DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix L12
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The Nikon Coolpix L12 ($179) is an entry-level camera that includes something not normally found on cameras in this price range: image stabilization. That's on top of the 7.1 Megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom lens, 2.5" LCD display, AF-assist lamp, in-camera redeye removal, and more.
Is the L12 a great choice for those who want image stabilization without spending a lot of money? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Coolpix L12 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
Like most entry-level cameras these days, the Coolpix L12 has built-in memory in lieu of a bundled memory card. The L12 has 21MB of onboard memory, which holds just six photos at the highest image quality setting. So, unless you already have one sitting around, you should pick up a memory card. The Coolpix L12 can use SD, SDHC, and MMC memory card formats, and a 1GB card is a good place to start. A high speed card is really only necessary if you'll be using the continuous shooting feature frequently.
Like all of the cameras in the Nikon L-series, the L12 uses AA batteries -- two of them to be exact. Inside the box you'll find two alkaline batteries, which will quickly end up in your trash. So, do yourself and the environment a favor and buy a set or two of NiMH rechargeables (2500 mAh is good) plus a fast charger. Here's how the L12 compares to other entry-level cameras when it has decent batteries in it:
There are a couple of cameras that I wanted to put in this list, but their battery life numbers were not available. They include the Olympus FE-210, Pentax Optio E40, and Samsung S730. The numbers that I do have show the Coolpix L12 coming in a bit below average, but look at the batteries Nikon used for the test: they're not very powerful. If you assume that going from 2000 mAh to 2500 mAh batteries will boost the numbers by 25%, the new CIPA number is around 460 shots/charge, which is well above average.
In case you haven't heard, I like cameras that use AA batteries. They're cheap, and when your rechargeables die you can just pull some regular alkalines off the shelf to get through the day. All of the cameras I listed above use AAs.
The Coolpix L12 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with. As you can see, it's a fairly small camera.
The L12 is one of a very small group of non-Kodak cameras to support ImageLink devices. The only device you'd probably use is one of Kodak's printer docks. Just be sure to attach the included adapter to the device before you put the camera on it!
There aren't too many accessories available for the L12. You can buy a pair of batteries (priced from $13) or an external charger (model MH-71, may be hard to find), though you'll find better deals elsewhere. There's also an AC adapter available (from $25), which will let you use the camera without draining said batteries. There's a camera case available by itself (from $10), or bundled with the batteries and charger (from $30).
Nikon includes version 1.7 of their PictureProject software with the Coolpix L12, and it's pretty good. The interface is reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto, and I found the software to be responsive and stable. For those of you with Intel-based Macs, I should mention that PictureProject is not a Universal application, which means that it doesn't run as fast as it could.
Anyhow, above you can see the standard thumbnail view that you'll get when you first start up PP. The size of the thumbnails is adjustable, and there's also a "details view" which displays shooting data next to your photos.
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll end up on the edit screen. Here you can adjust things like brightness, color, and sharpness. You can also straighten images or use Nikon's D-Lighting feature to brighten up dark areas of your photos. Auto image enhancement and redeye removal features are also available. PP also makes e-mailing and printing your photos a snap.
PictureProject also includes a "Design" feature which lets you create various layouts (such as greeting cards) for printing out your photos. You can also e-mail your photos, share them online (though this feature did not work for me), or burn them to a CD or DVD.
Also included is ArcSoft's PanoramaMaker software. This lets you take photos that you've lined up side-by-side (using the camera's panorama assist feature helps with this) and stitch them together into one giant panorama. It takes very little work on your part, and the results can be impressive.
The documentation for the Coolpix L12 is divided into two parts. You'll get a fold-out quick start guide to get you up and running, plus a full, printed user manual for when you need more details. While not spectacular, the manuals are a little more user-friendly than most. Plan on seeing a lot of "notes" on each page, though.
Look and Feel
Being an entry-level camera, it should come as no surprise that the Coolpix L12 is made of plastic. Despite that, the camera is pretty well put-together, with even the battery door being pretty solid. While the camera can be operated with one hand, there's not a lot of room for your right thumb, so you have to be careful not to accidentally push a button. Speaking of which, the L12 has more than its share of buttons, and the ones on the top of the camera are quite small.
Now here's a look at how the Coolpix L12 compares to the competition in terms of size and weight: