Nikon Coolpix L5

      Photo Review 8

      In summary

      An affordable high-resolution compact digicam with a 5x optical zoom lens and effective image stabilisation.In some respects a cut above the standard point-and-shoot digicam, Nikon’s Coolpix L5 combines a 7.2 megapixel CCD imager with a 5x optical zoom lens. Lens-shift vibration reduction (VR) is provided to help users capture blur-free pictures. This type of image stabilisation has been derived from Nikon’s SLR lens technology and it’s the most effective of the options available. . . [more]

      Full review


      In some respects a cut above the standard point-and-shoot digicam, Nikon’s Coolpix L5 combines a 7.2 megapixel CCD imager with a 5x optical zoom lens. Lens-shift vibration reduction (VR) is provided to help users capture blur-free pictures. This type of image stabilisation has been derived from Nikon’s SLR lens technology and it’s the most effective of the options available.
      That said, the Coolpix L5 has some serious limitations. For starters, the LCD’s resolution is relatively low so images appear rather grainy. There’s no viewfinder and little in the way of manual exposure controls. You can’t adjust sensitivity settings and only two metering choices are provided: matrix and centre-weighted average. Focusing options are limited to auto and centre-point AF and the slowest shutter speed is four seconds. Flash output is also non-adjustable.


      To compensate, Nikon provides 15 Scene presets, four of them with Scene Assist sub-menus that let users choose from options related to subject type and positioning as well as the way the image is pressented. Further support for novice users is provided through the Best Shot Selector (BSS) function, which will record up to 10 shots while the shutter release is pressed, then automatically select the one it thinks is the least blurry. The rest are discarded before you can check them.


      Beside the VR button on the top panel is a ‘one-touch Portrait’ button that selects a wide lens aperture to blur background details and accesses automated functions like the Face-Priority AF setting. This activates software that scans the subject, looking for face-shaped objects. Nikon doesn’t publish a limit on how many faces can be detected by this system but it does warn that faces that occupy too much or too little of the frame (whatever that may mean) may not be detected; nor may faces that are partially obscured, for example by sunglasses or being in profile. In our tests, the L5 was relatively slow to locate faces in group shots but, having found them, seemed able to keep track of any movements that occurred until the shot was taken.
      Two other automated functions are of note: in-camera red-eye reduction and D-Lighting. The first activates when red-eye reduction flash is selected, bringing in software that detects and corrects red eyes in flash shots. The technology has been used by Nikon for several camera generations, with proven success. Nikon’s D-Lighting function can be selected in playback mode to automatically correct images that are poorly exposed due to backlighting and low flash levels. Another tried-and-tested technology, it does a reasonably good job with shots that are only moderately poorly exposed but can’t correct gross exposure errors.
      Playback options are pretty standard, with the usual single, index and slideshow settings plus DPOF printing, protect and delete. You can also create small copies of shots for emailing and copy image files between the internal memory and a memory card. But you can’t crop and re-save shots and no histogram display is provided.
      Video options on the Coolpix L5 are quite good for a point-and-shoot camera. You can record VGA, QVGA and QQVGA clips at 30 fps with sound. But you can only store five seconds of VGA video in the internal memory! And you can’t edit video clips.

      The test camera’s performance was unspectacular. Imatest showed resolution to be below expectations and revealed a loss of resolution from near the centre to the edge of the frame. Colour saturation was elevated to a degree typical of many compact digicams and Imatest revealed some colour shifts in green, cyan and red hues. Chromatic aberration was low – but not outstandingly so – and we found traces of coloured fringing in outdoor shots.
      Close-up performance was, however, good, although digital zoom shots were rather soft and low-light shooting was limited by the lack of ISO adjustment plus a slow shutter speed limit of four seconds. The flash emitted enough light to illuminate an average-sized room but we noticed a warm cast when the white balance was set to auto, which was removed with the white balance flash setting.
      White balance performance was typical of many digicams. The auto setting performed well under fluorescent lighting but failed to correct the orange cast of incandescent lights. The pre-set modes tended to slightly over-correct colours, while the measurement (‘preset’ in Nikon’s terms) delivered the best colour accuracy. The VR stabilisation system turned in an impressive performance, producing sharp pictures in low light levels. The Active setting proved particularly effective as you could see on the LCD how much stabilisation was being applied.


      Without VR.


      With the VR setting on normal.


      With the VR setting on Active.
      It took close to four seconds to power-up the Coolpix L5 and extend its lens and roughly three seconds to shut down. Shot-to-shot times averaged three seconds without flash and almost four seconds with flash. We measured an average capture lag of one second, which reduced to 0.3 seconds with pre-focusing. In continuous shooting mode, shots were recorded at 0.7 second intervals, regardless of image size.

      Summing Up
      The Coolpix L5 is something of a curate’s egg (excellent in parts). Competitively priced for a high-resolution digicam with a 5x optical zoom lens, its relatively poor imaging performance is balanced by an excellent stabilisation system. If you’re a novice photographer who only prints shots to snapshot (10 x 15 cm) size, the indifferent image quality should present few problems, making the L5 a relatively good buy. But more discerning photographers who want a full suite of camera controls plus the ability to enlarge shots to A3 size, should probably give it a miss.







      Digital zoom.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent light.


      Auto white balance with incandescent light.




      Image sensor: 5.76 x 4.29 mm CCD with 7.41 million photosites (7.2 megapixels effective)

      Lens: 6.3-31.4mm f/2.9-5.0 Zoom-Nikkor (38-190mm in 35mm format)

      Zoom ratio: 5x optical, up to 4x digital

      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.2); Movies ““ QuickTime/WAV (

      Image Sizes: 3072 x 2304, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480

      Shutter speed range: 4 to 1/2000 second

      Image Stabilisation: Lens-shift VR

      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps

      Focus system/range: Contrast-detect AF; range 50 cm to infinity; macro to 4 cm

      Exposure metering/control: Matrix & Centre weighted metering; Program AE plus 15 Scene modes (4 with Scene Assist)

      ISO range: Auto only (ISO 80-400)

      White balance: Auto, Preset (manual), Daylight, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Flash

      Flash modes/range (ISO auto):

      Sequence shooting: up to 0.7 fps

      Storage Media: Approx. 8MB of internal memory plus SD/MMC expansion slot

      Viewfinder: n.a.

      LCD monitor: 2.5-inch, 115,000 dot TFT LCD with brightness adjustment

      Power supply: 2x AA alkaline, oxyride or lithium (approx 150 shots with alkaline; 490 with lithium)

      Dimensions (wxhxd): 97 x 61 x 45 mm

      Weight: 170 grams (without batteries and card)





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