Nikon has, until now, been trailing the likes of Canon, Sony, Ricoh, and Fujifilm. While all these digital camera makers have small cameras with big, DSLR-style sensors inside, Nikon has made do with the Nikon 1.
The COOLPIX A is the first camera that Nikon has made that properly bridges the divide between big DSLR-style cameras with big sensors, and miniature compact cameras with small sensors.
It's a compact camera available in black or titanium with a built-in, non-removable lens -- and measuring 111 x 64 x 40mm and 299g, it's barely larger or heavier than an actual compact camera. Shooting mode dial, shutter button, flash hot-shoe and control dial up top, various buttons on the back, and a 3-inch LCD: all components you'd expect to find on a premium pocketable camera like the Pentax MX-1.
What the COOLPIX A has that's special is a 16-megapixel sensor that's the same size as Nikon's full-size digital SLRs like the D7100. It's got no low-pass filter -- which means more fine image detail in your photos -- and it uses Nikon's EXPEED 2 CPU to capture and process both photos and 1080P video.
Apart from the lack of low-pass filter, the specs of this camera are very similar to the Nikon D7000 we liked so much in 2010. We use a D7000 regularly and it takes great photos, so we've got a lot of hope for the COOLPIX A.
That 16-megapixel sensor works with the COOLPIX A's built-in 18.5mm f/2.8 prime lens. There's no zoom here, so you'll have to use your legs to get closer or further away, but that means the lens can be both compact and high quality. It's got a field of view that's equivalent to 28mm on a full-frame camera, so it's reasonably wide without being too much so.
We're betting the COOLPIX A will get a lot of use on holidays and at parties, hiding away in a handbag or jeans pocket until it's whipped out for some impromptu, DSLR-quality photos.