Up until a couple of years ago advanced compacts were seen as the natural choice for DSLR owners and photography enthusiasts looking for something a bit smaller than a full-sized DSLR and a bag of lenses. The arrival of compact system cameras with their bigger sensors and relatively small form factors might have been expected to change this, however this hasn’t actually been the case.
Indeed, far from cooling the interest in advanced compacts, the emergence of a thriving interchangeable-lens compact system camera market has only served to invigorate manufacturers into producing ever more performance orientated, pocket-friendly compacts. Indeed, in the past year alone we’ve seen some models – for example the Fuji X10 and, more recently, the Sony RX100 – take the advanced compact into new territory with larger sensors, faster lenses and added functionality.
The Nikon CoolPix P7700 marks Nikon’s latest entry into the advanced compact market and succeeds the P7100 model that we reviewed last year. There are quite a few differences between the two models, with the new model sporting a number of notable upgrades over its predecessor as well as a couple of omissions that may not necessarily be to everyone’s liking.
The first big change concerns the sensor; whereas the P7100 used a 10.1MP CCD sensor, the new P7700 is built around a 12.4MP backlit CMOS type. Video capture is another area that sees improvement with the 720p HD capabilities of the P7100 upgraded to 1080p Full HD on the P7700. Continuous shooting has been boosted too, with the P7700 making a significant leap from the somewhat paltry 1.3fps of the P7100 up to a much more respectable 8fps.
There are some similarities though. For example, the P7700 sticks with the same EXPEED C2 image processor found in the P7100. Sensitivity remains the same too, with a standard range of ISO 100-3200 along with an extended ‘Hi1’ setting of ISO 6400. As ever the exposure mode dial sports the full range of PASM controls for semi and full manual control over shutter speed and aperture, backed up by a fully Automatic mode for those point-and-shoot moments. The P7700 also gets 20 Scene modes, an Effects mode for giving your images a soft focus or cross-processed look, and last but not least three user-defined Custom slots.
In addition to regular JPEG capture the P7700 also allows you to shoot Raw for enhanced digital darkroom flexibility – something that’s pretty much expected of any serious advanced compact these days. And as with the P7100 there’s also a built-in neutral density filter that gives you an extra three stops when activated – a pretty useful feature to have on board should you want to use slower shutter speeds in bright light in order to capture movement. EV Compensation of up to /- 3EV is also available via a dedicated dial on the top plate.
The P7700 gets a 7.1x optical zoom lens that offers the 35mm focal range equivalent of 28-200mm. Next to competitor modes such as the Canon G15 (28-140mm), Fuji X10 (28-112mm), Lumix LX7 (24-90mm), and Olympus EZ-2 (28-112mm) the P7700 easily outshines its rivals in terms of telephoto reach. That said, it’s not the fastest lens of the pack and while maximum aperture has been widened to f/2-4 (from f/2.8-5 on the P7100) all of the models listed above offer an extra stop (or more) at maximum wideangle – bar the X10, that is, which matches it at f/2. Minimum focus distance is 50cm at 28mm and 80cm at 200mm, although by selecting the Macro option this can be reduced to just 2cm.
One thing that the P770 loses – rather than gains – over c its processor though is the optical viewfinder. There are certain to be mixed feelings about this move, with some decrying the extra functionality offered by having a viewfinder present while others will cite its tiny size and poor frame coverage as no great loss. Either way, making up for its loss is a newly designed vari-angle LCD monitor on the back. Whereas the core specifications of 3in/921k-dot remain the same, the fact that the new monitor is now side hinged – as opposed to the purely tiltable screen of the P7100 – adds much more flexibility, allowing the screen to be fully rotated for easy self-portraits as well as folded back into to body for safer storage when not in use.