Nikon Coolpix L120 review: Nikon Coolpix L120

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Typical Price: $299.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Very affordable. Comes in a stylish cherry red finish. High-resolution LCD screen. Lots of features for the price.

The Bad SD card can be difficult to push in the slot. Image quality just OK for casual users. Image stabilisation not entirely effective. Poor video quality.

The Bottom Line Those not too fussed about perfect image quality will love the Coolpix L120 with its budget price-tag and huge array of features. Those wanting to make enlargements or shoot lots at high ISO levels will want to look elsewhere.

7.6 Overall

Design and features

The ridiculously priced Coolpix L120 has set the bar high for aspiring superzoom wannabes. This camera packs a 21x optical zoom lens in a stylish body all for under AU$300.

The L120 is also, dare we say it, a little sexy in its appearance — in the red colourway at least it's all glossy cherry red curves and shiny black accents. The effect is actually really refreshing, particularly as most other superzoom-esque cameras come in black, black and more black. The hand grip, shaped around the battery compartment, is made of a textured rubbery plastic, with the shutter button and zoom rocker sitting directly above it.

Next to the high-resolution 3-inch LCD (920,000 dots) are the standard Nikon buttons for scene selection, playback and adjusting shooting parameters. While the superzoom appearance may hint at manual controls, there's unfortunately no modes beyond easy automatic, scene modes, smart portrait, continuous and standard automatic.

Vibration reduction, Nikon's way of saying image stabilisation, is here, and while the lens itself doesn't have the widest maximum aperture (f/3.1-5.8), it's decent enough for the price. It's also a wide angle of 25mm. Connectivity includes mini-HDMI, AV out and a standard 5V DC input for external power. Plus, you get HD recording at 720p and the addition of a dedicated video record button and a stereo microphone on top of the pop-up flash.

L120

We love the zoom rocker on the lens barrel. (Credit: CBSi)

One really useful feature on the L120 that we haven't seen on a camera of this type before is the zoom rocker located on the lens barrel itself. It's positioned in such a way that makes zooming smoother and easier when shooting videos, but we found it's also useful for shooting in portrait orientation when you want to zoom in or out.

It's also one of the only cameras in the 2011 crop of compacts and superzooms that use AA batteries rather than rechargeable Lithium-ion. Though the prospect of constantly throwing out batteries will cause palpitations for the environmentally conscious, many photographers and travellers value the convenience of always-available AA. The batteries also add to the weight of the L120, which at about 431 grams puts it firmly in the league of other cameras like the more expensive Canon PowerShot SX30 IS or Nikon's own "proper" superzoom, the P500 .

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • Nikon Coolpix L1201.43.00.1

 

Continuous shooting speed (longer bars indicate better performance)

  • Nikon Coolpix L1200.7

Nikon rates the battery life of the L120 at 330 shots using standard Alkaline AA batteries. The L120 can also take 20 photos in 1.5 seconds at a reduced resolution (1024x768) in sports continuous mode.

Image quality

For all the bells and whistles that the L120 has hidden beneath its cherry red exterior, we were expecting a bit more from its images. So it's with a heavy writing hand that we say the images from the L120 aren't the most amazing quality for photo purists.

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