Nikon’s had premium compact cameras on store shelves for a while now. Quite a few, actually: The Coolpix P300 and its offspring, as well as the APS-C-sensored Coolpix A. But the P300 series has smallish sensors, and the Coolpix A has a prohibitive price. They’re both great cameras, but neither one was engineered precisely to compete with Sony’s RX series, perhaps the most consistent “best camera” pick of the compact class.
Now, Nikon has a direct RX competitor—three of them, actually—and they’re all doing it with a similar sensor to the ones in Sony’s cameras.
The trio of new Nikon DL cameras are all built around 1-inch, backside-illuminated CMOS sensors with 20.8 megapixels of resolution. They all shoot 4K video at 30fps, and they all have adjustable OLED touchscreens. In addition to the large sensor/compact body combo, they all have a reason to consider them ahead of Sony’s cameras: Ridiculously fast autofocus systems and best-in-class continuous shooting modes. Each camera’s AF system boasts 105 phase-detection and 171 contrast-detection points, capable of capturing 20 images per second with autofocus adjusting on each shot.
Like all the premium compact competition, the DL cameras have all the manual-control knobs, and dials you’d expect in a higher-end shooter, along with optical stabilization and RAW (.NEF) mode. While the smallest of the three cameras have the eye-level viewfinder of the past two RX100 cameras, they have an ergonomic advantage over Sony’s compacts: A raised grip, theoretically making them better options for one-handed shooting.
Each camera has a different lens, making each of them tailor-made for a different type of shooter. The cheapest of the three—and the most similar to the RX100 cameras—is the DL24-85 ($650). It has a 3.6X optical-zoom range (24mm to 85mm), an F1.8 maximum aperture at the wide-angle end, and a F2.8 maximum aperture at the telephoto end. The special mode for the DL24-85 is Super Macro, designed to be used at the upper reaches of its zoom range.
For wide-angle street and vista shooters, there’s the DL18-50 ($850). Its lens reaches from (you guessed it) 18mm to 50mm with a maximum aperture range of F1.8 to F2.8. The most expensive of the three new cameras—and the only one with a built-in electronic viewfinder—is the DL24-500 ($1,000). It’s Nikon’s zoomier rival to the Sony RX10, more along the lines of the Panasonic FZ1000 and Canon PowerShot G3 X in terms of zoom range for the sensor size. In other words, the DL24-500 isn’t really a compact camera, but its bulkier size comes back to you in zooming oomph: a 21X zoom lens (24mm to 500mm/F2.8 to F5.6).
All three cameras come with built-in Wi-Fi features, and they’ll be available this summer.