Weighing a little over 200 grams with two AA batteries and memory card loaded, this pocket-friendly picture taker is clearly made for the consumer who wants to live the simple life in their photographic pursuits.
Silver in styling, the Coolpix L5 has no optical viewfinder but does offer a generous-sized LCD screen at the rear of the camera, so lining up your shots before shooting, and viewing them after, is no strain.
Unlike some other camera makers with similarly powered lenses, Nikon clearly feels this mid-range 5x optical zoom needs an image stabiliser. So they’ve installed the same Lens Shift Vibration Reduction (VR) mechanism that was originally developed for Nikon’s SLR lenses. You have the option of two modes – on and off. It’s a big benefit.
There’s little control clutter to deal with: tap the power button and the screen lights up in about four seconds, ready to shoot. You have only to depress the shutter button and a series of shots can be caught two seconds apart.
The L5’s use of AA batteries means you can load reasonably cheap, rechargeable nickel metal hydride cells, or, in an emergency, slip in a pair of single use alkalines.
The CCD can capture a 3072 x 2304 pixel image and this makes a sharp 35 x 26 cm print at the end of the shooting day. Images may be cropped in camera or resized to any of three dimensions, suited for TV display or attachment to an email.
You can choose from three movie modes, all at 30 fps; the highest quality 640 x 480 pixel video is ideal for TV display; the 160 x 120 pixel size suits the sending of your movies via email.
The L5 has some great aids to successful image making: the One-touch portrait button helps make a subject’s skin softer in texture or brighter in tone; Face Priority AF automatically detects a person’s face, no matter where they are in the picture, and settles on precise focus; the D-Lighting function can rescue areas in underexposed shots that may have too much backlight or insufficient flash illumination.
To make life even easier, the L5 has handy onscreen help about specific features, accessible via a single button press.
If auto exposure operation is still unable to catch a tricky shot, you can access four ‘assist’ modes to make sure your portrait/landscape/sports/night shots are successful; another 11 modes will set up the camera for macro shots, dusk/dawn settings and other situations.
The camera performed extremely well on test and was a pleasure to use. We were, however, a little disappointed in the lens quality: taking the zoom to the wide end there was some noticeable barrel distortion (bowing outwards) and a small amount of pincushion (bowing inwards) distortion when the lens was set to the telephoto position.
For the beginner, this camera certainly has a wealth of inbuilt modes that will nearly guarantee success in your shooting. It could possibly be an irritating device if you need more hands-on control in your picture efforts.