With New $450 S2, Nikon Goes After Novice Photographers

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With a $449.95 MSRP, the new S2 offers interchangeable lenses and undercuts even point-and-shoots on price.

Nikon's mirrorless 1 system has a new entry-level model today, with the company unveiling the $449.95 Nikon 1 S2. The new camera has 1-inch 14.2-megapixel CX sensor, an advanced hybrid autofocus system, and can shoot at a full 20 frames per second while tracking a moving subject. The S2 will come with the compact 11-27.5mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.

The Nikon 1 S2 replaces the 1 S1 that was released back in January 2013 as the most affordable mirrorless model in Nikon's lineup. Though we weren't terribly impressed with the original S1's image quality, this new model combines the same sensor we liked in the Nikon 1 V2 and the company's latest Expeed 4A processing engine. That combo allows you to shoot full 1080/60p HD video and use an ISO range of 200-12800.

According to Nikon, the sensor has 71 phase-detect autofocus points built right onto it, allowing it to capture depth information about a subject throughout most of the frame. Using this information, the camera can figure out how far out of focus something is and immediately move to that point.

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The Nikon 1 S2 is the latest entry-level mirrorless camera from Nikon, promising big performance in a compact camera.

Nikon seems to have been able to keep the S2's cost low by shedding some of the extraneous features found in the company's higher-end mirrorless cameras. The S2 has a standard 3-inch 460k-dot LCD and shoots RAW, but it doesn't have a touchscreen, doesn't have built-in WiFi, and doesn't have a hot shoe. It does have a built-in flash, however, and full manual control for advanced shooters who want it.

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The S2 keeps things simple with a back bereft of too many physical controls.

The S2 is clearly aimed at beginner photographers, however, with a suite of creative modes just like those found on other Nikon cameras. The S2 has the company's Motion Snapshot feature, for example, which takes a still photo and a short video leading up to the shot. It also has improved noise reduction handling and a feature called Smart Photo Selector which takes a burst and automatically gives you the best image of the bunch.

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The Nikon 1 J4 will make its US debut beginning in June.

Also officially announced today is the US release of the Nikon 1 J4. We covered the international announcement of the J4 a little while ago, but at the time it was unclear whether it would make its debut in North America. The J4 will be available in white, black, silver, or metallic orange either with the Nikkor 1 10-30mm PD powered zoom lens for $649.96 or as a two-lens kit that also includes the Nikkor 1 30-110mm zoom lens for $849.95.

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The Nikon 1 J4 will feature a pop-up flash, a newer sensor, and a couple extra software features that differentiate it from the S2.

The S2 will initially be offered with the 11-27.5mm zoom lens for $449.95. You can upgrade that to a two-lens kit with the same Nikkor 30-110mm lens for a total of $649.95. The S2 will debut in the US in white, black, red, and yellow color variations.

Nikon also plans to gear up for the warmer weather with two new waterproof accessories compatible with both the S2 and the J4. The first is a new underwater housing, the WP-N3. This allows for almost complete control over the cameras and is good for diving to depths as great as 145 feet.

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The new waterproof housing and speedlight are both compatible with the new Nikon 1 S2 and the Nikon 1 J4, as well as existing Nikon 1 housing and the AW1.

The second accessory is a new waterproof speedlight, which is compatible with any of the existing WP-N waterproof housing (including the WP-N3) or the Nikon 1 AW1. This is waterproof down to 100 meters and is activated by a fiberoptic cable that mounts on a bracket.

The WP-N3 waterproof housing and SB-N10 speedlight are expected to be available later this month, but final pricing has yet to be determined.