Nikon Coolpix L10 Review

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Nikon Coolpix L10

Steve's Conclusion

Nikon continues to add models to their popular "Life" series line of Coolpix cameras for 2007, with the latest additions being the L11, L12 and L10 (as of 5/2007). The Coolpix L10 and L11 are entry-level point-n-shoot models designed for the beginner, with fully automatic exposure control as well as 16 pre-programmed Scene modes, that will help them capture great photos in wide variety of different shooting situations. The L10 offers 5-megapixels of resolution, a 3x Nikkor optical zoom lens, 2.0-inch LCD, and Nikon's exclusive technologies (D-Lighting, Face Priority AF, etc.), all packaged in a compact and stylish shell.

The L10's body design is almost identical to it siblings, compact yet still comfortable in your hands thanks to the enlarged right hand side. Controls are well placed, just within reach of your finger tips, and the menu system is very simple to navigate with only a few options available in Auto mode (White balance, Color Option, etc.) The L10 features a 2.0-inch LCD which actually has more resolution than the larger displays on the L11 and L12. Overall I found it worked very well outdoors, thanks in part to its anti-reflective surface. When indoors or shooting in marginal lighting conditions, the display also "gains up" nicely to help aid in framing your subject.

Shooting performance was similar to the L11. Power up to first image captured measured 2.8 seconds, much of which is consumed by extending the lens. The shutter lag, time from depressing the shutter release to capturing an image, averaged just 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, slowing to a 5/10 of a second including autofocus time. When shooting in single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay measured approx. 1.4 seconds between frames without use of the flash and between 4 and 5 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery life. Unlike its siblings, the LCD doesn't black out while the flash is recharging, however it still blanks during the pre-flash when using the red-eye reduction flash mode.

You can choose between two Sequential Drive shooting modes (Continuous or Multi-shot 16.) Using Continuous mode, I was able to capture 10 images in about 4 seconds, without filling the buffer. Multi-shot mode captured 16 frames in 6.5 seconds, then combined them into a single 5M/Normal image. The LCD viewfinder only briefly displays the last image captured in Continuous mode, which made following moving subjects difficult; this is when an optical viewfinder would come in handy. All tests were done using a 2GB SD card, 5M/Fine size/quality, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The image quality of our 5M* (5-megapixel Fine/High) images was good. Outdoors, the L10 captures sharp photos with pleasing exposure and color saturation. Like past models, ISO sensitivity is fully automatic; there's no manual adjustment available. Noise levels were typical for a camera in this class, becoming more noticeable when the camera selects a higher settings. The Nikkor 3x optical zoom lens offers a 35mm equivalent range of approx. 37.5 - 12.5mm. While favoring the telephoto end, the 37.5mm wide angle extreme should be sufficient for most indoor or landscape shooting, and the telephoto end will help you produce nice close-up portraits or macro shots. Overall the lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle, but relatively no pincushioning at the telephoto end. However, I did see some traces of Chromatic aberrations (a.k.a. purple fringing) around subjects with highlights or high contrast.

I was also pleased with our people photos. When shooting indoors, you'll have to work in the limits of the tiny flash. It offers a typical range for a consumer camera, covering up to 9 feet 10 inches at wide angle or 8 feet 2 inches at full telephoto. I found it was able to produce nice close-up portraits that show good flash exposure, sharp facial detail and accurate skin tones, shooting from about 5 - 6 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom. However, this tiny flash unit does not have sufficient power to illuminate open rooms. Like the L11, I was surprised when using the "One-touch Portrait" exposure mode to capture close-up people photos. Unlike the L12 and Coolpix S200, the Face Priority AF system on the L10 was much more responsive. It took only a second or less to find and lock on a face (compared to 2 seconds or more with the other models.)

Movie mode allows you to record video at resolutions of 640x480 (30/15fps), 320x240 (30 or 15fps) or 160x120 (15fps.) The length of these clips is limited only by the amount of available memory. The L10 includes a microphone and movies are always recorded with sound; as a result, the optical zoom can be used before recording starts, but not during recording. The Digital zoom can be used, however image quality suffers. Overall, our movie samples were not impressive. There's plenty of visible compression artifacts, which causes the clips to look a bit blurry.

Battery life was good. The L10 is powered by two standard AA type cells. Nikon claims with AA Alkaline batteries you can capture 250 shots, 300 shots with rechargeable NiMH cells or up to 600 shots with one-use lithium batteries. Nikon includes a set of Alkaline batteries in the camera outfit. Using a set of 2500 mAh NiMH batteries, I was able to capture about 60 samples and several short movie clips as well as conclude all of our other tests, with plenty of power to spare. We always recommend using NiMH batteries when possible, they last longer, and will save you money in the long run; just be sure you have an extra set charged and ready. Also, be sure you select which battery type you are using in the camera, via setup menu, as this may effect batter life.

The bottom line - The Nikon Coolpix L10 is a nice little 5-megapixel digital package. With good image quality/performance, and plenty of exposure modes, the L10 is sure to make an user looking for an affordable entry-level model happy. With an MSRP of US$119 or less, I feel the Coolpix L10 offers an excellent value. If you like this model, but need a bit more resolution and better movie mode, be sure to check out our review of the 6-megapixel L11.

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