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Is there a New Trend in Compact Cameras? (fixed lens, large sensor, Nikon Coolpix A)

Nikon has announced the 16.2-megapixel Nikon Coolpix A, a compact camera with a fixed lens and APS-C sensor and what appears to be a fairly decent DSLR-like button layout (remains to be seen if it “works” or not). But apparently no provision for an EVF. Size looks to be attractive, apparently the main selling point: high quality and small size.

Is this a new trend? A large APS-C or full frame sensor with a fixed lens. The Sigma DP line, the Leica X2, the Fuji X100/100s, the Sony RX1 all iterate that idea. It’s a good idea, and I hope to see this genre expand in 2013. See Where Go We With Digital?.

The other emerging feature sub-trends are GPS and wireless support. These remain add-ons at present, but soon we might expect to see these two features go mainstream built-in.

At this point, Sigma has this genre nailed in terms of focal length coverage, with its 3-camera offering at 28mm, 45mm, 75mm (equiv), and when sharpness and price are both considered in the equation, there is as yet no competition with the DP Merrill line, though the alternatives have their own strengths which might have higher priority for some. I suspect that the Sony RX1 and Nikon Coolpix A are trial balloons from each of those companies.

B&H Photo has the about $1097 Nikon Coolpix A digital camera available for pre-order.

Nikon Coolpix A

The Nikon COOLPIX A Digital Camera is a 16.2MP advanced point-and-shoot camera with a DX-format (APS-C) CMOS sensor, which is the sensor format utilized on many Nikon DSLR cameras. This handsome camera with a slightly retro style looks to be a real breakthrough for Nikon, with its compact form and large-camera sensor. A DX sensor provides superior image quality and is particularly effective in producing low-noise images. In addition to a DSLR-sized sensor, the COOLPIX A utilizes the EXPEED 2 Image Processor and a 28mm equivalent fixed focal length lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The combination of this large sensor and fast lens in a compact body should impress many. And if that alone does not, its low-light performance and ability to focus fast and create images with sharp details and fine tonal gradation will.

Full HD 1080p video with built-in stereo sound is supported by the COOLPIX A, and with the included EG-CP16 cable you can connect your camera directly to an HDTV to immediately view your videos (and photos) with remarkable clarity. A 3.0” Ultra-High Resolution LCD with a 921k-dot pixel count provides clear image composition and playback, while its integrated panel structure and glass structure make for clear visibility even in bright sunlight. An electronic virtual horizon and grid display assists in keeping your images at straight angles and the optional WU-1a Wireless adapter allows you to connect the COOLPIX A to your smartphone or tablet for instant image sharing.

With 14-bit RAW file format, manual exposure control, 4 fps continuous shooting, a hot-shoe mount and Nikon’s Active D-lighting, as well as an aluminum-alloy body with a magnesium alloy top plate, the COOLPIX A reads more and more like a DSLR than a point-and-shoot, but its compact form factor and numerous assistive features leaves no doubt that despite its impressive spec list, this is Nikon’s next great compact camera. It is available in silver and black.

Image Sensor DX-Format CMOS (24 x 16mm)
Effective Pixels 16.2MP
Lens Prime NIKKOR Glass Lens
Focal Length 18.5mm
Focal Length (35mm Equivalent) 28mm
Maximum Aperture f/2.8
Image Stabilization Lens-shift VR (Vibration Reduction)
Focus Auto/Manual
ISO 100-6400
Continuous Shooting Up to 4 fps
LCD Type TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating
LCD Size 3" (7.6cm)
LCD Resolution 921k dots
14-bit RAW (NEF) Capability Yes
Video Capture Full HD 1920 x 1080p with stereo sound
Built-In Wi-Fi Optional (WU-1A Wireless Mobile Adapter required)
Eye-Fi Card Support Yes
Dimensions (WxHxD) Not specified by manufacturer
Weight Not specified by manufacturer

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