Nikon Coolpix L22 - digital camera review: Nikon Coolpix L22 - digital camera

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The Good Three-inch LCD; attractive; pleasing color in photos under the right conditions.

The Bad Mediocre lens quality; too little control over camera; poor low-light shooting performance.

The Bottom Line The Nikon Coolpix L22 looks good for its price, but there isn't much to like below the surface.

5.8 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 6

Looking at the 12-megapixel Nikon Coolpix L22, you can understand why someone would buy it. It's a good-looking compact camera at a low price with three things people would be attracted to: a 3-inch LCD, AA batteries for power, and the Nikon brand. Pop in its batteries and the camera has a nice weight to it, making it feel like a sturdy, well-built camera. And like most in its class, the L22 is very much a fully automatic point-and-shoot with little to adjust except for maybe picking an appropriate scene mode.

The L22 is a little too limited in the feature department, though, which can make it difficult to get usable photos. Team that with mediocre lens quality and some performance concerns and you have an entry-level camera that's really not good for much beyond taking snapshots of portraits and landscapes in full sunlight for use at small sizes or online.

Key specs Nikon Coolpix L22
Price (MSRP) $119.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.9x2.4x1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7.6 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3.6x, f3.1-6.7, 37-134mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA (2; alkaline, lithium ion, NiMH), 240 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC
Bundled software Software Suite for Coolpix (Windows/Mac)

Again, with the batteries in it, the L22 has a nice weight to it. The AA-size batteries are the main attraction here, and the L22 can be used with alkalines, long-life lithium-ion cells, and rechargeable NiMHs. The battery compartment is difficult to open, and more so to close. It has a latch to secure it, but according to several user reviews it's fairly weak and breaks easily. I had no trouble with my review camera, but looking at the tiny latch, it's not surprising; with the batteries out, the L22 feels considerably less sturdy.

It is comfortable to use, though, with simple controls that are big and easy to read. The screen is larger than usual for an entry-level camera and gets reasonably bright; I still had trouble using it in bright sun, but that can be said about a lot of LCDs. The lens, on the other hand, is a disappointment.

With Nikon's name you might expect a certain level of quality from the lens. The L22's is fairly inconsistent: it's reasonably sharp in the center, but gets noticeably softer to the sides, top, bottom, and corners. The lower left side of the lens was particularly bad on my review camera, causing severe softness that was visible even at small sizes.

Also, while its 3.6x optical zoom is what I expect in this class, there's no way to shut off the camera's 4x digital zoom, which results in horrible photos if you use it. There is a marker where it changes over from optical to digital zoom on the zoom indicator and it changes color. However, it's very easy to overshoot the optical zoom range if you're not paying attention to the screen.

The lens actually has quite a bit of barrel distortion, too, but at least Nikon does an excellent job of correcting for it. The same goes for fringing in high-contrast areas of photos; it was only really visible when photos were viewed at 100 percent.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix L22
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto (80-1,600)
White balance Auto, Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Recording modes Auto, Easy Auto, Scene, Smart Portrait, Movie
Focus modes Center, Face Detection, Macro
Macro 2 inches (Wide)
Metering modes Multipattern, Center-weighted (when using up to 2x digital zoom), Spot (digital zoom of 2x or more)
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Sepia, Black & White, Cyanotype
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Five shots

No camera manufacturer makes a sub-$120 camera with manual or semimanual shooting modes; it's just basic point-and-shoots at this price point. Of the cameras I've tested at this price, the L22 has the least control. The Auto mode is as good as it gets--it's basically the same as the program auto mode on other cameras, but it just lets you turn on continuous shooting, change the white balance, and select one of the four color filters. You can change the resolution, too, but that's available in all modes.

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