The P7700 recently landed at my door, all shiny and new in its little black box! I must admit as a wildlife and nature photographer compact cameras have never been very high on my list of priorities (I prefer to slowly break my back lugging huge lenses and equipment into the wild...) However, when I spotted the release of the P7700 back in September, I was very intrigued by this new high end Nikon compact.
First impressions are everything (or so we are told)...and for me personally, a camera has to feel right, it needs to be well built and feel like it can deal with a little rough and tumble whilst out in the field. When I first picked up the P7700 I was pleasantly surprised by the weight of the camera, heavy enough to imply a quality build and construction, whilst not being a burden to carry all day.
After ten minutes of twiddling, turning, flicking, pressing and shaking I was satisfied with the build of the P7700, all of the buttons and dials have a quality feel and the camera seems as though it could take a fair bit of abuse. One button however, that did frustrate me a fair amount was the On/Off button (located on the top). The button does not respond instantly when pressed and instead needs to be held down for a second or so. A moment you loose when trying photograph that split second opportunity!
Apart from the On/Off switch, the buttons of the camera work very well and allow easy access to most of the advanced features of the camera. You can rapidly change settings such as ISO, white balance, image quality and exposure compensation using the dedicated dials. This helps to streamline your shooting and saves you from scrolling through laborious menus, that as a DSLR user, is one of the reasons I find compacts so frustrating! Being a Nikon user myself and with it’s wealth of exterior controls, I found it very easy to shoot with the P7700. The camera is very well laid out and it takes no time at all to feel at home with this advanced compact.
Shooting with the P7700
The P7700 has a incredibly versatile lens spanning 28mm to 200mm (35mm equivalent). Not only does it have a fantastic range but with a maximum aperture of f2 at 28mm and f4 at 200mm it is also very bright in comparison to many other compacts. The lens has a built in VR system that during my testing allowed me to hold the camera steady down to 1/25 of a sec. The lens produces sharp and well contrasted images with little chromatic abrasion. The lens focuses pretty swiftly and with its fast maximum aperture produces pleasant Bokeh, minimising distractions. In the macro mode the lens will focus down to an impressive 1cm that allowed me to get some fantastic close up images. On the subject of macro the rotating screen of the P7700 is perfect for difficult shooting positions and is wonderful for getting the camera into many weird and wonderful locations...and it means you don’t get covered in mud too!
The P7700 works pretty swiftly and with a fast memory card it wont slow you down during everyday shooting. The menus of the camera are simple to use and with the control pad on the back of the camera it is very easy to navigate through the internal systems to find the features you are after. The camera has a wealth of high end features such as full access to the Nikon creative lighting system with the ability to use an external flash and trigger them remotely. On the side of the camera you will find a external microphone jack to increase audio performance when making movies in up to 1080p HD as well as a GPS input jack to allow you to use the Nikon GPS unit to geotag your images (fantastic for recording your location on exotic holidays and adventures!)
With a camera as highly specified as the P7700 it is easy to forget about the most important aspect of all, image quality. To say I was impressed is an understatement, the P7700 produces wonderful files with beautifully contrasted images and sharpness that I would see no problem printing and blowing up to an A3 size print. With the ability of the P7700 to shoot in RAW, the files can be further processed to get the utter best from the camera, improving upon the P7700’s already stunning performance.
Whats missing? As a DSLR user the lack of the optical viewfinder was to me a disappointment, the previous P7000 and P7100 both had one and for many it will be a reason to skip this camera. The optical viewfinder was removed to make way for the newer and brighter lens but I still wish they would have provided it in some form, maybe an additional hot shoe finder or EVF. The camera will still perform just the same in many situations but for bright sunlight the lack of the viewfinder will be highly evident.
Overall the P7700 is a fantastic high end compact camera from Nikon with a wealth of advanced features and manual controls that will aid the advanced photographer in creating some stunning images. The image quality is superb and I was blown away by the quality of the files produced during my testing. The one stumbling block in my mind is that lack of a viewfinder but other than this its a truly wonderful advanced compact camera.
- Image quality
- Wealth of exterior controls (less menu scrolling!)
- Large range of advanced features (Microphone jack, GPS compatibility and Creative Lighting system)
- Fantastic vari-angle screen
- Lack of Optical Viewfinder
- Larger than the average compact
About the Author
Tom Mason is an up and coming wildlife and nature photographer based in Hertfordshire where he frequently visits a number of local nature reserves including Rye meads and Amwell. You can see more of his work on his blog.