The Nikon COOLPIX B700 is an SLR-styled super-zoom with a 60x range, 20 Megapixel resolution and 4k video capability. It also has a detailed electronic viewfinder as well as a 3 inch monitor that’s hinged and can be adjusted to face in any direction.
It shares the lens, screen and viewinder with the earlier COOLPIX P610 as well as PASM exposure modes and a wide range of feature shooting modes. What’s new, apart from the sensor is 4k UHD video and Nikon’s new SnapBridge technology. Snapbridge provides an always on low power Bluetooth connection which trickles photos to your smartphone in the background and there’s also Wifi with NFC for faster manual file transfers and remote shooting. It sounds good, but in practice I found connecting frustratingly unreliable and when it does work, Snapbrige on the COOLPIX B700 feels rough and unfinished. When I used SnapBridge on Nikon’s D3400 DSLR I had no problems connecting, so hopefully this is something Nikon can fix with an app and/or firmware update.
In addition to improved battery life and RAW shooting, the COOLPIX B700 also benefits from an additional programmable function button and new Creative mode that applies a variety of effects while keeping the untouched original. Read on to see how it compares with the cheaper COOLPIX B500 and for my final verdict.
We’re talking superzooms, so inevitably the first thing that need to be discussed is the lens. The numbers are as good a place as any to start and the ones that manufacturers like to draw your attention to are the zoom magnification factors. So the COOLPIX B500 has a 40x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent range of 22.5 to 900mm. Spend a bit more on the COOLPIX B700 and, among many other things you’ll get a 60x zoom with a 24-1440mm range. The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS has a 50x zoom with a 24-1200mm range putting it bang in the middle. All three models offer optical stabilisation allowing you hand-hold the camera at slower shutter speeds than would be possible without it.
There are differences between the three in the maximum aperture, which determines how much light can pass through the lens and therefore how well they perform in low light, but these are fairly minor and unlikely to make much practical difference. The important thing to consider is what kind of photography you want to do and whether it’ll benefit from the longer zooms on offer. 900mm is a long lens by any standards and will be long enough for most subjects. but if you’re a bird photographer, for example, you might find the extra reach of the COOLPIX B700 invaluable.
That brings us on to the sensor. The B500’s 16 Megapixel sensor produces smaller images than the 20 Megapixel sensors in the COOLPIX B700 and Canon PowerShot SX540 HS. You might expect its images to be less noisy because of that, but in fact at lower sensitivity setting in my tests the COOLPIX B500 was noisier than the B700.
The B500’s 3 inch 921k dot articulated screen is excellent, but the COOLPIX B700’s screen is even better as it’s side-hinged and can be angled in any direction including forwards for self-shooting. And in addition the B700 has a very good electronic viewfinder which can be a big advantage when trying to frame distant subjects when zoomed all the way in.
Then there’s control. Both the COOLPIX B700 and the PowerShot SX540 HS offer PASM shooting modes putting exposure control firmly in your hands. The B700 also provides a couple of programmable function buttons making it much quicker to change settings like white balance, sensitivity and drive mode. Of course this kind of advanced control isn’t for everyone and for some some people the B500’s combination of an easy to use auto mode combined with scene and feature modes will be a more comfortable fit.
Both the COOLPIX B500 and B700 have built in Wifi, NFC and Bluetooth and use Nikon’s new SnapBridge technology to automatically transfer photos to your phone in the background using the low-power Bluetooth connection, manually transfer photos using either Bluetooth or Wifi and shoot remotely with your smartphone over Wifi. It sound’s great, but is marred by unreliability and generally poor implementation. When it works, it’s brilliant so lets hope Nikon sorts out the glitches and smooths out the rough edges quickly. The Canon PowerShot SX540 HS offers wireless transfer and remote shooting features over wifi that, in terms of features are quite similar to those of the COOLPIX models, but there’s nothing to compete with Nikon’s SnapBridge on the Canon models, not yet at least.
The COOLPIX B700 is anything between one and a half to two times more expensive than the B500 (as always prices will depend on when and where you shop), but you do get a lot more for your money. Not least a much longer zoom, a higher resolution sensor, RAW mode, a more versatile screen an electronic viewfinder, more exposure modes, and 4K movies plus the same SnapBridge features.
The COOLPX B700 offers a pretty compelling all-round package. With the combination of the 60x zoom, Raw shooting and 4K movies together with the seamless connectivity provided by Snapbridge, there’s very little that compares with the B700 at this price point. Ultimately though, it mostly comes down to the 60x zoom range and SnapBridge, which will allow you to share you photos with minimal effort. 4K UHD movies and RAW shooting sound impressive, but some might question just how much extra quality they’ll provide in practice given the limitations of the compact sensor. All the same, they’re great features to have and are backed up with manual exposure control and loads of feature modes. There’s a also the excellent viewfinder and articulated screen to factor in, though these remain unchanged from the earlier COOLPIX P610, which may be available at a lower price.
PS – If you love the idea of a 60x zoom but are on a tighter budget, check the prices on the earlier COOLPIX P610. It may lack 4K video and SnapBridge connectivity, and have a lower resolution 16 Megapixel sensor, but you do get the same 24-1440mm zoom lens, the same electronic viewfinder and 3-inch articulated screen.