Best Nikon camera
16th Jan 2013 | 17:52
Nikon's best DSLRs, CSCs and compact cameras
Best Nikon consumer DSLR
When it comes to camera manufacturers, Nikon is among the best known. And for good reason - its range of DSLR, compact system and compact cameras contains some standout products that deliver performance and imaging clout where it matters.
Here we look at the full range to see which Nikon camera is best for you.
Nikon's DSLR range is divided between its DX (APS-C sensor size) and professional FX (Full-frame or 35mm sensor size) ranges.
Nikon's DX format camera range encompasses what Nikon calls its Consumer range of DSLRs, as well as its Professional range. The DX camera's 1.5x crop means equivalent focal lengths are 50% 'longer' than their FX equivalent (ie 50mm is a 75mm equivalent, although not all DX lenses will provide an image circle large enough to cover an FX sensor).
Although FX sensors offer the potential for better image quality and shallower depth of field (at any given aperture), they also mean larger, heavier and far more expensive kit.
Best Nikon consumer DSLR
Price: £370/AU$550/US$550 (with 18-55mm kit lens), 14.2MP, HD video: 1080p
Nikon's entry-level DSLR is best for beginners or users wanting to step up from compact cameras. The Nikon D3100's key selling point is its GUIDE mode, which provides on-screen assistance in both visual and written forms to help explain modes and options without jargon - ideal for the newcomer.
The D3100's 14.2MP DX sensor produces great quality images and can even render Full HD 1080p movie files. The rear screen can be used to show a real-time preview, or the 95% field of view optical viewfinder provides an ample way of framing shots.
Read our Nikon D3100 review
Price: £450/AU$600/US$550 (body only), 16.2MP, HD video: 1080p
The middle ground of Nikon's consumer range, the D5100 has the same 16.2MP DX sensor as found in the D7000, higher in the range. Image quality is excellent as a result and the camera's overall build quality is the main difference from its higher-specified partner.
Best for families and creative types, the D5100 has a vari-angle screen that can be positioned at almost any angle for imaginative shooting, plus there's a built-in Effects mode to shoot both still images and 1080p movies, with special effects such as Miniature, Selective Color and Silhouette.
Read our Nikon D5100 review
Price: £530/AU$1,000/US$850 (body only), 12.3MP, HD video: 720p
Although the Nikon D90 is a little long in the tooth and no longer on the production line, it's a solidly-built DSLR that's available at a cut of its original asking price.
The D90 was the first DSLR to introduce HD video capture (720p) and the 12.3MP DX sensor is also able to deliver good image quality. It may not be able to match some of its newer peers in this department, but it's the overall build quality where this camera excels.
Read our Nikon D90 review
Price: £650/AU$1,000/US$800 (body only), 24.1MP, HD video: 1080p
Provided you are happy not to have an array of buttons and dials giving you very quick access to key features, the Nikon D5200 looks like a great option for enthusiast photographers looking for a small, versatile camera, as well as those wanting to step up from an entry-level camera such as the Nikon D3100.
The Nikon D5200 is a solid performer that's well built and delivers images with well-controlled noise and plenty of detail, albeit with slight banding in some images taken at ISO 3200 and above.
Read our Nikon D5200 review
Price: £650/AU$800/US$700 (with 18-55mm kit lens), 24.2MP, HD video:1080p
Nikon introduced the D3200 as a better specified companion to the D3100 in its entry-level range of DSLRs. It features a 24.2 million pixel CMOS sensor and the same EXPEED 3 processing engine as the top-end D4.
The novice-friendly Guide Mode found on the D3100 is present, but has been enhanced with guides including Reds In Sunsets. Noise is well controlled through the native sensitivity range (ISO 100-6400) and images have plenty of detail, but the screen doesn't always display image colour accurately.
The Nikon D3200 wins our Best entry-level DSLR award.
Read our Nikon D3200 review
Price: £850/AU$1,300/US$1,100 (body only), 16.2MP, HD video: 1080p
At the top of the Consumer bracket, the Nikon D7000 is knocking on the door of professional cameras, and is best for more demanding photographers not able to stretch to the more significant asking price of the D300S.
The Nikon D7000's 16.2MP DX sensor is the same as that found in the more affordable D5100, but offers a sturdy, weather-sealed build and a variety of other perks. The 100% optical viewfinder means what you see in preview is what you get; an excellent 39-point autofocus system is ideal for moving subjects; 6fps shooting is quicker than its nearby models; and a durable shutter tested to 150,000 cycles guarantees longevity even under considerable use.
Read our Nikon D7000 review
Best Nikon professional and full-frame DSLR
Price: £1,100/AU$1,850/US$1,700 (body only), 12.3MP, HD video: 720p
Good for pro and enthusiast sports photographers. The Nikon D300S may use an older 12.3MP DX sensor (as per the D90), but its other super-fast and hardwearing features position it in Nikon's Professional category.
A near immediate start-up time sets the pace, and the 7fps burst mode works seamlessly with the 51-point autofocus system for fast and accurate focus. Add the MB-D10 battery grip and 8fps is possible. Like the D7000, the D300S is weather-sealed and tested to 150,000 shutter actuations - so it's durable and hard wearing for demanding users.
Read our Nikon D300S review
Price: £1,450/AU$2,400/US$2,000 (body only), 24.3MP, HD video: 1080p
The Nikon D600 is a terrific camera. To produce a full-frame sensor with comparable image quality to the likes of the Nikon D4, Nikon D800 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III is no mean feat in itself; but to house it in a body that's almost as small and light as a cropped-sensor DSLR is barely believable.
The superb sensor, extensive yet accessible features and compactness make the Nikon D600 an exceptionally user-friendly full-frame camera, though the Canon EOS 6D is a tough rival.
Read our Nikon D600 review
Price: £1,930/AU$3,400/US$2,800 (body only), 36.3MP, HD video: 1080p
The long-awaited successor to the landmark D700 model, the D800 boosts a pixel count to a staggering 36.3MP while also adding video recording, a larger LCD screen and EXPEED 3 processing to the mix.
Coincidentally, the camera also follows Canon's recent EOS 5D Mark III and 60D models in sporting a less angular body than previous generations. Our tests reveal that it is capable of capturing a fantastic amount of detail - it's only just beaten by the D800E.
The Nikon D800 wins our Best advanced DSLR award.
Read our Nikon D800 review
Price: £2,360/AU$3,800/US$3,100 (body only), 36.3MP, HD video: 1080p
Identical to the D800, save for a revised anti-aliasing filter to increase resolution. Nikon has pitched this DSLR at photographers dealing with subjects less likely to cause aliasing effects such as moiré, but that require maximum resolution. It's ideal for landscape, still life and macro photography.
Read our Nikon D800 vs Nikon D800E comparison
£5,290/AU$7,000/US$6,000 (body only) 16.2MP HD video: 1080p
Replacing the D3S, the Nikon D4 features a 16.2 million-pixel FX format sensor and a sensitivity range that can be expanded to include the equivalent of ISO 50-204,800. Further good news for low light shooters is that AF system is claimed to function down to -2EV. Nikon has designed to D4 to make it easier to shoot in the upright format, and it has two mini-joystick controllers for selecting the AF point, with one being within easy reach of the thumb whichever way round you are shooting.
Nikon hopes that the D4 will be the camera of choice of professional photographers, especially sports photographers. Speed is of the essence for these users and thanks to its EXPEED3 processor the D4 can shoot at up to 11fps. It is also the first camera to feature the XQD card format for faster image writing and downloading.
Read our Nikon D4 review
Price: £4,970/AU$6,700/US$6,700 (body only), 24.5MP, HD video: No
The top-tier (and priciest) Nikon DSLR on the market. With a body upwards of £4,500/US$6,500, this is strictly a camera for the professionals. The 24.5MP full-frame sensor is the highest resolution found in any Nikon DSLR.
With a build quality that's second to none, the Nikon D3X is best for professional studio, landscape or stock library work where large files are a necessity.
Read our Nikon D3x review
Best Nikon CSC
The Nikon 1 series is a mirrorless camera range, known as compact system cameras (CSCs).
Small in size and easy to use, much like a compact camera, the 1 series also features more DSLR-like features such as interchangeable lenses and a 1-inch sensor size (which is far larger than that found in almost all compact cameras).
The Nikon 1 series is best for those wanting better quality images than a compact camera can offer, with some of the versatility and control that a DSLR camera can provide. The 1 mount is unique to the Nikon 1 system, which means lenses can't be swapped between DSLR or other CSC brands.
Nikon 1 J2
Price: £400/AU$600/US$550 (with 10-30mm kit lens), 10.1MP, 1080p video
Unlike other systems, Nikon uses a smaller, 1-inch CX format sensor in the Nikon 1 J1 and Nikon 1 J2, which enables a smaller overall body size. Perhaps Nikon is keen to avoid cannibalising its already successful lineup of beginner and enthusiast-level DSLRs, but the Nikon 1 system is so far straying pretty far away from full manual control.
More of a tweak here and there than a full-blown upgrade from the J1, the Nikon 1 J2 boasts a 920k dot screen and is a good camera that is more than fit for purpose. The extra resolution on the screen is a welcome addition, as is the ability to more quickly access creative modes.
Read our Nikon 1 J2 review
Nikon 1 V2
Price: £750/AU$1,100/US$900 (with 10-30mm lens), 14.2MP, 1080p video
The Nikon 1 V2 is a sophisticated CSC that is more likely to appeal to advanced photography enthusiasts than the previous iteration, thanks to the addition of a mode dial and improved ergonomics. It has a new 14.2 million pixel CX format 1-inch CMOS sensor. This is accompanied by a new processing engine dubbed Expeed 3A.
According to Nikon, this sensor and processor combination has enabled it to push the sensitivity range of the Nikon 1 V2 a stop higher than before, extending it from ISO 160 to ISO 6400 instead of ISO 100-3200, which should prove useful in low light.
Read our Nikon 1 V2 review
Nikon 1 J1
Price: £400/AU$680/US$500 (with 10mm lens), 10.1MP, 1080p video
Aimed at those ready for a step up from conventional compact digital cameras, the Nikon1 J1 is designed to be compact and, above all, easy to use. The modest 10.1MP resolution is among the lowest found on current CSCs, but since each pixel should have a larger area to react to light, this should help the camera's performance at high ISO sensitivities. A built-in flash is available for extra illumination.
The sleek, compact body is available in a range of five colours, enabling you to choose the one that suits you best. In addition to the HD video feature, which can record 1080p resolution footage, full resolution still images can be taken during recording, which is quite a handy feature. Fast action can be captured at a blazingly fast 60fps at full resolution too.
Read our Nikon 1 J1 review
Nikon 1 V1
Price: £300/AU$550/US$350 (with 10-30mm lens), 10.1MP, 1080p video
The Nikon V1 is very similar to the J1, except that it has a higher resolution 3-inch LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder, but lacks a built-in flash. A hotshoe is provided for attaching the new Speedlight SB-N5, which is an optional extra.
A Smart Photo Selector and still image capture during movie recording are present, as is the ability to take shots continuously at 60fps. Slow motion video at 400fps complements the HD video feature, which records 1080p video at 60fps.
Read our Nikon 1 V1 review
Best Nikon compact cameras
When it comes to compact cameras, there's a Nikon model to suit all tastes. The range begins with the point and shoot L series (Life), advances to the stylish S series (Style) and ends at the higher-spec P series (Performance) that's designed for more demanding users. It also contains rugged cameras in its AW series (All Weather).
Nikon Coolpix S6300
Price: £120/AU$200/US$115, 16MP, 1080p video
The Nikon Coolpix S6300 is a good option for casual users looking for a versatile camera that can be slipped into a pocket. Images are bright and colourful, and the 10x optical zoom is very flexible for shooting far away subjects.
Pushing aside a few minor niggles, mainly to do with options such as the panorama mode, the Nikon Coolpix S6300 is a solid performing compact camera that will please consumers. Images are generally well exposed, have natural colours straight from the camera and there's little sign of noise.
Read our Nikon Coolpix S6300 review
Nikon Coolpix S6400
Price: £160/AU$280/US$250, 16MP CMOS sensor, Full HD video
The Nikon Coolpix S6400 appears to have just about everything you want from a digital compact camera of its class. With a 12x optical zoom, 3-inch 460,000-dot touchscreen, 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor, Full HD video recording, a host of direct controls, 20 scene modes, small, lightweight body and a modest price tag, what more could you ask for?
The Nikon S6400 does a number of things pretty well and offers a lot of flexibility, from its wide range of creative filters to its responsive touchscreen, accurate AF system on down to the all-important thing: great image quality.
Read our Nikon Coolpix S6400 review
Nikon Coolpix AW100
Price: £200/AU$300/US$250, 16MP, 1080p video
Nikon's first 'All-Weather' compact camera boasts a decent range of automated features that make it simple to pick up and start shooting with right away.
Full HD movies, built-in GPS and a digital compass, plus useful 'Action Control', are all features that ensure the Nikon AW100 can hold its own among its contemporaries. Overall, it's an attractive prospect that strikes a good balance between rugged features and everyday performance.
Read our Nikon Coolpix AW100 review
Nikon Coolpix P7100
Price: £350/AU$450/US$450, 10.1MP, 720p video
Nikon's P7100 is a close match for the Canon G12 in terms of specification, having the same size sensor with 10.1-million effective pixels and a f/2.8-5.6 7.1x zoom lens with a focal length equivalence of 35-200mm and Vibration Reduction (VR). The 3-inch 921,000 dot screen however, is a tilting unit rather than being fully articulated.
The solid-feeling body is liberally covered with buttons and dials, that give the user plenty of direct control over the most important shooting parameters. Image quality is generally good, especially from raw files, but colours can be a little on the vivid-side.
Read our Nikon P7100 review
Nikon Coolpix P7700
Price: £390/AU$580/US$400, 12MP, 1080p video
Using the Nikon P7700, it's easy to see that this a marked improvement over previous P series cameras, especially in terms of aesthetics and design. Now a camera that is much more pocketable, it still retains all the mode dials and manual controls that appeal to the more advanced photographer, plus an articulating screen and a hotshoe for adding accessories.
With a raft of premium compact cameras now flooding the market in a bid to appeal to those looking for something a little more sophisticated from a compact, Nikon has produced a camera that is very likeable in many respects.
Read our Nikon P7700 review
Nikon Coolpix P510
Price: £400/AU$500/US$400, 16MP, 1080p video
Trumping its wimpy-by-comparison 36x optical zoom predecessor the Nikon P500 with its new improved 42x zoom, the Nikon P510 is an amateur paparazzi's dream, courtesy of an ultra-wide 24-1000mm equivalent focal length. The build is 'DSLR lite', the zoom supported by lens-shift rather than sensor-shift image stabilisation, while a 16 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor lies at its core. Performance is enhanced by an Expeed C2 image processor.
Slightly more exciting is a 3-inch 921k dot tilting LCD screen, which can be angled up or down but not swung out parallel to the body. Naturally Full HD video shooting is also included, and a GPS antenna sits over the lens barrel and pop-up flash. For sports fans, continuous burst shooting of up to 7fps is offered, which is better than most entry-level DSLRs at its price.
Read about the Nikon Coolpix P510