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Nikon Coolpix P7700 Digital Camera Review$499.95
In the lab, the P7700 recorded slightly lower dynamic range numbers than its direct competitors, including the Canon G15 and Olympus XZ-2. At base ISO, it captured 6.79 stops of "high-quality" dynamic range, which is about 1 stop less than we've seen from the best performers in this test. However, it maintains its DR longer, almost staying above 6 stops all the way through ISO 800, where it dips to 5.96 stops, and ISO 1600, where it hits 5.8. It drops off significantly at ISO 3200 and 6400, but this isn't terribly surprising since those are "expanded" (i.e., software-based) sensitivity settings that produce exponentially higher noise levels.
And there's the rub. Our lab-generated dynamic range numbers are created by measuring signal-to-noise ratios, which means that they are affected by noise reduction algorithms. On the Noise Reduction page of this review, we mentioned that with the normal NR setting in use, noise reduction kicks in at ISO 400. So it's no surprise that in our dynamic range results, the P7700 actually records more stops of dynamic range at ISO 400 than it does at ISO 200 (6.19 to 5.88). For this reason, we like to supplement our lab-based DR testing with real-world observations.
How does the P7700 perform in the real world? Quite well, thank you very much. Comparing it to two other advanced compact cameras we've tested recently, we'd put the P7700 on a level with the Canon G15, a little ways ahead of the Olympus XZ-2. The P7700 generally does a great job of preserving highlights (though its metering can occasionally miss in very challenging situations), but it doesn't lose control of shadows, either. Images with difficult lighting and bright-dark transitions actually look very, very good on the whole.
Like most other cameras these days, the P7700 also includes a HDR (high dynamic range) mode, here called "Backlighting." This mode takes three exposure-bracketed shots in a quick burst and merges the exposures to brighten the shadows and rescue the highlights, providing a more even exposure across the frame in challenging lighting situations. This mode has three levels, letting you determine how aggressively you want the camera to blend the shots. In our testing, we liked Level 1 best, but also found Level 2 to be acceptable at times. Level 3 tended to produce unnatural looking colors more often than not.
More on how we test dynamic range.