Conclusion - Pros

  • Very compact and pocketable
  • Beautifully built and all-metal construction
  • Good resolution and good edge-to-edge consistency
  • Excellent natural color and exposure - very few blown highlights
  • Manual (custom) white balance
  • Fast focus and very responsive performance overall
  • High performance movie mode with electronic VR
  • Good ISO 400 performance
  • Pretty fast operation
  • Huge range of 'hand-holding' features for the novice
  • Best Shot Selector
  • Well thought out controls and excellent handling
  • Easy to use - once you're familiar with the huge feature set
  • AF illuminator (though see below)
  • Great macro performance
  • Very little purple fringing and well controlled distortion
  • In-Camera Red-Eye Fix really works
  • D-Lighting function
  • Well priced

Conclusion - Cons

  • Images soft (though they respond well to unsharp masking)
  • Very poor low light focus - even with the new AF illuminator
  • Some focus errors at the long end of the zoom even in good light
  • Low ISO results relatively noisy using default settings
  • Finest quality JPEG is still quite heavily compressed
  • Red-eye mode means 6 second shot-to-shot time
  • Too many button presses to change basic settings - presumably to avoid accidents
  • No exposure information on-screen
  • No control over shutter speeds or apertures
  • Only two aperture settings

Overall conclusion

In an increasingly crowded 7MP compact market, the Coolpix 7900 has much to recommend it. Design, build and ease of use are excellent, and there is a surprising amount of power hidden in the extensive menus, offering control over focus, metering, white balance and so on for those who like to tweak. The novice market the 7900 is aimed at will surely welcome the hand-holding approach of the scene and scene assist modes, and the overall responsiveness makes using the camera a real pleasure. Features such as Best Shot Selector (which takes a burst of shots as you hold down the shutter, then chooses and saves only the sharpest one), D-Lighting, Face-Piority AF and In-Camera Red-Eye Fix (which works virtually every time) add value to an already well-priced camera.

Although purists will no doubt applaud Nikon for refusing to 'over process' images and keep colors natural, the overall softness is unfortunate, and means that for larger prints you'll be heading for the Unsharp Mask menu with every shot. More troublesome - for the target market especially - is the hit n miss (more miss than hit) focus in dim light. If you're looking for a camera to use in pubs or bars then the Coolpix 7900 isn't for you. On the other hand, if you're looking for a compact camera that is unflappable in most circumstances, has excellent color and exposure, and a huge array of scene modes covering virtually every situation life throws at you, then you could do far worse than this.

Bottom line then: a beautiful little camera with few serious faults, save for the poor low-light focus. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a 'carry anywhere' camera that is capable - with a little help in post-processing - of producing excellent results. If the low light focus was better, or overall sharpness a tad higher, there is no doubt you'd see the word 'highly' before recommended below.

Highly Recommended

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