Nikon goes for the big numbers, launches lightweight tele zoom, deep-diving housing and flash


posted Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 5:17 PM EST


Alongside the launch of the Nikon S810c and Nikon J4 cameras last night, the Japanese company also launched several other photography products -- and just like the cameras, not all were announced for the US market. A new, lightweight 18-300mm telephoto zoom lens will, it seems, definitely be making it to US shores. The status of a new underwater housing and underwater flash strobe aimed at 1-series users, though, is less clear. To date, these have only been revealed in Europe and Asia.

We'll start with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens, a DX-format optic for crop-sensor cameras. It's significantly smaller and lighter than the existing AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens, and just slightly more affordable, as well. To gain the greater portability and lower price, though, you do sacrifice a little on maximum aperture towards the telephoto end of the range. You also get a seven-bladed aperture instead of a nine-bladed one, and you won't be able to focus quite as closely. The minimum focus distance is now 1.6 feet (0.48m), up from 1.48 feet (0.45m) in the existing optic.


With that said, maximum magnification isn't affected -- and nor is this a macro optic anyway, with a 0.32x reproduction ratio. And it has to be noted that none of this seems like a terribly high price to pay for a lens that's one-third lighter, one-third smaller, and 10% less expensive. (Not to mention the fact that you'll also be able to purchase more affordable 67mm-threaded filters, rather than the 77mm filters you'd have needed for the existing lens.) You do, of course, still get silent wave motor autofocus, and the vibration reduction system is actually said to be slightly more poweful, correcting 4.0 stops in the new lens, up from 3.5 stops in the earlier optic.


So how was the savings in bulk achieved? Predominantly, a simplification of the optical design. The new lens has a 16-element, 12-group formula, down from 19 elements in 14 groups. There are still three ED glass elements and three aspheric elements, though, and Nikon's Super Integrated Coating is retained. The new lens also retains the internal focusing design of the earlier one. We'll reserve judgement until we can put the new lens through testing at our sister site, but on paper at least, this looks to be a better offering for customers looking to cover all their bases with a single travel lens.

Available from May, the Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3G ED VR lens is priced at around US$900.


Next up, the underwater housing. If you're a 1-series shooter and the 49-foot (15m) depth limit of the Nikon AW1 isn't enough for you (or you want more zoom reach than its 11-27.5mm optic can provide), that's where the WP-N3 waterproof case comes in. It's compatible with the Nikon S3 and J4, with either the 11-27.5mm or 10-30mm lenses mounted. The latter gives you a 3x zoom range, rather than the 2.5x of the AW1's longest waterproof zoom -- and the zoom can be used with the housing in place. And it will take your camera safely down to as deep as 147 feet (45m), three times deeper than the AW1 can manage.


It's also compatible with the new SB-N10 Underwater Speedlight, which will actually manage far deeper than the housing can -- up to 328 feet (100m). It has a guide number of 92 feet (28m) at ISO 100, allows TTL or manual flash control, and comes bundled with the Underwater Wide-Flash Adapter SW-N10A, for an expanded angle of illumination. It can be mounted on the WP-N1, -N2, or -N3 underwater housings using the optionally-available Underwater Bracket SK-N10A, and can be triggered from the Nikon AW1 using the optional Underwater Fiber-Optic Cable SC-N10A and the Underwater Fiber-Optic Cable Adapter SR-N10A.


Both of these two accessories haven't been announced in the US market, but they go on sale in Japan from May 2014. Pricing is set at ¥74,000 (US$730) for the WN-N3 waterproof case, and ¥73,500 (US$720) for the SB-N10 Underwater Speedlight.