First Look: The New Nikon Compact DL 24-85 f1.8-2.8 and DL18-50 f1.8-2.8 Cameras Are Here

SS_225_13563_sim There is no doubt going to be much interest in the new Nikon’s DL 24-85 f1.8-2.8 and DL18-50 f1.8-2.8 cameras, so I thought I would give you my impressions having recently wrapped up the advertising campaign for the cameras along with my colleague Drew Gurian.

It’s always an honor when Nikon asks me to do a shoot for them and I’ve had the good fortune to work on the Nikon D600 campaign as well as assignments providing sample images for a variety of Nikkor Lenses.

Those that know me understand that maybe I can’t be completely objective. The fact is, except for the camera in my iPhone, all my cameras are Nikons. My relationship with Nikon is a special one. Throughout my photographic life beginning with my first Nikon FM, Nikon and I have explored the world together and my commitment to Nikon cameras and Nikkor glass has never wavered. I was paid to work on this campaign. That said, these are my honest thoughts on these cameras.

I’m going to talk about the DL 24-85mm camera in this post and the DL 18-50mm in the next one. Remember, except for a few features, the cameras are basically the same in feature set, size and weight.

The Nikon DL 24-85 f1.8-2.8
The Nikon DL 24-85 f1.8-2.8

My first impression of the new DL 24-85 was one of surprise. It has a 24-85mm f1.8-2.8, which frankly, is the perfect range for the type of street photography I am most passionate about. But my surprise was more  for its size; this little camera was a tool I could easily fit in my shirt pocket and thus into my life. I’ve seen a lot of small cameras come and go and there was never one of this size that ticked all the boxes for me the way this one does.

Could this be the one?

The bottom line for me is quality, so I was eager to see the quality of images this camera could produce. How much of a compromise would this small camera be compared to my Nikon DSLR’s?

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Sensor Size

A standard first question from many photographers is about the sensor, how big? There is a “bigger is better” mentality out there and sure, if you can find a way to squeeze a full-frame D5 or D500 sensor into this compact camera with 24-85mm zoom, I would love that. But these are not those cameras and in many respects, they are even better.

The 20.8 megapixel CMOS sensor was magic, just check out some of the sample images. (These are un-retouched JPEGS) The 20 x 30 images I made at Costco looked great!

In the fast-moving world of street photography there are few second chances and the camera has to be fast. My criteria for any camera as a tool, is twofold:

Will it allow me to get the images I strive for, shooting quickly and without hesitation?

Will the quality be there for me to use the images in the many ways a professional gets the work out there into the world?

The thing is, I don’t carry my DSLR’s around everywhere, but these cameras I can and likely will. So if it meets my needs as a professional, it’s a no-brainer. Not that I would necessarily use it in place of my DSLR’s…but could work produced from it be seamlessly inserted into my portfolio, without compromise or questioning? I say yes. I liked the fact that the “megapixelage” matches the D5/D500 which will make this camera a great companion when its big brothers are at home.

I have a Nikon V3, which I love. It’s so fun to work with and it’s super-fast AF and fast frame rate along with it’s touch screen make it a great camera for a fast moving world. These cameras take over from where the V3 left off. To react quickly on the street, you need a camera that can react as fast as you can.


Speed: 20 frames per second with continuous AF. Even the D5 can’t match that; and it really works. The playback is a joy to behold as all 20 images are played back in cinematic splendor.

The Hybrid AF is super fast and worked amazingly well on the street. It’s a hybrid because it employs both phase and contrast detection AF with up to 171 focus points being used.

The lens

This was a bit of a mystery to me. At f1.8 at the wide range and f2.8 at telephoto, the bokeh wide open reminded me of my much larger-sensor DSLR’s. But it’s the sharpness that really confounded me. Corner to corner even wide open. Something I have never seen with my bigger sensor brethren.  Nikon lens engineers have really outdone themselves with this fluorine-coated high tech zoom that was sharp throughout the entire range even wide open. (The 18-50 version has Nano Crystal Coat applied).

The zoom can be set in one of six positions on the zoom ring or you can use the electronic zoom lever on the top of the camera which works well when shooting 4K video. For the street photography I like to shoot, I prefer to set one of the fixed-focal lengths (35mm is my go-to) and zoom with my feet.



I found the controls on this little camera were where I wanted them to be. The menu system will be familiar to those with Nikon DSLR’s and having the On/Off Switch/Shutter Release and Exposure Compensation wheel (plus or minus five stops) on the top right made using the camera very intuitive. I used the function button a lot, programming it to quickly change my AF mode, from Single Point when I wanted full control of where in the frame I would focus, to Auto Area, which did a fantastic job in knowing what I wanted to be sharp in the frame. I never use Auto Area on my DSLR’s but would use it a lot with this camera.

The small protruding ridge on the bottom right of the camera makes gripping this little compact more secure.

The articulating touch-screen is a huge plus for me, being able to “stealthily” move my screen and simply touch the spot within the frame which focuses and takes the picture at the same time. I love this feature on my VR and D5500 and loved it on the DL cameras. It means getting candid street images that are likely impossible to get without this feature.


When you do this kind of shoot, you’re working with a pre-production prototype and not all features are available. Though I shot RAW + JPEG, I could only edit the JPEGS since RAW processing is not yet available. The JPEGS looked amazing so I can’t wait to see what I can do with the RAW files.

Super Macro with focus bracketing in continuous release mode makes getting a specific area in an extreme close-up much easier, and this camera gets close, almost close enough to touch the subject you are photographing!

The control ring for manual focus is very smooth and this may be the first Nikon to include focus peaking.

There’s a new Electronic Viewfinder which wasn’t ready when I was using the camera but I’m looking forward to trying it.

The new Snapbridge image sharing feature is something I didn’t get to use either but will make getting your best shots to your Instagram or other social media feeds easy.

I’m not one of those photographers that needs to be “on” all the time. When I’m out shooting I work to get into the “photographic zone” which means my concentration is total, everything fades away and my eyes, brain and heart lock into shooting mode. Though I like to have a camera with me at all times, I don’t always. But now there’s no excuse. The new DL 24-85 f1.8-2.8 will be my new carry around camera. But like you, I have to wait to get one as alas, when you do a shoot for Nikon, at least in my experience, they always ask for the camera back.

Subscribe to the newsletter and get your free e-book Quick Start Guide for the new DL 24-85 f1.8-2.8 & DL 18-50 f1.8-2.8 which will be sent when the cameras hit the stores by clicking HERE!

This free e-book will be sent to you the minute these amazing new cameras land on store shelves.


You can pre-order this camera from B& H HERE.

Just wanted to thank Nikon Global and Creative Director Soichi Hayashi for the opportunity. I’m also proud to have shared this campaign with my good friend, Drew Gurian.  You can find his thoughts and beautiful imagery HERE!

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  1. says: Dave B

    Why is Nikon trying to lose customers with their complete lack of information about the fate of the DL line? Two of the three cameras have competition from Sony and other manufacturers, but the DL-1850 was unique. It would be nice to understand what the issues are and have a projected release date given by management. Judging by comments on various sites, it seems that at this point so many people have given up on them that maybe the entire line will be scrapped.

  2. (quote) Super Macro with focus bracketing in continuous release mode makes getting a specific area in an extreme close-up much easier….

    (question) Can you please post a couple of close up and macro shots?

  3. says: Scott

    So glad to have found your site! This Nikon intrigues me! My biggest issue with my Sony RX100 IV is that even with a 1.8 aperture, my background is usually too sharp unless I’m shooting very close to my subject and a great distance to the background. What are your thoughts on the depth of field for this Nikon? Also, how do you feel the sharpness is compared to the RX100 IV? With this and the RX100 IV do you favor one over the other?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Hi Scott, I think this camera has a super sharp lens but haven’t compared it to others. The depth is also affected by how and what you’re shooting. The small sensor and wider the focal length the more depth of field you’ll get at all apertures…but i used selective focus very successfully by getting physically close to the subject and/or shooting more toward the telephoto end of the zoom.

      1. says: Scott

        Thanks for your reply! When you say you got physically close, do you think I could achieve a nice blurry background if my subject is like 10 feet away? That’s what I miss on the RX100 – IV – even if I zoom in, unless it’s like 3-4 feet away, it’s hard to achieve.

  4. says: SteveW

    Steve, I really enjoyed your review of both the DL24-85 and DL18-50. Quick question: When you are in A Mode….how do you make changes to Aperture? I noticed there is an exposure compensation dial on the camera, but do not see any other command dials. Also, is there a minimum shutter speed selection in Auto ISO? Thanks so much!

    1. says: SteveW

      Oops…Okay I saw comment 17 and 20….where you note that you can set a minimum shutter speed with Auto ISO. I love this too! Is the control ring that you can use to set aperture the ring on the back of the camera body? Like you….I like using A Mode with Auto ISO. (I wish with my Nikon D750 there was a way to adjust the minimum shutter speed of Auto ISO with a command dial. That would be sweet!)

      1. says: Steve Simon

        You could try Manual mode with Auto ISO and you can adjust both shutter speed and aperture and ISO takes care of the exposure…super controllable just make sure you don’t use a shutter speed/aperture combo that won’t give the right exposure when the ISO maxes out…

    2. says: Steve Simon

      There’s a command wheel that easily lets you choose aperture in A mode…and yes you can choose a minimum shutter speed in Auto ISO…love this feature.

  5. Great review – thank you! I have been anxiously awaiting this camera, for the reason you outlined above of not always wanting to carry around a big DSLR. I love my D800 and assortment of lenses, but my camera bag is heavy, and it only comes out with me when I have planned for a shoot. This is something that would be a joy to shoot with every day, as I would just keep it in my daily work bag. I am actually blown away by the sharpness of the B&W portrait that you posted here. Here’s hoping that projected September release was not false information! I hear that Hasselblad has gotten hit with Sony sensor delays for their new X1D as well…

  6. says: Heinz

    I am really struggling to find “the best camera smaller than a dslr” – both for images and videos (at least 1080p). I love this review and the work put into it, I still can’t decide 100%.
    Currently I am between Sony RX-100iv (expensive, no touch screen, overheating in 4K) , Canon G7Xii (slower than Sony, video not as good, battery life weaker), Nikon DL24-85 or even a Lumix, like the LZ100 for example. What is your take at this moment?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Well we are all still waiting patiently or not so patiently for the DL Cameras release…I will have to wait. Being a Nikon only guy I don’t have an opinion of the others since I haven’t explored them sorry.

  7. says: Vladimir

    Hi, any info on the flash sync speed and the flash recycle speed ?
    With every new compact lumix I get disappointed as those can’t work for me due to their very bad flash attachment design and the flash sync speed of 1/50. Don’t want to mention other crappy compacts due to their soft lenses, focus problems, slowness etc. Had them all and now with Sony RX100 MK3 just because of the size but it’s a toy with a good sensor.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Vladimir, I will look into this, I can’t recall but I believe the flash sync speed is fast but the flash is small and limited by it’s size. but you can use external speed lights…

  8. says: BG Davis

    Beautiful images! You were indeed fortunate to get hands-on with this camera.
    Burst rate is great, but buffer depth can make or break an action shoot. What is the buffer depth for JPEG? For RAW? (Subjective approximation would be fine.)
    Thanks again.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Well I haven’t done a test but it does have the ability to shoot a 20 frame per second RAW + JPEG burst…that’s a lot of buffer!

  9. says: Jim Orsetti

    In addition, the premium compact cameras, Nikon DL18-50 f/1.8-2.8, DL24-85 f/1.8-2.8, and DL24-500 f/2.8-5.6, will be delayed due to the serious issues with the integrated circuit for image processing built into the three new premium compact cameras, originally scheduled for a June 2016 release.
    The new release date has yet to be determined and we will announce the information as soon as it is decided.

    Hope They Find A Fix For IC

  10. says: Devin

    Hi there, I was wondering if you could tell me how big the buffer is on this camera? The V2 and V3 had a buffer of 40 images. I am pretty sure that they have increased the buffer size on this camera but they have also increased the resolution so it probably amounts to the same amount of images. I would love it if it could capture 60 or more images before the buffer fills up. It would also be great if you could capture a slightly lower resolution Raw resolution but do more frames, say for example 4000 x 3000 for 70 frames. I am interested in using this burst feature as a creative tool for film making. I was also disappointed to see that they brought back the exposure lock mode on the burst mode. It was there in the V1 and then they allowed for and then they took it away in V2, now it seems to be back.
    Any info on the burst mode of this camera will be much appreciated. I would also like to know if it has clean HDMI out at 4k?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Hi Devin,

      You ask a couple of questions I don’t have the answer for yet but I will check and get back to you. Steve S.

  11. says: Jackson

    Hi Steve, what’s the hit rate on the auto-focus and bright and dim lighting? I’m looking to upgrade from my canon G7X due to it missing focus and sometimes not finding focus at all in bright light and even high contrast setting.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Focus seems super-fast on the prototype and I’m sure it will be even better by the time it hits market. But I have not done comparison tests so I’m not sure how it compares with other cameras…by my intuition says you will be impressed.

  12. says: Dave

    Thanks for the look ahead, excellent summary. With the final production of the Nikon DL 24-85, is there a possibility of a panoramic photo mode?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      I don’t think a panoramic mode is in the cards for these cameras…but you can always create them in post, with higher resolution that a mode in the camera would allow…

  13. says: R. DeBella

    I was told by a Nikon rep that they are having sensor issues and that the camera may not be released until possibly September. Have you heard this?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      That kind of information is only privy to the insider few…I do not know…lets hope it’s out sooner.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Hi George, as you might suspect, the scene modes are JPEG only…but there is a large variety of them and Nikon has put a lot of thought and effort into the creative scene modes on these cameras.

  14. says: Donn

    I am restricted to a wheel chair all of the time. I am a bit disappointed that it doesn’t have a fully articulating screen like the new Canon G5X.
    I am anxiously awaiting the DL 24-500, But I would like a small pocketable camera, with viewfinder and fully articulating screen.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      The screen moves quite a bit but you’re right, just up and down (even a selfy position) but not side to side. There’s always something…

  15. says: Helge Nareid

    Being a cantankerous old curmudgeon, I want a proper viewfinder. I was quite disappointed to find that the EVF for these cameras is a clunky add-on which mounts at the top of the camera. Did you get any chance to use the EVF with the camera at all?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      That’s a very good question…I had to send back the cameras but I’m pretty sure they stay at the superfast f1.8 lens opening at 24-28 and 35mm…will confirm.

  16. says: Ricardo Timm de Souza

    Thanks for sharing your valuable impressions. I work with a Sony A6000 and a Nikon 5300 with various lenses for most dedicated photos and with little and braves Fujifilm XQ-1 and Fujifilm X-30 for everyday shots (I really like the film emulations of Fuji). I have had the Nikons P300 and P330, they have good image quality but a very slow autofocus. The DL 24-85 seems to be very adapted for my general macro and steet photography themes, and the Supermacro looks great on paper… i’m excited to see the real potential of a series DL 24-85 camera and specially this resource of “supermacro”. Greetings.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      In my experience the “super macro” is something the competitors don’t have yet. I remember focusing so close the lens would touch the subject…now that is close. Opens up some new and interesting possibilities…

  17. says: Chris

    Thank you for your thoughts! Understanding that it was a pre-production unit, what Mb/s options did it have for 4K video recording? The resolution & frame rates are on Nikon’s site, but no data rates. Thank you.

  18. I have a very specific need, and I was hoping you could answer my question. I represent young bands who have not made it big, and have no money for professional photographers – yet! Accordingly, as their friend and mentor I take a lot of pics at shows for them, in the dark, with stage lighting that can go from dim to bright very quickly, often from telephoto distance as I try not to interfere with the crowd (and am often back in the sound booth). Given restrictions at venues, I need a point and shoot. I have the first Generation Sony rx100 P&S, and take a LOT of blurry and overexposed photos. Been considering the Sony x100 iv, the Canon, the Panasonic Lumix, but am very intrigued by this camera – thanks for your insights. Two questions – 1) how is this camera in low light, particularly when you use the telephoto; and 2) can I set a shutter speed, say 1/60th, to get less blur and let this little beauty choose everything else?

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Stephen, I held off answering your question because when I used the camera it was an early prototype…but I can tell you know that the low light quality of this camera is going to blow you away for a camera of its size (and sensor size) and capability. It may be perfect for you. What’s more you might consider Auto ISO which works like the big DSLR Nikons…allowing you to choose a minimum shutter speed–forget 1/60th and try 1/250th…SS

      1. says: Scott

        Do you feel that the Nikon DL24-85 is better than the RX100 IV in terms of low light? I feel that even at 6400 the RX100 IV gets quite a bit of noise, and 12800 is really bad.

  19. says: Gary Blaze

    Great report and pics Steve. Thank you. Does it have an AEL/AFL button? If not, can that be programmed into the FN button? Thanks.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      There is no AEL/AFL button unfortunately but you can program the Fn Button on the front of the camera to AF-ON if you wanted. It’s just that Auto-Area works so well on this little guy that I really didn’t miss the back-button autofocus…and anyone that knows me will be astonished I said that.

  20. says: Kirk Marsh

    Great review and it looks like a wonderful camera. Do you know if there is Commander Mode for the flash settings? I do a lot of work with flash and portraiture and have been using the Nikon P7700 for this for the last three years. The only thing that makes the P7700 work for me is the Commander Mode and small size.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Hi Kirk, I didn’t notice a Commander option in the early prototype I was using so I don’t know if it will be included in the final version…

  21. says: Björn

    Great shots @Steve Simon! Cuba seems amazing, must go there! One question for you; did you configure the control ring on the lens? There is a debacle on the forums wether this is possible or not? Can it only be used to manually focus the camera or can you also assign like shutter speed or aperture to it? Thanx!

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Hi Bjorn, thanks, yes Cuba is amazing you should go! In the prototype I used, the control ring can be configured for: Manual Focus, Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, Zoom memory, Manual priority AF, Picture Controls, White balance or you can choose none.

      1. It would be great to have that much control over the camera. I could see mounting it in crazy places or putting it on the end of a monopod and having someone else move it around while you shoot from your phone.

  22. says: Istvan


    Is the zoom ring for the 24-85 model manual or electronic? If electronic, how fast it is to zoom from wide to tele or back?
    Does it have Auto ISO with defined minimum shutter speed and maximum ISO as do Nikon DSLRs?


    1. says: Istvan

      And since you said you mainly shoot raw+jpeg, as do I, but my rx100 cannot keep up, sometimes it hangs, slow to switch to playback, have to wait for the next shot. Also startup time is a bit slow (around 2 secs). I know Nikon asked you to test it, but can you say some honest input about it’s performance compared with such cameras? Your experiences?

      1. says: Steve Simon

        Start up time on the wide version is under 1 second, split second longer for 24-85. Though i was using a pre-production prototype, 20 frames per second burst worked with RAW + JPEG!All was fast…

    2. says: Steve Simon

      The ring itself lets you click in intervals…manually, 24, 28, 35, 50 70, 85…the electronic switch takes about 2 seconds to go end to end. Auto ISO lets you choose up to 800, 1600, 3200 and 6400 max ISO’s and it does let you select a minimum shutter speed! I love this…

      1. says: Istvan

        “Focal length can be set in steps or adjusted fluidly across the zoom range with the lens’ precision zoom ring” – says on Nikon USA site. Maybe the “clicking” can be turned off for the ring? And maybe I asked it wrong: is it mechanical or a motor drives it when you use the zoom ring? Can I quickly jump from end-to-end with it? Does it turn when you use the knob to zoom?
        Great news that the minimum shutter speed is definable!
        How deep was the buffer on this 20fps raw+jpeg burst?

        Thank you so much for your answers, great pics BTW, beautiful place.

        1. says: Steve Simon

          You can set the control ring to zoom memory, but to be honest-I’m not really sure if this is what you mean or if it’s what you’re looking for. I suspect it might be but there was no instruction manual with the prototype and I’m really not sure having never used it. We will wait to be sure…

          1. says: Istvan

            What I’m looking for is a stepless and instant zooming from wide to tele (for example), either mechanical (as the nikon dslr lenses) or fast motorized (like 16-50 sony e-mount)
            Any input on buffer depth with raw+jpeg? 🙂
            I really appreciate you answering my nerdy questions, but I’m really exited about this camera since my rx100 mk2 didn’t really live up to my hopes, and this would be a great replacement

  23. says: Tylor

    Where was this 6 months ago? I bought the Cannon G7X last fall specifically because it had the right combination of zoom range(24-85), sensor size(1 inch), and fast aperture(f1.8-2.8). I guess it is nice to know if anything ever happens to it I have some choice in a replacement now.

  24. This is fantastic. I have been thinking about getting a Sony RX-100 to carry in my pocket, but it looks like the DL24-85 will let me keep all of my cameras Nikon! Plus, I like that the focal length goes to 85mm and not just 70mm. And Steve nailed it when he said you want to be able to capture the exact moments you want at a high quality to use large. Can’t wait!

  25. Great report Steve. Thank you. Can you tell me about the construction of the camera? Is it equivalent to my Nikon V1 or Coolpix A in build quality? I am from the old Nikon FM school as well and prefer my Nikons made out of metal and as a manual as possible. Thanks.

  26. says: Richard

    Congratulations! Very beautiful images! The camera is a tool, and this camera seems to be a great one, but the photographer is the photographer. I sure will buy the 18-50mm, because I like that UWA lens.

    1. says: Steve Simon

      Thanks Richard, there seems to be a lot of interest in the wide angle lens, it is amazing to have something that small and that wide at the same time.