CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

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

This enthusiast "compact" camera offers a comfortable, streamlined shooting design, but doesn't set us on fire.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
7 min read

As with Canon's G series of cameras, I'm really struggling to identify the particular needs that models like the Nikon Coolpix P7700 serve. I can only arrive at them by process of elimination: you want better photo quality than a $250 point-and-shoot (but can't afford the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100), don't care about a big zoom range, don't care about size, and don't care about speed. They're perfectly fine cameras, with lots of photography-friendly twiddly bits, but there are other cameras like them that are smaller, faster, better, and comparably priced.


Nikon Coolpix P7700

The Good

A comfortable shooting design and nice photos in bright light number among the strengths of the <b>Nikon Coolpix P7700</b>.

The Bad

The P7700's performance is sluggish, and despite being the largest camera in its class it no longer has an optical viewfinder.

The Bottom Line

It's a solid enthusiast "compact" that will please a lot of shooters, but the Nikon Coolpix P7700 doesn't quite deliver at midrange ISO sensitivities and its image-processing overhead might annoy impatient photographers.

Image quality
I like the P7700's photo quality more than I expected -- I'm not a huge fan of BSI sensors -- and most surprisingly found it performs better in bright light than dim. That said, JPEGs start to show artifacts even as low as ISO 200, though depending upon subject matter and final size you can still get usable shots as high as ISO 1600. Processing raw files helps a bit in improving the tonal range, but you can't do much about sharpness.

Nikon Coolpix P7700 photo samples

See all photos

Colors render relatively accurately, even with the default Standard Picture Control profile. It pushes saturation and contrast a little, and there seem to be some slight hue shifts in the reds, but only the kind that you notice in side-by-side comparisons.

Click to view ISO 80

ISO 400
ISO 1600

Video looks typical for this class of camera. It's nicely saturated in bright light, though there's quite a bit of edge aliasing (jaggies) and it really clips the shadows and blows out the highlights. In low light there's some color noise, but mostly there just isn't a lot of dynamic range. Also, the mic seems a little less sensitive -- at least in Auto -- than many other cameras'.

Note: We recently updated our testing methodology to provide slightly more real-world performance, so the results aren't necessarily comparable with previous testing. Until we're finished refining our procedures we will not be posting comparative performance charts.

I'd classify the P7700's performance as adequate; it's as slow as the Canon PowerShot G1 X, but I've cut it some slack in rating it because it's $200 cheaper. Though it seems to bog down at times, overall it feels responsive enough that this shouldn't interfere with getting a shot. It takes about 1.8 seconds to fire up, focus, and shoot, which is pretty typical for this class. The time to focus and shoot in good light runs 0.4 second and in dim rises to 1.1 seconds; the latter is really a bit too sluggish. It can shoot two sequential JPEGs in about 1.5 seconds, but with raw it takes an abysmal 3.2 seconds -- just like the G1 X. When shooting raw+JPEG I frequently had to wait uncomfortably as it finished processing before changing settings or reviewing. Even the flash recycles faster, taking 1.7 seconds to shoot back-to-back JPEGs with flash.

This isn't a camera you use for burst shooting. It can only take six shots -- either raw or JPEG -- and though it's rated for 8fps that's at the default Normal quality rather than the better Fine setting. While it tested out at 7.9fps for the default, for Fine or raw it's a more sedate 3.3fps. That would be a fine speed if it could handle more than six shots.

The LCD remains visible in sunlight, and one of the advantages of the articulated screen is the option to twist it when it gets hard to see.

While not quite as nice as the lens on the Canon PowerShot G15, the P7700's lens stays usably fast across the zoom range, especially given that it covers the broadest set of focal lengths of its class. Here's where the apertures change as you zoom in:

The lens does suffer from quite a bit of distortion, though, and defaults to distortion control off.

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.


Nikon Coolpix P7700

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Image quality 8