Nikon Coolpix 7900
Review Date: May 2nd 2005
(out of 5 stars)
The Nikon Coolpix 7900 is a compact, stylish and easy to use digital camera that produces great image quality. Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled to the point of almost being non-existent, with hardly any evidence of purple fringing or other unwanted effects. The 7 megapixel sensor means that there is some noise at ISO 200 and a lot of noise at ISO 400, more so than at the same speeds on the 5 megapixel Nikon Coolpix 5900. That is the price that you have to pay for larger images. The Nikon Coolpix 7900 also has some new features that aim to make the photographer's life easier, some of which work better than others. The Face-Priority AF feature sounds like a great idea, but in practice was slow to use and often focused on the wrong object in the scene. D-Lighting was much more effective, offering an in-camera solution for revealing detail in the shadow areas of an image without also over-exposing the highlights, although it does introduce some extra noise. The new Red-Eye Reduction mode also worked well with little red-eye present in any of the test shots. In addition the Nikon Coolpix 7900 is one of the most responsive digital cameras that I have reviewed, and is well-suited to capturing both static subjects and more fast-moving subjects such as your children or sports photography.
The main drawback with the Nikon Coolpix 7900 is the lack of any manual exposure modes, such as aperture and shutter priority. All the scene modes in the world can't make up for not having direct control over apertures and shutter speeds. Ultimately the Nikon Coolpix 7900 feels unbalanced in terms of what it offers to both the creative photographer and those who are looking for a point and shoot camera. It has a lot of advanced features that I feel may not be used by most of the people who buy it, such as white balance bracketing, whilst not offering what the creative photographer really needs. Other points worth noting are the lack of a useable histogram - you can view a tiny version, but only when holding down the Exposure Compensation button, which makes it virtually redundant. Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the camera's design is that you can't get out of the Play or Menu modes by half-pressing the shutter button, which means that you may miss that important shot. Most other digital cameras allow you to do this and it is something that is sorely missing on the Nikon Coolpix 7900.
Overall the Nikon Coolpix 7900, with its wealth of different scene modes, will be best suited to the point and shoot photographer. You may find however that you will never use some of the more advanced features on offer. For the photographer who requires more control, the Nikon Coolpix 7900 is not such a good choice, which is a real shame as otherwise it is a very responsive camera that produces very good 7 megapixel images. Hopefully Nikon will release an updated version of the Coolpix 7900 with full manual control over exposure in the near-future.
Should you buy the Nikon Coolpix 7900, or the 5 megapixel Coolpix 5900 that I reviewed a couple of weeks ago? Both are fine cameras with little difference in terms of image quality. If you really must have the most megapixels, or you want to make prints up to 13x19 inches in size, go for the 7900. If you want to save some cash and you rarely print bigger than A4, then the 5900 is a more logical choice.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Nikon Coolpix 7900 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.