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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix 7900


Nikon Coolpix 7900 Review

Review Date: June 6, 2005

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Nikon Coolpix 7900

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2005 Award


User's Experience

Wednesday, May 24, 2005 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Coolpix 7900
  • No Memory Card included, but 13.5MB of internal memory [Nikon sent me a 256MB SD memory card for the review]
  • Wrist Strap
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery and Battery Charger with Power Cable
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • English and French Instruction Manuals: Quick Start Guide; Nikon Guide to Digital Photography
  • Software CDs: PictureProject 1.1; Reference Manual

After finishing the review of a digital SLR, the Nikon Coolpix 7900 feels positively small and unobstrusive in my pocket. It is a very attractive point-and-shoot digital camera in a black and chrome body that feels very solid. Nikon is one of the few manufacturers that provide somewhat of a secure handgrip on a compact model.

Being here in Canada, all documentation comes in both English and French versions:

The Nikon Guide to Digital Photography (with the Coolpix 7900) is not, as its name may imply, a guide about how to take better pictures using the Coolpix 7900 digital camera. It is simply the User Guide, which is well illustrated, though a little on the "busy" side. I was able to find all the information I needed to operate the camera. The font is small but quite legible.

The handy Quick Start Guide is all I need to get the Coolpix 7900 up and ready for picture taking. Its illustrations and text are extremely easy to follow.

I take the time to set the Nikon 7900 to the way I would like to use it (only the settings I set are listed below):

Set-Up 1 of 3 Set-Up 2 of 3 Set-Up 3 of 3

Set-Up displayed as icons
You can view 3 pages of Set-up text or 1 page of icons

SETUP (Mode Dial):

  • Welcome Screen: Disable welcome (makes for faster startup)
  • Date: set to today's date
  • Monitor settings: Photo info = Framing grid; Brightness = 3
  • Date imprint: Off (Other options: Date, Date and time, Date counter)
  • AF assist: Auto
  • Sound settings: Button sound = Off; Shutter sound = Off; Start-up sound = Off
  • Blur warning: On
  • Menus: Icons
  • Auto off: Auto off = 1m; Sleep mode = Off
Shooting Menu 1 of 3 Shooting Menu 2 of 3 Shooting Menu 3 of 3

Shooting Menu displayed as icons
You can view 3 pages of Menu text or 1 page of Menu icons

SHOOTING MENU (Auto on Mode Dial; press the MENU button):

  • Image Mode: Image quality = Fine; Image size = 7M (3072x2304 pixels)
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Metering: Matrix (Other options: Center-weighted, Spot, Spot AF area)
  • Continuous: Single (Other options: Continuous, 5 shot buffer, Multi-shot 16)
  • BSS (Best Shot Selector): Off
  • Color options: Standard color (Other options: Vivid color, Black-and-white, Sepia, Cyanotype)
  • Image adjustement: Auto [sets the contrast]
  • Image sharpening: Auto
  • ISO: 50
  • AF area mode: Manual
  • Auto-focus mode: Single AF
  • Noise reduction: Off

While some cameras require you to go to the menu to access exposure compensation, in the Nikon 7900, Exposure Compensation is set by simply pressing the right arrow key on the Multi Selector. I always wonder how much exposure compensation to dial in. Well, no more, because a live histogram simultaneously displays with the exposure compensation so you can now dial in your exposure compensation until the histogram looks right to you.

Red Rocket: 1/102.1 sec., F4.8 and ISO 50
Red Rocket
7.8 mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/102.1 sec., F4.8 and ISO 50.

The 2 in. LCD is pretty good, with enough resolution (115,000 pixels) to help me determine whether I have a good shot or whether to reshoot. Yes, I can actually tell an image is not sharp, and you see the image snap into focus on the LCD. With Blur warning on, the camera will in fact tell you an image you have just taken is blurred and give you the option to save or reject it. You can adjust the LCD brightness via the menu.

The Coolpix 7900 has no practical shutter lag -- which is quickly becoming the norm for all digital cameras, so don't settle for anything less.

Nikon PictureProject 1.1
Nikon PictureProject 1.1

I install the new Nikon PictureProject 1.1 software which requires uninstalling Nikon View 6.0 that previously came with Nikon digital cameras. PictureProject is quite good, allowing the usual basic image editing: you can edit the photo as to brightness, color, sharpness, straighten, photo effects (B&W, Sepia) and D-Lighting.

D-Lighting increases brightness (Low, Normal or High level) to the dark areas of your image. It works quite well, though a side-effect is slightly increased noise. D-Lighting can be applied in camera, but like digital zoom, it is really a post-processing action so you don't have to commit yourself to a particular level in camera (though a copy of the image is made, which takes memory card space). What I recommend is to apply D-Lighting to an image in PictureProject.

Movie mode is 640x480 at 30fps, recording time limited only by size of memory card. You can enable electronic Vibration Reduction to reduce the effect of camera shake in movie mode.

To transfer images from the camera to my PC running Windows XP, all I have to do is simply connect the USB cable from the camera (turned off) to the PC. I then turn on the camera and the camera is immediately recognized as an external drive. Then it is simply a matter of drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer. Or, use PictureProject to index the images. However, be sure to specify where you want your pictures to be saved (by default it saves to C:\Documents and Settings\<user>\My Documents\My Pictures\). By the way, the EXIF Info can be accessed in the Information Panel under the Shooting Data drop-down.

Once done, I click the drive icon on my task bar and wait for the signal that it is now OK to unplug the cable at both end. To erase all pictures from the memory card, I put the camera in Playback Mode, then press MENU - Delete - Erase all images - Yes. Or, if you need to ensure all images are completely wiped out on the memory card, simply reformat everytime (it takes only about 4 sec. to fomat a 256MB card).

I was glad to see that the Nikon 7900 has an AF Assist Illuminator which works well, plus the LCD monitor also gains up in low-light allowing you to compose in low-light.

Continuous shooting is pretty impressive, billed by Nikon as 1.7fps. This will depends on how much details your subject matter has: I have been able to shoot 23 images in 15 sec. (1.6fps), and at times it slows down to 23 images in 20 sec. (1.2fps). About 23 Fine 7M images seem to be the limit of the buffer.

The Nikon Coolpix 7900 is point-and-shoot easy to use and, if you are an advanced amateur photographer, you may decide the absence of more flexible exposure control is an impediment. However, I've never had a time when I missed not having Aperture-Priority or Shutter-Priority because the images just kept getting out fine!

One word about the menu interface: switch to the icon view and take a few minutes to learn the icons (a text is also displayed as you select an icon) -- it will save you tons of grief and make accessing any menu functionality fast and effortless.

So, if you are an advanced amateur photographer and want a compact take-anywhere P&S digital camera -- and have felt frustrated using P&S cameras to date -- check out the Nikon 7900 for a frustration-free and feature-rich digital camera. Not only are there great and practical features available, but they are easily accessible, intuitive to apply -- and they work!

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