Nikon Coolpix 3700 Review

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Nikon Coolpix 3700

Steve's Conclusion

Combining a 3.2-megapixel imager and a 3x Nikkor optical zoom lens into its stylish and durable all-metal body, Nikon has positioned the CoolPix 3700 as a worthy competitor in the miniature consumer digicam market. Its automatic exposure mode will produce good results for the point-n-shoot beginner, while the 15 Scene modes offer preprogrammed convenience for taking exposures of differing subjects or under demanding lighting conditions. Manual mode offers the intermediate user control of White Balance, Image Sharpening, and AF area, while providing for continuous shooting and Best Shot Selection; the user has no direct control of aperture, shutter speed, or ISO.

The CoolPix 3700 is the smallest and, at under 6 ounces, the lightest digicam Nikon has produced to date. To achieve the compact size, Nikon has incorporated the SD memory card and a small 3.7V 1100mAh Lithium Ion battery. But despite its small size, it's fairly easy to handle, even for someone with big hands. The controls are well-placed, with enough separation to prevent accidental actuation. The joystick-like multi selector takes the place of the 4-way rocker switch present on many digicams, saving a great deal of space on the rear of the body without diminishing its usefulness as a control. Also contributing to the 3700's small size is the lens, which retracts entirely within the body when the camera is powered-off; an automatic lens cover is also provided, preventing the lens from collecting fingerprint smudges as it's carried around.

Despite the small size of the rechargeable EN-EL5 Li-ion battery, I was able to capture 160 images before its capacity was exhausted. Normally, these batteries are proprietary to the camera, with no off-the-shelf replacements available. But the CoolPix 3700 can also be powered by the new (and non-rechargeable) Duracell Lithium CP1 batteries, which should be available soon at many retail outlets. While the retail availability of the CP1 battery provides a nice option when the once in a lifetime photo op meets a dead battery, in the long run you'll be more economically-served by obtaining a spare rechargeable EN-EL5 and keeping it charged and ready in your camera bag.

For an automatic point-n-shoot, the Coolpix 3700 is a responsive performer. From power-on till the first shot was captured took about 6 seconds with a 512MB SD card installed; substituting the supplied 16MB "Starter Card" improved this to about 3 seconds. Shutter delay, the elapsed time between releasing the shutter and capturing the image, measured an impressive 1/10 second when pre-focused, and averaged about 6/10 second including autofocus time. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 2 images in 1.5 seconds, but there was a delay of 7 seconds before another shot could be taken. The CoolPix 3700 has two modes of Continuous shooting, high and low-speed; in low-speed mode, I was able to capture 3 images in 1.7 seconds, then one shot every 4 seconds as the camera emptied its buffer. In high speed mode, the 3700 captured 3 shots in 7/10 second, followed by the same 4 second delay cycle as the buffer emptied. As with most consumer digicams, the LCD viewfinder was of little use during continuous shooting, going blank in high-speed mode, and freezing on the last image captured in low-speed mode; you'll be using the camera's small but effective optical viewfinder for continuous shooting. These timings were obtained using a Transcend 512 MB SD memory card, with the camera set for an image size of 2048x1536 at High quality with flash off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture.

We were happy with the sharpness produced by the Coolpix 3700's 3x Nikkor optical zoom lens. It zooms smoothly throughout its 35-105mm (35mm equivalent) range, and and offers enough versatility for shot composition. The lens produces noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle, but hardly any pincushioning at telephoto. There's also a bit of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high-contrast areas of telephoto shots. The macro mode also deserves some mention; focusing as close as 1.6-inches, you can nearly fill the frame with an object the size of a dime! An undocumented feature of the Coolpix 3700 is Spot Metering which is accomplished by manually selecting the AF zone. Whatever focus zone is selected will also bias the exposure metering to that area of the frame.

I was pleased with the CoolPix 3700's outdoor results. Images were in sharp focus, well exposed, and richly saturated. My only complaint during outdoor use was the ineffectiveness of the LCD monitor in bright sunlight; you'll be thankful that there's a small zoom-coupled optical viewfinder for use in such conditions. The indoor results were also pleasing. The range of the built-in speedlight (under 10 feet) and the field of view at wide angle will limit your flash shots to small rooms and portraits of small groups. You'll be able to include yourself in those group portraits thanks to the 3700's tripod socket and the use of its self-timer or the unique "Sound Release" feature. Sound Release can be programmed to detect low, moderate, or loud noises and release the shutter one second later, giving the photographer plenty of time to compose the shot and enter the frame; it's an effective alternative to remote control shutter release, but will give new meaning to the term "hold the applause". The 3700 has two features which improve its effectiveness in conditions of low ambient light; the LCD viewfinder image is "boosted" and there's a focus-assist lamp which will allow you to capture sharp images using flash even in complete darkness. The CoolPix 3700 is very effective at squelching its flash at close range, and, combined with its macro focusing capability, would be a good choice for capturing images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings.

The CoolPix 3700 has a versatile movie mode, able to capture moving 640x480 images at 30 frames per second with sound. Be warned, however, that movies captured at this quality will consume a bit over 1-megabyte per second, so make sure that you purchase a large capacity SD card. The 3700 does have an in-camera movie editing function that can be used to trim your movies to a more memory-efficient size. The camera's zoom lens can be used to compose the movie before shooting, but the focal length can not be changed during recording. I did experience an audio/video synchronization problem in 640x480 movies, with audio noticeably delayed; this problem did not occur in 320x240 movies. The 3700 can also record time-lapse movies at user-selectable intervals of between 30 seconds and one hour. While you can use continuous autofocus during movie recording, the audio will be marred by the clicking sounds of the autofocus motor; I suggest that you use single-AF during movie recording.

Combining small size, light weight, and a stylish durable body, the CoolPix 3700 makes an attractive package. With very good image quality, good shooting performance, and versatile shooting modes, many families will find it a perfect answer to their digicam needs. And at an MSRP of under $400, the CoolPix 3700 is priced in line with its small and stylish competitors. If you haven't already completed your holiday shopping, this camera would be a great stocking-stuffer for that special someone.

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