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In case you hadn’t noticed it, there has been a rush to the door of maxi zooms in compact digital cameras: Canon hit first, with a 35x, rapidly followed by a 30x model.
Examples at full wide and full tele: Nikon joins the throng with this camera, sedately traveling along with a 21x zoom that equates to a 35 SLR range of 25-525mm, which should satisfy many long lens lovers and Nikon devotees.
The L120 goes further and provides capture to a 14.1 megapixel CCD.
The L120’s body shape is an attractive, compact unit before power is activated. Lens extended, no more than 22mm is added to the unit’s depth.
The deeply set and noticeably textured speed grip provides a solid hold, with power switch sitting under the right thumb, zoom near to the right forefinger; single-handed operation is enjoyably comfortable.
New to digicams is an additional (left) side zoom control that aids steady two-handed operation of the camera. Once you use it you’ll wonder why nobody has come up with one before!
There is no optical finder but the rear LCD screen is a generous 7.5cm with a high 921,000 pixel resolution. Maximum JPEG image size is 4320×3240 pixels, resulting in a 37x27cm print.
Movies are adequately if not brilliantly served with a maximum res of 1280×720 pixels at 30fp. A welcome feature is the prominent movie record button, just south of the power button.
Beginners will appreciate the large collection of scene modes that can virtually guarantee successful capture of shots taken at the beach, at night, dusk/dawn etc.
Face detection in the L120 has taken a novel turn: not only can the camera sense a smiling face but it will also recognise the faces of dogs or cats.
Many travelers will welcome the use of easily available AA power cells (alkaline/lithium/NiMH) as the camera’s motive force, although I have to confess I was a little rattled when changing the memory card and managed to inadvertently dump all the batteries onto the floor!
And a note about the image stabiliser: image steadiness is achieved by means of a shifting image sensor combined with digital means for stills; movie shooting is stabilised by digital means only.
From ISO 80 to 800 I found all parameters to be acceptable in terms of noise, colour quality and definition.
At ISO 1600 definition dropped slightly while image noise was not objectionable.
Then at ISO 3200 and 6400 the bomb dropped: definition down, colour pretty awful and noise you could almost feel. ISO 6400 was unusable.
Then another problem: at ISO 3200 and 6400 the maximum image size fell to 2048×1536 pixels. When judging these two examples bear in mind that they undergo a lesser size reduction to conform with Internet sizing.
Quite quick: about two seconds from power on to first shot; follow-ons about a second apart.
Very slight barrel distortion was visible at the wide end of the zoom; at the tele end almost nil pincushion distortion. An excellent performance.
Quality: the 21x zoom is certainly an enjoyable lens to use but, as I have mentioned before with these maxi zooms, you bang your head against atmospheric haze when using the tele end of the zoom. Use with care.
In other respects, the L120 is a respectable picture taker with above average definition and colour capture.
Why you would buy it: you’re a Nikon lover; you want a compact maxi zoom; the price!; the price!.
Why you wouldn’t: you want more exposure control.
This is an ideal companion to a DSLR, easy to stow and use.
Image Sensor: 14.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: 256 segment matrix, centre-weighted average, spot.
Sensor Size: 11mm CCD.
Lens: Nikkor f3.5-5.8/4.5-94.5mm (25-525mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Shutter Speed: 4 to 1/4000 second.
Continuous Shooting: 0.7 images/second (total 19 4320×3240 pixel shots); 15.3 images/second (total 20 2048×1536 pixel shots).
Memory: SD, SDHC, SDXC cards plus 102MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4320×3240 to 640×480. Movies: 1280x720p, 960×540, 640×480 at 30 fps.
Viewfinders: 7.5cm LCD (921,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 80 to 6400. Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV, DC.
Power: 4AA alkaline/lithium/NiMH, DC input.
Dimensions: 109.9×76.5×78.4 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 431 g (inc batteries and card).
Price: Get a price on the Nikon COOLPIX L120 at Amazon.