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Despite its general aura of awesomeness, the 7900 does have some limitations. It is, after all, only intended as a snapshot camera albeit a very, very good one. Like most compacts it has no manual exposure/focus functions. Instead it has a range of scene modes and options that cover most common shooting conditions, and a few not-so-common ones too.
There are four “assist” modes on the main dial; Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Night Scene, each with a selection of special menu options. For example, the Landscape mode offers standard landscape, scenic view, architecture and group-portrait-with-scenery. These last two have composition lines that appear on the monitor to help you arrange your shot. The portrait mode has seven different options, including the remarkable Face-priority AF, which is actually capable of recognising a human face and focusing on it. Furthermore, it has automatic in-camera red-eye correction for those close-range flash shots.
As well as these assist modes, there are 12 scene modes covering almost every situation, including party, beach/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, night landscape, close-up, museum, fireworks, text copy, backlighting, panorama assist and an underwater mode for use with the optional waterproof case. The 7900 also features something called D-Lighting. If you attempt to take a very high contrast shot, the camera will lighten the dark areas and darken the highlights to retain detail that would otherwise be lost, effectively increasing the dynamic range of the camera. As a further triumph of technology, if you take a motion-blurred shot, the camera detects this and asks if you’d like to delete it before saving.
In terms of general performance, the 7900 is just as outstanding as it is in other areas. It starts up in about two seconds, which is fairly quick although there are quicker cameras around. Shot-to-shot times in continuous shooting mode are impressive though. For instance, in fine mode and maximum resolution it managed 10 shots in approximately 6.5 seconds, without having to pause to record them to the card.
The movie mode is also very good, with the top quality mode shooting at full VGA (640 x 480) resolution and 30 frames a second together with audio. Recording times are limited only by the size of the memory card, with 256MB providing about 3 minutes 40 seconds worth of moving images. As for battery life, I simply don’t know. Nikon quotes 220 images after a full charge, but since I charged it up at the start of last week, I’ve been using it everyday up to publication, and it still says the battery is on full. Suffice to say that it lasts a very long time.
The Nikon Coolpix 7900 is, in a word, brilliant, and one of the nicest cameras I’ve ever used. I’m genuinely sorry that I’ve got to give it back to Nikon next week, but at least I’ve got some stunning pictures to remember it by.
The Coolpix 7900 is arguably the single best digital compact camera on the market today. For a surprisingly low £251 it offers ease of use, attractive styling, outstanding build quality and images that truly impress. If you want a good compact camera then it’s hard to see how you would ever need anything better than this.