, and displayed both aperture and shutter speed settings on the LCD monitor, the 775's ISO is set at 100, with no user adjustment; it has only one metering option; and the shutter speed and aperture are never revealed to the photographer. To most point-and-shooters, these limitations are of little significance, but to the more advanced photographer, they can be somewhat frustrating (which is why we recommend this camera for novice / amateur photographers).

The following overview briefly covers each of the 775's exposure systems and controls:

Auto mode: The camera automatically determines all exposure settings based on light readings taken with the built-in sensor.

Scene modes: These include seven preset exposure modes that are optimised for specific shooting conditions. Options include: Party / Indoor, which uses a slow shutter speed to record more detail in dark interior settings (should be used with a tripod); Backlight, for subjects that have sun or bright light behind them, the flash automatically fires to fill in shadows in the foreground; Portrait, uses a large lens opening to maintain sharpness in the subject and slightly blur the background; Night Portrait, slows the shutter speed to record more of the background detail and fill flash to eliminate shadows in the subject's faces (use a tripod); Landscape, employs a small lens opening for maximum depth of field and switches to Infinity focus; Beach / Snow, adjusts exposure compensation for brightly lit scenes so the camera doesn't underexpose the image; and Sunset, which also adjusts exposure compensation to better record the dark scene and capture the rich colors of the sunset.

Metering: The 25-element Matrix Metering is one of Nikon's trademark features. It evaluates 256 different spots within the image, and judges the contrast, brightness, and dark areas to determine the best overall exposure setting. While this metering system functions very well under general lighting conditions, we would like to see an additional spot metering option for difficult-to-meter situations, such as high-contrast or back-lit scenes.(Although again, such features would take the 775 away from the point & shoot simplicity it's market demands.)

Exposure Compensation: This user-selectable option is controlled through the Shooting mode menu, with adjustable Exposure Compensation settings from +2 to -2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. Exposure compensation is primarily used to adjust for extreme lighting situations, such as very bright or dark subjects / scenes, or when shooting in high-contrast settings. The general rule-of-thumb is to select positive values when photographing very bright scenes (such as snow, water, or sand), or when the background is much lighter than the subject, and to use negative values when photographing very dark scenes (such as deep forest settings), or when the background is much darker than the subject.

White Balance: Also accessed through the Shooting mode menu, White Balance compensates for different color temperatures produced by various light sources. White Balance options include: Auto (the camera determines WB), White Balance Preset (manual adjustment), Fine (sunlight), Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, and Speedlight (flash). The manual Preset adjustment is determined by selecting White Bal Preset option in the White Balance menu, highlighting the Measure option, holding a bright white sheet of paper in front of the camera lens, and pressing the right Arrow button. The camera will zoom out, release the shutter, and take a reading of the light coming from the paper. It then makes whatever adjustments are required to render that particular color pure white in subsequently captured images.


Flash
The 775 features a built-in flash with five operating modes, each of which is accessed by pressing the Flash / Index button centered under the LCD monitor. Flash mode options include: Auto, which automatically triggers the flash when the camera determines that additional lighting is needed; Flash Cancel (flash off), which prevents the flash from firing under any conditions; Anytime Flash (fill flash), which automatically fires the flash, regardless of lighting conditions; Slow Sync, which combines flash and a slow shutter speed to let in more ambient light (best used for nighttime shots and backlit subjects, tripod recommended); and Red-Eye Reduction, which emits a preflash before unleashing the full flash power to reduce the effects of red-eye in the subjects' eyes. A small icon indicating each flash mode appears at the top of the LCD monitor.

Nikon reports the flash range for the 775 at three different lens settings: Macro range is 7.9 inches to 7.9 feet (20 to 240cm); Normal is 1.3 to 9.8 feet (40 to 300cm), and Maximum zoom is 1.3 to 5.6 feet (40 to 170cm). Our own test results were a little odd, in that the flash seemed somewhat dim at all distances, and not appreciably more so at the 14 foot limit of our test than at the 8 foot starting point. Given that most of our flash test shots are taken with the lens at or near maximum zoom, it's likely that we were beyond the unit's rated range. (Short flash range is the bane of many subcompact digicams, and the 775 seems to share this difficulty somewhat.)


Special Exposure Modes

Movie
The Coolpix 775 features a Movie recording mode, accessed by turning the Mode dial to the movie camera icon. Real time action is recorded at 15 frames per second, 320 x 240-pixel (QVGA) resolution, without sound, and stored on the memory card as QuickTime files (designated by .MOV at the end of the name). Recording begins by pressing the Shutter button once and continues for 15 seconds, or until the memory card runs out of space. You can end the recording before the 15 seconds are up by pressing the Shutter button a second time. Flash, Macro and Infinity Focus, and Digital Zoom options are not available in Movie mode.

In Playback mode, Movie files are displayed as single image frames with a movie camera icon in the lower left corner of the LCD display. To start the movie playback, press the right arrow button once to begin playback and press it a second time to pause. While in pause mode, the up and down arrow keys can be used to rewind or advance the movie one frame at a time.

Self-Timer
Controlled by the Focus / Self-Timer / Delete button on the camera's back panel, the Self-Timer function is used to set up the camera for delayed exposures. The 775 offers two countdown durations -- 3 or 10 seconds -- determined by the number of times you depress the Shutter button to activate the Self-Timer (one press for 3 seconds and two presses for 10 seconds). The shorter countdown is ideal for triggering the shutter quickly, without risking camera shake when your finger comes in contact with the Shutter button. The longer countdown time enables you to frame a shot, depress the Shutter button, and quickly take up a position in front of the camera before the shutter fires. This is particularly helpful when taking group photos (just remember to bring the tripod!)

In most shooting modes, the Self-Timer is activated by scrolling through the Focus / Self-Timer button options: Autofocus (no icon), Autofocus / Self-Timer (clock icon), Infinity Focus (mountain icon), Macro Focus (flower icon), and Macro Focus / Self-Timer (flower + clock icon). Only those options that display a Self-Timer icon will activate the countdown. Once the Shutter button is depressed, a Self-Timer lamp on the camera's front panel starts blinking, and will continue to blink until one second before the shutter is released, when it will glow steadily until the shutter fires. You can also track the countdown by watching the Self-Timer icon on the camera's LCD monitor, which displays the seconds remaining until the exposure is complete.

We're pleased to see that Nikon has engineered the 775 so that the Self-Timer can be used in either Macro or Autofocus modes. The earlier 800 model had the Self-Timer and Macro functions as two separate options on the same control -- making it impossible to use the Self-Timer in Macro mode.

Continuous Shooting
The 775 features a Continuous shooting option in the Auto menu for selecting one of three capture modes: Single, Continuous, and Multi-Shot 16. Single capture is the default setting, in which the camera records a single exposure each time you press the Shutter button. The Continuous option records a rapid sequence of images at a rate of about three photos every two seconds, for as long as you hold down the Shutter button. (Note: The capture rate will decrease if the camera's memory buffer fills up, displaying an hourglass icon until it has had a chance to process the images.) The third option, Multi-Shot 16, records 16 consecutive 400 x 300-pixel thumbnail images and combines them into a collage measuring 1,600 x 1,200 pixels. (This option is only available when the image size is set to Full.) Flash is not available in the Continuous and Multi-Shot 16 modes. Focus, White Balance, and Exposure are set with the first image in the series and applied to all subsequent exposures.

Best Shot Selection
The Best Shot Selection (BSS) feature records continuous exposures in the same manner as the Continuous mode, except that the camera then analyses the series and chooses the sharpest image to record to the memory card. This is particularly useful in situations where there is an increased potential for camera shake, such as in Macro mode, when the lens is zoomed out to maximum telephoto range, or when the lighting is poor and you can't use the flash. The sequence is limited to 10 shots, and Focus, White Balance, and Exposure are all set with the first image in the series. Flash is not available in BSS mode.

Image Sharpening
The Image Sharpening menu provides several options for sharpening images in-camera. Auto Sharpening makes adjustments based on the image, so the amount of sharpening will vary from shot to shot; Normal applies the same level of sharpening to all images; High increases image sharpness, making edges more distinct. Low reduces the amount of sharpening normally applied; and Off shuts down the sharpening function completely. These options are only available in the Auto exposure mode. In Scene modes, the camera determines the level of sharpening based on the subject matter. (Note: The effects of Image Sharpening are not visible on the LCD monitor.)


Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it using a proprietary Imaging Resource test setup. The chart below shows the results of our timing tests on the Coolpix 775.

 

Nikon Coolpix 775 Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
6.8
About average for cameras with telescoping lenses.
Shutdown
2.5
Faster than average.
Play to Record, first shot
2.9
Time until first shot is captured, from "Instant Review" mode. About average.
Record to play (max/min res)
2.6
A bit faster than average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.88 Tele
0.81 Wide
Faster than average among similarly-priced cameras.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.25
A bit faster than average.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
3.3
Faster than average. Max res gives this speed for 5 shots, then about 5-8 seconds per shot. Min res lets you shoot this fast for a large number of shots.
Cycle time, continuous mode
0.9-1.5
Quite fast, but a lot of variation in cycle times from one frame to the next.

 


Overall, the Coolpix 775 looks like a fairly fast camera. Autofocus delay is lower than average, particularly when the lens is zoomed to its telephoto position. (The autofocus of most cameras slows markedly as the lens is moved toward the telephoto setting.) Shot to shot cycle times are fairly fast, and a generously-sized buffer memory lets you take five pictures without pausing, even in the highest resolution/quality mode. Overall, a good performance.


Operation and User Interface
The 775 continues in the footsteps of earlier Coolpix models by offering a very simple user interface with most of the controls easily accessed by external buttons and dials. We were particularly fond of its Mode Dial, which lays all of the point-and-shoot exposure modes (eight altogether!) right at your fingertips. In fact, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how to set up just about any shot -- portraits, sunsets, night scenes, even ski slopes -- it's all right on the dial, illustrated with easy to follow icons. A series of five buttons -- each well-marked with its multiple functions -- add even more fingertip control around the LCD monitor. As a group, they cover just about all of the bases: Flash, Self-Timer, Delete, Macro or Infinity focus, Quick Review, and the Menu button. The Multi-Selector control (what we normally refer to as a four-way arrow pad) is a little trickier to navigate, especially with the Up and Down arrows assigned to scrolling through image playback -- a function we would normally expect to find with the Left and Right arrows. However, this is a relatively minor gripe, as it doesn't take long to learn the protocol.

What we do miss is not having external access to the Exposure Compensation control, which becomes very tedious when you have to make adjustments through an on-screen menu (tedious enough to discourage its use). The menu screens are very compact, obviously to compensate for the small amount of LCD real estate, but they are also difficult to read, especially for users who are visually challenged by small typefaces.

Overall, we were pleased with the 775's operation and layout. The compact size made it real handy to carry around, and it doesn't sacrifice a lot of external controls to make everything fit. Here is a brief rundown of the buttons and menus and how they all fit into the camera's operation.


Control Enumeration


Mode Dial: Located on top of the camera, slightly to the right of center, the Mode dial offers nine Shooting modes and one Playback mode. Options include (clockwise): Auto Exposure, Party / Indoors, Backlight, Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Beach / Snow, Sunset, Movie, and Playback.


Shutter Button: Positioned in front of the Mode dial, on the far right side of the camera's top panel, the Shutter button sets focus when depressed halfway and triggers the shutter when fully depressed. Pressing the Shutter button in Self-Timer mode triggers a 10-second countdown before the exposure completed.


Multi-Selector: This set of four arrow keys, located on the back panel in the upper right corner, performs a variety of functions, including scrolling through images in Quick Review and Playback, navigating through the camera menus, and controlling the monitor display. Individually, the four buttons perform the following functions:



Flash Indicator: The top LED lamp next to the eye-level viewfinder is the red Flash Indicator, which glows steadily when the Flash is charged and ready to fire. When the lamp blinks red, the Flash is charging, and when the LED lamp is off, the Flash is turned off, or the Auto Flash has determined that a flash is not required.


Autofocus Indicator: The bottom LED lamp next to the viewfinder glows a steady green color when the subject is in focus. If it flickers, the camera is having trouble focusing on the subject. If the green light flashes, it means the camera is recording one or more images to the memory card. If the light flashes slowly, the Digital Zoom is activated.


Transfer Button: The top button on the right side of the LCD monitor, the Transfer button is used to select images for transfer, and to transfer selected images from the camera to the computer while running NikonView software. When the camera is in Playback mode, the Transfer button is used to select images and movies for transfer to a computer at a later time.


Quick Review / Playback Zoom Button: Directly below the Transfer button, this control is used to view results of previously recorded images while still in Shooting mode. Pressing the button once brings up a thumbnail size review image in the upper left corner of the LCD monitor, while keeping the current, active LCD view on-screen. Pressing the button twice brings up a full-page review image. In Playback mode, this button functions as a Playback Zoom, magnifying the image to twice its normal size.


Focus Mode / Self-Timer / Delete Button: In Shooting mode, the left button under the LCD monitor functions as the Focus and Self Timer selector. Options include Autofocus (no icon), Landscape (mountain icon), Macro (flower icon), and Self-Timer (clock), which can be combined with Autofocus or Macro. In full-frame or thumbnail Playback, this button is used to select photographs for deletion.


Flash Mode / Index Button: This center button under the LCD monitor controls the built-in Flash when the camera is in Shooting mode. Flash options include:



Menu Button: Located on the right side under the LCD monitor, the Menu button brings up the on-screen menu for the current operating mode. If the menu has more than one page, pressing the Menu button a second time displays the next page of the menu. When the last menu page is displayed, pressing the Menu button exits from the on-screen menu.

Battery Chamber Cover Latch: A sliding latch located on the bottom panel of the camera, this button opens the battery compartment door.


Camera Modes & Menus


Auto Mode: The Auto Shooting mode controls all exposure settings, with a limited number of user-selectable exposure options, such as Image Quality, Image Size, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, and Image Sharpening. Suggested use is for point-and-shoot photography under average shooting conditions.

Scene Modes: The 775 offers seven Scene exposure modes, which are preset for specific shooting situations.

Party / Indoor: Intended for indoor photography where light levels are low and you want to maintain as much detail as possible. It uses a slow shutter speed to record background lighting, with the Flash set on Auto Flash with Red-Eye Reduction. A tripod is highly recommended to prevent camera shake.

Backlight: Use this mode for high-contrast situations where your subject is back-lit by a bright light source. The Flash is set on Anytime (Fill) Flash to fill in the shadows on the subjects' faces.

Portrait: Camera settings are optimised for close-up portrait photography. A large aperture opening reduces the depth of field, so the subject stays in sharp focus, while the background clutter is blurred to make it less busy. You can use any Flash setting for this mode.

Night Portrait: This mode is intended for photographing any close-up subject in a very dark setting. The camera uses a slow shutter speed to record as much ambient light as possible, and the Flash is set on Auto Flash with Red-Eye Reduction to fill in shadows on the subject if necessary. A tripod is highly recommended to prevent camera shake.

Landscape: Use this mode for city skylines, mountain ranges, landscapes, or other faraway subjects. The camera's aperture is set to its smallest setting to maintain the maximum depth of field and the Focus mode is set on Landscape (with an option to change it to Self-Timer). The Flash is automatically disabled since it does not have sufficient range to illuminate distant subjects. A tripod is recommended if light levels are low.

Beach / Snow: Camera settings are optimised for very bright scenes that include large expanses of snow, beach, or water. As these subjects tend to trick the camera's exposure meter into underexposing the image, Exposure Compensation is adjusted to compensate for the overly bright readings. The Flash and Focus can be set to any mode.

Sunset: Intended for photographing colorful sunsets, usually in low light situations, this mode uses a slow shutter speed and sets the Flash mode to Off, to prevent it from firing. Exposure compensation is dialled down, to avoid washing out the sunset/sunrise colors. This mode is not recommended for photographing people against a sunset, unless you want them to be recorded as silhouettes with no facial detail. A tripod is highly recommended to prevent camera shake.

Movie Mode: This Shooting option records movies (without sound) at 320 x 240-pixel resolution, for a maximum of 15 seconds each. Recording begins when the Shutter button is fully depressed, and ends when the Shutter button is depressed a second time (or when the 15 seconds is up or the memory card runs out of space). As the movie is recording, a countdown display is shown on the LCD monitor, indicating the number of seconds remaining in the exposure. Movies are stored as QuickTime files, with .MOV at the end of the file name. The Flash is turned off in this mode, and the Focus is set on Autofocus.

Playback Mode: The Playback mode displays the most recently recorded image or movie as a full-size still image on the LCD monitor. In single-image playback, you can scroll through stored images using the Up and Down Arrow buttons on the Multi-Selector control panel; adjust the information display by pressing the Left Arrow button; play a movie by pressing the Right Arrow button (when the movie is displayed on-screen) and pause it with the same button; and you can select the currently displayed image for transfer to the computer by pressing the Transfer button on the camera's back panel. You can also Delete the currently displayed photo with the Focus Mode / Delete button, view multiple images in Index mode by pressing the Flash / Index button, zoom in on the current still image with the Quick Review / Playback Zoom button, and bring up the Playback menu by pressing the Menu button.

In single-image playback mode, images are displayed briefly as low-resolution photos while they are being read from the memory card (indicated by the appearance of an hour-glass icon on the monitor). By pressing the Up or Down Arrow buttons quickly, you can scroll through the low-resolution images without having to wait for each image to load at full resolution, or you can hold down the Arrow buttons and view the image numbers flashing in the lower right corner of the screen. Releasing the Arrow button at a particular frame number will bring up that photo.


Camera Menus

Auto Menu
Accessed by turning the Mode Dial to the Auto setting, the Auto mode controls all exposure settings, with a limited number of user-selectable exposure options, such as Image Quality, Image Size, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, and Image Sharpening. The suggested use for this mode is point-and-shoot photography under average shooting conditions. When the camera is in Auto mode, pressing the Menu button brings up the following options:



Scene Menu
Scene exposure modes are preset for specific subjects and / or lighting situations. Options are selected on the camera's Mode Dial and include the following options: Party / Indoor, Backlight, Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Snow / Sand, and Sunset. Because these settings are optimised for specific shooting conditions, the menu is limited to only two options:



Set-Up Menu
The Set-Up menu adjusts the camera's basic operating parameters and consists of two pages:



Playback Menu
The Playback menu includes options for deleting pictures, playing slide shows, protecting images from accidental erasure, and marking images for DPOF or for automatic transfer to the computer. Playback menu options are:



Image Storage and Interface
The Coolpix 775 uses standard CompactFlash Type I storage media for image capture. An 8MB Nikon-branded card comes with the camera, but you'll almost certainly want to buy a (much) larger card immediately, given the size of the camera's digital image files. Resolution options include: Full 1,600 x 1,200; XGA 1,024 x 768; and VGA 640 x 480 pixels, and they can be saved at one of three JPEG compression levels: Fine (4:1), Normal (8:1), and Basic (16:1). The approximate number of images that can be stored on an 8MB card are listed in the chart below:


Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
8MB Card
Full
1600 x 1200
XGA
1024 x 768
VGA
640 x 480
Images
Approx.
Compression
Images
Approx.
Compression
Images
Approx.
Compression
Fine
Quality
8
4:1
19
4:1
48
4:1
Normal
Quality
16
8:1
37
8:1
88
8:1
Basic
Quality
32
16:1
73
16:1
161
16:1

 


You can write-protect individual images on the CompactFlash card to prevent them from being accidentally erased in the Playback Menu. You can also format the entire card via the Set-Up menu, which erases all images on the card, including write-protected images.

The Coolpix 775 connects to Windows or Macintosh computers via a USB interface. We didn't test its data transfer rate (plumb forgot), but most USB-connected cameras transfer data at about 300 KB/second. - Fast enough that you can manage just fine without a card reader. (For the record, Nikon's 885 and 995 are both a good bit faster than average, with transfer rates of about 500 KB/second, so the 775 is likely faster as well.)

One of the first things any new digicam owner will need is a larger memory card for their camera: The cards shipped with the units by the manufacturers should really be considered only "starter" cards, you'll definitely want a higher capacity card immediately. - Probably at least a 32 megabyte card for a 1.3 or 2 megapixel camera, 64 megabytes or more for a 3, 4, or 5 megapixel one. (The nice thing about memory cards is you'll be able to use whatever you buy now with your next camera too, whenever you upgrade.) To help you shop for a good deal on memory cards that fit the C775, we've put together a little memory locater, with links to our price-comparison engine: Just click on the "Memory Wizard" button above to go to the Nikon memory finder, select your camera model , and click the shopping cart icon next to the card size you're interested in. You'll see a list of matching entries from the price-comparison database. Pick a vendor & order away! (Pretty cool, huh?)

Video Out
The camera's USB connector doubles as a Video Out port for viewing images on a TV or VCR. An NTSC cable is supplied with the camera in the US and Japan, while a PAL compatible cable is shipped with European models. The video mode can be set to either NTSC or PAL in the camera's Set-Up menu.


Power
The Coolpix 775 is powered by a single rechargeable Nikon EN-EL1 lithium-ion battery provided with the camera. You can also use a non-rechargeable 2CRS (DL245) lithium battery, available separately, as a backup battery. (Lithium batteries make good backup batteries because they offer the advantage of long life and stability and do not discharge when not in use.) A lithium-ion battery charger is provided for the EN-EL1 and an optional AC adapter / battery charger is available for providing AC power directly to the 775.

 

Operating Mode
Power
(mA @8.4v)
Est. Minutes
Capture Mode, w/LCD
300 mA
91
Capture Mode, no LCD
<10 mA
(days)
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
290 mA
95
Half-pressed w/o LCD
170 mA
161
Memory Write (transient)
340 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
890 mA
n/a
Image Playback
190 mA
144

 


We applaud Nikon for including a rechargeable LiIon battery and charger with the Coolpix 775. LiIon technology lets the 775 maintain respectable battery life even with its trimmed-down package size. The power consumption numbers we measured for the 775 were about average in most respects. With its LCD off though, it provided exceptional battery life, measured in days, not minutes. This is great, because it means you can just leave the camera turned on all day, ready to take pictures at a moments notice, without worrying about draining your battery pack.

While the 775's battery can last all day with the LCD off, you're likely to find yourself wanting to run the LCD a lot to show people the photos you've just shot. A lot of digicam users use external power packs for increased run time in such situations. However, another consequence of the LiIon battery technology it uses is that the 775 requires a higher voltage on its external power jack to operate. This means that most of the NiMH-based external power packs out there won't power the 775 in the field. Fortunately, there's a LiIon external "PowerBank" made by Maha and sold under the PowerEx brand (shown above) that will power the 775 just fine. For about $60, this unit should power the 775 for a good of 4-5 hours in continuous capture mode with the LCD operating. (The worst-case/highest-power scenario.) - Then add in another 90 minutes for the internal battery, and you can literally run all day.(!) One note - Maha/PowerEx makes both NiMH and LiIon versions of the PowerBank, make sure you get the LiIon model for the 775. (Model number MH-DPB140LI.) Click here for more info, or to order one. Highly recommended!


Included Software
The camera's bundled software offers a robust set of programs for managing and manipulating images from the 775, including Nikon's auto transfer program, NikonView 4, which enables you to upload images to your computer and distribute them to family and friends via e-mail or through Nikon's image-sharing website: www.nikonnet.com. Selected images can also be copied to a floppy disk directly from the camera's memory card and delivered to a photofinisher for processing. In addition to NikonView, users are provided with Canto Cumulus 5.0 Trial and iView Media Pro (Mac only) for image storage and management, plus a full suite of ArcSoft digital imaging programs, including: PhotoImpression 2000, for editing, retouching, and applying special effects to your images; VideoImpression for viewing and editing QuickTime movies; PhotoPrinter Pro 2000 for preparing images for printing; and Panorama Maker 2000, which allows users to stitch together multiple images to create panoramic photographs.


In the Box



Test Results

In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Coolpix 775's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the 775 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the 775 produced accurate, neutral color throughout our testing, although it had a little trouble with the always-difficult blue flowers in our Outdoor Portrait test. It had a good tonal range, managing to hold highlight detail in high contrast situations, with only a slight darkening of the midtone values. The camera's White Balance system handled most of our test lighting well, though we often noticed slight color casts in the preset values in various situations. That said, the camera's Manual White Balance did a great job with the tough incandescent lighting of our Indoor Portrait (without flash), and the Auto setting handled our studio lighting quite well. Color balance looked pretty good on our Davebox target, with the 775 distinguishing tough tonal variations and reproducing the large color blocks accurately and with good saturation. As noted above, the 775 fell victim to the tough blue flowers in our Outdoor and Indoor portraits, producing slight purple tints in the petals, although not as badly as is the case with many cameras. (These blues are a common problem among digicams, with many cameras rendering them almost entirely purple.)

The 775 did a good job on our "laboratory" resolution test chart, showing artifacts in the test patterns at 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. We found "strong detail" out to at least 750 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until 850-950 lines. The 775's images had a slight softness to them in all our test shots, but the resolution target results show that the basic information is there. (On the other hand, the Outdoor Portrait shot is markedly soft in the model's hair: We've seen this before, caused by cameras' internal noise-suppression algorithms. In areas of fine detail with lower contrast, the camera tends to smoosh (a technical term ;-) the detail, thinking it's image noise. The 775 is far from the worst camera we've seen in this respect, but the effect is more pronounced than we've seen in other Nikon camera models.)

Optical distortion on the 775 proved to be a little high at the wide angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.97 percent barrel distortion. (Most cameras we test average around 0.7-0.8% barrel at wide angle.) The telephoto end fared much better, as we measured only two pixels of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only one or two lightly-colored pixels around target elements in the far corners of the frame on the resolution test.

Though the 775 does not offer full or partial manual exposure control, it did do a pretty good job in the low-light category. In our testing, the 775 produced bright, usable images at light levels as low as one-half foot-candle, which is about half as bright as average city street lighting. The camera does capture images as low as 1/16 foot-candle, though images are very dim and difficult to distinguish. Noise was moderate throughout our low-light test series.

The 775's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing approximately 88 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 84 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 97 percent of the final frame at both wide angle and telephoto lens settings. Given that we prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 775's LCD monitor does a great job.

We were very impressed with the 775's macro capabilities, as the camera captures a very tiny minimum area of just 1.71 x 1.29 inches (43.54 x 32.45 millimeters). Though the brooch and coin details of our test subject were slightly soft due to the limited depth of field when shooting this close, resolution was quite high on the dollar bill. Details on the surface of the dollar bill were sharp and clear, and overall color was very accurate. The 775's flash proved ineffective at this close range, overexposing the top right corner of the frame and producing a shadow in the lower left corner.

Overall, we were quite pleased with the 775's performance throughout our testing. Color accuracy and saturation are both good, with good image quality as well. The 775 also handles low-light and macro shooting situations without too much trouble, making the camera suitable for a variety of shooting conditions. (Really, it's surprisingly versatile for a camera lacking extensive manual exposure controls.)

Conclusion
The Coolpix 775 is a strong entry by Nikon into the "ultra compact" digicam market. While not as tiny as the smallest of its competition (cameras like the Canon S300 and Kyocera S3), the 775 offers a very strong set of useful features. We think there's a large middle ground of users out there, who are looking for cameras with just the characteristics the 775 offers. Its Scene Program modes make it easy for relative novices to get good results in a wide variety of shooting situations, simply by selecting the correct Scene Program on the mode dial. It could hardly get much easier, yet there's very little added complexity beyond a more basic point & shoot camera. The 775's color and tonal range are very good. While we did find some softness in the 775's images, that's a relative issue: We suspect most users this camera is intended for wouldn't be able to see the softness, even on an 8x10 print. If you're looking for a camera that's a simple to use as a pure "point & shoot", but that has the capability to take excellent photos under a really wide range of conditions, the 775 would be an excellent choice. (It also offers the Nikon signature sophistication and color fidelity at a very competitive price.)


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