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Nikon Coolpix 7900

Small, handy, powerful 7-mp camera
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

Once upon a time Nikon was primarily known for its high quality film SLR cameras. When digital came along, Nikon was among the first to jump on the bandwagon with its Coolpix cameras. Initially those were high end models, but then Nikon decided to offer less expensive consumer cameras as well, and these days they cover the entire spectrum though the trend seems to be more upmarket again. Oh, and if you're a digital camera expert and are puzzled by Nikon's frequent changes in design and direction, you're not the only one. Here at Digital Camera Magazine we used to loudly lament the passing of a particularly interesting Nikon digicam or style. We're used to it now and simply look forward to what interesting things they'll do next.

As for the 7900, former low end Nikons had low numbers in their names, so I expected the Coolpix 7900 to be a big camera. It even looks big in pictures. That, however, is deceptive. The Coolpix 7900 is the second-smallest and second-lightest camera in this entire lineup. It measures just 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches and weighs 5.3 ounces, which makes it about as pocketable as it gets in the 7 megapixel category. Fans of tiny ultraslim cameras should note, however, that the Coolpix 7900 doesn't quite fall into that category. For that it is too thick, and when you power it up the zoom lens motors out another three quarters of an inch. What this camera is is really a shrunken version of a more conventional larger camera. It has a "power bulge" on the right size, which makes it easy to hold despite its small size.

What do you get with the Coolpix 7900? That would be a small, handsome 7.1 megapixel camera, beautifully designed and finished in a black and silver aluminum housing.

There is nothing revolutionary, or even out of the ordinary, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The 7900 has a 3X optical Zoom Nikkor lens, a large 2-inch LCD that is perfectly visible outdoors, a fairly large battery good for hundreds of pictures, a decent flash, 640 x 480 movies at a full 30 frames per second, and some of those cool features camera manufacturers come up with to get an edge. One such feature is Nikon's "Face-Priority" autofocus which will automatically detect the face in a portrait and focus on it. Then there's "D-Lighting" that lightens areas that are too dark during playback. There's also in-camera redeye fix that can eliminate most instances of that dreaded syndrome before the pictures are even uploaded into your PC. When taking movies, there is a vibration reduction feature. All very useful.

In terms of operation, the 7900 is somewhere in between a simple point & shoot and a more advanced camera. It doesn't have full manual control or even shutter/aperture priority modes. Instead, there are scene modes for just about any situation, even underwater, and there are plenty of settings to tweak and play with. The menus are clear (you can even set them to display as text or mainly as icons) as are all the controls. The mode dial is a bit busy, but other than that, it shouldn't take long to be up and running with this camera. On the software side you get Nikon PictureProject, a simple, intuitive application to organize, edit and design on both Windows and the Mac.

The Coolpix 7900's picture quality is far above what you'd expect from such a small camera. In fact, it was among the top three in this lineup of excellent, powerful cameras.

Bottomline for the Nikon Coolpix 7900: a very small and handy little camera that is both powerful and easy to use. Consider it a de-luxe point & shooter and, given its pedigree and features, a bargain at just $399. If you can live with the lack of full manual control, this is a perfect beginner's camera. It is also a near perfect second camera to take along for snapshots on trips or to events.

We like:

  • Small and handy
  • Excellent picture quality
  • Simple to use, but has many features
Not so much:
  • Very little manual control
  • Busy mode dial
Specifications Nikon Coolpix 7900
Status Added 6/2005
Camera Type Ultra-compact
Size 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.4
Weight (oz.) 5.3 w/o battery
Effective Pixels 7.1 mp
CCD Type 1/1.8
Max pixel size 3072 x 2304
File formats JPEG, QuickTime, WAV
Compression fine, normal, basic
Movie recording (best) 30fps full
Max movie pixels 640 x 480
Voice recording memo til full
Lens 7 elements, 6 groups
Focal length 7.8-23.4mm (38-114mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3X/4X
Aperture f/2.8 - f/4.9
Focus modes auto/manual/center
Focus minimum/macro 1.6 inches, 1.0 foot
Shutter speed 1/2000 to 4 sec
Sensitivity (ISO) auto/50/100/200/400
Autofocus system TTL contrast detection
Metering TTL matrix/center/spot/AF
White-balance modes auto, 7 presets
Shooting modes auto, 16 scenes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type optical
LCD size 2.0" LCD (115k)
LCD type transflective
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 15 feet
Flash modes 5
Camera internal memory 13.5MB
Storage Medium SD Card
Battery type Li-Ion EN-EL5 (3.7V, 1100mAH)
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 220 images
List Price $399.95
Contact www.nikonusa.com

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