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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Add yours
  1. 8

    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.

    • 9
      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.

  2. 10
    Ed Linde II

    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.

  3. 13
    Dan Donovan

    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!

  4. 14

    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.

  5. 17


    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?


    • 18

      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?

      • 19
        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…

    • 20
      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…

      • 21

        “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.

        • 22
          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…

          • 23

            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

  6. 29

    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!

    • 30
      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.

  7. 31
    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.

    • 35
      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.

  8. 36

    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.

  9. 38
    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.

    • 40
      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…

    • 42
      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.

  10. 43
    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?

  11. 45

    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.

    • 46
      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…

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