The Nikon Coolpix L830 is all about giving you an affordable long-zoom camera that's not bloated with features you might never use, but has just enough of them to keep you from feeling cheated or like you're missing out.
It's a modest update from last year's L820 , which was a good deal as well. In fact, the differences between the two pretty much come down to three features: a tilting LCD (the L820's was fixed), a little extra zoom (765mm compared to 675mm), and a Dynamic Fine Zoom that digitally extends the zoom range to 1,530mm.
There are a couple of other minor differences including improved battery life from its four, AA-size batteries, but generally speaking, it's those three things that separate the two. It's well priced for what you're getting: it starts at $299.95 (£229.99, $299 AU), but can be found for considerably less.
Image quality and shooting performance don't noticeably improve over the L820's either, which is fine since that camera was already very good for its class. In daylight conditions, you'll get some very nice photos and movie clips from the L830.
Small-sensor compacts such as the L830 have their limitations, so if you're pixel peeping, things probably won't look so hot; despite appearances, this is not a dSLR. Viewed onscreen at 100 percent, you'll see artifacts and noise, even at its base sensitivity of ISO 125. And you'll also see fringing in high-contrast areas. As long as you don't typically enlarge your photos to full size and heavily crop them, the results are quite good.
As the sensitivity increases, so do noise and smeary details from noise reduction. Also, colors appear slightly washed out and muddy from noise at ISO 800 and above. There's enough detail where you could use them at very small sizes, and some sharpening would probably help, too. Still, you'll probably want to avoid shooting in low light whenever possible.
Video quality is good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. If you plan to do a lot of panning from side to side or shooting fast-moving subjects, you'll likely see judder and ghosting, but not enough to make clips unwatchable. The zoom does work when recording, but you may hear it moving in very quiet scenes.
AA-battery-powered cameras tend to be slower performers than cameras that use rechargeable lithium ion battery packs. The L830, however, is reasonably fast and improves slightly over the L820.
Elapsed time from off to first shot is 1.2 seconds. The time from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing is just over 0.1-second in bright lighting and 0.3-second in low lighting. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.7-second. The time between shots when using the flash is nearly as good at 1.5 seconds, which is remarkably fast.
The camera's full-resolution burst mode is capable of capturing up to five frames at 8.7 frames per second, which is better than the 6.7fps Nikon claims. That, however, is with focus and exposure set at the first shot, so fast-moving subjects might not be in focus for all of the photos, and it takes about 5 seconds for those images to be saved before you can shoot again.
Also, it takes a little longer to focus and shoot when zoomed all the way in, which can be frustrating when trying to lock on to a moving target. The same goes for indoors or low-light conditions.
|Key specs||Nikon Coolpix L830||Fujifilm FinePix S8200|
|Dimensions (WHD)||4.4x3x3.6 inches (111x75.8x91.2 mm)||4.8x3.4x4.5 inches (122.6x86.9x116.2 mm)|
|Weight (with battery and media)||18 ounces (508g)||20 ounces (577g)|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS||16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch tilting LCD, 920K dots/None||3-inch LCD, 460K dots/electronic|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||34x, f3.0-5.9, 22.5-765mm (35mm equivalent)||40x, f2.9-6.5 24-960mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC H.264 (.MOV)||JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC H.264 (.MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 30fps (progressive)||4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 pixels at 60fps (progressive)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||AA size (4, alkaline included), 390 shots||AA size (4, alkaline included), 300 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No||No|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC/SDXC (not included)||SD/SDHC/SDXC (not included)|
Design and features
Using the L830 is straightforward. The controls and menu system are fairly uncomplicated, so it shouldn't be a problem to get started shooting. The menu system is broken into three tabs: Shooting, Movie, and Setup. The layout keeps you from having to do too much hunting through settings, not that there's all that much to adjust. (For example, you can't even turn off the digital zoom.) That's not to say it won't take a little effort to get the most from this camera, but the basics of shooting a photo or movie are easy.
Anyone who's used a point-and-shoot camera should have no trouble managing the L830. The layout is fairly standard and clearly labeled. There's also a secondary control for the zoom on the lens barrel, which is a bit nicer to use for shooting video.
Again, there is no viewfinder, so you're relying on the 3-inch LCD for framing your shots. Although it gets reasonably bright if you crank the backlight up, it's still going to be difficult to see in bright sunlight. Being able to angle the screen is a nice touch, though, and something you don't typically find on a megazoom at this price.
With the camera loaded with its four AA batteries, it has a nice weight to it, and the ample handgrip gives you something substantial to hold. Unfortunately, without a viewfinder, the camera can be difficult to keep steady with the lens extended.
On the bottom is a locking door covering the SD card slot and batteries. The batteries aren't otherwise secured, so you'll need to be careful when opening the compartment. You can use alkaline, nickel metal hydride rechargeable, or lithium AA batteries. Nikon includes alkaline batteries, which will last for up to 390 shots; lithium batteries should last for 1,180 shots. Nickel metal hydride rechargeables are rated for up to 680 shots.
On the right side of the body is a covered panel with a small DC input for an optional AC adapter, while on the left you'll find a Micro-HDMI port and a somewhat proprietary Micro-USB/AV port (it's not the widely available type used with many smartphones or other devices, but is easy to find inexpensively).
Also, although this model doesn't have built-in Wi-Fi, it is Eyefi-ready, which means it's designed to work with Eyefi's wireless SD cards that can be used for sending photos on the fly to an Android or iOS mobile device or backup to a computer.
|General shooting options||Nikon Coolpix L130|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200|
|White balance||Auto, Custom, Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash|
|Recording modes||Easy Auto, Scene, Special Effects, 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)||Five shots|
The L830 is packing mainly autoshooting options, and almost no direct control over the results. There are two Auto modes: one is Nikon's Easy Auto mode, which 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 like the Program mode on other point-and-shoots. You can change ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation as well as continuous-shooting modes, but that's pretty much it.
There are 18 scene modes with standards such as Landscape and Portrait as well as a Pet Portrait mode that will automatically shoot when it detects a cat or dog face, and an Easy Panorama mode. Just press the shutter and pan the camera left, right, up, or down to create a panorama in-camera. You also get access to an HDR option via a Backlighting mode and Hand-held Night Portrait and Landscape modes as well. I know it's tempting to leave the camera in Easy Auto, but I strongly suggest exploring these other modes, especially when it comes to difficult lighting.
If you like experimenting with filters and effects, you get plenty of those, too. There are 11 available when shooting with live preview such as the High Contrast Monochrome filter used in the photo above. But if you want to play around with a shot you've already taken, there 17 available in the Playback menu.
Video options include 1080p, 720p, 540p, 480p at 30fps as well as high-speed slow-motion settings: 1080p15, 720p60, 480p120, and 240p240 (though that last one is pretty unusable).
If you're looking for a megazoom camera that will just get out of your way and let you take some snapshots and movie clips, the Nikon Coolpix L830 is a good choice.