Nikon Coolpix L20 full review

Nikon’s Coolpix L20 is a great representative of a growing category of cameras: very affordable, easy-to-use point-and-shoots with surprisingly stellar image quality and a bit of fashion sense. The Coolpix L20 clocks in at around £118, but its image quality surpassed that of much more expensive cameras in our lab’s jury evaluations.

In fact, it netted one of the best image quality scores of any point-and-shoot camera we’ve looked at so far in 2009—very impressive for a bargain-bin, AA-battery-powered camera.

Although the 10-megapixel Coolpix L20’s image stabilization system is software based, it did a great job of capturing clear, unblurred images—even when I shook it around vigorously while taking a photo or zoomed in to the maximum capacity of the 3.6x optical (38mm to 136mm) zoom lens. Images were surprisingly clear and sharp for a nonmechanical image stabilization system

The deep red Coolpix L20 we tested had a lacquered plastic finish that one coworker likened to nail polish. The colour looks sharp, and the lacquered effect feels nice in the hand. Even though it looks slick (in both the literal and aesthetic senses of the word), I was able to operate the camera with wet hands without losing my grip on it. It is a bit bulkier than your average pocket camera, thanks to the AA battery compartment.

A huge, 3-inch-diagonal LCD dominates the back of the Coolpix L20. On the top of the camera you’ll find the on/off button; the shutter button; a dedicated playback button; and a button for switching between movie mode and still mode and for accessing the 16 scene modes.

For zooming, the Coolpix L20 uses a wide-to-tight zoom bar, placed on the back of the camera where your right thumb would normally rest, rather than a ring around the shutter. The bar is easily operated and comfortable to use thanks to a grooved indentation for the thumb, but it’s something to take into account before buying if you prefer the ring around the shutter (I do).

The L20 is quick on the shutter, as long as you autofocus before taking your shot. Holding down the shutter to autofocus before snapping a shot resulted in no noticeable delay in capturing an image. When I didn’t autofocus in advance, I noticed a slight delay between pressing the shutter and capturing a shot, but it was less than a second.

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