Discovering the P7800…an outstanding camera.

Background Reading

A very nice summation of the virtues and foibles of the Nikon Coolpix P7800 was given on the DPReview Forum:

Nikon Coolpix P7800

Nikon Coolpix P7800

This is an impressive camera, when it comes to size, image quality, features and ease of use.

  1. Auto iso works perfectly, exactly like on Nikon DSLRs I owned (D40, and D90). You can set a minimal SS, and the camera won’t boost the iso unless the specified SS is too fast for the scene.That’s a very clever implementation.You can set maximum auto iso to 200, 400, 800, or 1600 (default). When I think that on my V1, I can only set auto iso to 400, 800, or…3200! No 1600 maximum available!

    Also, if you prefer adjust iso manually, you can choose iso values by 1/3 of a stop. Only full stops on the V1!

  2. User settingsYou can save 3 user’s settings. Nikon did an outstanding job here.

    Example : for usual wide angle photos (landscapes, buildings outdoors, etc.) I’ve set auto iso to 1600, minimal SS at 1/8s (which is a perfectly safe SS for me at wide angle, thanks to Nikon VR), A mode, with 2.0 aperture, matrix metering. All these settings (and others, like the prefered focal length at launch!) are stored in the U1 bank.

Let’s say I shoot a landscape on a sunny day : I select U1 on the mode dial. I can change the aperture to taste, and the camera will adjust SS accordingly. In good light, iso will remain at 80 (base iso). I can use exposure compensation if needed, and change the metering mode, etc.

Now, let’s go inside a beautiful building (church, museum, whatever).

If light is low, the camera will start to bump the iso when (and only when) the SS might drop under 1/8s at iso 80. Then iso will be increased in order to keep the SS at 1/8s. If light is really very low, when the camera reaches iso1600 (maximum default), then the SS will be lowered in order to get a correct exposure. I can see that in the EVF: if I think the SS is too low, then I switch to manual iso, and increase the iso value (by 1/3 of a stop), until I reach a suitable SS (say 1/8s, or faster, depending on the focal length I’m using). Fantastic!

But, you can tell me: if you have to shoot a picture at 200mm, 1/8s will result in motion blur. Yes. And here we discover again another amazing feature of this camera.

In the U2 bank, I stored different settings: same auto iso 1600, but minimal SS 1/30s (which is safe at 200mm, with VR). And central weighted metering (better for tele work), and 135mm at launch.

See a distant subject I want to shoot? Turn the mode dial to U2, and you’re ready. The zoom goes by itself at 135mm, but you can change of course the focal length on the fly, by using the zoom lever.

The SS won’t go under 1/30s: the camera will bump the iso if needed.

Back inside a museum? Turn the mode dial to U1, and you’re ready. The zoom goes back to 28mm, by itself, the camera goes back to matrix metering, etc.

This feature was already there in the P7100, but auto iso didn’t work so cleverly.

If you’re a VF guy like me, you can set the camera so that the LCD is off. Only the EVF is on. But you’ll tell me: “difficult to review the pictures with an EVF”. Right. You can set the camera so that in shooting mode, the LCD is off, but when you review the images, the camera automatically switches to the LCD. Same if you want to go into menus. When you’re done, half press the shutter: you’re back to shooting mode, and the LCD turns off, the EVF on.

This camera is amazing. Image quality is excellent, and dynamic range is better than on the P7100, which was prone to blow highlights.

What a pity that writing times are slow (in raw only)!


TakeAways

I have written about this camera myself elsewhere on this blog. Suffice it to say that it is one of the very best values I have come across. It’s price point is under $600 and yet it has features that rival some of the entry level D-series cameras in the Nikon stable.

It’s biggest draw for me is the size and weight. I take my camera with me while riding my bicycle. So I need something that is smaller and lighter. But I also want a zoom lens and solid image quality (IQ). This camera provides all of that. And using it in conjunction with Adobe Lightroom 5 has been delightful.