Roundup: Enthusiast Zoom Compact Cameras
Nikon Coolpix P7700
12MP | 28-200mm (7.1x) Zoom | $426 (US) £385 (UK) €430 (EU)
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- Full specifications, plus user reviews and more sample images
- Read our hands-on preview (published August 2012)
In recent years, Nikon's track record in the high-end compact camera segment has been patchy. After a long hiatus, the Coolpix P7000 was released in 2010, offering nice image quality and a versatile 28-200mm (equivalent) lens, but glacial operational speed and a decidedly quirky UI. The P7100 solved some of these problems a year later, but compared to its rivals, a maximum aperture of F2.8-5.6 reduced the usefulness of the otherwise impressive zoom lens in marginal light.
The P7700 addresses this weakness - letting it compete much more directly with its peers. It retains the 28-200mm range but features a lens that's a stop brighter throughout its range. An F2.0-4.0 lens means the P7700 comes closer to competing with the likes of Panasonic's LX7 and Samsung's EX2F in low light, while offering a longer zoom range than its nearest competitor, the Canon PowerShot G15. A built-in ND filter is good news, too, and means that it should be possible to shoot at long shutter speeds without reaching for diffraction-inducing apertures. The P7700 omits its predecessor's optical viewfinder, but now features a fully articulated LCD display - in contrast to the slimmed-down Canon PowerShot G15.
Nikon Coolpix P7700 key features
- 12.2MP 1/1.7" BSI-CMOS sensor
- 28-200mm (equivalent), F2.0-4.0 zoom lens with 'Second Generation' VR
- ISO 80-1600
- Front dial, rear thumb dial, four-way dial and exposure compensation dial
- 1080p30 movie recording with stereo sound
- Fully articulating, 3.0" 921k-dot LCD
- 330 shot battery life (CIPA)
- Built-in ND Filter
- Hot shoe for external flash units
Like its predecessor the P7100, the P7700 is peppered with external control points. The fully-articulated rear LCD screen is a welcome addition, and it's so slim that it doesn't appreciably add to the camera's bulk. The new camera features a socket for an external microphone (one of the few compact cameras to do so), and a flash hotshoe which allows any of Nikon's current range of Speedlight flashguns to be attached with full i-TTL compatibility. New in the P7700 is compatibility with Nikon's diminutive GP-1 GPS unit, and the ability to control a group of Speedlight flashes from the built-in flash.
Performance and image quality
Where the P7700 falls down is speed. It starts up quickly enough, in under a second, menus can be displayed and dismissed in a snap, and the 28-200mm zoom takes a perfectly reasonable 2 seconds to complete its full traverse, but when it comes to shooting, the P7700 can be frustratingly laggardly. With a standard SD card installed, it takes around 3 seconds after capturing a JPEG (fine) image before the camera is ready to take another. Switch to Raw + JPEG mode, and this delay increases threefold. Even with a fast UHS-I card installed, shot to shot time in Raw+ JPEG mode is still around 4 seconds, but this drops to a much more reasonable ~1 second in JPEG (fine) capture.
Turning to image quality, the Nikon Coolpix P7700 delivers excellent results at low to medium ISO sensitivity settings, and sharpness from its 28-200mm lens is high across the entire zoom range. Straight from the camera, JPEGs look great, but if you have the time, careful processing of the P7700's .NRW files can give excellent results. It helps, of course, that the P7700's maximum aperture is pretty generous across its zoom range. This gives it a 1 stop advantage over its predecessor at the long end of the zoom, which allows you to set a higher shutter speed for better sharpness or a lower ISO sensitivity for better critical image quality.
Overall, the Nikon Coolpix P7700 is an excellent compact camera for anyone who wants the maximum possible versatility coupled with image quality good enough to satisfy reasonably critical use. The P7700's zoom range of 28-200mm is extremely handy for general out-and-about shooting, and a fast lens of F2-4, coupled with very effective optical Vibration Reduction means that most of the time, you'll be able to shoot in the P7700's 'sweet zone' of ISO 100-800.
Where the P7700 disappoints is in terms of operational speed. Although improved from earlier P-series models, the P7700 can be frustratingly slow to process images when shooting in Raw mode, and we'd regard the purchase of a fast UHS-I card to be essential for enthusiasts, in order to avoid long waits between shots.
Studio and Real-World Samples (links open in new tab)
|Studio Comparison Scene||Nikon Coolpix P7700 Samples (36 images)|
What we like: As much direct manual control over settings as you could hope for, sharp, versatile lens, effective stabilization and very good image quality at low/medium ISO sensitivities.
What we don't like: The P7700's enthusiast-oriented UI takes some getting used to, slow operation speed with non-UHS-I cards, especially in Raw / Raw + JPEG capture.