You don't need a high-resolution camera to get good-looking pictures. If they're made right, 5-megapixel cameras can produce great photos. If you're on a tight budget, but still want to take some photos, consider the Nikon Coolpix L10. This little camera has few features, a very slow flash recycle time, and can only produce up to 5-megapixel stills, but its tiny price tag and decent picture quality make it a solid budget contender.
As Nikon's lowest-end budget camera, the L10 is hardly built to impress. Its unassuming, blocky plastic body measures just an inch across and weighs 5.9 ounces with an SD card and two AA batteries, making it compact enough for most jacket and shirt pockets. The camera sports a relatively low-resolution 5-megapixel sensor, a narrow 37.5-112.5mm equivalent, f/2.8-5.2 3x optical zoom lens, and a downright puny 2-inch LCD screen. Despite its unimpressive hardware, the camera still has the same handy features Nikon includes on all of its Coolpix cameras. Face-Priority AF finds faces in portraits and family photos, adjusting focus accordingly. In-Camera Red-Eye Fix corrects red-eye when processing photos. D-Lighting senses when subjects are backlit or dark, and changes exposure settings to correct those problems after the picture is taken. This typically results in a photo with a narrower dynamic range, but it can also mean the difference between a usable picture and no picture at all.
Like every Coolpix L-series and almost every other budget camera out there, the L10 offers very few user controls. Besides white balance, exposure compensation, and a standard selection of scene presets, you can't change many of the camera's settings. Most notably, the aforementioned exposure compensation is the only control you have over a photo's exposure. This means very little flexibility when shooting, but that's not necessarily a bad thing; if the snapshot camera shoots well on its own, it doesn't need many manual settings.
Fortunately, the L10 indeed takes good pictures. You can't blow them up or make prints nearly as large as shots taken from 8- or 10-megapixel cameras, but the L10's 5-megapixel pictures are still more than acceptable for letter-size prints, e-mail, and Web sites. The camera reproduces colors faithfully, and its automatic white balance appeared neutral even when shooting under our warm tungsten lights. While its automated ISO sensitivity prevented us from performing our full set of noise tests, you should expect a fair amount of noise when the camera decides to up the ISO. Thankfully, Nikon does a decent job of keeping that noise under control, so that it shouldn't take away from prints until you get up to the camera's highest couple of sensitivity settings. However, if you don't mind shooting with flash when necessary, the camera probably won't have to push the ISO too high and you should get decent prints a good portion of the time.
Though certainly not fast in our tests, the L10 wasn't too bad for a rock-bottom budget camera. After a 2-second wait from power-on to capturing its first shot, we could take a new photo every 2.2 seconds with the flash turned off. With the onboard flash enabled, that time more than doubled to a very disappointing 4.5 seconds. While its shutter only lagged 0.7 second with our high-contrast target, our low-contrast target made it pause for an arduous 2.2 seconds. Burst mode worked well, capturing 14 5-megapixel stills in 7 seconds for a satisfying 2fps.
For such an unassuming little camera, the Nikon Coolpix L10 actually works pretty well. It's responsive enough for casual shooting, and its (admittedly small) 5-megapixel photos look great. If you're looking for a simple, functional camera for less than $150, this makes a great choice. If you're willing to spend a bit more for slightly higher resolution photos, the L10's bigger brothers, the Coolpix L11 and L12, offer 6- and 7-megapixel stills for less than $200.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)