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Nikon L30

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Nikon L30 Review -- First Impressions

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Want a new camera to document your life, but working within the confines of a tight budget? A few years ago, you'd have had to settle for at best a 3x optical zoom lens and a relatively low-resolution sensor. With cameras like the Nikon L30, though, that's no longer the case -- you get quite a bit of both for your money.

A followup to the Coolpix L28, the Nikon L30 is very closely-related to that camera. The body has been subtly restyled, but it shares the same 20.1-megapixel, CCD image sensor as its predecessor, along with the same 5x optical zoom lens.

35mm-equivalent focal lengths range from a useful 26mm wide angle to a moderate 130mm telephoto. Maximum aperture is a rather dim f/3.2 at wide angle, and falls to f/6.5 by the telephoto position. The L28 had a built-in, electronically-controlled neutral density filter, but it isn't yet clear if this is retained for the L30.

In a concession to price, the Nikon L30's lens lacks true vibration reduction, instead relying on what Nikon terms "electronic vibration reduction" -- most likely, a simple raising of ISO sensitivity (and noise levels) so as to gain a higher shutter speed. But that's pretty normal at this price point.

Sensitivity varies from ISO 80 to 1600 equivalents, just as it did in last yeaar's camera, and the Nikon L30 uses matrix metering for all exposures, unless you're using digital zoom. (In which case, it meters an appropriate area at the center of the frame.) Burst shooting is possible at a sedate 1.1 frames per second for six frames.

Images are framed and reviewed on a 3.0-inch LCD monitor with a 230k dot resolution, pretty typical for the price. A five-step brightness adjustment is included, and Nikon now says that there's an anti-reflection coating, something that wasn't mentioned on last year's model.

Exposure is handled automatically, either in Program auto or Scene modes. The selection of scene types -- Back Light, Beach, Black and White Copy, Close Up, Dusk/Dawn, Fireworks Show, Food, Museum, Night Landscape, Night Portrait, Party/Indoor, Pet Portrait, Portrait, Snow, Sports, and Sunset -- is near-identical to those of the L28, although the Panorama Assist mode does seem to have been dropped. In its place is a new Glamor Retouch mode, which softens skin tones (as could the L28), but also adds rosiness to cheeks and lightens dark areas under the eyes.

A little less built-in memory -- 25MB vs. 27MB -- is available in the Coolpix L30, likely due to variance in the camera's firmware features. It's not a difference you'll likely notice in the real world, though -- either figure is pretty limited, and you'll be relying on the Secure Digital card slot (SDHC / SDXC compatible) to store your photos and movies.

Speaking of movies, you'll still be able to shoot high-def video with the Nikon L30, as well. Like last year's model, the new camera can capture 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) video at a rate of 30 frames per second, and also offers low-res VGA (640 x 480) and QVGA (320 x 240) options. And there's also a new voice memo function, which saves audio in WAV format.

The Coolpix L30 draws power from two standard AA batteries, and connectivity options include USB data or composite NTSC/PAL standard-definition video. Rated battery life with Alkaline disposables has improved just slightly, from 280 to 320 shots to CIPA testing standards.

Availability is set for February 2014, with a suggested retail price around US$120. Only one body color will be available: last year's black version has been dropped in favor of red only.