Nikon Coolpix 3700
At a Glance
There's nothing especially innovative about Nikon's Coolpix 3700, but for a simple, well-designed point-and-shoot, it's a nice package. With a long, narrow shape, the camera fits easily into a shirt pocket, and its silver-metallic case has a solid, durable feel. Nikon kept the controls relatively simple for quick, snapshot photography, but the 3700 is not going to appeal to those who like to tweak camera settings.
However, based on our imaging tests, this camera does not need a lot of tweaking. Among point-and-shoots we've tested recently, the 3700 earned very good overall photo-quality scores, especially for color and exposure accuracy. (We test all cameras in their default, automatic settings.) It earned mediocre image sharpness scores--possibly a consequence of its relatively low 3.2-megapixel maximum resolution.
Well-suited for novice and intermediate digital photographers alike, the 3700 organizes its various controls nicely. A mode dial lets you switch among full-automatic, semi-manual (described below), movie mode, and scene-assist shooting. There's also a setting that lets you record audio notes. Like most of Nikon's recent point-and-shoots, this model has a excessive number of scene settings--15 altogether. Some of the more esoteric ones include museum and fireworks. However, the Coolpix 3700 does not have the framing templates (yellow lines that appear in the viewfinder to help you compose your shots) that Nikon featured in the Coolpix 3100, a recent PC World Best Buy.
Nikon kept the 3700's menus easy to navigate, relatively simple, and--thanks to the text labels--easy to decipher. In full-auto mode, your only menu option is to change the camera's resolution. In semi-manual mode, you get more fine-tuning controls, such as white balance (with calibration), continuous-shooting mode, and image sharpening. The camera doesn't offer the ability to change the aperture or shutter speed manually.
You navigate through the menus with a tiny joystick-like device--it's not our favorite method, but it's workable, even with large fingers. The joystick also gives you direct access to frequently used settings: self-timer, flash, macro, and exposure value. One knock is that the small zoom and control buttons on the back of the camera can be hard to find when you're looking through the optical viewfinder.
Shooting with the 3700 is relatively smooth and fast. The camera's boot-up time is around 3 seconds, and we noted minimal lag between when we pressed the shutter button and when the camera fired. The 3X optical zoom also felt fairly smooth.
Battery life is surprisingly good, given the camera's tiny rechargeable battery--over 360 shots, or about 2 hours of life, in our lab tests. Better yet, a second battery, at $30, is quite reasonable--most rechargeable camera batteries cost $50 and up.
One unusual feature found in the 3700 is a time-lapse movie mode. It lets you film movie clips, frame by frame, at set time intervals (up to 60 minutes between frames). We're not sure what you'd use it for, but it's there if you need it. Also unusual, but far more valuable, is Nikon's support: Nikon is one of the few camera manufacturers to offer 24/7 toll-free phone support.
For a 3.2-megapixel camera, $400 is expensive, but the Coolpix 3700 makes up for it with very good imaging and easy operation.