Nikon D60 and tilt-shift lenses announced

Nikon today announced several new products for the UK marketplace, with the established Coolpix range of consumer compact digital cameras being overhauled with a range of 22 colours across 10 models, and optical stabilisation via Nikon’s established VR system on every model – from £80 to £300. The L16 and L18 models, offering 7.1 and 8.0MP resolutions respectively, offer flexible shooting at the budget end of the market with ISO 1600 equivalent and 3x optical zoom, plus easily obtained AA batteries. Further enhancements within the range include evolutionary progression of the now de riqueur face recognition technology, with the 10MP S550 offering “smile recognition” and professional features like D-Lighting for under £200.

P60

The Coolpix P60 with optical image stabilisation.

Within the Coolpix range a typical resolution of 8-10MP applies regardless of budget, and ISO equivalent up to 2000 combined with VR and advanced software ensures a selection of cameras that will deliver good results for a variety of users.

Coolpix skins

What every fashionable Coolpix will be wearing this season

Colours optimised

Colours and cameras; Nikon’s Coolpix has a challenging year ahead with plans to double market share, but the range is promising. Whether Nikon succeed or not, the competition in this marketplace leaves the consumer with an impressive choice of products.

Nikon D60

D60

Moving away from the consumer market, Nikon have also released the D60; rather than occupying the segment typified by the D80/D200 pairing, the D300 remains the cheapest route to Nikon’s new sensor technology and the D60 is an evolution of the D40X. Coming in at £529rrp with the new 18-55 F3.5-5.6G VR stabilised lens, the D60 updates the D40 with sensor cleaning and AirFlow technology that utilises the movement of the mirror to disperse dust in a controlled manner, collecting in the base of the camera. Sensitivity remains average with a range of 64-1,600 equivalent (this may indicate very good noise levels, especially the reduction of minimum ISO to 64, though oversaturation will need checking) and the 10.2MP sensor reinforces the ‘evolutionary’ nature of the D60. Nikon claim a 0.19 second startup and faster shutter response, bringing DSLR performance closer to the convenience of compact digital cameras but many times faster.

D60 rear view composite

Nikon declined to show the new GUI on the rear screen in this packshot, it rotates with the camera orientation… but it’s great what a little Olympus mju in your pocket and some Photoshop work later can do to make up for PR shortfalls!

Many of the changes made apply to the user interface of the camera, rather than the technology. In this regard, the D60 offers a rotating GUI that will correct for orientation of the camera, and a logical ‘cleanup’ of GUI elements such as the aperture setting, which now displays a graphic representation of the lens aperture. Font, colour scheme and minor layout changes result in a very clear and intuitive display, with the LCD showing the position of the mode dial demonstrating the approach Nikon have taken in developing a very suitable ‘bridge’ DSLR – bringing prosumer/consumer market photographers into the world of DSLRs without fully leaving behind the sort of user-friendly touches that make a compact camera so intuitive for much of the population.

The D60’s software, like the internal processing, has been reworked, offering in-camera development of RAW files and applicable filters. Whilst these are of questionable benefit to the professional or serious amateur
user, they do offer an additional layer of creative control for the novice user and don’t detract from the camera’s useful functions!

For the mainstream market, the ability to add star-burst and similar filter effects may actually put the D60 in an enviable position, with greater use of photography in a social context and as a (re)emerging hobbyist market adopting the in-camera editing as an alternative to traditional filters and exploring the limits of the software, instead of the hardware.

Serious users of the D60 will welcome the inclusion of Active D-Lighting and 3D Colour Matrix Metering II, bringing some D3/D300 technology into the very affordable bracket that the D60 resides in. With a body-only price of only £449, as a second camera to serve for catching those candid shots at weddings, or even as an alternative to a compact, the D60 does offer a familiar (albeit smaller physical environment) operating paradigm. The hardware revisions end with an eye-sensor, turning off the LCD when not required.

Lenses

Nikon completed their Spring 2008 launches with a selection of new lenses. Alongside the 18-55 f3.5-5.6G VR primarily suggested as a kit lens for the D60, a new 60mm F2.8 prime (the AF-S Micro NIKKOR F2.8G ED) targeting full frame users, and a 16-85 AF-S DX NIKKOR F3.5-5.6G ED VR – providing an unusual take on the popular 18-70mm range and targeting DX-format users (automatically switching full-frame models to DX mode) – were announced.

24mm TS

Adding to the established range are updates to the Perspective Control tilt-shift lens range, providing 24mm, 45mm and 85mm models with ED coatings (the PC-E NIKKOR 24mm F3.5D ED is the initial launch, with 45mm and 85mm details to follow). The 24mm lens offers ± 8.5 degrees of tilt, 11.5mm of shift, and 90 degrees of rotation, and a minimum focusing distance of 0.21m.

tilt on D3

With a price tag of £1099, this should offer an affordable option for D3 owners looking at architectural subjects as well as studio work, and we will be looking at the new range of lenses in the near future. The sub-£5000 cost of a full-frame D3 and tilt-shift lens may also prove tempting for people still looking to migrate from Medium Format kit for this specialised market.

2008

Nikon’s intentions for 2008 are, as our new Prime Minister would have once said,’prudent’. Occupying 39% by volume of the DSLR market, the intention to remain or reach 40% seems quite modest. Looking at the range as it stands, the D60 certainly offers some appealing features as a D40X replacement, though it would be nice to see the impressive sensitivity of the D300 filtering down the range. More confidence and aggressiveness can be found in the intention to double market share in the compact market – which whilst it should be feasible on the back of the products announced today, it will be very dependent on the ability to communicate to the end users what advantages Nikon’s strong compact range offers. Certainly on the back of the entry level, sub £100 L-series, it’s very hard to envisage any truly comparable competition.

Nikon press do

A civilised press conference in London. The Canon conference four days earlier suffered from too many invited journos and too little product on display. At the Nikon conference the press represented a more focused group and the new products could be handled.

– Richard Kilpatrick, reporting from the January 28th press conference held in London

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