Nikon treated us to lunch on the South Bank last week, and gave us a chance to fondle the ten new Coolpix compacts announced recently. It's a tough job, but some poor schmuck's got to do it.
So say hello to the L11, L14, L15, S200, S51, S51c, S510, S700, P50 and P5100. They all boast face detection and in-camera red-eye reduction, as well as D-lighting function. This adjusts the settings for different parts of a picture so exposure is correct for lighter and darker areas.
All compact camera life is here: 6-, 7-, 8- and 12-megapixel counts, extended battery life, sensor-shifting vibration reduction, big screens, metal bodies, and even -- whisper it -- Wi-Fi.
Click through for pictures and the low-down on each of Nikon's newborns.
The top dog in this pedigree pack is the 12.1-megapixel P5100. You get aperture and shutter priority as well as full manual control, plus more buttons and options than you can poke a stick at. We're excited at the continuous flash option, which makes it possible to capture up to 3 frames (at 1.1fps) all with flash.
Although you can't change the lens, SLR-style, you can stick telephoto or wide angle converters on the front. There's a flash hotshoe up top and optical image stabilisation under the bonnet. Plus you have the choice between a real, honest-to-goodness viewfinder and a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen to compose your shots.
All in all, the P5100 is as close to a bridge camera as Nikon gets, essentially a superzoom but, er, without the zoom (3.5x, fact fans, or equivalent to 35-123mm on a 35mm camera).
It's black, for that retro look, and clocks in somewhere around £290. It's good and everything, but we can't shake the feeling that for that much money you should be getting a hefty zoom.
If the P5100 is too rich for your blood, meet its junior sibling the P50. Nestling in the plastic frame are all of 8.1 megapixels, with plenty of manual control still in your hands. There's a 3.6x zoom with a satisfyingly roomy 28mm at the wide end.
The screen may be slightly subpar at 61mm (2.4 inches), but the real disappointment is the lack of optical image stabilisation. It's still a very user-friendly camera, powered by AA batteries, but we would prefer a bigger zoom if we're paying £190 or so.
There isn't much to choose between the three new additions to the budget 'life' section of the range. The three new Ls look pretty similar, are all cheap as chips and are all a little light on features.
At the bottom of the range is the L11 (pictured left). A decidedly frill-free 6-megapixel snapper with 3x zoom and a dwarfish 61mm (2.4-inch) LCD screen. It uses AA batteries and will hit ISO 800. If that sounds appealing, start saving up your paper-round money, as it's available now for £90 asking price.
We're up to 7.1 megapixels and ISO 1,000 with the L14 (pictured middle). It still has the 3x zoom and 61mm screen, but the unique selling point is battery life. Nikon claims you'll get 1,000 shots out of a single pair of AA batteries. That's a shedload of pictures, and all for around £120. Blue or silver flavours are available.
Things really start to get serious with the L15 (pictured right). You get a far more respectable 8 megapixels and 71mm (2.8-inch) screen. Impressively, optical image stabilisation is built in, adjusting the lens for those post-party jittery hands. This makes the L15 the most attractive of the L range. Pay up around £130 and choose from from silver or black.
The colourful S200 is a slender 7-megapixel compact with a 3x zoom. It's so slim there's no room for optical image stabilisation and the screen is the standard 64mm (2.5 inches). Each of the other cameras in Nikon's latest tranche has a unique selling point, but the S200's selling point is that it's the same as every other compact in the Argos catalogue. Only a bit thinner.
It's the everycam: all things to all people. And at around £120, there's nothing wrong with that. We like the lipstick-red version, but it's also available in the ubiquitous silver or black.
Bored of having loads of memory cards lying around, except for when you really need one, in which case they've all mysteriously disappeared? Then perhaps you'd be tempted by a camera with a bottomless memory capacity. The Coolpix S51c is that camera -- sort of.
The S51c is the bigger brother of the S51 -- a slinky, stylish 8.1-megapixel camera with 3x zoom, optical image stabilisation and a vast 76mm (3-inch) screen. The S51c is the same but with added Wi-Fi. You set an email address and send pictures off to your account on Nikon's My Picturetown image-sharing site. Using email means you could upload to Flickr as well, or any site that supports upload by email, but presumably only one or two at a time.
We say presumably, because wireless isn't quite there yet. While testing the camera we had a choice of four wireless connections -- and this is in the heart of London, remember -- yet none of them worked.
The S51 is available in chocolate brown or silver and will set you back around £190. The Wi-Fi wonder S51c will cost around £30 more, and comes in ninja black.
Next up is the S510, a stainless-steel 8.1-megapixel compact that manages ISO 2,000 with a 3x zoom and 64mm screen. More importantly, it's the smallest camera to include optical image stabilisation. As if that wasn't enough, Nikon claims the S510 is the fastest camera in the world. Well, the fastest 8.1-megapixel compact with optical image stabilisation, anyway.
Round the back, the S510 retains the nippy, zippy scroll wheel that we loved on the. Stop-motion and time-lapse movie modes are included, as well as face detection.
Models are available in silver, pink and urban black, which is apparently different from rural black, but we're not sure how (perhaps it objects to foxhunting). It's yours for somewhere in the neighbourhood of £200.
We round out the 'style' range with the S700. Brushed aluminium body, 12.1 megapixels, 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen, sensor-shifting optical image stabilisation -- it's a compact camera all grow'd up. Start-up is instant, yes, instant.
There's all the face detection and auto focus whistles and bells, the usual 15 scene modes and that cheeky little scroll wheel. One feature we're interested in is distortion control, which Nikon claims will correct barrel distortion automatically. The results can be checked in real-time on the LCD monitor.
The S700 is available in silver or urban black, but frankly they both look like grey to us. It's not available just yet, but will cost the wrong side of £250 when it is. -Rich Trenholm