Aug. 22, 2012 at 3:51 PM ET
Nikon has released three new point-and-shoot cameras: a luxury one for the evolving shooter, a tiny one for kids and purses, and one that runs Google's Android operating system. Considering how many people are taking pictures with their smartphones these days, this may have been inevitable.
It may not look like it, but your camera really does have an operating system. The thing is it's probably quite old and fairly proprietary, made by Canon or Olympus or Nikon specifically to run on their own hardware. Why not put a new OS on there, a free one like Android with camera apps and built-in connectivity with social networks? That's just what Nikon has done with their new S800c point-and-shoot.
The camera runs a full version of Android 2.3, meaning you get Gmail, Maps, access to the Play Store, and everything else you'd get on a phone — except, of course, cell service. The S800c has Wi-Fi built in, but you won't be able to make any calls.
Apart from Android, the camera is competent spec-wise but not remarkable: a decent 10x zoom exposing a 16-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor, GPS, 1080p video and the usual filters and shot modes.
The fun part will be seeing what Android developers do with access to this fairly advanced camera hardware — can they produce better images, or do interesting things with the open architecture provided by Android? Or will this end up just being yet another way to upload your photos to Facebook? At $350, it's a bit of a hard sell until it really proves itself.
Nikon also announced two other cameras Wednesday: the more upscale P7700, with a bright F/2-4 7x zoom, large 12-megapixel sensor (that is to say, large in size but not pixels, making for better low-light performance), a flip-out LCD and lots of manual controls. Competition at the $500 level among these luxury shooters is fierce, though, and lack of GPS and any kind of viewfinder may hinder the P7700's chances.
Lastly there's the S01, a microscopic point-and-shoot that's a bit like the digicams of the mid-2000s packed into an extra-small package. At only 3.1 inches wide, 2.1 inches tall, and 0.7 of an inch deep, it's eminently pocketable. But with a short zoom and tiny sensor, it's not clear whether it will take better pictures than your smartphone. And at $180, it's competing with cameras that are far nicer and only a little larger.
All three cameras should be available in September at your favorite online or brick-and-mortar retailer.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.