The Nikon L110 provides a 15x optical zoom for under £200. Sounds like the bargain buy, but just how good is it? The What Digital Camera Nikon Coolpix L110 review...
Nikon Coolpix L110 review – Features
The Nikon L110 is an affordable 12.1MP superzoom camera. With a broad-ranging 15x optical zoom that’s equivalent to a wide 28mm through to a 420mm telephoto equivalent. Plus it’s a pleasant surprise that the L110 can be found for just under £200 at its initial release.
Under the ‘wine red’ or black exterior (depending on your taste) is sensor-shift Vibration Reduction image stabilisation to keep images steady and sharp. Nikon’s EXPEED image processing system also means the capacity to shoot from ISO 80-1600 at full resolution, or 3200-6400 at a reduced 3MP capture. A one-touch 720p HD movie setting is also available which captures movies in the Motion-JPEG format at 30 frames per second with stereo sound using the in-built microphone. With the HDMI mini connector output it’s also possible to output your movies to an HDTV.
The Nikon L110 has a generous 3in LCD that has a high 460K-dot resolution – ideal for reviewing shots or scrolling through menus. The menus themselves are relatively thin on the ground, keeping options to a sensible minimum. There is no fully manual control, but the Easy Auto and 15 scene modes have every point-and-shoot base covered, further enhanced by face detection, a smile timer that waits for the subject to smile and a blink proof control that alerts when a subject’s eyes are closed post-capture. Auto mode provides the most control, allowing for user-defined ISO and White Balance adjustments.
Nikon Coolpix L110 review – Design
The Nikon L110 comes in a choice of two colours – ‘wine red’ or black. The former is a bright cherry-coloured finish that’s certainly eye-catching, though not for everyone.
In terms of body design the L110 is relatively plasticy, yet feels suitably hardened. Its large grip makes for easy holding and there’s a rear thumb rest to ensure easy finger-placement and a tight grip. At all times your fingers will be nowhere near obstructing the lens or flash, which makes for easy shooting. The flash itself is a ‘pull-up’ system, as there’s not a quick-release button to make the flash pop up – not a problem, but marginally more fiddly than if a preferred flash button were available.
Buttons are arranged simply and effectively, with the only button on top an on/off push-button behind the shutter. All other controls reside on the L110’s rear, with the usual d-pad directional control, main menu access, playback, plus a scene selection button for quick changes and a one-touch movie button. Interior menus are easy to navigate and select and, as there aren’t too many options to worry about, it’s not a complex process to use.
Nikon Coolpix L110 review – Performance
In use the Nikon Coolpix L110 feels good in the hand and the zoom control is smooth. However, some of the buttons can lack responsiveness and needed a slightly firmer or secondary push before producing the desired result on some occasions.
The primary purpose of the L110 is, of course, being a superzoom and utilising that 15x optical zoom which extends smoothly and with a regular pace. At the longest end the 420mm holds fairly steadily and, while optical stabilisation would have been an advantage here to further steady ‘live’ during framing, the sensor-shift stabilisation helps provide further assurance of a sharper image capture.
Low-light situations add the benefit of an AF-assist lamp which includes the option to turn it off should this be undesireable.
The 3in LCD screen to the rear is of good quality, though is overly-bright when compared to viewing images on a computer screen – so much so that the former makes some image areas appear overexposed when they’re not. The jpegs have more highlight detail than is apparent on the LCD screen, which can make for some difficulty in providing accurate exposure. Also there is no viewfinder as per some competitors’ superzoom compacts, so no other way to conceive taking an image when in bright sunlight. The L110 screen does have an anti-reflective coating that helps but isn’t foolproof.
The L110 has a macro mode that works up to 1cm from the camera’s lens, though only at the wide end will it focus correctly as expected.
Power comes in the form of 4xAA batteries – some may love it, others may hate it; in fact it may be the reason to buy or not to buy. One slight whinge is that the SD card is inserted in the same compartment as the batteries, yet the batteries aren’t secured like many li-ion batteries would be. If the camera’s upside down this isn’t an issue, but the batteries can slide around or fall out when open, so the SD would have been better placed in its own area.
Easy Auto mode works as expected and is essentially an advanced automated option that auto-selects the best available settings for the scene at hand. For more control there’s the Auto mode which allows user-defined White Balance and ISO settings. The L110 also has ‘Color Options’ to change shooting styles from Standard to Vivid, B&W, Sepia or Cyanotype too.
Image Quality & Value
Nikon Coolpix L110 review – Image Quality
Images when viewed on the L110’s LCD screen can appear overexposed in areas where the actual images aren’t. This was notable when viewing on a more accurate computer monitor. This is poor for shooting accurate exposures when using the camera – however, overall exposure is actually relatively accurate, but it can be tricky to tell due to this issue.
Images themselves aren’t particularly sharp throughout the full zoom range. Also, as there is no Raw shooting capability or user-defined noise reduction control, meaning the output Jpegs do seem to come out processed a little muddied as well as soft.
Chromatic aberration – red and purple fringing – is also apparent in many image situations and isn’t limited toward just the edges of the image.
Nikon L110 review – ISO sensitivity image noise test
ISO sensitivity ranges from 80-1600 at full resolution, dipping to 3MP when using the ISO 3200-6400 settings. Images begin bright and colourful, but colour intensity flounders as the ISO increases. Image noise doesn’t vastly increase throughout the range due to significant noise reduction, yet even low-ISO images have more grain than would be liked and high ISO images lost much detail. Furthermore Jpeg artifacts seem to be present throughout the range, leaving image quality fairly poor at full size.
On the plus size, images at extended zoom settings do produce a pleasing shallow depth of field and there’s not much colour noise at any of the ISO settings to be intrusive. The L110 even has an in-camera post-production D-Lighting feature to pull more shadow detail out of an image if desired.
Nikon Coolpix L110 review – Value For Money
The superzoom market has become more and more competitive of late, with models offering considerably better performance than previous generations. The Coolpix L110 may not be the strongest in all areas, but it doesn’t half undercut the others on the market by price. And if that’s a key point when purchasing then the L110 has got it bang on the money – it delivers a 15x zoom for under £200. Go elsewhere and the next nearest option is the mightily-similar Olympus SP-600UZ for £260, otherwise it’s a case of stepping up the spec-ladder to the more fulfilled (yet pricier) 18x zoom Panasonic FZ38 for around £280. Beyond this most manufacturers place more significance on the zoom capacity- such as the Sony HX1’s 20x 28-560mm equivalent – at a more premium (i.e. costly) price-point.
The Nikon Coolpix L110 is a winner for the price. While image quality perhaps isn’t its sweetest spot, there’s no denying that an easy to use point-and-shoot with a 15x optical zoom for under £200 is a decent buy. The AA battery power may be an off-put for some, yet a reason to purchase for others. Certainly not the smallest of cameras for those looking for a true ‘compact’ compact, but the L110 does pack in a big lens, is well designed and easy to use. It even ties in 720p HD video into the package which is further icing on the cake. Good though not excellent, but you’ll have quite a job finding a better competitor than the L110 for less money.