Compact cameras may well be struggling for attention, what with the quality of the camera found inside the every day smartphone, but Nikon’s DL range plans to shake things up a bit.

A little different to your standard compact fare, Nikon’s new series of cameras is a little different from the ordinary refresh of cameras we’re used to seeing. Rather this range is said to be inspired by Nikon’s existing professional photographer community.

Called the “DL” range, Nikon claims the “D” stands for the heritage of the company’s existing digital SLR heritage, while the “L” is a reference to the Nikkor lens technology used in high-grade Nikon cameras and lenses.

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Put the two together and you have a range that looks a little more like a camera than a Nikon compact traditionally garners, and these will arrive in three forms: a DL with an 18-50mm lens, a DL with a 24-85mm, and a DL with a 24-500mm lens.

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The three options are very different, with the 18-50mm (above) providing a wide angle option with apertures ranging from f/1.8 at 18mm up to f/2.8 at 50mm, while the 24-85mm (below) appears to follow more of a kit-lens setup providing f/1.8 at 24mm and f/2.8 at 85mm, with a degree of macro also found in that 24-85mm variant.

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On the longer end, Nikon’s is taking its typically long ultra-zoom concept and applying it to the DL formula, bringing a long lens with f/2.8 at 24mm and f/5.6 at 500mm.

So what is this DL formula, and what makes it different to Nikon’s existing compacts, even its advanced compacts?

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From what we’re seeing, it’s about making a compact as close to a digital SLR as possible, similar to what Canon achieves in the G series of advanced compacts.

Some new technology is here for autofocus, with a hybrid AF system working on both phase- and contrast-detection, achieving autofocus lock in as little as 0.09 seconds, which Nikon says works a treat with a maximum shooting speed of 20 frames per second.

The sensor used on these cameras sits at 21 megapixels and it is paired with a new image processing sensor from Nikon called “Expeed 6A” that has four cores to do its bidding, suggesting some decent power that you’ll be able to use in conjunction with internal RAW processing.

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All of these cameras have the same guts, as far as we can tell, making them all roughly the same except for the lens difference, and that means all of them — from the DL18-50, the DL24-85, and the DL24-500 — should work roughly the same way.

It also means they all have the same maximum 171 focus points, the same vibrations reduction, the same wireless connectivity with Near-Field Communication, and the same 4K video capture.

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Yes, this is a Nikon compact with 4K video built in, which will offer 25p and 30p options for 4K Ultra HD, while Full HD runs from 25p all the way up to 60p, while slow motion will be offered through a variety of settings depending on the resolution you’re capturing at.

The two smaller models — the 18-50 and 24-85 — will also receive a 3 inch tilting touchscreen LCD, but no electronic viewfinder, though you can add one in if you choose to. Meanwhile, the larger option — the 24-500 — will get that electronic viewfinder, while the 3 inch touchscreen will be on a vari-angle hinge, meaning it can do a little more in how it moves.

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On paper, though, the specs look quite good, and it finally seems like Nikon has built a compact worthy of taking on not just the latest Canon G series cameras, but also even that of Leica’s, and that’s a good thing.

Better yet, the DL range of cameras actually look like cameras, which has been something compact cameras feel a little disconnected from of late.

Both the smaller DL models can be equipped with external electronic viewfinders.

Both the smaller DL models can be equipped with external electronic viewfinders.

These have a fake leather grip, several dials and wheels, a function buttons, and a lens you can actually fiddle with judging by the ring on the lens.

That’s a good thing, because photographers craving a second body that isn’t too heavy will likely view this range as a compact that can stand in for a larger camera.

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Pricing, however, is an unknown, though we’re not expecting these to be cheap.

In fact, while Nikon doesn’t give local pricing anymore (which confuses us greatly), US pricing is ranging between $650 and $1000 for this range, suggesting the Nikon DL cameras won’t be cheap.

We’re going to pester Nikon a little more to try and find actual pricing, but start saving, because with an expected June release date, you’ll have some time to work out whether this range of compacts is worth packing in on your next trip.

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