Nikon Coolpix 7600 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Coolpix 7600 is the successor to the Coolpix 5200 from
last year and shares a similar compact body design and Nikkor ED 3x optical zoom, but increases resolution
to 7-megapixels. Other differences from the 5200 include a larger more resolute 1.8-inch LCD, Nikon's
exclusive D-Lighting, and electronic Vibration Reduction technology for movie mode. It offers users point-n-shoot simplicity with its "Auto" exposure mode, and allows you to explore your creative side with a wide
variety of pre-programmed scene modes. There's also scene-assisted modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports,
Night Portrait) that display framing outlines on the LCD to ensure proper framing as well as optimum
exposure for select shooting conditions.
Despite a very compact size, the well-shaped handgrip makes it easy to hold. Controls are well placed and functional, and the menu system is easy to navigate. The 1.8-inch color LCD is used for image review, preview, and also serves as the camera's data display. This is a high quality display with a real-time refresh rate, and I found it was quite usable outdoors in bright sunlight. I was also impressed with its usability in low-light conditions as the display "gains up" to give you a brighter view, which is crucial when using the LCD to frame your subject(s) in these conditions.
Shooting performance was good for a camera in this class. Power up to first image captured measured 3.5 seconds. Shutter lag measured 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 5/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot to shot delay averaged about 1.8 seconds between frames without the use of the flash and between 5 and 7 seconds with the flash. While the flash is recharging the LCD goes blank, which I found quite aggravating. There are two Sequential shooting mode to choose from (Continuous, Multi-shot 16.) Continuous mode was impressive; I was able to capture 8 frames in 5 seconds. Multi-shot mode captures 16 frames, then makes a single 7M/Fine image out of all 16 frames. Using this mode, I was able to capture 16 frames in under 9 seconds. The LCD viewfinder briefly displays the last image captured in all Continuous modes; you'll prefer to use the optical viewfinder if your subject is moving. All tests were done using a Lexar 1GB SD card, using 7M/Fine size/quality, welcome screen off, preview off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
I was happy with the overall image quality when using 7M/Fine mode. Our outdoor samples were sharp, well exposed and showed good color saturation. Although there was very little noise present, I did notice an average amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing around highlights.) The Nikkor ED 3x zoom lens produced sharp images throughout its range and you should have no problem focusing in low-ambient lighting conditions thanks to the camera's focus-assist lamp. The lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at full wide-angle but is relatively free of pincushioning at full telephoto. The zoom and focus mechanisms move smoothly and quietly through their range. Its 38-114mm (35mm- equivalent) optical zoom range is typical for a camera in this class, offering a sufficient field of view for portraits of individuals, small groups, and landscape shots, and enough telephoto magnification to bring your subject closer.
Indoors, It also performed well. Our portrait images were sharp, well exposed and skin tones look very natural. You can include yourself in group portraits thanks to the tripod socket and self-timer. Beginners will find the Portrait Assist mode handy, offering help with shot composition for several types of situations. The flash has an average range of about 11 feet, which when coupled with the 38mm (equivalent) wide angle zoom range, was sufficient for most indoor situations. I noticed almost no Red-eye in our "people" pictures thanks to the auto Red Eye Fix option. Like most Nikon models, the 7600 excels at Macro photography. You can focus on a subject as close as 1.6- inches from the lens. It also controls the flash well, "throttling down" to ensure you don't overexpose the subject. I found its D- Lighting feature very useful in both indoor and outdoors situations. It's very similar to HP's Adaptive lighting, however image quality does not suffer like we saw on the HP models. You can see some examples on our Samples page.
Movie mode has a "TV" setting for shooting clips at VGA (640x480) resolution, plus settings for 320x240 or 160x120, at either 15 or 30fps; movies are limited in size only by the remaining amount of unused memory. The 7600's Vibration Reduction mode works great, making clips much more steady with less camera shake. This is a great feature for a compact digicam; it can be very hard to hold these tiny cameras steady for movies without some sort of support. Like most digicams that feature a built-in microphone, the optical zoom can be used to compose movies before recording starts, but not during. You can opt to use the Digital zoom, but it will affect image quality. Overall our movie samples were good. While the AF system was able to keep up with fast moving subjects, we did see some visible compression noise. The microphone is overly sensitive to wind noise, an all too common trait with all compact cameras.
The 7600 is powered by a pair of AA-type batteries. Nikon supplies a set of Alkalines, but we highly recommend the use of high-capacity NiMH rechargeables or Lithium one- use cells. Using a pair of 2500mAh NiMH cells, we were able to capture all of our sample images (about 115 shots) and conclude our other tests before the batteries were exhausted.
Bottom line - the Nikon Coolpix 7600 is an affordable ultra-compact digicam that offers users great image quality with an abundance of exposure options. The only annoyance I found was when using the flash. After you capture an image, the camera "locks up" until the flash is recharged, which causes you to miss out on some spontaneous photo opportunities. Its 7M/Fine images have plenty of resolution to create photo-quality 13x19-inch or larger prints. With a street price of around $379, it offers a good value for a 7-megapixel digicam.
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