Nikon Coolpix P7700 Digital Camera Review$499.95
What makes a great advanced compact camera? Image quality is probably the first thing that springs to mind: What good is a camera that takes bad photos? But it's not the only concern. Handling and user interface is another major element, as the Sony RX100 illustrates. All the image quality in the world might not sway a buyer if the camera feels like a soap bar in their hands. Room to grow is an important component, too. Consumers buying into this category are typically those who want to learn photography, not ones to stay in the shallow end of the pool with fully automatic shooting. To be a great advanced compact camera, you need to excel in all of these ways and more.
The Nikon P7700 isn't the sharpest camera we've ever tested. It doesn't have the best noise performance or lab-tested dynamic range. But it doesn't need to. It's a solid performer with regard to image quality, and certainly among the best in its class. What matters is that it's best or among the best in virtually every category we test, with automatic white balance being the only real exception. It's the complete package.
Being the complete package comes with some downsides. It's never going to be pocketable, like the RX100 is, because it's the most comfortable compact camera we've ever used. It's never going to get the highest resolution figures because it wisely chooses to leave the sharpening up to you, as it does with many other image-related settings. It's never going to appeal to novices like the Canon G15 does because it's too complicated. But to enthusiasts—to those who want a camera they can grow into, and mold to fit their own preferences—the P7700 is hard to beat.
We have to give extra props to the P7700's physical design, which is simply exquisite. It's a big camera, that's for sure, but the grip is perfectly shaped, perfectly textured, and perfectly sized to fit our hands. (And when we say that, we mean that it suited all of the hands in our rather diverse office.) Buttons and dials are intelligently laid out and respond to your touch with wonderful tactility. The variety of physical controls is also wonderful, and we love the addition of the Quick menu dial for direct access to vital shooting functions. The build is solid and tight, with nary a squeak or creak to be found, but it doesn't feel like it weighs a thousand pounds, either.
We wouldn't recommend this camera to everyone. If you're looking for a point and shoot that's a cut above the rest but won't intimidate with too many control options, we'd suggest the G15 or RX100. If you want something smaller that still packs excellent image quality, something like the RX100 or the upcoming Fuji XF1 might fit the bill. But if you want the complete package, look no further: the P7700 is the best we've seen.