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Sample photos: Nikon Coolpix L110

Check out an examination of photo quality from Nikon's budget-friendly megazoom, the Coolpix L110.

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Joshua Goldman
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1 of 10 Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

ISO comparison

The 12-megapixel L110's photo quality is good to very good, and is definitely a step up from its predecessor, the L100. This time around Nikon at least lets you select ISO sensitivities, which run from 80 to 1,600 at full resolution. As expected, it takes photos best at and below ISO 200. As the sensitivities increase so does the noise and smeary details from noise reduction. Also, colors appear dirty from ISO 400 and above. This, combined with the increased noise and softness at higher sensitivities, means the indoor and low-light photo quality just isn't very good.
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2 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

ISO 6,400

The camera has two reduced-resolution high ISO settings of 3,200 and 6,400. While the photos are smaller at 3 megapixels and have a painterly appearance, they are overall better looking than the full-resolution ISO 800 and 1,600 shots I took.
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3 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Macro

The L110 has a few ways to enter Macro mode. It will automatically switch to it if you're in the scene-recognition Easy Auto mode. You can also select a Close-up mode from the camera's Scene options. And if you're in Auto mode, you can switch to macro focus via the control pad. You can focus as close as 0.4 inch from your subject, but to do so the L110 requires you to zoom in a little; an arrow on the onscreen zoom indicator turns green when you're at the right length. You can use the 28mm-equivalent position, but you'll have to pull the camera back to about 1 foot from your subject.

This is a 100 percent crop of the inset photo. The flower looks slightly oversharpened, but if you're after fine detail the L110 does a reasonably nice job. (ISO 80; 28mm; 1/35 second at f3.5)

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4 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Photo quality at 420mm equivalent

Typical of megazoom cameras, the L110's photos soften considerably when the lens is extended. Shots like this will look fine as small prints with little or no cropping, but at 100 percent, there's no fine detail to speak of.
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5 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Snapshot

Generally, though, as long as you have plenty of light and aren't planning to make huge prints, the L110 presents good snapshot quality.
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6 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Auto vs. Auto

There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Nikon's Easy Auto, which uses scene recognition and adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn't match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Then there is an Auto mode, which is a programmable auto, giving you access to a handful of shooting options including white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation.

In this series, the top photo was taken in Easy Auto and the middle shot in Auto. The Easy Auto correctly exposed for the statue, but in the process, overexposed the sky. In Auto, the statue is underexposed, but the sky is correct. (No changes were made to exposure compensation and both ISO and white balance were set to automatic.

The last photo is the middle shot, but processed through Nikon's D-Lighting option in the camera's playback menu. My point in showing this is that although the L110's Easy Auto is good, don't be afraid to grab a second shot in the camera's programmable Auto mode, even if you leave all the settings in auto. (This goes for all point-and-shoot cameras, too.)

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7 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Zoom range

With compact cameras now packing zoom lenses that go out to 30x, something like the L110's 15x might not seem like enough. This camera's lens is quite flexible, though, able to go from a wide-angle 28mm to a long 420mm (bottom). Unfortunately, the image at 100 percent isn't all that great for zooming in even more on your subject. (See slide four again for an example.)
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8 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Lens distortion

Nikon does an excellent job of controlling lens distortion at the wide angle (top) and when fully extended (bottom). Center sharpness is fairly good; however, off to the sides and particularly in the corners photos are softer.
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9 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Fringing

Chromatic aberration (fringing)in high-contrast areas of photos is usually an issue for megazoom cameras, especially less expensive models like the L110. The amount is average to above average, but it's less than I'm used to seeing from a Coolpix camera.
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10 of 10 Joshua Goldman/CNET

Color and exposure

Color performance is very good, though again it's dependent on using ISO 200 or lower. At those sensitivities, colors appear bright and vibrant. Exposure is good, but as usual with compact cameras, highlights will occasionally blow out. Its white balance is decent, if a little cool, though there is one exception. On my review sample the auto white balance did not respond correctly under fluorescent lights and turned everything an unflattering yellow-green. However, it performed fine when switched to the fluorescent preset or with a manual reading, so it seems like an issue Nikon can fix with a firmware update.

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