Nikon J3, S1 mirrorless continue stellar growth of 1-system; Coolpix S6500 announced; D5200 DSLR and radio remote come to US


posted Monday, January 7, 2013 at 10:00 PM EDT

Nikon's fledgling 1-mount system has only been around for a little over a year, but in that time it's seen a pretty impressive pace of development. Today, the announcement of two more 1-mount cameras makes that adjective seem insufficient. A greater superlative is needed to describe a schedule that sees no less than six cameras released for a brand-new lens mount in just 15 months. That pace is simply stunning, and its a clear indication of the importance with which Nikon sees its creation, and the compact system camera market.

The latest additions to the 1-mount family are the Nikon J3 and Nikon S1. The former is the third in its series, and incorporates the new image sensor and processor that debuted last year in the 1-series flagship model, the V2. Alongside it, the Nikon S1 launches a new product line, and is the smallest 1-mount camera to date, aiming to reinforce a key strength of the system. It's also the most affordably-priced model in the family, coming in at US$50 less than last year's entry-level mirrorless camera, the Nikon J2.

The Nikon J3 takes the heart of the flagship V2 mirrorless, and places it in a J-series body.

The 14-megapixel Nikon J3 has been restyled a little since its predecessor, with the Mode dial moved to the top deck, directly behind the power button. Sadly, it still doesn't offer PASM modes; accessing these requires a trip thru the menu system. Full-resolution burst performance including autofocus between frames is now a whopping 15 fps, just as in the V2, although the burst depth of 22 frames is only half that of the 1-series flagship. Available from February 2013 with pricing of roughly US$600, the Nikon 1 J3 will ship with a color-matched 10-30mm kit lens in white, black, silver, burgundy, or beige variants. More details can be found in our Nikon J3 preview.

The compact Nikon S1 sets a new benchmark for 1-series affordability.

The Nikon S1, meanwhile, does away with the Mode dial altogether, and instead uses a new, virtual dial on its LCD monitor instead. (Preview images appear behind the dial, showing you the effect possible in your chosen mode.) Based as it is around the Nikon J2's image sensor, but with the newer processor from the J3, the Nikon S1 has a lower resolution of 10-megapixels, but matches the J3's burst performance at 15 fps. A lesser amount of buffer memory means it can "only" capture 15 frames at that rate before the buffer fills, however. The Nikon S1 ships with a smaller, more affordable kit lens, for a total bundle price of US$500 or thereabouts. Available body colors when the camera ships in February 2013 will include white, black, red, pink, or khaki, and the 11-27.5mm lens will again be color matched. More details in our Nikon S1 preview.

Alongside the two new bodies, Nikon further reinforces its commitment to the 1-system with two new lenses and an underwater housing. The new lenses are the VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 and the VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6. The former provides 35mm-equivalent focal lengths ranging from 18 to 35mm, giving great wide-angle possibilities thanks to a 100-degree field of view, a new watermark for the 1-system. The latter offers a range of 27 to 270mm, bringing distant subjects up close and personal, and Nikon describes it as compact, lightweight, and "ultra-portable".

Nikon's latest 1-mount lenses are the 6.7-13mm and 10-100mm zooms.
(Note: Lenses not shown to scale)

The WP-N2 underwater housing, meanwhile, is compatible with both the Nikon J3 and S1 camera bodies when used with Nikon's 10-30mm lens. (That means it's ideal for Nikon J3 owners, and rather less so for S1 owners, as they'll need to purchase a second lens that almost totally duplicates the range of their own kit lens.) Still, it's easy enough to eBay the second lens, and you'll be able to shoot -- and zoom -- underwater stills and video, at depths up to 131 feet (40m).

The 1 NIKKOR VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens will be priced at around US$500, while the 1 NIKKOR VR 10-100mm f/4-5.6 zoom will cost about US$550. No information on US-market shipping dates was available at press time. The WP-N2 underwater case, meanwhile, ships from February 2013, priced at about US$750.

The Nikon Coolpix S6500 adds Wi-Fi wireless networking to last year's S6400.

And so we move on to the next camera: the Nikon S6500. This, in a nutshell, is last year's Nikon S6400, but with one important feature added. With the Coolpix S6500, Nikon makes a return to the Wi-Fi-capable compact camera market, after a lengthy absence. It's been four years or more since the last regular Coolpix compact with Wi-Fi was announced, so the Nikon Coolpix S6500 ends a long drought. (OK, technically the Android-based Coolpix S800c has Wi-Fi, but that camera is so different to anything else in Nikon's lineup that we're not counting it.) Nikon's return to Wi-Fi-equipped cameras isn't surprising, given the recent uptick in cameras that promise quick sharing with smartphones and tablets. If anything, the surprise is that it's been so long coming.

Like the S6400 before it, the Nikon S6500 has a 16-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor that's paired with a 12x optical zoom lens. 35mm-equivalent focal lengths range from 25 to 300mm, and the maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 at wide angle to f/6.5 at telephoto. As in the earlier camera, Nikon's Vibration Reduction technology is included, helping to fight blur from camera shake at lower shutter speeds. On the rear panel, the Nikon Coolpix S6500 sports a 3.0-inch LCD monitor. That's the same size as used in the S6400, but with a total of 76,800 pixels, it has only half the resolution.

Available from late January 2013 in silver, black, red, and orange, the Nikon Coolpix S6500 will cost around US$200. More details in our Nikon S6500 preview.

The Nikon D5200 blends features of the D7000 enthusiast and D3200 consumer DSLRs.

Finally, there are some developments on the digital SLR front, as well. The Nikon D5200, which was announced late last year in Europe, is finally official in the US market as well. It's slated for availability in late January 2013, and will be sold here in black, red, or bronze body colors. Pricing is set  at around US$900 in a kit with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens. For more details, see our Nikon D5200 preview.

And then there's the final product line, which has largely been announced already in Europe too. The WR-T10 Wireless Remote Controller that was mentioned in our coverage of the Nikon D5200 announcement, along with the WR-R10 Wireless Remote Transceiver, will ship at the end of January in the US market. So will the WR-A10 wireless remote adapter, which allows use of this radio remote on Nikon DSLRs with a 10-pin remote terminal. The remote has a working range of of 66 feet (20m), and you'll be able to buy the component parts separately or in a bundle. Priced separately, the WR-T10 controller costs about US$95, the WR-R10 transceiver is about US$127, and the WR-A10 adapter is around US$75. The WR-10 remote controller set will cost US$278.