Nikon Coolpix L810 review: Nikon Coolpix L810

  • 1

The Good The Nikon Coolpix L810 is an inexpensive 26x megazoom point-and-shoot that's easy to use and runs on AA batteries.

The Bad The L810 performs poorly in low light and indoors without a flash, and its shooting performance is slow, as is its autofocus.

The Bottom Line The Nikon Coolpix L810 offers a lot of specs at a low price. If you need fast shooting performance, though, you'll need to spend more money.

6.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 6

Editors' note: During my testing, I experienced some performance issues that Nikon attributed to my review camera being an early production sample. I tested a second L810 camera, and while its autofocus and overall shooting performance were still slow, it did not exhibit any other issues. If you have an L810 that is performing unusually, such as giving lens cap error messages when the lens cap is off or unexpectedly powering the camera off, contact Nikon customer service at 1-800-Nikon US. The rating and text of this review have been adjusted accordingly.

It's completely reasonable to expect a particular product, in this case a camera, to get better with each generation. That's not the case with the Nikon Coolpix L810.

Sure, on paper, Nikon is offering more for your money in the L810 than in its predecessor, the L120. But that's simply a matter of specs; you get a wider, longer lens and a higher-resolution sensor, neither of which gets you better photos.

Also, despite its looks, the L810 is very much a basic point-and-shoot camera, offering little more than fully automatic shooting. Not that that's a bad thing and, in fact, if all you need is a decent auto mode and a long lens for shooting in daylight and your photos are going straight to Facebook, the L810 is plenty.

Key specs Nikon Coolpix L810
Price (MSRP) $279.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.4x3.1x3.3 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 15.3 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 920K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 26x, f3.1-5.9, 22.5-585mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC H.264 (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,280x720 pixels at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life AA size (4, alkaline included), 300 shots
Battery charged in camera No
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software ViewNX 2 (Windows, Mac)

Photo quality
As with most entry-level point-and-shoots, you'll want to give the L810 as much light as possible. Photos are best at and below ISO 200. As the sensitivities increase, so do the noise and smeary details from noise reduction. Also, colors appear slightly washed-out and muddy from noise from ISO 400 and above. This, combined with the increased softness at higher sensitivities, means the indoor and low-light photo quality just isn't very good. So again, as long as you have plenty of light and don't do more than share photos online or make the occasional 4x6-inch print, the L810 takes good snapshots.

Photo quality gets noticeably worse above ISO 200. Matthew Fitzgerald/CNET

The camera's color performance is its best attribute, 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 good overall, though the auto white balance is warm under unnatural lighting.

Video quality is the same as photo quality: good enough for Web use at small sizes. Panning the camera will create a little judder and you may notice some motion blur with fast-moving subjects; that's typical of the video from most compact cameras. The zoom lens does work while recording, which is definitely a selling point with such a long lens. Its movement is slow -- as is the autofocus, if it focuses at all -- and you will hear it moving in your clips.

General shooting options Nikon Coolpix L120
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance Auto, Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash
Recording modes Easy Auto, Scene, Smart Portrait, Auto, Movie
Focus modes Center AF, Face Detection
Macro 0.4 inch (middle zoom position)
Metering modes Evaluative, 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) 4 shots

As I mentioned earlier, if you're looking for an uncomplicated automatic point-and-shoot, that's exactly what this is. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Easy Auto, which uses scene recognition (Nikon calls it Scene Auto Selector) 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 similar to the program AE modes on other point-and-shoots, giving you a modicum of control over your end results. You can change ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation as well as color, flash, and continuous-shooting modes. Light metering is locked to multipattern unless you're using the digital zoom, and the focus area is fixed to the center of the frame.