A button atop the camera lets you enter one-touch portrait mode, which sets a wide aperture to blur the background and make your subject stand out. It also activates face-priority autofocus, which finds your subject's face and focuses on it. We found that it wasn't quite as sensitive as the face detection in Fujifilm's recent cameras, such as the FinePix S6000fd, though that is a much more expensive camera. The Nikon was slower to find faces and more reluctant to find ones that were not looking straight at the camera. Once it located a face, it did a good job of tracking it if the subject moved or if we changed our composition.
The Coolpix L5 performed slowly in our lab tests. It took 3.5 seconds to start up and capture its first image, then 3 seconds between subsequent images without flash. With flash turned on, it slowed to 4 seconds between shots. Shutter lag measured 1 second in our high-contrast test and 1.5 seconds in our low-contrast test, which simulate bright and dim lighting conditions, respectively. One reason for its slow shutter lag may be the camera's lack of a focus-assist lamp. Continuous shooting yielded an average of 0.7fps, regardless of image size.
Image quality from the Coolpix L5 was no better than average. Images weren't as sharp as the ones we saw from the Coolpix L6 and had noticeable artifacts. The automatic white balance did a fine job in natural sunlight, but turned in very warm results with our lab's tungsten lights. The tungsten preset was better, but still noticeably warm. The manual white balance we set provided the most neutral results. Since you can't select specific ISOs, we were unable to run our usual battery of noise tests.
Given the Nikon Coolpix L5's horribly slow performance and its so-so image quality, it's particularly difficult to recommend it, especially since Nikon's own 6-megapixel Coolpix L6 provides better image quality, though similarly slow performance, at a lower price. Canon's 6-megapixel PowerShot SD600, also in this price range, doesn't have image stabilization but offers much better performance and image quality. Plus, if you like the idea of simple operation, all you have to do is leave the Canon in auto mode and you'll still likely get better results than you would with this Nikon.