Nikon Coolpix L820 is the latest affordable ultrazoom from Nikon. With its features and price it competes directly to Canon SX500IS, Sony H200 and Olympus SP820UZ. It has 16 megapixel sensor, 30x optical zoom with image stabilization and Full HD video. Nothing spectacular at a first glance, but Coolpix L820 has few tricks up its sleeve which I think may in fact make it the best affordable ultrazoom on the market.
NIKON COOLPIX L820 GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
- Announced: 2013.
- Type: Ultrazoom
- Dimensions: 111 x 76 x 85 mm
- Weight: 470 g
- Sensor: CMOS 16MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
- Lens: 4.3 – 129mm (24-720 in 35mm), F/3.4-5.8, optical image stabilization
- ISO range: 125 – 3,200
- Dust and moisture protection: No
- Flash: Pop-up flash
- LCD screen: 3″, 920,000 dots, fixed
- Memory card: SDHC
- Battery: 4 x AA
- Video: 1920×1080 (30, 15fps), 1280×720 (60fps), 640 x 480 (120 fps), 320×240 (240fps)
- Connectors: USB 2.0, mini HDMI
CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING
Build quality is quite good for this price range. L820 is entirely of plastic but is built very well, without any creaks. My review sample came in beautiful red color and got attention anywhere I used it. It is also available in black and in some countries dark violet color. Controls are scarce, but this is camera aimed at amateurs and for use in Auto mode. Zoom can be controlled via rocker dial around the shutter button or a special button at the left side of the lens barrel. Due to large grip (covered with non-slippery rubber) and large lens, L820 is very easy to hold and fits quite nice even in large hands.
LCD unit has a large 3 inch diagonal and 920,000 dots. It is not tilt-able nor has touch capability. Viewing angle is quite good as is visibility in daylight, but its clear this LCD cannot compete with those used on (much more expensive) mirrorless or DSLR models.
Also, this camera doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder – it’s reserved for higher prices P510 ultrazoom.
MENU AND DISPLAYS
Menu system is very easy to navigate due to the fact there are very few options. Nikon L820 is aimed at amateurs and there are no manual exposure modes – only automatic and scene modes, and therefore very limited amount of options for user to adjust. You can select image size, white balance, ISO value, exposure compensation and that’s it. This is basically a good thing since it won’t intimidate user, but it poses a certain limitation for experimentation.
The back illuminated CMOS sensor has 16 megapixels and 4:3 shooting ratio (4608 x 3456 pixels). It’s a good step forward compared to the CCD in Canon SX500IS which has problems with noise.
L820 gives rather pleasing images at base ISO values. There is still visible blurring of details because of noise reduction, but overall look is better than Canon SX500IS. Higher ISO values are not that good; noise reduction becomes very aggressive and I could spot a visible loss of saturation in images.
Here’s ISO sample series so you can see for yourself L820 performance:
NIKON L820 LENS
The lens has a huge 30x optical zoom, covering the range from 24 to 675mm in 35mm equivalent. Aperture is F/3 on wide angle and falls down to F/5.8 at maximum zoom.
The lens has optical image stabilization (VR) which works good but not excellent. For example, with Canon SX500IS I got sharp images at maximum zoom even at 1/20 exposure, but Nikon L820 seems to require more; at least 1/80 at most cases.
Overall lens quality is quite good. Sharpness looks fine by me even at maximum zoom, light fall-off in corners is not a problem whatsoever, and chromatic aberrations are controlled better than is the case with Canon SX500IS. It shows some ugly flare patterns though; but at this price point learn how to live with it, or be ready to buy much more expensive camera.
Here’s an example what a 30x optical zoom can do: image left full wide, middle at ~100mm (in 35mm eq), and far right at maximum zoom:
Nikon Coolpix L820 uses four AA batteries. Today’s standard is rechargeable Li-Ion batteries, but those usually don’t last more than 200 shots in cameras of this price range. L820 delivered easy 300 shots out of Sanyo 1700 mAh during my review, and I believe you could squeeze up to 400 or 450 shots from a set of 2500 mAh AA batteries.
Nikon L820 AUTOFOCUS
Auto focus speed is reasonable at wide angle (below a second in good light) but still takes up to 2 or 3 seconds fully zoomed. Macro goes down to 1cm, but at this distance you’ll have trouble lighting you subject.
Compared to closest competitors, Nikon L820 might even be the best affordable ultra zoom on the market today. Build quality is quite good and that big rubberized grip felt just right in my hand. The 30x optical zoom delivers nice optical quality, so the L820 gives quite pleasing images at daylight conditions. Full HD video with slow motion rounds up the camera as an versatile camera. Only downsides are image quality at higher ISO settings, and somewhat average image stabilization, but I guess most users will use L820 either for holiday travel or use flash indoors.
- Handling and design
- Huge 24-675mm optical zoom
- Easy to operate
- Battery life with good Ni-MH AA set
- Limited manual controls
NIKON L820 VIDEO SAMPLES
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