Kodak and Olympus stirred the ultrazoom pot with 24x and 26x zoom ranges, respectively, in their CES announcements, and tonight Nikon joined the fray as well with the launch of the 24x zoom Nikon Coolpix P90.
The new flagship ultrazoom in Nikon's Performance series of Coolpix models, the 12.1 megapixel P90 is the only new P model announced in tonight's batch of pre-PMA arrivals. Stylistically similar to last year's popular P80, the P90 features a composite DSLR-style body with a 3.0 inch LCD out back.
Articulating Screen, Wide-Ranging Lens
In this case, though, the big news is that the P90's screen is articulating (Nikon calls it "Vari-Angle"), allowing the display to be tilted "as much as 90 degrees upward or 45 degrees downward," according to the manufacturer.
Nikon is just the latest manufacturer this year to tout the benefits of wide-angle coverage for its point-and-shoot models. In this case, the enthusiast focused P90 features a 26-624mm Nikkor ED lens, allowing for serious wide-angle coverage at the short end of the zoom without sacrificing more than sufficient telephoto reach for birding or sports photography.
The P90 is among the first Nikon models to advertise the manufacturer's "four-way" Vibration Reduction image stabilization concept. In addition to optical/mechanical image stabilization, the P90 utilizes motion detection (which detects subject motion and adjusts shutter speed and/or ISO accordingly), reduced-res high-sensitivity shooting at up to ISO 6400, and Nikon's Best Shot Selector (which "automatically takes up to 10 shots while the user presses the shutter, and saves the sharpest image").
Shooting Modes for All
Two new shooting modes on the P90 seek to expand the camera's utility for different user groups. Aimed at soccer moms and serious shooters alike, the P90's Sport Continuous mode captures up to 45 reduced-resolution shots at an outrageously fast 15 fps. Family photographers are also served by a new Smart Portrait System, grouping several auto exposure technologies (including blink detection, smile detection, face detection, and red-eye reduction) for easier access when taking shots of friends and family.
In the interest of enthusiast appeal, the P90 also packs in the typical P/A/S/M manual exposure modes, as well as an electronic viewfinder.
A Dominant Ultrazoom?
Nikon's original P80 was met with a lot of fanfare when it debuted, and while it has remained a popular choice among ultrazoom buyers, the P80 didn't redefine the class the way many thought it might. With this in mind, we had a chance to check out a pre-production P90 not long ago, and it was interesting to note what Nikon had changed up, and what remained untouched compared to their last ultrazoom effort.
In general, it's worth noting that the P80's relatively simply, very usable interface seem to have been carried forward essentially unchanged, and the pivoting LCD is a great upgrade as well (maybe it's just my bias, but why all high-end cameras don't feature articulating screens is really beyond me). Ultimately, though, the staying power of the P90 in a quickly shifting segment of the market will be determined in no small part by one single consideration, and it's one that we couldn't easily get a read on in a few minutes of hands-on time with the camera: the quality and performance of that impressively speced zoom lens.
Pricing and Availability
If you're ready to queue up for a P90 of your own, Nikon should be ready to put one in your hands no later than March. Suggested pricing is listed at $399.95, giving the P90 an initial price advantage of around $50 on the rival Olympus SP-590 that should be hitting retailers around the same time.
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