DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix L5
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The Coolpix L5 ($299) is the top-end camera in Nikon's entry-level camera lineup. There's a Coolpix L6 out there, but it's not nearly as impressive as the L5, and here's why. For one, it has a big 5X lens in a body that normally would have a 3X lens. Second, it has optical image stabilization -- lens based -- so you can get sharp photos in situations with less-than-desirable light. Other features include a 7.2 Megapixel CCD, 2.5" LCD display, numerous scene modes, and a VGA movie mode.
How does the Coolpix L5 compare with other cameras in its class? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Coolpix L5 has an average bundle. Inside the box you'll find:
In 2005 Nikon started building memory into their cameras instead of putting a memory card in the box. The Coolpix L5 has a paltry 8MB onboard, which holds a just two photos at the highest quality setting. I probably don't need to tell you to buy a memory card right away. The L5 uses SD and MMC memory cards, and I'd suggest 512MB or 1GB as good starter sizes. Nikon recommends using a high speed memory card (60X or above) if you plan on using the VGA movie mode, so it's probably spending a little more for one of those.
Like all of the cameras in the Nikon L-series, the L5 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. Now, let's put some decent batteries in the camera and see how it compares with the competition in terms of battery life:
In the chart above, the Coolpix L5's battery life numbers are below average. However, Nikon used low power 2000 mAh batteries for their tests, which makes this a poor comparison. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that with 2500 mAh batteries, the L5 would have a number of around 310, which is 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.
The Coolpix L5 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with.
There are just a few accessories available for the L5. First up is an AC adapter (priced from $28), which powers the camera without draining your batteries. Speaking of batteries, Nikon sells those too (priced from $7), though they're really lacking in the power department -- you can do better. There's also a battery charger ($25) available for charging any NiMH cells. To protect your camera, Nikon sells a neoprene case (from $8) for the L5. There's also an accessory kit that includes the case, batteries, and charger for around $30.
Nikon includes version 1.7 of their PictureProject software with the Coolpix L5. The interface is somewhat reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto, and I found the software to be responsive and stable. The default view can be seen above, and it's your standard thumbnail setup.
A view showing shooting data is also available. Double-clicking on an image brings up the image edit window:
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.
You can also use PictureProject to e-mail or print your photos, and you can burn them to a CD as well.
The documentation for the Coolpix L5 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. The main manual seems a little more user friendly than other Nikon documentation that I've seen lately -- maybe since the L5 is supposed to be more of a beginners camera.
Look and Feel
The Coolpix L5 is a compact (but not tiny) camera made mostly of plastic. Despite its plastic body, the camera feels quite solid, especially given its sub-$300 price tag. Heck, even the battery compartment cover is pretty solid. The camera's important controls are easy to reach, and the L5 can be operated with just one hand.
Now here's a look at how the Coolpix L5 compares to the competition in terms of size and weight: