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Nikon soups up the zoom

The 24X Coolpix P90 is now Nikon's top-of-the-line megazoom.

Nikon joins the ranks of manufacturers ramping up their top-of-the-line megazoom models to 24X. The replacement for the P80, the Nikon Coolpix P90, outzooms its 18X predecessor with an f2.8-5 26-624mm-equivalent lens, and outpixels it by upping the resolution from 10 megapixels to 12. More useful, Nikon incorporates a tilting 3-inch LCD into the camera, bringing it into parity with competing megazooms from Canon, Sony, and others.

With its spring cameras, Nikon introduces its "4-Way Vibration Reduction (VR) Image Stabilization," which consists of optical IS, auto-shutter speed/ISO determination to compensate for moving subjects, and a Best Shot Selector option for choosing the sharpest photo out of a burst of 10. Like the P80, it supports up to ISO 1600 with reduced resolution for ISO 3200 and 6400. Also new, the camera has a mode for 15fps continuous shooting for up to 45 frames, though it's not clear if that's at a reduced resolution as well. And like all its competitors, Nikon introduces its own get-the-faces-right system comprised of automatic red-eye fix, improved face-priority AF, and smile- and blink-detection.

We found the P80 unusably slow, and Nikon hasn't mentioned anything about performance enhancements for its successor. Nor does the P90 add raw format support.

The P90 ships in March 2009 for $399.95.