Nikon Coolpix P7800 review for DSLR shooters

You can call me a hardcore DSLR shooter because I only shot and owned DSLRs for the past 5 years. A couple of weeks ago I finally got my 'first' point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix P7800. Because it's an upgrade to P7700 (which I never held in my hands by the way), it has a hot shoe seems like an advanced point-and-shoot, my expectations as a DSLR shooter were (maybe) quite high... or too high. So I decided to do a Coolpix P7800's review for DSLR shooters.

1. Hot Shoe's Compatibility with 3rd-Party Flash Triggers

Error message: Coolpix P7800 and Phottix Odin TTL Nikon

Error message: Coolpix P7800 and Phottix Odin TTL Nikon

Well, simply put, the hot shoe is not compatible with flash triggers, which is a big disappointment for me. You can't trigger off-camera flash neither with Phottix nor PocketWizard. I wrote about it earlier in a separate article. However, there is a way around it if you need to trigger off-camera flash(es) with Coolpix P7800...

 

2. Built-in Commander Mode and TTL in Hot Shoe

Triggering off-camera flash(es) with Coolpix P7800 is possible in 2 ways:

- you can use a built-in pop-up flash in Commander (CMD) TTL or Manual modes to trigger an off-camera flash. Unfortunately, *sigh* the maximum distance between a camera and a flash for this to work can only be 5 meters (16 feet); of even less if you position a flash further to the side from the camera.

- you can put a Nikon's speedlight on the hot shoe and put it in a commander mode. This way the speedlight will trigger off-camera flashes, but this means you need more than 1 speedlight. 

3. Image Aspect Ratio

Pictures that come out of P7800 (like probably in most point-and-shoots) have a different aspect ratio than from your DSLR. DSLR's produce images that have 3:2 aspect ratio, which means they are more of rectangular shape. However, Coolpix P7800's pictures are in 4:3 aspect ratio. These images are more of a square shape.  

It takes a bit of getting used to having such aspect ratio images, especially if you're like me, who has been shooting with DSLRs maybe for too long.  

The P7800's aspect ratio might prevent you from using it for more 'serious' work with it, especially for clients (yes, the image quality of this camera is good enough for producing some professional work for online images; but it's not as good as from a DSLR and DSLR lenses).  

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4.  Rotary Multi-Selector

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Coolpix P7800's rotary multi-selector is a 2-in-1 feature, which makes browsing through the menu or adjusting manual focus really fast with good precision. Basically, it's a wheel selector and a 4-button selector put together. It's really well-built because you won't accidentally press a button while using the rotary wheel (at least it has never happened to me).

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5. Manual Focus

I really like the way P7800's let's you manually focus, probably because it's the same technique I've been teaching at my night photography workshops. When you switch to manual focus, P7800 enlarges the centre (zooms in) where you point the camera so that you see your subject bigger and let's you adjust focus manually with good accuracy. A feature that you might also find useful is a bit of camera's help with focusing when using manual focus - by pressing the right button on the rotary multi-selector, the camera will pre-focus an image for you.

6. Lack of In-Camera Help Feature

I really like the in-camera help feature in my Nikon DSLRs.  I use it sometimes when I need to refresh my memory on some of the rarely used functions. Unfortunately, P7800 doesn't have such in-camera help, except for the pre-programmed scenes (like sports, portrait, etc.). But if you're a DSLR shooter like I am, then I'm pretty sure you won't use these at all.

7. Electronic Viewfinder

I find pros and cons with the P7800's electronic viewfinder: 

- pros - it basically shows you all the functions and information the big LCD screen does. This means that you don't have to switch to the rear LCD to adjust some settings (even in menu)- you can do all of the changes using the electronic viewfinder. 

 -cons - *sigh*... the color representation of the electronic viewfinder is really, I mean REALLY poor so expect nothing like in your DSLR's optical viewfinder. There also might be some issues with the electronic viewfinder's brightness or contrast because it's also hard to see shadows and contrast when composing a picture. Unfortunately, changing  brightness only works for the rear LCD, not for the electronic viewfinder. Finally, once the rear LCD is in the open position, you have to manually switch between the electronic viewfinder and the rear monitor (there is a button for that just next to the viewfinder). I constantly keep forgetting to press this button and I wait like dummy for a second or two hoping the camera will automatically switch the displays. A proximity sensor could be a really nice feature that would fix it.

8. It's not a heavy DSLR

As a DSLR shooter, I'm really fed up with the weight of my cameras, especially when I just want to carry one around to have some  control over taking pictures than my iPhone gives me. With a 28-200mm lens (35mm equivalent) and being lightweight, P7800 is not a bad solution. However, when I look again at its price and the fact it doesn't have a GPS or built-in Wifi (both start to be quite common in other cameras), I have my doubts whether or not Coolpix P7800 is too expensive.