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Nikon's new DL Series cameras have insanely fast autofocus and shoot 4K

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Watch out, Sony

Nikon is launching a line of compact 4K cameras outfitted with 1-inch sensors, the company announced today. The brand-new DL Series consists of three "premium compact" cameras that all seem aimed at competing with the likes of Sony and its popular RX100 line. The new cameras continue what is already a very busy year for Nikon, which announced two high-end DSLRs and a 360-degree action camera at CES.

The DL series looks like a welcome addition to the high-spec point-and-shoot market, which Sony has dominated in the last few years. Canon has tried to carve out some space with cameras the recently-announced PowerShot G7x Mark II (and even the PowerShot G3x, to some extent), but the company's offerings can't really compare to the RX100 line's mix of power and size.

These new Nikons come close. Each of the three new cameras are equipped with a 20.8-megapixel version of the 1-inch "CX" sensor found in the Nikon 1 series. Nikon views them as all essentially the same camera, just with different zoom ranges — there's one that starts relatively wide, one that offers mid-range zoom, and one super telephoto. With that in mind, Nikon is calling these the DL18-50, the DL24-85, and the DL24-500, respectively.

The new DL cameras are very powerful for their size, with the ability to shoot stills at 20 frames per second with continuous autofocus and up to 60 frames per second when the AF is fixed. They all employ Nikon's hybrid autofocus system, too; for the most part, they'll rely on 105 phase detection areas, but users can switch to a (more outdated) contrast detection AF mode that utilizes 171 focus points.

Of course, nothing can compete with the popularity of the Sony RX100 without the option of shooting video in 4K at 30 frames per second, so each model is equipped with that ability. The new Nikons even technically shoot at a higher frame rate than the RX100 Mark IV, reaching an absurd 1,200 frames per second — albeit at a minuscule 400x144 resolution. The cameras will be able to shoot 120 frames per second at 1080p, and 240 frames per second at 720p, so the RX100 still really wins out when it comes to super slow motion.

All three new cameras come with Nikon's VR image stabilization, too. But there are some key differences. The slimmer DL18-50 and the DL24-85 have a variable aperture of f1.8-2.8, come with tilting touch OLED screens, and are compatible with an optional 2.36-million dot resolution electronic viewfinder. Those two are closer to pocket-sized, whereas the DL24-500 comes in a chunkier super-zoom body, has a built-in electronic viewfinder (with the same resolution as the others), and the rear screen is an LCD — but this one's of the "vari-angle" variety, meaning it can flip out to the side, as well.

The new DL Series cameras will all come equipped with SnapBridge, the always-on Bluetooth low-energy sharing spec that Nikon announced at CES. The DL24-85 is priced at $649, and will be the cheapest when the cameras hit the market later this summer. The DL18-50 and the DL24-500 will cost $849 and $999, respectively.