NIKON P7700 REVIEW IN VENICE
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THERE IS NO BETTER PLACE THAN VENICE FOR A NIKON P7700 REVIEW!
As a landscape photographer, I would never have thought about doing a Nikon P7700 review if it weren’t for the enormous development in compact cameras of late. Just a few years back, it was impossible to even fathom the image quality and the feature set offered by today’s little beasts.
Compact cameras today feature high resolution, GPS, WI-FI, and some of them are even Android-powered hybrid. They do still photography and HD-video. All this in light, small and not exaggeratedly expensive packages. This is great for consumers and even prosumers, but are any of these cameras any good for professionals looking for a small camera to bring along with their kit, or for serious amateurs who really care about image quality? Let’s find out!
Disclaimer: At the time of writing, I am not affiliated with Nikon in any way. I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.
In my quest for such a high-quality compact camera, I decided to give the new Nikon Coolpix P7700 a try. The Nikon P7700 sports a 12 Mp, 4:3 ratio, 1/1.7″ sensor. It features a fast 28-200mm FOV equivalent, f/2-4 zoom lens, equipped with VR (Image Stabilisation in Nikon jargon). The lens comes with a filter thread, without the need for adapter rings of sorts. Finally, it features extensive manual controls.
So, I decided to buy one and do a Nikon P7700 review during my last Venice trip. Together with the Nikon P7700, I brought with me the Sigma DP1 Merrill, the Sigma DP2 Merrill and the Sony NEX-7 (see SIGMA DP1 MERRILL & SIGMA DP2 MERRILL REVIEW, and SIGMA DP1 & DP2 MERRILL VS SONY NEX-7 REVIEW). Let’s start with a quick look at the camera, to examine its strengths and weaknesses.
CAMERA BODY & ERGONOMICS
The Nikon P7700 is certainly on the large & heavy side for a compact camera. However, it more than makes it up for it by offering a plethora of features and dedicated manual controls, equal to or better than most professional DSLRs.
The P7700 sports twin dials, an exposure compensation dial, a mode dial, a quick menu dial (with ISO, WB, QUAL, BKT and image controls). More, it also features an AE-L/AF-L button, a 4-way controller with central OK button (defaults are macro, timer, flash & focus point) which also acts as a third rotating dial, two function buttons and a display button.
Such an extensive range of external controls mean that once you set the P7700 up to your liking, you very likely won’t need to dive into its menus ever again. Even if you needed to, no big deal: the P7700 menus are very simple and straightforward.
The camera in this Nikon P7700 review feels perfect in my (quite large) hands. It’s built like a small brick, its magnesium-alloy body is very well finished and overall it exudes quality. The front grip and rear thumb rest are covered with some very grippy rubber, making it easy to hold the camera securely. As always, I’d still recommend either a neck strap or a wrist strap for extra safety, though.
As a long-time Nikon DSLR user, I felt immediately at home with the P7700. My fingers fall exactly where they need to be, and all the controls are in easy reach.
Even someone not used to Nikon cameras, though, will find the controls to be logically laid out and intuitive enough to be able to start shooting in a few minutes. The fully articulated LCD screen, with its 3″ and 910k resolution, is bright and detailed, very customisable and it works very well even in full daylight.
The only feature I missed having, when examining the camera for this Nikon P7700 review, is the possibility to use the AE-L/AF-L button as AF-ON while decoupling AF-ON from the shutter button. This is a feature available in all professional Nikon DSLR and something easy to add via a firmware update, if Nikon wants to. Personally, this is the way I set my Nikon D3X and my Nikon D800E up, and not being able to do so in what is Nikon’s top of the line compact camera as well doesn’t make much sense to me.
SPEED OF USE
While I didn’t time or stopwatch any of the camera’s operations, the Nikon P7700 feels very responsive in use. This is a most welcome change, compared to previous iteration of this camera. Start-up is almost instant, image preview is instant, and the P7700 lets you take another shot after about 1 sec. Zooming the lens takes about 2 seconds from 28mm to 200mm, and 2 seconds to go back.
Autofocus locks quite decisively for a compact camera and focus speed is fast enough even in low light (though not DSRL fast, of course). Once the lens has focussed, shutter lag is pretty much non-existent. Of course, if you press the shutter to take a photo without pre-focussing, shutter lag will depend on how quickly the camera acquires focus before the actual shot is taken.
IN USE: WHAT I DID AND DIDN’T CARE FOR
Rather than forcing you to read a complete list of all the Nikon P7700’s features and menu options, I think it’d be more interesting for you to know which features I loved and which ones I missed or didn’t care for.
Of course, according to what you shoot your requirements might be different, so take this for what it is, just one working landscape photographer’s love/hate list.
FEATURES I LOVED
In this Nikon P7700 review, the features that I particularly loved are:
– Fully tilting screen. It makes impossible compositions possible and difficult ones easier. More importantly, it does so without sacrificing screen size or screen resolution, nor adding too much bulk;
– Vibration reduction (VR). VR works very well in the P770, I got very sharp results shooting a 117mm equivalent focal at 1/6 sec handheld, and without even using an optical viewfinder to help stabilise the camera against my face. I got steady hands, maybe steadier than most, and I work hard on my technique, but all the same this is a pretty impressive achievement on Nikon’s part;
– DSLR-style controls. For someone like me coming from Nikon DSLR’s, and shooting either in aperture priority or in manual mode only, having twin wheels controls and exposure compensation at my fingertips is a definite plus;
– Auto-ISO implementation. The P7700 features a very intelligent implementation of a very useful control. You can set your top ISO between Auto 200, Auto 400 & Auto 800 and choose your minimum shutter speed as well;
– Filter thread on the lens. This is a definite plus for a filter lover like me. It allowed me to use the P7700 not only as a street shooter but also as an image-making tool for my VIERI BOTTAZZINI FINE ART PRINTS business;
– A fast lens. The f/2-4 aperture range is great for a lens that goes to 200mm FOV;
– Flash Commander mode. I love to be able to control an external Speedlight in both TTL and Manual modes from the camera. Unfortunately, you can only control one group (no multi-group CLS);
– Manual focus implementation. MF works very well, and with the P7700 you’ll get both a magnified center-frame area to make it easier to focus and a distance scale (though a very basic one);
– Step zoom & zoom memory. This is a brilliant feature; I love to be able to step-zoom between fixed focal lengths (you can even choose which ones to enable/disable) and to be able to choose which focal length the camera will use at start-up.
FEATURES I’D LIKE TO HAVE OR THAT COULD BE BETTER IMPLEMENTED
– Lack of either an AF-ON button or of the possibility of setting the AE-L/AF-L to AF-ON while decoupling AF from the shutter button. I love this feature, I use it on all my professional Nikon bodies, and it seems strange to me that Nikon missed it on the P7700. However, it can be fixed in firmware, and I hope Nikon will do so;
– Lack of built-in GPS, which would have been nice;
– Lack of multi-group CLS control. The built-in flash can only control one flash group, while it would have been nice to be able to control at least two groups;
– Tripod socket not in line with the lens. While I understand the “real estate” constraints on such a small camera body, this makes it a no-go for panorama stitching;
– Mode dial a bit too loose for my taste. A couple of times I got an unwanted mode change just taking the camera in and out of my bag;
– I’d like to have a better MF distance scale, the one available now goes from “Macro” to “0.3m” to “infinity” without anything in between, which is not good for people who prefer to use zone-focussing. This too can be fixed in firmware, and I hope Nikon will do so;
– Sleep mode. When the camera goes to sleep, it can only be awakened by pressing the shutter or the playback button; it would be great if pressing the “Menu” or the “OK” button worked as well.
WHAT I DIDN’T CARE FOR
– In-camera editing and retouching features and filter effects. While I am sure someone do appreciate them, I never used them nor probably ever will. I’d rather see that processing power dedicated to something else, such as deeper buffer, faster AF & file processing.
Features and their implementation are very important, since they enable you to get to the shot in the easiest, smoothest and most efficient way. A camera that is easy to use and doesn’t work against you is a great help towards taking better images, and the Nikon P7700 is definitely a very enjoyable camera to work with.
It’s once the shot has been taken, however, that things become really serious for me. Image quality is what ultimately will make a difference between a camera I’ll keep and use and one I’ll sell.
I.e., image quality is the only reason why I decided to keep the Sigma DP1 Merrill & Sigma DP2 Merrill and order immediately the new Sigma DP3 Merrill when announced, despite all their operational quirks. I choose to keep them based on image quality alone over the Sony NEX-7, even if the Sony is the better camera by far when it comes to operation, speed and general features.
I bought the P7700 when planning my shooting trip to Venice, thinking I’d use it for street photography & candids while leaving the task of creating images for my VIERI BOTTAZZINI FINE ART PRINTS galleries to the Sigma DP Merrills & the Nex-7.
While in Venice, I gave it a try for those images that the Sigma & the Nex-7 couldn’t take, mostly because of their limited focal length lenses. Somehow to my surprise, the results turned out so good that I ended up using some P7700 images for my Portfolio as well.
If you do street or candid photography and need to work in low light, you’ll definitely be happy with the P7700’s images. The camera is usable up until ISO 400, and if you intend convert your images to B&W, I’d use ISO 800 confidently as well. I would only use ISO 1600 and higher for very small prints and internet use. However, you have to take into account that I love grain in my digital B&W street photos, grain somehow makes them look less “digitally clinic”, so to speak. So, if it’s not there to begin with, I’d add some in. In this respect, the P7700’s grain is very good looking, very film-like – for those who remember film.
When reviewing anything, conclusions make sense only in relation with one’s expectations. When I set off to do this Nikon P7700 review, I was looking for a good all-rounder, for a street shooter with good flexibility, good image quality, good operational speed and packing powerful features in a small package. The Nikon P7700 fulfilled my expectations and then some. It is not perfect, nor it will replace any of my DSLR cameras for serious high-quality work yet. However, it’s a great addition to my lightweight kit, and I will definitely keep it. Below you find my detailed conclusions.
Ergonomics, speed and operations. The Nikon P7700 is a pleasure to use, feels great in the hand and all the controls are where you expect them to be. As far as speed, the camera didn’t once leave me waiting.
AF is good for a compact camera, and so is write speed; both a deeper buffer and faster AF would of course be welcome, though. Battery life is pretty good (330 shots, CIPA standard), but I’d definitely carry a second battery for a full day out shooting.
Lens and IQ. In short, the P7700’s Nikkor 28-200mm, f/2-4 zoom lens is extremely good. It’s fast enough to do some low-light shooting, and VR works very well allowing you to shoot hand-held at very low shutter speeds Colour response is well balanced, without any casts. Sharpness over the frame is pretty good in real world use, though reviewers shooting flat resolution boards would probably disagree.
Chromatic aberrations, while present, are well controlled and easy to remove. While distortion is very evident at the wide side (barrel), it is not so apparent at the long end (just a bit of pincushion) and is always easily correctable in Photoshop if you shoot RAW. If you shoot JPG, the camera will correct it for you.
Low-light shooting. The fast lens and VR do help a lot with low-light shooting. If you need to use high ISO, I’d use comfortably ISO 400, while I’d go up to ISO 800 and higher either if I plan to convert my images to B&W, or for Internet use only.
As a result of this Nikon P7700 review, I decided to keep the camera and add it to my light kit. This now consists of the Sigma DP1 Merrill & Sigma DP2 Merrill, waiting for the Sigma DP3 Merrill to be delivered to me at the end of March. These three cameras, plus the Nikon Coolpix P7700, a light Gitzo tripod and a set of filters, will cover all my requirements when I want to travel light.
Thanks for reading this Nikon P7700 review, I hope you enjoyed it! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?
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