So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Nikon COOLPIX L4
- No ISO settings, Images lacking clarity
A competant but not oustanding budget offer, the Coolpix L4 will more than suffice for occasional snapshots.
Price$ 280.00 (AUD)
The 4 megapixel Nikon Coolpix L4 is an entry level digital camera that really exemplifies the saying 'you get what you pay for'. On one hand the image quality was just average and the feature set a little lean, but on the other, the sub $300 price tag will be a big selling point for some. As a budget camera the L4 performs reasonably well, and while it won't amaze you, for the occasional day-to-day snaps it will be more than adequate.
Our sharpness test was where the camera's low cost was reflected most, with the L4 scoring just 1071 in Imatest. This is a little lower than most models we test, but as this camera sports just a 4 megapixel sensor, this is somewhat understandable. In general our shots were quite clear, and while there was a little fringing and blurring at high magnifications, for 4x6 prints the quality was more than suitable.
Its chromatic aberration score of .129% was slightly better, about on par with other models in this category. At this level it results in some loss of clarity which is visible at most print sizes, but it didn't have a huge impact.
We were impressed with the L4's performance in our colour tests, where the 8.28l score is excellent for an entry level 4 megapixel model. As usual, it was the red and blue shades that exhibited the most inaccuracy, although surprisingly green also had some issues. Our test shots reflected this, with some slight over-saturation visible in leaves and grass.
The L4 also did reasonably well in our final test for image noise, scoring .50%, which is about average for a compact camera. We noticed no visible signs of noise in our shots, which were clean and speckle free.
When running this test we did however discover one of the camera's major flaws; it has no manual ISO settings. Even the most basic cameras from other companies come equipped with a variety of ISO sensitivities, usually ranging from 80-400, and so Nikon's choice to omit them from this model is quite a bizarre one. The camera sets ISO automatically, but we'd much rather have the ability to manipulate it ourselves as it gives more creative control to the user.
The rest of the feature set is fairly standard, with a variety of white balance presets, 15 scene modes, Nikon's 'Best Shot' mode (which selects the best shot from a series of shots taken) and some colour options like sepia and black and white. The video mode was a mixed bag, offering 640x480 recording at 15fps, but with no sound. We were a little disappointed by the continuous shot mode too, which only offers multi-shot, taking 16 pictures at two frames per second and tiling them together in a single image, rather than capturing multiple full frame pictures. As expected from a budget unit like this, there were no metering or focus modes available, which would have been a nice touch but aren't a necessity.
However what we did not expect from this unit was the extremely slow performance it exhibited in our speed tests. The L4 is a very sluggish camera. Taking a massive 4.5 seconds to start up, 3.8 seconds between shots and with a huge .2 second shutter lag, there is nothing fast about this unit. While we can understand that some sacrifices must be made to create a lower priced camera, these times are substantially greater than many models.
With regards to design, the L4 is a fairly basic looking unit. With a glossy silver plastic case and weighing in at 120g it is quite small but also reasonably sturdy for such a low cost unit. It feels good in the hands and the extra weight helps when taking steady shots. The rather minimalist controls are well positioned and everything is easy to access.
The L4 has a quoted battery life of 250 shots running on standard AA batteries, which is quite an impressive figure.
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