Nikon Coolpix L810 £229.99
23rd Jul 2012 | 11:38
Nikon's stylish entry-level superzoom with a 26x zoom and 16MP
Priced higher than that 21x optical zoom Olympus, and sitting below the specification-busting 42x Coolpix P510 in Nikon's own range, is the Nikon Coolpix L810.
As with the Olympus SP-620UZ, Nikon's 26x optical zoom rival is powered by four alkaline AA batteries that slot into the base of its handgrip.
While some may bemoan the lack of a lithium ion rechargeable pack afforded to pricier cameras, here the 300-shot lifespan cells, when inserted into the base of the DSLR-styled handgrip, lend the Nikon's glossy plastic frame welcome solidity.
With dimensions of 111 x 76 x 83mm, it weighs 430g with batteries and SD card loaded, and costs £230 in the UK and $280 in the US.
The target audience here is more families than photo enthusiasts, even though the Nikon Coolpix L810 resembles a shrunken DSLR. Lacking pretty much any manual control, and featuring two auto modes instead, ease of use is as much its selling point as affordability.
There's no denying the usefulness of its broad focal range, however, which is here equivalent to an ultra-wide 22.5-585mm on a 35mm camera. The Nikon is capable of shifting from framing a landscape to a candid close-up in seconds.
Maximum lens aperture is f/3.1, with ISO 1600 the top light sensitivity setting.
Unsurprisingly, there's no option to shoot raw files. The best we're offered is 16 megapixel JPEGs from a 16.44 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor.
Video is included, although it's at 1280x720 pixels and 30fps, as opposed to Full HD 1920x1080.
Price: £229.99 (UK)/$279.95 (US)
Sensor: 16.44MP 1/2.3-inch CCD
Lens: 22.5-585mm in 35mm terms (26x)
LCD screen: 3-inch, 921k dots
Dimensions: 111.1 x 76.3 x 83.1mm, 430g
A one-touch record button is provided to the top right of the 3-inch, 920k-dot resolution LCD screen on the back plate, while stereo microphones impressively flank the pop-up flash.
Happily the optical zoom can be accessed while filming, and the camera automatically adjusts focus, although we found the response of both a little sluggish.
There is HDMI output provided, plus separate AV/USB output and mains power input ports squirrelled away under a rubber side flap.
Build quality and handling
The Nikon Coolpix L810 omits the optical or electronic viewfinder found on many bridge cameras and DSLRs. Still images and videos are composed and reviewed purely via that impressively high resolution 4:3 aspect ratio screen.
Lacking any shooting mode wheel that would have added chunkiness, the rear plate control layout resembles what you'd find on almost any pocket point and shoot camera. There is a shooting mode button, indicated by a green camera icon, but slightly obtusely it's marked as 'Scene' rather than the more obvious 'Mode'.
We also get dedicated buttons for playback, shot deletion and menu, plus a central pad with flash, exposure, self-timer and macro mode settings ranged around it.
Press the 'Scene' button to be presented with the option of 'Easy' mode, which strips the onscreen menu clean of everything except the ability to alter the pixel count. The next option down enables you to select from 19 preset scene/subject modes, starting with portrait and ending with the now ubiquitous 3D.
The third shooting mode presented is Nikon's Smart Portrait, whereby the L810 automatically detects blinks and smiles, plus smoothes skin into the bargain if that box is ticked.
The final option is regular auto mode. Selecting this enables the altering of white balance, drive mode, ISO sensitivity and, to an extent, colour.
The colour options range from standard to vivid, and from black and white to sepia, although why Nikon has included the term 'cyanotype' on a beginner's camera is anyone's guess.
Also unusual is the fact that Nikon presents us with two zoom levers. One encircles the shutter release button atop the handgrip as normal, while a second is set into the housing of the lens barrel. We therefore have a choice of zooming with the forefinger of the right hand or the thumb of the left if using both hands - advisable if attempting shots near the telephoto end of the zoom, even with the promise of lens-shift image stabilisation.
The Nikon Coolpix L810's handgrip is also chunky enough to be able to curl three fingers around it for added support. Rubber padding at the front and a padded thumb rest at the back ensures that despite the high gloss finish to the body, users won't feel in danger of dropping it.
The Nikon Coolpix L810 powers up in two to three seconds, the lens barrel extending a little beyond its protective housing to arrive at maximum wide-angle setting while the rear LCD screen bursts into life.
A half-press of the shutter release button and at best there's a second's wait while the camera determines focus and exposure, although this varies depending on the subject.
However, with just the slightest of shutter lags, a full 16MP resolution JPEG is committed to memory in two seconds, which is respectable for this class of camera.
Light sensitivity starts out lower at ISO 80 and tops out at a modest ISO 1600, avoiding noise up to and including ISO 400. Although very fine specks start to intrude into shadow areas at ISO 800, results at this setting and even at top whack ISO 1600 are fair for the price.
In fact, although softer, our test result at ISO 1600 has punchier colours and better contrast than at ISO 800.
Serviceable if unspectacular is a continuous shooting capability of just 1.2fps. However, furthering the beginner-friendly ethos there is a Best Shot Selector that automatically selects the sharpest of 10 sequential shots.
The true test of any superzoom is of course how it performs at its widest and maximum telephoto settings. Unfortunately in choosing an ultra wide 22.5mm equivalent setting, Nikon has over-egged the pudding on the Coolpix L810, since we're losing focus towards the corners. However, in fairness it's only really noticeable when enlarging those portions of the frame.
At maximum zoom it is possible to achieve a steady shot when shooting handheld, if results at this setting come out slightly lacking in contrast - something it's possible to fix in Photoshop.
The Nikon Coolpix L810 delivers pleasant enough results, with occasionally cool colours subtly boosted with the selection of the 'Vivid' setting. We just wish, perhaps a tad unfairly given the price, for a bit more user flexibility in terms of how you might achieve them.
The limitations of the Nikon Coolpix L810's lens are betrayed in the softened detail towards the corners of the frame at maximum wide angle - better disguised here with a natural subject matter, and only readily noticeable if you're actively searching for it.
A telephoto shot at maximum zoom from the same vantage point and with the camera handheld showcases the image quality achievable at the other end of the focal range. It's a slightly flat result that would be improved with a boost to contrast, but it's actually not bad at all, given that this is a budget model.
Another maximum 585mm equivalent telephoto shot, here achieved by panning with a moving subject. The continuous shooting rate may be no great shakes, at 1.2fps for up to four frames, but with a steady eye, steady nerve and steady hands you can get a result.
A low angle shot taken at extreme wide angle setting displays some converging verticals, but the colour and detail draw the eye. We could have done with the aid of an angle-adjustable LCD here; without wanting to put our ear on the ground it was more a case of point and hope.
Blessed with some almost perfect light to highlight the face of our statue but retain the detail of the rest, it's hard to fault this shot taken at maximum zoom, which has thrown the potentially distracting background nicely out of focus. Again we were shooing handheld.
An extreme close-up of tree bark in 1cm macro mode displays what the Nikon Coolpix L810 is capable of when you get up close and personal to subjects. Again, given that this is a point and shoot camera, the level of detail is impressive.
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 80 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
Available in black, the crimson of our review sample, blue or bronze, the Nikon Coolpix L810 may be frill-free in terms of lacking any real photo control or many creative options, but this is reflected in the £229.99/$279.95 cost, and is again no massive surprise.
It's fine as a starter option, but be aware this is not a camera with which to advance your photographic skill set. If you do want to do this then you want to take a gander at the Nikon Coolpix P510 instead.
The Nikon Coolpix L810 is a good value, budget priced superzoom from a respected brand. The wide range of framing options afforded by the broader than average focal range make this a decent 'all in one' option, while the optical zoom is accessible for 720p video as well as for framing up 16MP JPEG stills.
The flexibility of that big zoom aside, you really are limited here to pointing and shooting. Video isn't Full HD, and the zoom is more sluggish than normal in this mode. Glossy finish to the body accentuates the plastic feel rather than disguises it. Supplied batteries are your bog standard non-rechargeable AAs. Basic then, but this is reflected in the beginner-friendly price.
In terms of finding a fit with an audience, the Nikon Coolpix L810 is most aptly suited to holidaying families wanting a 'one lens does it all' option, with the bonus of being able to zoom back and forth, if a little sluggishly, to catch young tearaways careering around. Or the casual snapper on a budget who can appreciate the benefit of a point-and-shoot camera with a bit of poke in the lens department.
Sure, the optic here can't be swapped, as it could be on a DSLR that the L810 closely resembles in looks and - to a lesser extent - layout. But with a focal range this expansive, the Nikon Coolpix L810's would-be audience won't feel they are missing out.
The Coolpix L810 is a superzoom for beginners, so photo enthusiasts wanting hands-on control should look elsewhere.
Apart from the obvious flexibility afforded by the broad focal range, we're pretty much limited to pointing and shooting. But with consistent results from shot to shot there won't be many complainants among those valuing ease of use as highly as value for money.