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

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The Good A comfortable shooting design and nice photos in bright light number among the strengths of the Nikon Coolpix P7700.

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.

7.5 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

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.

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.

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.

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