Nikon's new budget L series cameras promise to pack a lot of features into a sleek, compact body. In this review, Gary Wolstenholme
takes a look at whether this no frills camera can compete with its more expensive competitors. Specifications
Build and handling
- 6.0 mega pixel resolution
- 3x zoom lens covering a focal range of 38-116mm (35mm equivalent).
- 2.0" LCD monitor.
- Movie recording with sound.
- Convenient AA-size battery compatibility
- 15 scene modes
- PictBridge compatible
- RRP £199.99
I was surprised by how slim this camera is, normally cameras powered by AA batteries are chunky, but the Coolpix L2 is only just thicker than the batteries themselves. Most of the body is constructed of plastic although it feels like good quality plastic. My only complaint about the body is that the shiny finish marks easily, especially around the fingergrip. Display screen
The 2inch screen isn't the biggest available, but it is bright and clear with a good anti-reflective coating which makes using the screen in bright conditions much easier. Autofocus
Autofocus options are limited on the L2, in the normal shooting mode you have no choice but to use the standard AF brackets locked to the centre of the screen. If you delve into the scene modes, more focusing options can be activated by selecting the appropriate scene program. For example, the portrait mode uses the 'Face-AF' system to detect and focus on faces in the picture.
I found that the autofocus tends to hunt a little in most situations, but especially in low light, which can be frustrating. Battery life
Using a couple of AA alkaline batteries, I managed to get just over 150 shots. I was quite impressed by this as I remember digital cameras I've used in the past only managing 20 or 30 shots with alkaline batteries. A set of 2300mAh NiMH batteries lasted just over 280 shots, which is also a respectable life. Memory card
The L2 uses SD memory cards which fit into the slot beside the battery. The following are write speeds for Jpeg quality settings using a Sandisk Extreme III card.
|Quality setting ||Time taken to write to card |
|6 megapixel Jpeg fine ||2.1secs |
|6 megapixel Jpeg normal ||2.1secs |
I also timed the delay between shots for this camera in the single shot mode.
Menu and controls
|Quality setting ||Shot-to-shot delay |
|6 megapixel Jpeg fine ||2.98secs |
|6 megapixel Jpeg normal ||2.78secs |
A sliding switch at the bottom allows you to select either the standard shooting mode, the scene mode and the movie mode. The standard mode provides a very basic selection of controls including colour saturation, exposure compensation, continuous shooting, white balance and the best shot selector. The best shot selector takes a series of shots in quick succession, but only save the sharpest one to the memory card. This mode can help to get a sharp shot when taking long exposures handheld.
The scene assist menu contains pre-programmed automatic modes designed to help get the best picture in most common shooting scenarios. Programs include, portrait, landscape, sports, party, beach, snow, sunset, night landscape, close up, museum, fireworks, copy, back light and panorama assist. Selecting one of these sets the white balance, exposure and colour saturation to get the best results for the scenario. More information on each scene mode can be found in the ePHOTOzine glossary.
A 3x zoom lens gives the equivalent of 38-116mm on a 35mm camera. I would have liked a wider angle lens, but you can't have everything. The zooming action is quick and precise, making composing your pictures a breeze. Macro mode
| || |
|The macro mode allows you to take pictures from about 6cm away when using the wide end of the zoom. I found this quite disappointing as Nikon Coolpix cameras have generally always had very good macro capabilities in the past. ||A crop of the image to the left, shown at |
100% to show the level of detail captured.
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|The auto white balance tends to leave a slight cyan cast in images taken outdoors. ||Images from the L2 are punchy and highly saturated, even in the standard colour mode. |
Above - Once the camera is focused, it responds very quickly, with only minimal shutter lag.
Left - The matrix metering system has coped very well with this difficult scene, retaining detail in shadows, without clipping the highlights too much.
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|This busy scene was taken using a tripod to determine the level of detail this camera can reproduce. ||A 100% crop of the image shows the level of detail captured by the L2 |
I am impressed by the level of detail recorded by this camera. Images are sharp and contrasty right to the edges of the frame.
|The L2 does not have any facility for selecting the ISO manually, which made testing difficult. I had to alter the light levels to coax the auto ISO to select a higher setting, which may not give accurate results. || |
The image taken at ISO63 is clean enough for any noise not to be noticeable. At ISO200, the level of noise has increased dramatically, this could be due to the low light levels I had to take the picture in to force the auto ISO to select a higher value.
Despite the basic controls and sluggish, I managed to get images I am pleased with out of the Coolpix L2. The quality of the images it produces are more than a match for cameras costing almost double. The logical menu system makes the camera very easy to operate, and the anti-reflective screen is a joy to use, even if it isn't the biggest available.
If you are on a budget, but don't want to compromise on image quality, the Coolpix L2 should not disappoint.
In summary the positive points of the Nikon Coolpix L2 are:
Simple, straightforward design.
The negative points:
No manual ISO control
Autofocus tends to hunt
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