Nikon DL18-50 high-end compact debuts with widest lens, fastest burst

dl1850dfe12.jpg
Nikon

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 cameras

  • Sensor 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 (3,840x2,160) video at 30p, as well as slow motion at up to 1,200fps, albeit at a tiny 400x144 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.

My take

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.

Comparative specs

Canon PowerShot G7 X Mark II Nikon DL18-50 Nikon DL24-85 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV
Sensor effective resolution 20.2MP HS CMOS 20.8MP BSI CMOS 20.8MP BSI CMOS 12.8MP MOS 20.2MP Exmor RS CMOS
Sensor size 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8 mm)
1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Four Thirds
(17.3 x 13mm)
1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Focal-length multiplier 2.7x 2.7x 2.7x 2.0x 2.7x
OLPF Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 12800/25600 (exp) ISO 160 - ISO 6400/ISO 12800 (exp) ISO 160 - ISO 6400/ISO 12800 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 200 - ISO 25600 ISO 80 (exp)/ISO 125 - ISO 12800
Lens (35mm equivalent) 24-100mm
f1.8-2.8
4.2x
18-50mm
f1.8-2.8
2.8x
24-85mm
f1.8-2.8
3.6x
24 - 75mm
f1.7-2.8
3.1x
24 - 70mm
f1.8-2.8
2.9x
Closest focus 2.0 in/5 cm 1.2 in/3 cm 1.2 in/3 cm 2 in/5 cm 1.9 in/5 cm
Burst shooting 5.4fps
46 JPEG/n/a raw
(8 shots with focus and exposure fixed on first frame)
20fps
n/a
(60fps with AE/AF/WB locked on first frame)
20fps
n/a
(60fps with AE/AF/WB locked on first frame)
6.5fps
n/a
(40fps with electronic shutter and fixed AF/AE)
5.5fps
(with electronic shutter; 16fps with fixed focus and exposure)
n/a
Viewfinder
(mag/ effective mag)
None Optional tilting EVF
2.4m dots
n/a
Optional tilting EVF
2.4m dots
n/a
EVF
0.4 in/10.2 mm
2.764m dots
100% coverage
1.39x/0.7x
OLED EVF
0.4-inch/10.2mm
1.44m dots
100% coverage
Hot shoe No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 31-area
Contrast AF
105-point phase detection
171-area contrast AF
105-point phase detection
171-area contrast AF
49-area
Contrast AF
25-area
Contrast AF
AF sensitivity n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter speed 250 - 1/2,000 sec; bulb 30 - 1/1,600 secs (1/16,000 sec electronic shutter); Time to 120 secs 30 - 1/1,600 secs (1/16,000 sec electronic shutter); Time to 120 secs 60 - 1/4,000 sec (1/16,000 electronic shutter); bulb to 2 minutes 30 - 1/2,000 sec (1/32,000 electronic shutter); bulb
Metering n/a n/a n/a 1,728 zones n/a
Metering sensitivity n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/60p
H.264 MP4 4K UHD/30p, 25p; 1080/60p; 1080/120p; 400x144/1200p H.264 MP4 4K UHD/30p, 25p; 1080/60p; slow motion 1080/120p; 400x144/1200p MP4 UHD/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/60p, 50p XAVC S 4K 2160/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps
Audio Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes n/a n/a Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 4GB/29:59 minutes n/a n/a 15 minutes 5 minutes
Optical zoom while recording Yes n/a n/a Yes Yes
Clean HDMI out No Yes Yes n/a n/a
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
LCD 3 in/7.5 cm
Flip-up, tilting touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
Tilting, flip up, touchscreen
1.04m dots
3 in/7.5cm
Tilting, flip up, touchscreen
1.04m dots
(97% coverage)
3 in/7.5 cm
Fixed
921,000 dots
3 in/7.5cm
Tilting
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Flash Yes No Yes Bundled optional Yes
Wireless flash No No No No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 265 shots
(1,250 mAh)
290 shots
(850mAh)
290 shots
(850mAh)
300 shots
(1,025 mAh)
280 shots (LCD);
230 shots (Viewfinder)
(1,240 mAh)
Size (WHD) 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.7 in
106 x 61 x 42 mm
4.2 x 2.5 x 2.2 in
106 x 63 x 58 mm
4.2 x 2.5 x 2.0 in
105 x 61 x 50 mm
4.5 x 2.6 x 2.2 in
114.8 x 66.2 x 55.0 mm
4.0 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches
101.6 x 58.1 x 41 mm
Body operating weight 11.3 oz (est.)
319 g (est.)
12.8 oz (est.)
365 g (est.)
12.3 oz (est.)
350 g (est.)
13.9 oz
394 g
10.4 oz
294 g
Mfr. price $700
£560
$850 $650 $700
£520 (est.)
AU$1,000
$950
£920
AU$1,400
Release date (US) May 2016 June 2016 June 2016 November 2014 July 2015

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Weight 12.66 oz
  • Sensor Resolution 20.8 Megapixel
  • Optical Zoom 2.8 x
  • Lens Aperture f/1.8-2.8
  • Focus Adjustment automatic
    manual
  • Min Focus Distance 5.9 in
  • Digital Zoom 4 x
  • Optical Sensor Size 1.0"
  • Sensor Resolution 20.8 pixels