8 October 2014
About the review:
Observations below are based on my experience with the camera for the past 2 months. I am primarily a Nikon user (shoot with Nikon D5100+18-200 VR combo, and a few primes) and own two other premium compacts (Oly/Pana). I do NOT shoot for a living (yet). In my review, I have highlighted what I feel are the strongest and weakest points of the camera from a "still photographer's" point of view. Your opinion may differ.
What I like the most:
- Superb image quality (IQ) in good light, on par with my SLR with consumer lenses. In low light, I get clean images up to ISO 800 and fairly acceptable images up to 1600.
- Produces excellent results with Nikon Speedlight. Recently shot a friend's wedding using SB-400, and found the results very pleasing. The camera looks cute too with the SB-400 mounted :).
- Lovely control ergonomics, and very nice to hold too... the grip, size and heft feel just right. Dedicated dials/buttons for AE lock, exposure comp, etc. make it easy to adjust exposure on the fly.
- Amazing customizability – two Fn buttons, multiple useful options to set white balance, ISO, flash settings. Even my D5100 does not offer such flexibility with settings!
What irks me the most:
- I have only one gripe and it is a big one. The autofocus (AF) is very slow even in good light... makes it nearly impossible to take photographs of moving subjects (e.g. active children/adults). The camera just refuses to lock focus if there is the slightest movement in the subject. I have found it very challenging to get good candids (... and sometimes, even posed photos. For how long will people pose with a grin, waiting for the camera to lock focus?!).
- Related to AF speed, I found it is generally slow to respond to button presses. There is a lag of good full second (or two?) between each button press and any visible response on the screen. Not a deal-breaker, but can be annoying at times.
[Note on AF speed: I have tried different AF options available but nothing has helped. Note that I am comparing P7800's AF speed with those of my other compacts and not with the SLR. Of the compacts I own, I find XZ-1 the snappiest (have not measured in seconds, but very close to D5100's AF speed for practical purposes), followed by LX-7. Even my rusty 5-yr old Pana ZS3 (TZ7) is a tad faster than P7800. Maybe I have a lemon??]
P7800 compared to other compacts I have owned/used:
- I find Oly XZ-1 very easy to use... lets me change settings very quickly (despite having the least no. of buttons/dials of the lot!). AF is snappy and the menu interface is very responsive. Jpegs are punchy, sharp, well-saturated... so much so that I never bother shooting raw with XZ-1. Sadly, I find XZ-1's low light/high ISO performance rather poor/unpredictable, which restricts its use in low light situations (despite its stellar lens).
- LX-7 has good ergonomics much like P7800. It scores further with a lens that is the widest (24mm) and the brightest (f/1.4) of the lot. My only complaint is, the jpeg output is not to my liking... I prefer the punchy, "close-to-SLR" look that Nikon and Oly compacts deliver. Nevertheless, I do reach for the LX-7 frequently (especially when I need to shoot wide... or need to get good quality video).
- Overall, I still like P7800 the most (brilliant IQ, ergonomics, customizability, Nikon compatibility) despite the AF woes. I expect to get a lot more out of this camera as I learn to use it better and really hope its next iteration takes care of the AF/responsiveness issues.
Who would I recommend it too?
- Excellent choice for travel, landscape, nature, product photography etc. Based on my experience, P7800 seems to work best in situations that allow reasonable response time/opportunity to set up a shot.
- Not ideal for photographing kids at play, sporting events, or whenever you are dealing with a fast-moving subject (AF can be hit-or-miss in such situations).
- A sensible choice if you are invested in Nikon already (compatible spare batteries, external flash, wireless remote, etc.), assuming you are undecided while comparing with similar choices from Canon, Panasonic etc.