Nikon took the wraps off of seven new Coolpix digicams and a pair of lenses for full-frame DSLRs. But we have to start off with the new telephoto lens since it costs a ridiculous $17,899 (shown above). The 800mm super-telephoto (due in April) is Nikon’s longest fixed focal length AF piece of glass. The only places you might see this thing in action are on the sidelines for the Super Bowl or in the press box during a Grand Slam tennis match. This is strictly for pros or Power Ball-winning amateur photographers.
Much more affordable are the seven new Coolpix point-and-shoots, ranging from an almost throwaway $119 “kid’s camera” to the $449 42x P520 mega-zoom. The various cameras have the full-gamut of features manufacturers are touting in 2013 as they fight off smartphones—Backside-Illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensors, more powerful optical zooms, OLED screens, various implementations of Wi-Fi, and – in two modes – rugged form-factors.
We were startled to see a cheapo $119 digicam from a top brand like Nikon when execs previewed these cameras at CES 2013 behind closed doors. Their reasoning was pretty succinct: Do parents want to give their kids an easily breakable smartphone for picture taking, or a Coolpix S31 that is waterproof to 16 feet and shockproof from about 4? Good point, but we have a suspicion the kid might opt for the smartphone that also plays Angry Birds. This is pretty much a 10.1MP toy with a 3x zoom and 2.7-inch LCD.
Much more pertinent to outdoors photographers is the new ruggedized 5x Coolpix AW110 ($349), an update to the AW100. Due in February, the camera is much tougher than the older model since it’s waterproof down to 59 feet, can take a drop from 6.7 feet, and it can handle the cold down 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It has built-in Wi-Fi, a 16MP BSI chip, a 3-inch OLED screen, lens-shift Vibration Reduction, and, like most tough digicams, has a built-in GPS. (The AW100 was good to 33 feet and had an LCD screen.)
Long optical zooms really put the quality distance between smartphones and digicams. Here in this category, Nikon offers something for everyone. The new P520 ($449, February) is the replacement for the P510 and retains the 42x optical zoom with a range of 24-1000mm. This is still behind the 50x of the 12MP Canon SX50, but where the Nikon tops it is resolution since it has an 18MP BSI CMOS sensor; the P510’s was a 16MP CMOS. Also new is a 3.2-inch vari-angle LCD screen versus a 3-inch tilting version in the older model. The camera is Wi-Fi-capable but Nikon makes you purchase the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adaptor. The camera grabs Full HD videos and has a built-in GPS.
Cameras in Nikon’s “S” Coolpix lineup are compact with very powerful zooms. The newest is the S9500 ($349, February) with a 22x 25-500mm zoom. It has an 18.1MP BSI CMOS chip, a 3-inch OLED display, built-in GPS, and Wi-Fi. Way down the ladder is the new 6x 26-156mm S5200 ($179) with a 16MP BSI sensor and built-in Wi-Fi.
Rounding out the Coolpix introductions are the 30x L820 ($279) and the 5x L28 ($119). Both run on AA batteries. The L28 has a 20.1MP chip – we can’t wait to see how that one handles low light – while the L820 has a 16MP CMOS sensor. They’ll be available in February, just like the other Coolpix cameras mentioned here.
Also announced today is an AF-S 18-35mm ED f/3.5-4.5 G ultra-wide angle lens designed for full-frame DSLR owners. Unlike the 800mm lens, this is much more affordable $749.
According to Nikon execs, this will be it through the summer for the company’s digicams. So don’t hold out hope waiting for a refresh for the enthusiast-targeted P7700, Android-powered S800c, and f/1.8 P310—at least in the early part of 2013