The Nikon Coolpix L24 is nearly identical to the model it replaces, the Coolpix L22. The only difference is a resolution bump from 12 megapixels to 14 megapixels. The rest of the camera remains the same: easy to use with a 3-inch LCD and AA batteries for power. 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 L24 is very much a fully automatic point-and-shoot with little to adjust except for maybe picking an appropriate scene mode.
However, like the L22, the L24 is a little too crippled in the feature department, which can make it difficult to get usable photos under certain conditions. Team that with a mediocre lens and some performance concerns, and you have an entry-level camera that's not good for much beyond taking snapshots of portraits and landscapes in full sunlight for use at small sizes or online--regardless of its 14-megapixel resolution.
|Key specs||Nikon Coolpix L24|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9 x 2.4 x 1.2 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||6.5 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 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)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps|
|Image stabilization type||Electronic|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||AA (2; alkaline, lithium ion, NiMH), 220 shots (alkaline)|
|Battery charged in camera||No|
|Bundled software||Software Suite for Coolpix (Windows/Mac)|
The L24 has an ISO sensitivity range from 80 to 1600, but you have no control over ISO settings--it's auto only. If your subject is in the center of the frame and you have plenty of light so that the sensitivity stays below ISO 400, you can get good photos from the camera. For most of my indoor test shots without a flash, the camera selected ISO 400 and very slow shutter speeds. (In fact, when shooting in the camera's Easy Auto mode it would frequently do this instead of using the flash.) The results are predictably mediocre, soft and smeary with color issues from noise. The camera also struggles with focusing in dim lighting doing a lot of hunting and there's a noticeable shutter lag. If you're considering the L24 to use indoors without a flash, don't. Should your subject move, you have shaky hands, or both, you'll likely end up with blurry shots unless you use the flash. This camera is really only good for stills of stationary subjects under bright lighting, preferably outdoors.
Colors are pleasing from the L24 (and probably the best thing about this camera's photos). It seems to pump up some reds and blues, but otherwise, subjects were bright and natural. However, that changes as more noise is introduced at higher ISO sensitivities. The auto white balance is somewhat yellow-green under fluorescent light and warm under incandescent. Oddly enough there is a manual white balance that works really well, but it's only available in Auto mode.
Video quality is good enough for Web use, but not much else. The zoom lens does not function while recording, but you do have a digital zoom; I suggest not using it, as the results are unpleasant. Also, bright scenes are full of colored streaks called smear, which is caused when bright light hits the image sensor.
|General shooting options||Nikon Coolpix L24|
|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)||Three|
Of the cameras I've tested at this price, the L24 has the least control and fewest shooting options. The Auto mode is as good as it gets; it's basically 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 resolution, too, but that's available in all modes.
The camera's Easy Auto mode is good, but again, it seemed to struggle with deciding when to use the flash. Outside in daylight, it performed fine, though. You also get a 15 scene modes, all of which are pretty common things like Portrait, Landscape, Beach/Snow, and Party/Indoor. Nikon includes a stripped-down version of its Smart Portrait mode, which in this case does face detection and has a smile-activated shutter release as well as a blink warning.
For those who like to shoot close-ups, the L24 can focus on a subject as close as 2 inches. As long as your subject is in the middle of the lens, you'll end up with decent shots considering the camera's price. You'll probably want to sharpen them a bit with software once they're on a computer, though.
The L24 does have basic movie capture, too, that records at 480p or 240p at 30 frames per second. Focus is locked once you start shooting, and there is no use of the optical zoom while recording; a 2x digital zoom is available.
Like almost all cameras in its class, the L24 has slow shooting performance. Its shutter lag--the amount of time from when the shutter release is pressed to when an image is captured--is long at 0.5 second in bright light and 0.9 second in dim lighting. Shot-to-shot times averaged 2.3 seconds without the flash and 4.9 seconds with it. It does have a continuous shooting option for capturing up to three shots at 0.7 frames per second. In the end, the L24's performance is too slow for moving subjects such as active kids and pets or sports. You will get a shot, but it likely won't be the one you wanted or it may be blurry because the camera used a slow shutter speed instead of raising the ISO.
On the upside, the camera does look good. Again, with the batteries in it, the L24 has a nice weight to it. The AA-size batteries are a main attraction here and it can be used with alkalines, long-life lithium ion cells, and rechargeable NiMHs. The battery compartment is difficult to open, but 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 L24 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 bright sun, but that can be said about a lot of LCDs. The lens, on the other hand, is a disappointment.
Not only is it narrower than those on competing entry-level compacts, but the lens quality is inconsistent. The lens is pretty sharp at the center; it gets softer at the edges and in the corners. The lower left side and corner of my review camera was noticeably softer than the rest of the lens. This isn't uncommon for lower-end compact cameras, but it doesn't make recommending the L24 any easier, either.
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.
There is definitely a market for cameras like the Nikon Coolpix L24. It's cheap, it's easy to use, and it takes AA-size batteries. You really shouldn't expect much more than that for its sub-$120 price. However, you can get more than the L24 offers. For example, at less than $110 you can pick up Canon's PowerShot A1200 and get a wider lens and an optical viewfinder, more shooting features, and better photos and video, and it's just as easy to use.
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
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