Nikon has thrown its hat into the post-CES camera ring--several times over--with the introduction of eight new Coolpix point-and-shoots for 2011.
The most exciting new models in the mix are the F1.8-aperture, manual-oriented Coolpix P300, which looks like a generously priced rival to the Canon PowerShot S95 and Olympus XZ-1; the 18X-optical-zoom S9100 pocket megazoom, equipped with a low-light-optimized CMOS sensor; and the bulkier 36X-optical-zoom Coolpix P500, which boasts a dual image processor to complement its tremendous zoom range.
Nikon Coolpix P300: Performance-Oriented Pocket Camera at a Great Price
The Coolpix P300 is the latest pocket rocket in the realm of premium point-and-shoots, boasting a maximum aperture of F1.8 at the wide-angle end of its 4.2X-optical-zoom lens (24mm-100mm). The P300 sports a 12-megapixel BSI (back-side-illuminated) CMOS sensor that the company says performs beautifully in low-light environments.
Full manual controls and aperture- and shutter-priority modes complement the camera's auto and scene modes, which include HDR (high dynamic range) settings for dark or backlit scenes, a one-touch panorama mode, special-effects filters for both stills and video, and full high-definition video recording at 1080p and 30 fps.
In addition to a great spec list, the Coolpix P300's price makes it an attractive option compared with similar premium pocket cameras such as the Canon PowerShot S95 (around $400) and the Olympus XZ-1 (around $500)--the Coolpix P300 is priced at just $330, undercutting both those models. It's slated for availability in March.
Nikon Coolpix S9100: 18X Pocket Megazoom With a Low-Light Sensor
Nikon's other new pocket Hercules is the Coolpix S9100, which somehow packs an optically stabilized 18X-optical-zoom lens (25mm to 450mm) into a frame that's just 1.4 inches deep.
It also offers a 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, as well as a few additional tricks in its feature set: a Handheld Night Scene mode that uses exposure bracketing to bring out dark details, a color-isolation feature that lets you highlight a single color in an otherwise black-and-white photo, and 1080p video recording at 30 fps. However, it doesn't have the manual controls of the Coolpix P300.
Due in late February, the Coolpix S9100 is priced at $330.
Nikon Coolpix P500: 36X Optical Zoom, Dual Image Processor
The larger Coolpix P500 is the third new Nikon camera with the 12-megapixel, low-light-optimized BSI CMOS sensor, which resides behind an optically stabilized, ultra-wide-angle 36X-optical-zoom lens (22.5mm to 810mm). It offers full manual controls, as well as aperture- and shutter-priority modes.
The P500 comes equipped with a dual image processor to help with in-camera features such as high-speed video shooting (720p video at 60 fps, and 640-by-480 video at 120 fps), a revamped HDR-shooting mode, the Handheld Night Scene mode, and the one-touch Easy Panorama mode. In addition to its high-speed video capabilities, the camera also shoots 1080p video at 30 fps, and it offers full manual controls as well as aperture- and shutter-priority modes.
Other distinctive features include secondary zoom controls mounted on the side of the lens, as well as a tiltable 3-inch LCD screen to help with odd-angle shot composition.
Due in early March, the Nikon Coolpix P500 is priced at $400.
Three More S-Series Cameras: Nikon Coolpix S6100, Coolpix S4100, and Coolpix S3100
The rest of the newly announced models all have CCD sensors, and two of them are touchscreen-operated.
The 16-megapixel, touchscreen-operated Coolpix S6100 ($200, due in late February) serves up a 7X-optical-zoom lens (28mm to 196mm), 720p video recording, and a 3-inch touchscreen.
Also touchscreen-operated is the 14-megapixel Coolpix S4100 ($180, due in late February), which has a 5X-optical-zoom lens (26mm to 130mm), 720p video, and a 3-inch touchscreen as well.
The 14-megapixel Coolpix S3100 lacks a touchscreen, but it's otherwise identical to the S4100. It's priced at $140 and available in February.
Two New L-Series Cameras: Coolpix L120 and Coolpix L24
On the entry-level side of the equation are two AA-battery-powered L-series Coolpix models: a sub-$300 megazoom camera and a sub-$150 point-and-shoot.
The 14-megapixel Coolpix L120 sports a 21X-optical-zoom lens (25mm to 525mm), dual optical/digital image stabilization, 720p video capture at 30 fps, and a 3-inch LCD monitor.
It runs on four AA batteries, and it will be available in black, bronze, and red for $280 in February.
Finally, the 14-megapixel Coolpix L24 runs on a pair of AA batteries and offers a 3.6X optical zoom (37mm to 134mm), a 3-inch LCD screen, digital image stabilization, and a 1.2-inch-deep body.
Starting in February, it will come in black, silver, and red for $120.