I’ve owned and shot many analogue cameras over the past 20 years, and lately I’m in a point-and-shoot phase. This is the first time that I feel the urge to shoot something simple. Typically, you will find me shooting portraiture on an RZ67 in the studio or with a Nikon F100 or Leica R8 in the field. These are my prized possessions. However, it’s nice to carry a small camera with you at all times and capture moments of life as a form of journalling.
It is of course a terrible time to develop a taste for point-and-shoot cameras. Prices are ridiculous and even the most pedestrian models cost an arm and a leg. Even so I’ve bought, tried, and sold quite a few models over the last months. My personal affordable favourites are the Nikon AF600 and the Olympus Trip AF mini. These two I’m keeping.
I found the Nikon Zoom 700 VR QD whilst browsing a local Ebay site (Zoom-Touch 105 VR QD in the US). Since I was unfamiliar with the model, I looked it up. This 1994 compact camera is actually the first production camera with optical vibration reduction. The camera has a 38-105mm F/4.0-7.8 lens, vibration reduction, panorama mode, date imprint, and scale imprint functions. It was a high-end camera in the day! I offered 25 euro for the camera and to my surprise the seller agreed.
First impressions of the Nikon Zoom 700 VR
This camera is the size of a small SLR, and it’s quite heavy at 470g. Even though it’s mostly plastic I would say it’s built better than its contemporaries. The focus is a bit noisy but the film transport is okay. It has clean lines… for a dad cam.
The Nikon Zoom 700 VR can be operated with one hand. The power button, the shutter release, and the zoom rocker are all in reach when you have the camera in your right hand. Nice. The viewfinder is small, but completely visible when you wear glasses. The viewfinder has two blinds that engage in panorama mode, this is actually useful for framing. I guess that framing accuracy is okay at infinity.
The 38-to-105 mm is useful on the tele end, but in practice I miss the possibility to take wider shots. It gives acceptably sharp results. I’m sure that compared to other zoom compacts from the ‘90s this is a major achievement, and the VR may contribute to this, although I’m not sure. A cheap 90s SLR kit zoom will probably outperform it though.
Nikon Zoom 700 VR Features
The Nikon Zoom 700 VR has many flash modes. You can combine auto flash and always on flash with red-eye reduction. There is slow sync, and just flash off. The default setting is auto flash. Flash off is two button presses, the first press is for infinity focus without flash. The camera can imprint a scale reference that shows you the approximate size of something you photographed. This is a great feature if you like crime scenes, and a fun gimmick. Another noteworthy feature is the panorama mode. It crops the 35mm frame to a panorama aspect ratio. There is no exposure compensation of any kind.
Acquiring the viewfinder can be a bit challenging, but after you set the preferred flash mode the shooting experience is comfortable. The LEDs in the viewfinder work like any other point-and-shoot camera. The camera is too big and heavy to keep in your hands all the time, and too large for pockets. You will end up hanging it around your neck.
The Nikon Zoom 700 VR wasn’t a great sales success for Nikon, and it was probably meant primarily as a technology demonstrator. It’s an interesting camera with good ergonomics that will give you quite good results. However, when you’re willing to carry a camera of this size and weight, you could also consider a small SLR such as the Nikon f65. I will probably stick to fixed lens models for daily use. For this review I shot Kodak Double X at iso 200 and developed in Kodak HC110 dilution 1:50 for 12min.
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