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It helps now and then to look around the market and see what’s out there. Occasionally, a downscale camera that has escaped your notice can precisely answer your needs. Successor to the COOLPIX P7700, reviewed only six months ago, the P7800 delivers full-scale manual shooting, with some functions normally available only in DSLRs.
It has a 7.1x optical zoom that runs a 35 SLR equivalent range of 28-200mm. Sure, it’s not in the same territory as Sony’s 30x zoom model, the DSC-HX50V, nor Canon’s SX50 HS with a 50x zoom lens. But, as many have found out, these maxi zoomers need a considerable amount of TLC to bring home the picture bacon: steady hands, a firm support for the camera and a shooting environment that does not cloud distant views with atmospheric haze.
Personally, I’ve found compact digital cameras with zooms up to 10x to be practical picture takers so, with a 7.1x zoom like the P7800, you’re well within handheld territory. Along with this is a pocketable size and manageable weight.
Another bonus is the lens’ fast maximum aperture at f/2.0. This drops to f/4 as you head towards maximum telephoto but becomes no smaller.
Another plus is an eye level viewfinder, so you can aim at the view in full sunlight and not have to battle with a washed out LCD screen. You may not have noticed it, but there are fewer and fewer digital cameras coming to market with such a viewfinder. This situation, I figure, is one that tips many photographers into the arms of the DSLR type of camera and ensnares people who are bereft of the skills to drive such a complex camera. Sure, the view in daylight is much better but if the technology is above your talent … well!
The maximum image size is 4000×3000 pixels or 34×25.4cm (13×10″)as a print at roughly 300 dpi.
The Nikon Coolpix P7800 can capture Full HD video at 1902×1080 pixel resolution. Here is a sample video taken with the P7800:
If you’re looking for the red button to record video … stop! There isn’t one. You must engage the video position on the mode dial and press the shutter button. This means you can’t shoot stills mid video recording. This absence of a red button to record, is rare amidst digital cameras.
For what it’s worth, the camera can fire off a burst of six full size images at a maximum rate of 8 fps.
As I said, the P7800 is an agreeable size and weight, made even more comfortable thanks to a prominent speed grip and good balance. The viewfinder is useable, although a little murky and lacking in definition – but it does frame your shot and confirm focus and level, plus such matters as; selected aperture, shutter speed, ISO setting, camera level, white balance etc.
For more precise viewing (in ambient light less challenging than broad sunlight), you must use the rear LCD screen, which is variable in angle vertically and horizontally.
Top deck controls: at extreme left is the pop up flash and across to the right is the mode dial with settings for auto, P,A,S,M, scene mode (portrait, beach, sunset, panorama etc), special effects (mono, painting appearance, cross processing etc), three user settings, movie and movie custom setting modes.
Farther to the right are the power and shutter buttons, zoom lever, exposure compensation and the Function 1 button that switches the screen display options. Oh and I nearly missed this one: the Function 1 button is tucked away on the front panel, next to the lens. A bit puzzling and poorly explained in the manual, but I figured out that it can directly adjust the ISO setting, RAW, AWB amongst other matters.
But there’s a trap with this button: press it with your forefinger and your thumb naturally applies a back pressure that unfortunately may well cause you to accidentally press one of the rear panel buttons.
There are two command dials (one at front and rear) that can spin you through aperture and shutter speed options or roll through menu options.
On the top level of the rear are two buttons: one triggers the turret finder or LCD screen; the other takes you into a quick menu situation. Beneath these is the replay button. Lower still is the four position jog wheel that takes you to flash options, macro shooting, self timer and AF area choices. Beneath this are the menu and trash buttons. At the right edge are the access terminals for USB, HDMI mini and AV outputs.
Card slot and battery compartment are in the camera’s base.
By using the WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter, you can transmit images from the P7800 to a WiFi equipped device such as a smartphone or tablet. You can also shoot through your mobile device using the Live view function.
Noise rose slightly at ISO 1600. By ISO 3200 noise was up further and definition was suffering. Forget ISO 6400 equivalent.
About a second after startup I could shoot the first shot, a little over a second per shot subsequently.
No problems at either end of the zoom.
Quality: above average, with accurate colour rendering.
Why you would buy it: you want a ‘proper’ viewfinder (like a DSLR); it’s pocketable.
Why you wouldn’t: buy it you want a maxi zoom.
FWIW I had a ball of fun with the P7800 shooting around the city; the zoom range was perfect for this, with the telephoto end of the 200m equivalent ideal for the longer reach. Mind you, it won’t suit sports photographers … not long enough (or fast enough).
Price: approximately $550 US
Web: Nikon Coolpix P7800
DPS Rating: 4