Nikon eases digital photography novices into the medium with the Coolpix 775, a well-designed, moderately priced, 2.1-megapixel camera with great automatic features and a helpful selection of more advanced controls. Nikon eases digital photography novices into the medium with the Coolpix 775, a well-designed, moderately priced, 2.1-megapixel camera with great automatic features and a helpful selection of more advanced controls.
A comfortable Coolpix
An ergonomically sound camera that weighs only 6.6 ounces with batteries and media installed, the 775 is made for one-handed shooting. Fitting comfortably in the palm, the camera lets your index finger rest above the shutter button and leaves your thumb free to operate the zoom and menu scroll buttons.
However, the compact design isn't without its flaws. For one thing, the proximity of the battery hatch to the tripod mount prevents you from replacing the batteries without first taking the camera off the tripod. More problematically, the optical viewfinder is ill situated just above the LCD--the screen's glow can be a major visual distraction when you're trying to peer through the little eyepiece. And if you turn off the LCD, you'll have to wait several seconds for it to start up again, which makes switching back and forth between the LCD view or menu and the optical viewfinder a chore.
Features to grow into
The 775's well-implemented feature set is ideal for casual photographers who want to improve their shooting and learn to use more advanced digital features. A fully automatic mode and seven scene presets are all easily accessible through the mode dial, and you can activate the Best Shot Selection (BSS) mode through the LCD menu. BSS takes a series of shots in quick succession, then automatically records the one with the most image detail. When we tested the feature in difficult lighting situations, we consistently got sharper, more evenly exposed shots with BSS than without.
There's also a fast continuous-shooting mode, a QVGA video mode, and a multishot mode that captures 16 consecutive 400x300 frames that are recorded in one image file. An ample selection of white balance, sharpness, and exposure settings is available through the LCD menu. Nikon also makes reviewing and deleting images quick and easy with the 775's quick-play feature. Instead of having to switch out of shooting mode as you do with many cameras, you can simply press the button to display your pictures. When the camera is in Play mode, the Quick Play button lets you magnify images to get a closer look. An image-transfer-marking feature provides a very efficient way to select and download images to a computer. You just press the transfer button on the camera to select or deselect images, then plug the camera into your USB port. Nikon's software will download all of the selected images in the blink of an eye, without your having to lift a finger.
Pictures worth the wait
Unfortunately, the 775 isn't always quick and efficient. With a sluggish start-up time of about 15 seconds and a long shot-to-shot time of about 12 seconds, the camera trails many of its 2-megapixel competitors. There's a sleep mode that helps the camera save power without shutting it off, but it shaves only 5 seconds from the start-up time. Most midrange digital cameras have some shutter delay, and the 775 is no exception, with its nearly 2-second pause. The camera does offer good battery life, however, and a rechargeable pack and charger come in the box.
Our test images were sharp and well exposed. The 775 offers a broad dynamic range, good color balance, and a lot of effective flash options. Its macro mode is excellent as well, letting you get as close as 1.6 inches from your subject. Both the automatic white balance and the presets worked well. We were disappointed, however, to encounter some noticeable blooming and chromatic aberration problems in pictures with strong contrasts. Blooming can cause bright areas to bleed into dark ones, blowing out details; and chromatic aberration creates unnatural purple fringes along borders between bright and dark areas.
While we wish the Coolpix 775 were a little faster and offered even better image quality, on the whole, it's a great camera for casual shooters and digital novices. However, if shooting speed is at the top of your list, take a look at the Canon PowerShot A20 or Olympus D-510 Zoom.