Nikon Coolpix P7700 Digital Camera Review$499.95
The P7700 is one of the most accurate cameras we've ever tested when it comes to color error and saturation. Its uncorrected color error score of 2.22, when using the Netural color mode, is simply superb, though the low saturation levels (92.17%) used in this mode are unlikely to win it many fans. But wait! Switch to the Standard color mode and the uncorrected color error only jumps up by a tenth of a point, to 2.33, and the saturation levels rise to a simply outstanding 99.48%. The results, both in the lab and the real world, are gorgeous. As you'd expect, the Vivid mode eschews such perfectionism and allows the uncorrected color error score to rise to 4.03, with saturation at 119.3% of normal. But, impressively, even this score is better than many compact cameras do at their best.
Generally speaking—at least for the Neutral and Standard color modes—color accuracy is at its worst in the blues and cyans, though Neutral does much better in blues than Standard does. Bright yellows can also be an issue, but they're an outlier as far as the warmer colors go. Reds are handled remarkably well, considering so many cameras screw them up. But again, consider shooting RAW if you want to have the most control possible over your colors. More on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The P7700 simply spanks most of its direct competition with regard to JPEG color accuracy, with only the Olympus XZ-2 coming close. We rarely see cameras with an uncorrected color error of less than 2.5, so the P7700's 2.22 is extremely impressive.
White balance performance is a decidedly mixed bag for the P7700. Automatic white balance is simply bad, even with two AWB modes to choose from, while custom white balance accuracy is actually quite good. Unfortunately, most casual photographers don't walk around with an 18% gray card on their person at all times, so we strongly suggest shooting RAW if you need to rely on AWB under artificial light. This will give you the ability to change white balance after the fact, which may be crucial in some shots. Daylight AWB performance should be a-ok.
Automatic White Balance ()
It's not uncommon to see terrible auto white balance accuracy under incandescent/tungsten light, even from cameras that are otherwise excellent. That said, the P7700's white balance under tungsten light is particularly poor. Its average color temperature error under these conditions was 2289 kelvin, giving everything a distinctly orange cast. Compact white fluorescent (CWF) auto white balance performance from the P7700 is also among the worst we've seen recently, with an average error of 855.7 kelvin. This means images have a sickly yellow-green hue. Daylight AWB peformance is the camera's best achievement, averaging an error of just 206 kelvin—similar to its custom white balance performance.
We should note that the P7700 offers two different AWB modes: one provides standard AWB, while the other attempts to "perserve warm colors if they are shot under an incandescent light source." This is a bit ironic given the camera's already very warm rendering in the default AWB mode, but who can fathom the wisdom of Nikon's engineers? The result is indeed a little warmer—about 200-300 kelvin further off under tungsten lighting. The difference under CWF light was negligible, but there was actually a notable improvement (~50 kelvin) under daylight conditions.
Custom White Balance ()
Custom white balance temperature errors hover around 200 kelvin, with CWF being the furthest off at 292 kelvin. Oddly, the P7700 does best with custom white balance under tungsten light, diverging just 165 kelvin from ideal. All of these results—even the CWF score—are well within an acceptable range of error, though, producing generally natural-looking shots in most situations.
White Balance Options
The P7700 offers nine white balance presets, including AWB1, AWB2 (warm), Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent FL1, Fluorescent FL2, Fluorescent FL3, Cloudy, and Flash. All of these can be fine-tuned on a 13x13 grid, with the two axes being amber-blue and green-magenta. Also present are direct kelvin color temperature entry (very handy if you know exactly which lights you're using) and three custom white balance presets. Setting a custom white balance is a simple four-click process that shouldn't take more than a few seconds once you've mastered the menus.