Nikon Coolpix P7800 review
1/1.7in 12.0-megapixel sensor, 7.1x zoom (28-200mm equivalent), 406g
It wasn't so long ago that all premium compact cameras looked like the P7800. With lots of buttons and dials, a viewfinder and hotshoe, it's well suited to SLR owners who want a smaller backup camera. Nikon SLR owners will find the controls and menus immediately familiar, and they can plug their flashguns, external GPS modules and external microphones straight in. For those who own all that kit, your decision to stick with Nikon is already half-made.
HANDLING AND FEATURES
The magnesium alloy body also has the same tank-like build quality that upmarket SLR owners are used to. This camera could never be described as svelte, though. Weighting in at 406g, standing 80mm tall and measuring 56mm from the back of its viewfinder to its lens cap, this is a camera that's more comfortable hanging from its neck strap rather than stuffed into a pocket. We can imagine taking it for a long hike, but not so much for a night out on the tiles.
Optical viewfinders are common on this type of camera, but Nikon has plumped for an electronic viewfinder (EVF) on the P7800. Both types have their merits, but we much prefer this one's crisp 921,000-dot (640x480-pixel) image to the small, blurry optical viewfinder on the Canon G16. Being electronic, it’s also able to show menus and information such as a histogram and the selected autofocus area. It's not the biggest EVF around, and is dwarfed by the 2.4-million dot EVF on the Sony NEX-6, but it's a big improvement on the 200,000-dot EVFs found on some bridge cameras.
The 3in LCD screen has the same 921,000-dot resolution, and is articulated at the side to allow it to point in virtually any direction, including forwards for self-portraits. It's a shame there's no eye-level sensor to switch between the two screens automatically, though. There's a button to switch manually but it takes over a second to respond.
Adjusting settings is a highly tactile experience, with five dials and 14 buttons. It's verging on overkill, with dual command dials and an exposure compensation dial – only two of the three are active at a time, depending on the exposure mode. Holding down the Fn1 button beside the lens reassigns the command dials and rear wheel to alternate, customisable roles. It felt a little awkward at first but we quickly got used to it, and it worked particularly well when using the EVF. We set it to provide quick access to the ISO speed on the dials (it's only one setting for both dials) and drive mode on the rear wheel. With the camera set to JPEG mode, holding down the Fn1 button and pressing the shutter button takes a RAW-format photo.
Certain other functions aren't so accessible. There's a quick-access menu that groups together various functions including white balance, bracketing options and metering, but it's somewhat unresponsive to user input and slow to navigate as a result. Bizarrely, the main menu is more responsive. Calibrating the manual white balance is much slower than it need be, and the camera feels lethargic when browsing photos.
It's not particularly quick at taking photos, either. 1.1 seconds to switch on a shoot is a solid result, but 1.9 seconds between shots is far slower than we expect at this price. The autofocus appears to be largely to blame, taking around 0.5 seconds in favourable conditions and sometimes more than two seconds in low light. Continuous capture was at a healthy 6fps but only lasted for six frames. At least it was ready to go again after five seconds. There are 4fps and 1fps modes too, but none includes a live preview, so there's little hope of tracking moving subjects.
RAW performance was much worse, managing a shot every 5.6 seconds in normal use. Continuous RAW mode delivered six frames at 3fps but took 24 seconds to save them, despite using a fast SDHC card.