Nikon L110 Review
|Dimensions:||4.3 x 2.9 x 3.1 in.
(109 x 74 x 78 mm)
|Weight:||14.8 oz (419 g)
Nikon Coolpix L110
by David Elrich and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 08/31/2010
The Nikon Coolpix L110 is based around a 4:3 aspect ratio 1/2.3-inch CCD image sensor with an effective resolution of 12.1 megapixels, coupled with a Nikkor-branded 15x optical zoom lens. Maximum image dimensions are 4,000 x 3,000 pixels, and an alternate 16:9 aspect ratio is also available.
The Nikon L110's lens offers actual focal lengths ranging from 5.0 to 75.0mm, which equates to 28 to 420mm on a 35mm camera -- a rather tight wide-angle to a moderate telephoto. Maximum aperture varies from f/3.5 to f/5.4 across the zoom range.
Ordinarily the Nikon L110 can focus on subjects as close as one foot, but in macro mode this range is reduced to just 0.4 inches. Importantly, given the reach of the zoom lens, the Coolpix L110 does include true mechanical image stabilization -- specifically, sensor shift type. Images and movies are framed and reviewed on a 3.0-inch TFT LCD panel with 460,000 dot resolution.
The Coolpix L110 offers sensitivity ranging from ISO 160 to 1,600 equivalents at full resolution, and as high as ISO 6,400 equivalent at a resolution of three megapixels or below. The Nikon L110 offers 720p (1,280 x 720 pixel) movie recording with stereo audio.
The Nikon L110 stores images on Secure Digital cards, or in 43MB of built-in memory. Data transfer to a computer is catered for with a USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection. Power comes from four AA batteries, with lithium disposables in the product bundle. These are said to be good for 840 shots to CIPA standards, while Nikon's own EN-MH2 AA NiMH rechargeables should offer 500 shots.
The Nikon Coolpix L110 ships from February 2010, priced starting at US$280.
Nikon Coolpix L110
by David Elrich
Switching seats from a Porsche 911 into a Ford Fusion is simple enough but the driving experience certainly takes a tumble. Yet on the plus side, your wallet is certainly in better shape and the Ford gets you from point A to B, just like that famed German sports car. In other words it works but no one will swoon as you drive by. Enter the Nikon Coolpix L110 mega-zoom camera, the lower-priced sibling of the recently reviewed Nikon P100, a Dave's Pick. This 12-megapixel 15x zoom camera costs $280 versus $375 for the 10MP 26-678mm (26x) P100. There are other major differences between the two so let's see if this affordable "sedan" of a long-zoom digital camera is worth a spin.
Look and feel. The Coolpix L110 has a nice look, and like all large-zoom cameras has a DSLR look, but without the pain in your pocketbook. Not only that, the Nikon L110 offers the convenience of a wide focal length range without the need to swap lenses, or bring a camera bag to carry the lenses. The wide-angle 15x Nikkor lens dominates the front as does the Nikon logo on the manual pop-up flash. Also here is an AF Assist/self-timer lamp. Of note is a textured rubber grip, which helps ensure a solid handhold. With the four AA batteries loaded, the camera has a solid feel, but unlike a DSLR, it won't weigh you down. I found the grip very comfortable with no issues carrying it around all day. The Nikon L110 measures 4.3 x 3 x 3.1 (108.9 x 74.3 x 78.1mm) and weighs 14.8 ounces with batteries and card (419g).
The top of the Coolpix L110 gives a quick insight as to whom this camera is designed for--there's no mode dial here or on the back. You change modes via the menu system and it's a limited selection indeed. Simply put: this mega-zoom is for the point-and-shoot crowd. There's nothing wrong with that, but if you're looking for sophistication, you've dialed the wrong number. On top you will find a real plus: a stereo mic for better quality audio for your video clips. It sits behind the flash and a speaker is nearby. You'll also find the on/off button, and the shutter surrounded by zoom control at the front of the pistol grip. A pair of neck strap eyelets bracket the top.
The fixed-position 3-inch 460K pixel LCD screen takes up most of the camera's back. In theory this sounds solid but there were times when the color was just off while shooting indoors. We'll have more to say in the Shooting section.
Unlike higher-priced mega-zooms, the Nikon L110 does not have an EVF so you're at the mercy of the screen. To the right are the typical controls found on just about every digicam. There's a 4-way controller with a center OK button. The points of the compass give access to exposure compensation, macro, self-timer, and flash. Surrounding the controller are a green camera Mode button that lets you change shooting modes, with others for Playback, Delete, and Menu. A red dot button puts you in video mode. A notched thumb rest at the top right completes the rear layout.
On the right side is a compartment for the DC-in port for use with an optional AC adaptor, while a left side compartment has mini HDMI and USB out ports. Both compartment doors seem to have rather flimsy hinges, so I wouldn't yank on them with too much force. The bottom of the Nikon L110 has a metal tripod mount and a compartment for the four AA batteries and SD/SDHC memory card slot. It does not accept the latest SDXC cards. Nikon recommends Class 6 speed or better for shooting video, and who are we to argue?
Lens. Ranging from 28 to 420mm equivalent, the Coolpix L110's 15x zoom offers a nice wide-angle to a solid telephoto for closeups. It should do the trick for most users. There are 12 elements in 8 groups.
At 420mm you'll need all the help you can get keeping images sharp and the Nikon L110 uses image-sensor-shift and electronic VR for stills, just electronic for movies. This is not a sophisticated optical image stabilization system as found on many competing cameras including the P100. For more on this lens, see our test analysis below.
Modes. The lack of a mode dial hinted at the camera's limited shooting options. Forget the Program/Aperture Priority/Shutter Priority/Manual (PASM) of more sophisticated cameras. If you're looking for those options, the Nikon L110 should not be your choice. Nikon's L Series stands for Lifestyle while P Series means Performance. Need we say more?
Tap the green camera button and a row of icons appears on the left side of the Nikon L110's monitor. Using the 4-way controller you move up and down through the options which include Auto, Sports Continuous, Smart Portrait, Scene and Easy Auto. Auto is like Program AE where you can change resolution, white balance, ISO and color options (Standard, Vivid, B&W, and so on). Easy Auto is similar to Intelligent Auto where the Nikon L110 picks what it thinks is the appropriate Scene setting--Portrait, Landscape, Night portrait and so on (7 options). In this mode you can only change resolution, so it's a true aim-and-shoot setting.
Sports Continuous is one mode at the ready because in Auto the camera captures .35 frames per second, per IR tests. This is ridiculously slow and drove me crazier than I already am just shooting static scenes, let alone any fast action. In Sports Continuous mode, resolution drops to 2,048 x 1,536 (3.1 megapixels) so it grabs 11.1 fps for up to 20 shots. ISO gets pumped up as well. Smart Portrait is used when you're at a family gathering and faces are the name of the game. It's a combination of Face Detection and Smile Shutter, so it'll snap a shot when your subject smiles. Unlike competing models, the Nikon L110 handles up to three faces; others do far more. Scene gives access to 14 scene modes and they're pretty standard, but surprisingly there was no Fireworks option, a real bummer for Fourth of July and other fireworks celebrations.
Menu. The Nikon Coolpix L110 has very traditional, linear menus that seem dated in 2010. Hit Menu and the adjustable parameters change depending on the mode you're in. It's a limited selection with short phrases describing the option. On a positive side you can change the menus from text to icons. An iPhone it's not, but it's a little more interesting than straight text.
You can adjust ISO between 80-6,400, but that's really about it. The Nikon L110 automatically adjusts shutter speed between 1/1,000 to 2 seconds in Auto, while the range is a bit speedier in Sports Continuous (1/8,000-1/15). As we've stressed, your options are fairly limited with this baby.
Playback. Press the Nikon L110's Playback button and you can review your images forward and back one at a time using the 4-way controller. Using the toggle switch you can enlarge your shots up to 10x. Move the switch to the left and you move into thumbnail or calendar views. This is all fairly standard and easy to navigate. With the Nikon L110 you have to hit the green camera button to get out of Playback, rather than the simpler way of just pressing Playback once again. It's not the end of the world, just a different setup that you have to get used to.
Storage and battery. The Nikon L110 stores images on SD/SDHC memory cards, for a current maximum capacity of 32GB per card, but not the 64GB of SDXC media. A 4 to 8GB Class 6 card should be sufficient unless you plan to shoot a lot of HD video. There's 43MB of built-in memory.
The camera uses four AA batteries for juice, and the supplied lithium quartet last for 840 shots, per CIPA standard. Use traditional alkalines and this drops to 270. Since AAs are so readily available, you shouldn't have issues running out of gas. That said, opting for rechargeable NiMHs makes economic and ecological sense; they're rated to provide a solid 500 shots.
Shooting with the Nikon L110
I had the Nikon Coolpix L110 with me over the course of several weeks. Before getting into details let me say I didn't shed any tears sending it back to Imaging-Resource HQ. During the review period, I used the camera on the streets of New York City, during a 4th of July fireworks display, and took typical people and place photos. I shot at full resolution (4,000 x 3,000 pixels) and the videos were also full-res 720p HD. Once done I downloaded the stills and videos to my PC, made 8x10 full-bleed prints with no post processing, closely examined the files on a monitor and also reviewed them on an HDTV via HDMI.
Before getting into the results, let me state the Nikon L110 is very easy to operate with the key controls in just the right locations. The menus are simple to follow and given the camera doesn't really offer that many photographic options, that's something you should expect. The biggest bone of contention I had with the camera was simply the fact it's so slow as to be unbearable. Once you line up your subject, focusing is rather quick but with the shutter pressed completely, the screen goes black and you have to wait for the photo to be saved to the card. Most 12- and 14-megapixel point-and-shoots take slightly more than 1 frame per second. The Nikon L110 is .35 fps, per IR tests. In the real world this seemed more like .035. In case I haven't made myself clear enough, the Nikon L110 is really slow, making it appropriate for only static subjects--landscapes, cityscapes, posed portraits, and so on. Trying to grab any fast action with the Nikon L110 is a fool's errand.
What about that Sports Continuous mode--with its 11.1 fps at 3MP? Glad you asked. It's bad. I tried shooting fireworks with it and the ISO was pumped up so much the storm of noise reached blizzard proportions.
That's not to say the Nikon L110 is a total disaster. Walking the streets of New York, I captured many nice shots in bright sunshine including street lamps, building reflections, and skyscrapers. The 15x zoom, with its 28-420mm focal length, offers a solid range, which I used for broad building expanses as well as zeroing in on the faraway spires. Quality was good with fairly accurate colors and reasonably sharp detail. The VR Vibration Reduction system worked well, helping to eliminate blur at extreme telephoto.
That said, the camera still had issues. I took a wide shot of a pretty church then zoomed in the mosaics of St. Francis. Our lab showed that at telephoto blurring is much stronger in the far corners, particularly on the right. Telephoto results at the center of the frame are also just a little soft. This was very noticeable with my 8x10-inch prints.
The LCD held up for the most part--other than the many times it fades to black as the camera saves shots. Color is accurate but there are times when it smears in low light and briefly showed a strange color cast indoors. The lack of an EVF as found on the P100 is not the deal breaker.
My ISO results mirrored the IR lab with minimal effects of digital noise up to ISO 200 and 400 should be the max for typical use. Beyond that point, quality quickly slides downhill.
On a more positive note, the Coolpix L110 takes decent HD video clips with the added plus of stereo sound. When there's enough light--such as bright sunshine--flags flapping in the breeze will stir your patriotic soul. With a more challenging situation such as a fireworks display, the results weren't so great when shown on a 50-inch screen.
Overall, the Nikon Coolpix L110 serves a basic long zoom camera need, but is a bit too slow for quick follow-up shots. That makes it frustrating to use.
Nikon Coolpix L110 Lens Quality
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft in upper left corner
Tele: Slightly soft at center
Tele: Strong blurring, upper right corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Nikon Coolpix L110's zoom shows
moderate blurring in the corners of the frame, though blurring doesn't extend
very far into the image area. At telephoto, however, blurring is much stronger
in the far corners, particularly on the right. Telephoto results at the center
of the frame are also just a little soft.
Wide: Virtually no barrel distortion
Tele: A tiny amount of pincushion distortion
Geometric Distortion: The Coolpix L110 shows very little barrel distortion
at wide-angle (<0.1%), and just a hair of perceptible pincushion distortion
(0.1%) at telephoto. Great performance here.
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is quite bright,
with strong magenta and cyan pixels visible along the black target lines. At
telephoto, the effect is more moderate, though strong bluish pixels are visible
and bleed into the black target marks.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Nikon Coolpix L110's Macro mode captures a very minimum coverage
area at 0.94 x 0.70 inches (24 x 18mm), but details are somewhat fuzzy even
in the center of the frame. There's also strong chromatic aberration visible
in the left side of the dollar bill, as well as blurring in the corners. The
camera focuses so closely that the flash is ineffective, blocked by the camera.
Nikon Coolpix L110 Viewfinder Accuracy
Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor
Viewfinder Accuracy: The Nikon Coolpix L110's LCD monitor showed about
99% coverage accuracy at wide-angle, and about 98% at telephoto, which is a
little lower than average.
Nikon Coolpix L110 Image Quality
Color: The Nikon Coolpix L110 does a good job with color, though it
pushes bright reds and blues quite a bit. Strong yellows, oranges and greens
are much closer to the mark in terms of saturation, however. Hue is off for
colors like cyan and some pinks, as well as lighter skin tones, which skew toward
pink. Darker skin tones are a hint warm. Good results overall, however.
A bit too warm
Closer, but also quite warm
Very good, though slightly cool
Incandescent: Manual white balance did the best job under our
tungsten light source, though it does appear just a hint cool. Auto and Incandescent
settings produced warmer casts.
Horizontal: 1,700 lines
Vertical: 1,800 lines
Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,700 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,800 vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred at around 2,100-2,200 lines per picture height.
Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) is slightly dim at wide-angle, though the camera only raised ISO to 304. The telephoto test came out bright, though ISO was increased to 585 to achieve these results.
Auto flash produced very bright (actually too bright) results in our indoor
portrait scene, retaining very little of the ambient light with a slower shutter
speed of 1/30 second, and raising ISO to 209. Though most people can hand-hold
a camera at this exposure, it might better to control the ISO for less harsh
ISO: Noise and Detail: The Nikon Coolpix L110 handles noise fairly well
to about ISO 400, where details begin to soften and noise suppression efforts
become more evident. By ISO 800, luminance noise and noise suppression do their
damage, and color balance begins to shift as well. At the highest settings of
3,200 and 6,400, results are quite fuzzy despite the limited resolution (2,048
x 1,536 pixels). See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.
ISO 80 shots look good printed at 13x19 inches, with only slightly soft detail.
ISO 100 shots also look good at 13x19 inches.
ISO 200 images get soft enough at 13x19 inches that a size reduction to 11x14 inches is a better choice.
ISO 400 images are usable at 11x14, but pop again at 8x10.
ISO 800 images are also usable at 8x10, especially in darker scenes where there's less detail anyway. Shadows are slightly mottled, but that's reduced with a change to 5x7.
ISO 1,600 is better at 5x7.
ISO 3,200 is usable at 4x6, but slightly soft in all detail, and colors are somewhat hyper-saturated.
ISO 6,400 looks more like a watercolor when printed at 4x6. It's okay, but probably better avoided.
Overall, not a bad performance from the Nikon L110. Quality drops off more rapidly after ISO 400, but it's a sign of reasonable quality that ISO 3,200 shots are usable on such a small, inexpensive digital camera.
Nikon Coolpix L110 Performance
Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.44 second at wide-angle and 0.28 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.006 second, which is exceptional. However, our tester noted that timing was a little random, without any obvious reason (wide-angle ranging anywhere from 0.48 to 0.18 second).
Cycle Time: Cycle time is a little sluggish, capturing a frame every 2.86 seconds in single-shot mode, or 0.35 frames per second. According to Nikon, the L110's Sports Continuous mode supports bursts up to 11.1 frames per second for 20 frames at 3-megapixels.
Flash Recycle: The Nikon Coolpix L110's flash recycles in about 5.3 seconds after a full-power discharge, though again, our tester noted that this time was a little random and difficult to nail down precisely, as the camera gave no clear indication of when the flash was ready. (He had to continually half-press the Shutter button to find out the charge status.)
Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just above the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, though the camera was able to focus in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.
USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Coolpix L110's download speeds are moderately fast. We measured 4,753 KBytes/sec.
In the Box
The retail package contains the following items:
- Nikon Coolpix L110
- 4 AA Lithium batteries
- AV cable
- USB cable
- Lens cap
- Lens cap string
- Shoulder strap
- 20-page Quick Start Guide
- 144-page User's Manual
- CD-ROM with Nikon Transfer and ViewNX software
- Rechargeable NiMH batteries/charger
- Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card. These days, 4GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 8GB Class 6 should be a minimum.
- Medium camera case
Nikon Coolpix L110 Conclusion
Remember my earlier Porsche/Ford analogy? The Nikon Coolpix P100 is such a superior camera to the L110, it's ridiculous. I know there's a $100 price differential but this is one C-note well worth spending. Read my Nikon P100 review and you'll understand why it's a Dave's Pick, while the L110 does not quite rise that exalted position. My biggest gripe is the incredible slowness of the Nikon L110. One frame every three seconds is excruciating, and the Nikon L110 can take longer depending on the card you use. I couldn't help growling as I waited for the camera to finish saving files and the black screen to pop back to life. Image quality is reasonable, and the zoom lens does have a good reach, but the cycle time will really disappoint most users. If you're very meticulous about your pictures and don't mind a long delay after each shot, the Nikon L110 has a decent zoom range and comes at a good price, but you'll be a lot happier with something like the Nikon P100.
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