Nikon Coolpix L24 review: Nikon Coolpix L24

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The Good The Nikon Coolpix L24 is an affordable, easy-to-use compact with a 3-inch LCD that produces photos with pleasing color under the right conditions.

The Bad The L24 has a mediocre lens, fewer shooting options than competing models, too little control over results, and slow shooting performance.

The Bottom Line For easy automatic snapshots of still subjects in good lighting, the Nikon Coolpix L24 is sufficient. If you need more than that, don't bother.

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

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
Price (MSRP) $119.99
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
Storage media SD/SDHC
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.