Nikon hasn’t been active in the enthusiast-compact camera segment in a while, and for its re-entry, the company has taken an interesting approach; essentially, it’s taken the insides of its interchangeable-lens cameras (ILC) and put them in bodies with fixed lenses and more traditional designs. It’s created a new DL series of “premium” fixed-lens cameras, launching with two compacts, the DL18-50 and DL24-85, in addition to the DL24-500, a 20x full-size megazoom.
The two compacts are almost identical with only a few exceptions — most notably the lens, as indicated by the product names. The DL18-50 is the more enthusiast-targeted of the two; you can tell because it has no built-in flash, incorporates the company’s Nano Crystal coat (to minimize ghost and flare) on its shorter-zoom 18-50mm f1.8-f2.8 lens, and at $850, costs $200 more. (I don’t have other pricing yet, but that’s equivalent to £600 and AU$1,170, directly converted, and a price difference of £141, AU$276.) It’s scheduled to ship in June.
The DL18-50 stands out from the rest of the class with the widest-angle lens available in a compact, which makes it more suitable for architectural photography than most consumer compacts; Nikon includes distortion-correction options for that as well. However, at 50mm the lens is already at f2.8, while a lot of competitors zoom out to longer focal lengths at the same aperture, which means they’re a little wider at 50mm. Still, it’s probably only about 1/3-stop difference, which is pretty minimal. And 18-50mm is a great focal range for street photography, environmental portraits and landscapes. Plus, at up to 20 frames per second with autofocus and autoexposure, it definitely boasts the best continuous-shooting specs of its competitors.
Common specs of the DL camerasSensor and image processor. They pair a 20.8-megapixel 1-inch BSI CMOS sensor with the Expeed 6A processor for a sensitivity range of 160-6400, or ISO 12800 in the expanded range.Stabilitzation. “Dual-detect” Optical VR. This is Nikon’s branding for its optical-plus-electronic-for-movies stabilization system.Lens. They have different lenses, but both have a maximum aperture of f1.8-2.8, a manual aperture ring on the lens and nine-blade apertures for smooth out-of-focus areas. Nikon also adds a fluorine coating to the front element to protect it, and they’ll accept screw-on filters.Autofocus. Hybrid phase- (171 points) and contrast- (105 areas) detection autofocus system, the same as in Nikon 1 J5.Performance. Both can shoot a up to of 20 frames per second with continuous autofocus and autoexposure at full resolution.Design. They both take the optional, hot-shoe-based tilting electronic viewfinder and have a 3-inch tilting and flip-up OLED LCD. Video. Support for recording Ultra HD 4K (3,840×2,160) video at 30p, as well as slow motion at up to 1,200fps, albeit at a tiny 400×144 resolution. They offer cleain HDMI output, 4K frame grabs, time-lapse movie, and more.Connectivity. Bluetooth for a persistent low-power wireless connection along with NFC and Wi-Fi.
I wish this is what Nikon had done from the start. Nikon gambled by putting a 1-inch sensor in its ILCs and, for the most part, lost. While it conferred some benefits on its Nikon 1 series, such as fast autofocus and class-leading continuous-shooting speed, people are generally looking for better photo quality in ILCs than a 1-inch sensor delivers. That size is far more suited to use in compacts as Sony, Canon, Panasonic and others have already demonstrated, proving to be extremely popular in those models. And if Nikon had put the sensor into an enthusiast compact back in 2011 it would have created the new generation of the category instead of leaving it to Sony and arriving late.
Overall, the DL18-50 looks like its will be a formidable competitor in its class, though the fact that there’s no on-camera or bundled flash is disappointing.