Nikon L320 Review: Nikon Coolpix Compact Camera

Nikon L320 ReviewThe Nikon Coolpix L320 is a compact budget camera with a long zoom (26x optical), 16 megapixel sensor and 3 inch screen (LCD) which uses AA batteries.  It has a C2 EXPEED processor and is capable of transferring wirelessly via Eye-Fi memory cards. Like its larger and more expensive counterpart the L820, it is a compact and traditional-looking camera with a very large lens area and sleek black body, with a large grip area and balanced body weight. This, combined with the location of the main controls, which are at the back of the camera next to the grip, aids in single-handed photography and quick operation.  The zoom switch is built in around the shutter button, and the power button is very conveniently set out of the way to avoid accidental power-offs, and the battery compartment also has a lock to avoid it accidentally springing open and causing the batteries to fall out.  These extra security features are a welcome aspect of the budget Nikon Coolpix L320, and add a feeling of value to what is technically an inexpensive piece of equipment.  If you own an L320 and want to get the best out of your purchase, this course on Photography with Simple Gear can help.

The menu options on the Nikon Coolpix L320 are simple and easy to navigate, offering four main shooting modes.  The modes offered are Auto, Scenes, Smart Portrait, and Easy Auto.  Easy Auto analyses the subject of the photograph as you begin to shoot, determining light levels and locating targets such as faces or landscapes, then selecting the most relevant mode for you automatically.  Auto itself is an everyday mode with little fuss and minimal changes between shots, and is suitable for most day to day photography.

Smart Portrait mode automatically applies all the features at the cameras disposal to produce the best possible photographs of people.  The features include skin softening, blink detection and red-eye removal, face detection, flash and so on.  Scene mode has a sub-menu of 18 types of scene to choose from, allowing the user to select the most relevant mode for where they are currently taking photographs, such as museum mode, which turns off noises and flash to comply with most museums’ requirements, and sport mode, which minimises the blur normally inherent in taking photographs of fast moving people.

There are further options available in the Main menu, to switch the colour balance, image resolution, and colour options such as sepia tone or black and white photography, and the ability to set continuous shooting, which proves very useful in photographing action scenes or ensuring the best chance of getting a great shot in one-off situation.  To learn more about black and white shooting, you could visit this course on the Art of Black and White Photography.

One drawback of the Nikon Coolpix L320 is that it takes quite some time to turn on, which limits the chances of getting a good photograph of an event if you are not ready for it.  While the Nikon Coolpix L320 is a great budget camera for taking still photographs in nature, such as landscapes or flowers, it does take over 2.5 seconds to turn on from a completely cold state, and can only take approximately seven pictures in ten seconds on normal shooting mode, even at the lowest resolution on the least taxing mode.  To capture a fleeting wildlife image or get a great shot at a party would really require having the camera on at all times, as otherwise the warm-up time would result in the majority of opportunities being missed. To get great landscape shots every time, try this educational online course.

The image quality on the Nikon Coolpix L320 is not terrible for the price, and the 26x optical zoom is very good for the price, ranging from a 4mm to a 104mm zoom with minimal distortion.  There is also a macro mode for extreme close-up shots, which are reported to remain accurate up to only 1cm away from the camera lens.  The inbuilt large flash on the L320 is good, with even spread of lighting that enhances existing light sources rather than blinding everything, and it also does not tend to create red-eye effects during portrait photography.  On the rare occasion that red-eye occurs, the camera itself has an inbuilt red eye reduction mode.  This camera struggles with shooting at night, although Auto mode helps.  Night-Auto mode balances out the exposure of the photograph such that details are visible, but the resulting photograph is not representative of a real night time scene.  Getting photographs with good contrast at night is possible, but getting photorealism is less so.

Playback options on the camera itself are limited to zooming in and out and creating a slideshow, however within the Playback menu there are also many options available allowing for on-camera editing of photographs that have been taken, including skin softening, copying, rotation, lighting changes and so on.  While this is no match for proper editing software on a computer, laptop or tablet, the fact that minor improvements and edits can be made on-the-go is another nice little selling point of the Nikon Coolpix L320 for the amateur photography enthusiast.

Along with the camera, the retail box contains batteries, a neck strap and lens cap, and a Quick Start Guide to get a new user out and about taking photographs immediately.  There is also a USB lead to enable transfer of the taken photographs onto a computer, and a CD including the Nikon View NX2 software and a full manual.

Overall, this camera is a great improvement on previous models in the Nikon L-series range. However, it is still a budget model with only mid-range build quality and cost effective inner parts.  It is a fine model for amateur photographers who want something inexpensive that takes good pictures, or children just learning a new skill. If you’re considering purchasing this camera for your child, you can access a wealth of online resources with this twelve-week online photography for kids course.