Nikon L620 Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Want a comfortable, reasonably compact camera with a far-reaching zoom lens? It makes a great combination, especially for travel. (Airline carry-on limits get ever-stricter, and the fees for bringing too much luggage ever more expensive, but a short zoom's bound to leave you wanting when you get to your destination.) That's the niche the 18.1 megapixel, 14x optical zoom Nikon Coolpix L620 is aimed at filling, much as did last year's Nikon L610.
Indeed, the L620 follows closely in the footsteps of that camera. It has almost the same body, save for subtle tweaks to styling. Key among these is a slight notch on the inside of the handgrip, giving your fingers a little extra purchase. Things aren't hugely different on the inside either: the lens is unchanged, and there's only a very slight boost in resolution.
The new CMOS imager sports a total of 18.1 megapixels, up from a 16.1 megapixel resolution in the L610. Despite the additional pixels, the sensitivity range of the new model is unchanged, topping out at ISO 3,200 equivalent.
In front of the sensor sits an optically-stabilized, 14x optical zoom lens with a generous range from a 25mm wide angle to a 350mm telephoto. Maximum aperture starts off at a not-terribly-bright f/3.3, and falls to f/5.9 by telephoto, so you'll want plenty of light on your subjects to get good results. As with almost all fixed-lens cameras, the Nikon L620 relies on contrast-detection autofocus, but it does boast a new target-finding AF mode that should hopefully translate to a greater proportion of "keepers".
You'll frame and review your images on the Nikon L620's 3-inch LCD panel, which has a resolution of around 460,800 dots. (That's an HVGA array, or in other words, half of the typical 640 x 480 pixel VGA array.) The dot count is middle-of-the-road, about double that of the typical entry-level camera, but half that of higher-end compacts. There is, not surprisingly, no optical or electronic viewfinder on this model.
A built-in flash strobe is included, which pops up above the lens at the flick of a mechanical slider on the L620's rear. There is no external flash connectivity on the Coolpix L620.
Nikon is aiming the L620 at consumers rather than more experienced photographers, and so it has sensibly included some ease-of-use features that try to ensure good results without too much work. These include a selection of Scene modes that tweak settings for common shooting situations, plus an Easy Auto mode that aims to do everything for you -- even figuring out the scene type.
The L620 can also locate your subjects using face detection, and automatically fix red-eye in flash photos. A Quick Retouch function includes the ability to smooth skin tones for more flattering portraits, and the L620 also provides a variety of filter effects that let you unleash your creative side. New effects include Monochrome and Sepia.
And you can also shoot movies. Here, the L610's frame rate limit has been relaxed: You can now shoot Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) movies at an interlaced rate of 60 fields per second, as well as the existing progressive-scan 30 fps mode. Also new is stereo audio, in place of the earlier model's monaural microphone.
Power comes courtesy of two AA batteries, another nice touch for a travel camera. Getting to a power point when on the road isn't always easy, but AA batteries are pretty ubiquitous. If you can find even the most basic store, you can probably get some more juice to shoot more photos. (Just make sure you have enough flash cards for the trip!)
The Nikon Coolpix L620 ships from September 2013, with suggested retail pricing around US$250. Two body colors will be available: either black or red.