Nikon Coolpix P7700 review: Nicely designed, but is that enough?

Autofocus in good light feels pretty snappy, though as with many cameras the full-time autofocus during video shooting tends to pulse. It has seven AF mode options, one of which is a nice-in-theory Target-finding AF; once it decides on a subject, it expands the focus area to include what it thinks is the entire subject. Unfortunately, like most AF systems it's bad at guessing what the subject is, so you just get a lot more of the wrong thing in focus.

Design and features
I really like the physical design of the camera in a lot of ways. It has a true grip, not just a bump, and though it's the largest in its class that works in its favor for a lot of folks. Unlike the G15, which has a nice built-in lens cover, the P7700 still has one of those annoying pop-off lens caps.

On the top there are three dials: a mode dial with the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes, plus three slots for custom settings, manual and automatic movie modes, and a special-effects mode; a dedicated dial for exposure compensation; and a quick-menu dial for frequently accessed settings. That last offers the options for quality, ISO sensitivity, white balance, bracketing, Picture Controls, and a slot that aggregates the rest of your needs -- metering, autofocus type and area, and drive mode.

The camera has two customizable function buttons, one in front and one on top, which can be configured in conjunction with the front and back dials. Unlike on the G15, the command and subcommand dials sit in comfortably accessible locations.

On the back, an AF/AE-lock button is next to the pronounced thumb rest, with a large navigation dial for accessing the AF modes, flash, self-timer, and AF types. The P7700 has two close-distance options: a typical macro setting and a "close-range only" setting that's a bit annoying to have to use.

  Canon PowerShot G15 Canon PowerShot G1 X Fujifilm X10 Nikon Coolpix P7700 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1MP CMOS 14.3MP CMOS 12MP EXR CMOS 12.2MP BSI CMOS 20.2MP Exmor CMOS
1/1.7-inch 1.5-inch
(18.7 x 14mm)
2/3-inch 1/1.7-inch 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Sensitivity range ISO 80 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 12800 ISO 100 - ISO 3200 ISO 80 - ISO 3200/ 6400 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Lens 28 - 140mm
28 - 112mm
28 - 112mm
28 - 200mm
28 - 100mm
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 7.9 0.4 0.8 1.9
Burst shooting 10fps
10 frames
8 JPEG/ n/a raw
6 JPEG/ 6 raw
(10fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder Optical Optical Optical None None
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
Contrast AF
25-area Contrast AF
Metering n/a n/a 256 zones n/a n/a
Shutter 15 - 1/4,000 sec 60 - 1/4,000 sec 30 - 1/4,000 sec n/a 30 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes No
LCD 3-inch fixed 922,000 dots 3-inch articulated 922,000 dots 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
3-inch articulated
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video (best quality) 1080/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p H.264 QuickTime MOV Stereo 1080/30p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/ 60p/50p
AVCHD Stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video No No No Yes Yes
Zoom during movies Yes Yes Yes Yes
(Auto only)
Mic input No No No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 350 shots 250 shots 270 shots 330 shots 330 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 4.4 x 3 x 1.6 4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6 4.6 x 2.7 x 2.2 4.7 x 2.9 x 2 4 x 2.4 x 1.4
Weight (ounces) 12.3 18.8 12.4 13.8 8.5
Mfr. price $499.99 $799 $599.99 $499.95 $649.99
Availability October 2012 February 2012 November 2011 September 2012 July 2012

While it offers a lot of straight shooting features, there aren't a lot of other capabilities. No GPS or Wi-Fi, and only a few creative effects -- which I'm not crazy about. For example, there's an interesting-sounding Zoom Exposure mode, which produces the effect of zooming the lens toward the subject, but it only works in really dim light since it has to fix the shutter speed at 2 seconds. There's also an interval-shooting mode, but it's a really stripped-down implementation: your choices are 30 secs or 1, 5, or 10 minutes, with no control over the duration of the session or start and end times.

Like the G15 it lacks an Adobe RGB color option, which may be important only to me. Unlike that model, it doesn't retract the lens when reviewing images, which can be a real timesaver.

For a complete accounting of the P7700's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Although I never reviewed the predecessor to the Nikon Coolpix P7700, the P7100, I did review the model before that, the P7000, and I find the P770's image quality slightly better, if only because of improved color rendering. The lens on the P7700 is faster as well. So overall, unless you really need the optical viewfinder, it's a reasonable upgrade from a previous model.

I also like it just a little better than the Canon PowerShot G15, mostly because of the shooting design. But most competitors are faster, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 still beats them for photo quality. Check out this roundup of enthusiast compacts for more comparative options.

What you'll pay

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