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Nikon Coolpix L820 Preview

by Mike Tomkins
Posted 01/28/2013

More zoom reach can be a great thing, giving you more options for how to frame your shots without having to run back and forth, zooming with your feet. Make it affordable, and you've got a great proposition for consumers who've grown accustomed to reaching for their smartphones -- which seldom offer an optical zoom in the first place, let alone an ultrazoom. The Nikon Coolpix L820 takes last year's L810, and increases the zoom reach significantly, kicking that added value up another notch while retaining the same price tag. The Nikon L820's lens also sits in front of a new image sensor, now a CMOS chip instead of a CCD. In other respects, the L820 is quite similar to its predecessor, however.

At the heart of the Nikon Coolpix L820 is a new 16.0 megapixel CMOS image sensor. Its upper sensitivity limit of ISO 1,600 equivalent is unchanged from the L810, but it can now range as high as ISO 3,200 equivalent in Auto mode, where its predecessor was stuck at the lower limit even for Auto ISO. At the lower end of the scale, though, you can only get down to ISO 125, where the L810 was limited to ISO 80 or above.

The sensor sits behind a powerful Nikkor-branded 30x optical zoom lens, which covers a range from a 22.5mm to 675mm equivalents. That's everything from a very generous wide angle to an equally powerful telephoto, and the latter will prove much more usable thanks to the included lens-shift Vibration Reduction active. Maximum aperture starts from f/3.0 at wide angle, and falls to f/5.8 at telephoto.

On the rear of the Nikon L820, there's still a 3.0-inch LCD monitor, unchanged from the earlier camera. Also retains is the popup flash on the top deck, in what would be a prism housing if this was a real SLR.

Helping to make the camera more approachable are Nikon's Easy Auto mode and Smart Portrait system: these include functions like red-eye fix and face-priority AF, so it should be easy even for beginners to get the shot they're after. Nikon has also included a selection of Filter Effects functions that help get your creative juices flowing, plus a Glamor Retouch function that helps you to tweak portrait photos, by softening a subject's skin for example.

And as well as stills, you can also shoot videos, although we don't yet have any details regarding resolution, frame rate, etc. We do know that there's a dedicated video button, however, so it's clearly a feature Nikon intends photographers to spend a fair bit of time using.

The Nikon L820 includes USB 2.0 High-Speed data connectivity. Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. There's also a somewhat generous 65MB of internal memory, enough for a reasonable number of life-saving shots if you accidentally leave the house without a flash card.

Power comes from four standard AA batteries, great if you're often away from home -- or other power outlets -- for lengthy periods. Nikon says that the Coolpix L820 will be capable of capturing 540 shots on a set of NiMH rechargeables, a full 20% more than with the L810. If you use alkaline disposables, you'll get a still respectable 320 shots, and lithium disposables will get a whopping 870 shots.

Available from February 2013, the Nikon Coolpix L820 is priced at around US$280. Two body colors will be available: black or red.