Nikon goes zoom crazy with latest Coolpix cams

The new P500 flagship full-size megazoom gets a ludicrous 36x zoom, and the S9100 compact and L120 budget megazooms get 18x and 21x zooms, respectively.

The Nikon Coolpix P500, the manufacturer's latest full-size megazoom, is packing a 36x f3.4-5.7 21.5-800mm-equivalent lens. That blows away its predecessor, the P100 , which had a 26x, f2.8-5 26-678mm lens (35mm equivalent) and narrowly beats Canon's PowerShot SX30 IS and its 35x, f2.7-5.8, 24-840mm (35mm equivalent). At least in magnification, since the Nikon starts wider; it doesn't surpass the Canon, though really the "36x" spec is all that will matter to most consumers.

It will likely beat the Canon in shooting performance, too. The P500 has a 12-megapixel backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor paired with a new Expeed C2 dual image processor. Nikon promises that the combo "greatly enhances performance, reduces noise, and corrects distortion in both movies and still images." It has multiple burst-shooting options, including 5 frames per second at full resolution and multishot modes for improved low-light portrait and landscape shots as well as a high dynamic range (HDR) option.


The design for the most part is the same as the P100, though there's a zoom toggle on the left side of the lens for more-controlled zooming while recording movies (it shoots in full HD at 30fps or in high speed at up to 240fps), manually focusing the lens, or snapping the lens back for more easily framing shots should your subject leave the frame when you're zoomed out. There's also a new button for quick access to burst-shooting options.

Look for it in March at an MSRP of $399.95 in black or red versions.

Coolpix S9100 Nikon

If the P500 is more than you need or you'd like something more pocket-friendly, there's the Coolpix S9100. It's a step up from the S8100. That camera features a 10x 30-300mm-equivalent lens, whereas the S9100 has an 18x 25-450mm-equivalent lens. Otherwise, the cameras look somewhat the same and the shooting options are similar, too, due in part to the 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor.

Basically you can expect the burst and multishot modes found on the S8100, and on the P500 for that matter. The S9100 does offer an Easy Panorama mode not available on the S8100, though. (My guess is it's the shoot-and-pan type found in other cameras using BSI CMOS sensors.)

The Nikon Coolpix S9100 will be available in March for $329.95 in black, red, and silver versions.


Coolpix L120 Nikon

Anyone looking for a megazoom with a lot of features at a lower cost should look at the L120. It's a refresh to the generally good L110 (generally good for its class, at least). In fact, the L120 is basically the same as the L110, but with a longer lens (21x up from 15x) and a higher-resolution 3-inch LCD (920K dots compared with 460K dots). It's photo resolution jumps to 14 megapixels from 12, too, but that's probably not a good thing. Also, its shooting modes are geared for those who don't leave Auto much, so don't expect manual controls. There's no electronic viewfinder, either.

It'll be available in March in black, red, and bronze versions for $279.99.

 

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