The big imaging trade fair, Photokina, has just wrapped up in Cologne, Germany, where 1,251 exhibitors from 45 countries displayed the latest and greatest in cameras and other imaging products.
Camera manufacturers flood reviewers like yours truly with press releases before, during, and after the event, but the products deemed to be highlights of the show often tend to be pricey. Given the state of the economy, it occurred to me that viewers (and readers) might prefer to hear about more affordable offerings.
Cameras shown during my Tech Update segments routinely cost $400 or more, so I set a ceiling of $250 this week and went looking for models designed to help the average person shoot great shots at a high school football game, a pep rally, a family gathering, or just capture the beauty of the changing seasons.
A lot of models in camera stores meet this criteria, but two contenders from Nikon struck me as especially interesting.
The Nikon COOLPIX L610 is an affordable, compact digital camera that features a 14x optical Zoom-NIKKOR ED glass lens, Easy Auto Mode exposure system, and full HD (1080p) video.
Shooting a night game from the stands is no problem for this camera, because the 16-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor helps conquer challenging lighting conditions.
The L610 offers an array of features and specs not commonly found among super-zoom cameras in this price range, such as a precise autofocus system and a large 3-inch LCD monitor.
The optical zoom covers from a wide-angle 25mm to a distant 350mm (35mm format equivalent), so you can zoom-in on subjects near, far, and in-between.
Optical VR image stabilization minimizes the effects of camera shake while handheld, and macro shooting is possible from as close as approximately 0.4 in/1 cm (wide-angle setting).
Nikon's Easy Auto Mode automatically selects from six scene modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Close-up and Backlighting, to provide the perfect exposure for the most common scenes. Simply framing the subject is all that's required.
Another convenience is easily accessible AA battery power, so at home or far away, power is always within reach, even if an AC outlet isn't.
The camera also records full HD 1080p video with stereo sound. To make sharing simple, the HDMI mini connector and USB/audio video connector make it easy to upload videos and photos.
The Nikon COOLPIX L610 has a suggested retail price of $249.95 and comes in a variety of colors, including red, black and silver. For more information, visit NikonUSA.com.
No frills, ultra-zoom camera shoots ultra-wide and ultra-tight
Looking for a point-and-shoot camera that shoots ultra-wide to ultra-telephoto? The Nikon COOLPIX L810 sports a powerful 26x (22.5mm-585mm) zoom that makes it possible to capture almost any scene.
The camera has 19 scene modes covering everything from a simple snapshot to subjects in adverse lighting conditions, while the Smart Portrait System helps make every portrait flattering as possible.
Additionally, the COOLPIX L810 features a Sports Continuous Shooting mode to capture fast moving subjects.
Like the COOLPIX L610, mentioned above, the COOLPIX L810 features VR image stabilization technology to help eliminate blur in photos and movies, regardless of focal length.
If still images aren't enough, you can record 720p HD movies with stereo sound using a simple one-touch control button and play them back on a 3-inch, 921,000-dot high resolution LCD display.
The Nikon COOLPIX L810 has an MSRP of $279.95 and is available in black, red, or blue. The unit is currently on-sale at Nikon's online store for only $229.95, but I've seen it for even less elsewhere. For more information, visit NikonUSA.com.