Nikon P7800 £499.99

8th Nov 2013 | 16:02

Nikon P7800

Premium compact gets upgraded with an EVF

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Nikon has produced a very good compact camera and anyone purchasing it as a backup to a DSLR should be happy with. Similarly, anybody wanting to step up from a more basic point and shoot should also find a lot to like here.

Like:

Full manual control; Articulating screen; EVF;

Dislike:

No touchscreen; No Wi-Fi;

Overview

Ratings in depth
Nikon Coolpix P7800Nikon Coolpix P7800Nikon Coolpix P7800Nikon Coolpix P7800Nikon Coolpix P7800

The premium end of the compact camera market appears to be one sector that remains reasonably robust in what is generally a declining market. Offering full manual control for advanced photographers, they're often the first choice of both those looking to take a step up in image quality and control, and those wanting a less bulky camera to carry around when the DSLR is inconvenient.

Nikon's P7XX range has always been Nikon's attempt to fulfill that need for Nikon photographers, taking on the incredibly popular and well established Canon G range. Canon recently refreshed its model, in the shape of the G16, so it's no surprise to see Nikon follow suit with the Nikon P7800, replacing last year's Nikon P7700.

Featuring a 12 million-pixel resolution sensor, Nikon has chosen to keep the same physical size of 1/1.7 inch. That's the same size as the Canon offering, but quite significantly smaller than the Sony RX100 and RX100 II, models which have proven hugely popular in the past year or so and feature a 1-inch sensor (the same size as found in the Nikon 1 range of compact system cameras).

It also seems like a relatively low resolution, but it does compete precisely with the G16, which also features a 12.1 million-pixel sensor. The RX100 II features a 20.2 million-pixel sensor, but it's also a much larger device, so it's probably a sensible decision to keep the pixel count relatively low here

Nikon has also chosen to keep the same lens as its predecessor, with a 7.1x optical zoom device offering the equivalent of 28-200mm in 35mm terms. At the widest point of the lens, an f/2.0 aperture is offered - rising to a still respectable f/4.0 at the telephoto end of the optic. It doesn't quite compete with the likes of the Canon G16 and Sony RX100 II, which both offer f/1.8 optics. That said, the zoom ratio is longer, so if you're travelling you might be more enticed by the Nikon.

This camera offers full flexibility for advanced photographers, and includes full manual control as well as semi-automatic options, such as aperture priority. You can also shoot in raw format.

Unlike the Canon G16, the Nikon P7800's 3-inch screen is fully articulated – useful for shooting at awkward angles. It's still not touch sensitive though (neither is the Canon). It's an RGBW device, with the W standing for white and supposedly offering higher contrast than standard RGB monitors.

Nikon P7800

Previous generations of the P range of cameras have featured optical viewfinders, although the most recent versions had no finder at all. The Canon G16 features a small optical finder, but Nikon has decided to follow the same path as the Panasonic Lumix LF1 and introduce an integrated electronic viewfinder.

This viewfinder is a 921k dot device, and also features a dioptre adjustment dial, similar to those you might find on a DSLR camera. There's a hotshoe on top of the camera for adding optional accessories, such as a flashgun.

Nikon P7800

Unlike the G16, there's no Wi-Fi connectivity built in, which seems a bit of a shame. The camera is compatible with the Wu-1a optional accessory for adding Wi-Fi compatibility to the camera, but that will come at extra cost.

The Nikon P7800 is in clear competition with the G16, with the two priced very similarly, meanwhile, the RX100 II costs around £100/$150 more, so it could be seen as a more "budget" option compared with the Sony. That said, it still retails for around £500/$546, putting it in the same cost territory as full-blown DSLRs.

Build quality and handling

At first glance, the Nikon P7800 has changed little from the P7700 it replaces. It retains the same fairly bulky exterior which includes the large grip and textured coating – particularly useful for shooting one-handed.

Although the back of the camera sees a fully articulating LCD, it's nice and flush against the back of the body. The joint feels solidly built too, and able to withstand a lot of repeated adjustments of the screen.

On top of the camera are a number of dials designed for quick access to different controls on the camera. Almost all of the buttons have been placed on the right side of the camera for easy reach with the thumb when shooting one-handed.

Nikon P7800

As there is now an electronic viewfinder in the top right-hand corner of the camera, the dial for accessing commonly used settings (such as white balance and sensitivity) has now been removed and replaced with a dedicated Q button on the back of the camera. To access such common settings, you can now press this button and then use the dials to scroll to the setting you want to change.

A mode dial on top of the camera enables quick switching between the various exposure modes on offer, including fully automatic and aperture priority. There's also scene mode and effects modes here, along with space for up to three groups of custom settings, useful if you often find yourself shooting one type of scene.

Nikon P7800

Nikon has also included two customisable function buttons, which can be used in conjunction with the control dials on the camera to change certain settings. The first of these buttons is just next to the lens on the front of the camera, and is easily reachable with your finger when holding the camera by the grip. The second function button can be found on the top panel, to the right of the shutter release.

Another dial to the right of the camera is used to alter exposure compensation. A small orange LED next to this dial alerts you if it's nudged from the standard 0, to make sure you don't accidentally over- or under-expose a shot.

At the top of the grip is one control dial, while the second is found at the back of the camera just at the top right of the screen. These can be used to alter settings such as aperture (depending on the mode you're shooting in). It's useful to have a switch at the top of the grip, and is reminiscent of DSLR operation, something which is likely to be appreciated by those using this as a backup camera.

If you're shooting in fully manual mode, use the dial on the front of the camera to alter aperture, and the dial on the back to adjust shutter speed.

No touchscreen

Unfortunately there's no touchscreen, which would make changing the autofocus point much easier. As it is, to change it, first of all you need to press the AF button, which is the right key on the scrolling dial which doubles up as a four way navigational pad. You will need to press it again once selectable AF point is chosen, you can then use the arrow keys or the scrolling dial to choose your autofocus point. It's a slightly laborious task, so if you're photographing fast unfolding action you may find it beneficial to set the AF point to the middle and focus and recompose.

The rest of the four-way navigation pad includes a button for switching to macro focusing, timer mode and flash options. Other buttons on the back of the camera include a menu button, delete icon and playback button.

The electronic viewfinder in the top left of the camera is activated via a switch just next to it. It's a shame that there's not a sensor to automatically switch it on, as it's not particularly natural having to press a button before lifting the camera up to the eye. It also means that you need to press it again if you want to look at the image you've just shot, making it quite a disjointed process.

Nikon P7800

For a compact of this size, it's nice to see an electronic viewfinder which is useable. It's a decent size, while the high resolution makes it nice and easy to compose. We found that a pre-production sample displayed colours inaccurately, and while the final production version is better, they are still slightly muted compared with the LCD screen and indeed the final pictures. It's worth being aware of this when you're shooting so you don't try and compensate for inaccurate or muted colours.

Performance

The Nikon P series of cameras has proven itself to be very capable in the past, and the P7800 builds on that, producing images which are nice and vibrant, without displaying too much saturation. You can alter the colour profiles by using the Custom Picture Control, which is useful if you want to photograph something vivid, or you want a more neutral palette. You've also got the option for monochrome here.

Although a relatively low resolution in comparison to some of the other cameras on the market, the 12.1 million-pixel sensor is never-the-less capable of producing finely detailed images. If you examine at 100%, you will notice some elements of image smoothing throughout the sensitivity range, but nothing which is particularly noticeable at normal printing and sharing sizes. In low light conditions, shooting at high sensitivities such as ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 produces images which are very good.

Images taken at ISO 1600 display some image smoothing as you'd expect, but detail is still maintained reasonably well while noise is well controlled. It becomes a lot more noticeable at ISO 3200, but even then, sharing and printing at standard sizes is still possible, and certainly better than not getting the shot, or getting a blurry shot. There's also a Hi1 setting, which is only really used a last resort if you really can't get the shot, but it's still a little useable.

Nikon P7800

Matrix metering (sometimes known as general purpose) does a good job of producing accurate exposures, even when shooting higher contrast scenes. If you're finding that the camera is struggling, it can be beneficial to switch to spot metering, but you may find you don't need to do this particularly often. Automatic white balance, meanwhile, does an excellent job, even under artificial lighting conditions, perhaps erring slightly towards a warm tone, but overall the effect is very pleasing. You can switch to a specific white balance if you're looking for complete accuracy.

Faster

Nikon is boasting about the speeds of the P7800, and in practice it does seem much faster and easier to work with than its predecessor, the P7700. Start-up time is pretty quick, being ready to shoot in just a couple of seconds, making it useful for street photography or catching fleeting moments. One of the biggest problems we had with the P7700 was shot-to-shot times, which made using the camera painfully slow. Nikon seems to have rectified this with the P7800, making it a more fluid process.

Autofocus speeds are generally pretty snappy, although drop slightly in lower light. You can activate macro focusing via the four-way navigational pad, and this allows you to get very close to a subject, in fact the lens can be almost touching it and it will still focus, which is pretty impressive and useful for producing frame filling close-ups.

This gives the camera the edge over one of its competitors, the Sony RX100 II, which struggles slightly with shooting at very close ranges.

Nikon P7800

Shooting at a mid-range aperture, such as f/8, allows us to analyse the sharpness of the lens. We've found that the P7800 is capable of producing images which are pretty sharp across the scene, only displaying some softness in the very corners.

One advantage the P7800 has over the Sony RX100 II and the Canon G16 is its optical zoom capability, which at 7.1x offers significantly more than its rivals. This makes it more enticing to travelling photographers, or those looking for a little more flexibility. Images shot at the far end of the telephoto zoom range are very sharp, with image stablisation doing an excellent job of keeping image blur to a minimum. There's also a digital zoom if you need to get even closer. This is effectively a crop of the full resolution image, and as such the quality does drop, but it's very good if you do need it. Bear in mind that you will need to switch off raw format shooting if you want to activate digital zoom.

There are a number of digital filters which you can shoot with, by switching to the Effects mode on the mode dial. Some of the filters are better than others, as you might expect, but it's worth experimenting with them to see if you like them. Again, you won't be able to use them while shooting in raw format.

Image quality and resolution

JPEG

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 100. Score: 18 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 200. Score: 18 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 400. Score: 16 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 800. Score: 14 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 1600. Score: 14 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 3200. Score: 12 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 6400. Score: 10 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Raw

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 100 Score: 18 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 200 Score: 16 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 400 Score: 16 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 800 Score: 16 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 1600 Score: 14 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 3200 Score: 14 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 6400 Score: 12 (Click here to view the full resolution image.)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here, we compare the Nikon P7800 with its predecessor, the Nikon P7700, and its two main rivals, the Canon G16 and Sony RX100 II.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Here we can see that the P7800 extremely closely matches its predecessor, which is not a huge surprise, given it shares the same processor and sensor as the P7700. It's a slightly more consistent performer than the G16, beating it at most sensitivities, aside from very low (ISO 80) and very closely matching at ISO 800. As we might have expected, the Sony RX100 II is way out ahead, though.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) signal to noise ratio

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Again it is the Sony RX100 II that is the real winner here, but in terms of the Nikon, it does perform slightly better than its predecessor, although the results are very similar. The good news is, though, that it beats the Canon G16 at every sensitivity setting.

JPEG dynamic range

Nikon Coolpix P7800

In terms of dynamic range, the JPEG data shows that the Nikon P7800 is the worst performer in the test. The results are very close to the P7700, but it is beaten at every sensitivity by the Canon G16, while the Sony RX100 wins at almost every sensitivity, especially towards the higher end of the scale.

Raw (after conversion to TIFF) dynamic range

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Again results are very closely matched to the P7700, but the Canon G16 is ahead at almost every sensitivity, only overtaken at the very top end of the sensitivity run, (ISO 3200 and above). The Sony RX100 is at the top for the most part, but it is beaten by the other cameras at the lower end of the scale.

Sample images

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The P7800's maximum aperture of f/2.0 makes it a good option for shooting portraits.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The camera's metering system has done a decent job of producing an accurate exposure, despite the high contrast in lighting.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

At its widest point, the Nikon P7800 offers an equivalent of 28mm, which is wide enough to capture some interesting wide-angle shots.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The P7800 features a 7.1x optical zoom function. Here is an image shot at the widest point of 28mm (equivalent).

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Here we can see at the full 7.1x optical zoom (200mm equivalent): the image stabilisation system has done a good job of producing an image without any blur and plenty of detail.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

A digital zoom is also available, which does produce images with much more noise and image smoothing, but is a good option if you really need the extra reach. The digital zoom reaches a maximum of 800mm (equivalent).

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

The P7800's macro mode allows you get extremely close to the subject to produce detailed macro shots. The f/2.0 maximum aperture also means you can get creative with shallow depth of field.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Colours from the P7800 are bright and punchy without being overly vibrant. You can boost contrast if you prefer by altering the Custom Picture Control to Vivid.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

By shooting at mid-range apertures of f/8.0 (which is actually the narrowest the P7800 will shoot), we can assess the sharpness of the lens. Here we can see that detail is good for the majority of the image, although there is some loss of detail in the very corners of the edges of the frame.

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Fine detail is even resolved when shooting at the far end of the telephoto optic, such as here. At the furthest reach, the maximum aperture of the lens stops down to f/4.0.

Digital filters

The P7800 includes a number of digital filters which you can shoot in. Unfortunately, these can only be used when shooting in JPEG.

Filters are as follows:

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Nikon P7800 review

Click here to view the full-resolution image

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Raw

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Nikon Coolpix P7800

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image.)

Verdict

The Nikon P series of cameras are very capable, offering consumers full manual control and making excellent "back up" or every day cameras for advanced users. For those looking to step up in quality from a standard compact camera, they're also an excellent option.

Nikon P7800

We've come to expect good image quality from Nikon compacts of late, and the P7800 is no different, with bright, punchy and detailed images. Even better news is that Nikon seems to have fixed the issue with shot to shot times, a serious bugbear from the previous model.

The addition of an electronic viewfinder seems like a smart move, and it's interesting to note the difference between this and the Canon G16, its main rival, which not only doesn't include any kind of viewfinder, it also has a fixed LCD screen compared to the P7800's fully articulating device – the latter is much more useful for shooting at awkward angles, so is an appealing prospect. It's a shame that it's not a touchscreen though, especially given the awkwardness of changing the autofocus point.

Nikon P7800

It's also a huge shame that this camera doesn't have integrated Wi-Fi. To some, it might seem like a gimmick, but in this connected age, a camera without Wi-Fi, is almost becoming an oddity, rather than the norm, especially for expensive cameras at this price point.

We liked

Image quality is good, which is the key selling point of this camera, and rightly so. It's a no-nonsense, no-frills camera, which just gets the job done. It features a satisfying amount of dials and buttons, which should keep the advanced photographer happy. The last couple of generations of this camera removed the viewfinder altogether, so it's nice to see a decent electronic version being included here.

We disliked

It's time Nikon got a little more up to date with this camera, for instance by fitting it with a touchscreen and inbuilt Wi-Fi. That would make it a more complete package, though it's worth pointing out that neither the G16 or RX100 II have touchscreens either. They both do have Wi-Fi though.

Final Verdict

What Nikon has produced is a very good compact camera that anyone purchasing as a backup to a DSLR should be happy with. Similarly, anybody wanting to step up from a more basic point and shoot should also find a lot to like here.

The problem is, this area of the market is very crowded now, with the Sony RX100 II standing head and shoulders above the rest of them, with its larger sensor and superior image quality, coupled with other interesting features such as a touchscreen.

While it does have some advantages over that model, it's also in competition with Canon's well respected G16, which features a sensor of the same physical size and resolution but in a slightly sleeker body and integrated Wi-Fi. It seems likely that Canon and Sony will continue to dominate this area of the market, so it will be interesting to see what Nikon has to offer this time next year.

Overall though, this is a very likeable camera, with just a few let downs. It's worth noting that it is a lot cheaper than the Sony RX100 II, although the price point is similar to an entry level DSLR, so we're not talking cheap either.

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