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Nikon Coolpix L1 6.2MP Digital Camera

Date: April 1, 2006
Author(s): Rob Williams

If you are looking for an entry level camera, is the L1 a good choice? The camera has it’s share of problems, but does the great picture quality make up for it’s other issues?


Most people who build their own computers realize how many options there are… there’s a million combinations of hardware. Most times though, enthusiasts will know what they are going to buy even way before they order the parts. Buying a digital camera is no different, and could prove even more difficult. There are a countless amount of different makes and models out there, it could prove extremely frustrating if you don’t know too much about cameras.

There are many camera manufacturers on the market, and Nikon is undoubtedly one of the most prolific. They have been making cameras for many decades and continue to release new models on a regular basis. Earlier this year, they announced that they would stop producing many of their film cameras and focus primarily on the digital side of things. The camera we are taking a look at today was released late last year, and is designed for the every day snapshot taker who wants an easy way to get quality pictures.

Let’s take a quick look at some specs and features that the camera offers:

Closer Look

In the Coolpix line, there are three main themes that Nikon assigns: Life, Style and Performance. Life is the entry level theme and is what the L1 is considered. It’s designed for people who want a good performing camera for an entry level price. Of course if you are interested in more features, you can opt to shell out more cash for a larger model, but the Life cameras are perfectly suited for anyone who loves taking snapshots.

The camera comes in a nice clean white box that’s tightly packed. The first thing you will pull out is the included PictureProject software and the rather thick manual. I did not take a look at the software during this review.

Included of course is a USB cable so you can extract the photos off the camera and into your computer. Also included though is an Audio/Video cable so that you can connect the camera to your television. One extra I was pleased to see was two rechargeable batteries and a charger. Many digital cameras leave the consumer who purchase these completely separately. This saves time and money.

The camera looks as you’d expect an entry level to look like. The lens helps this camera stand out from other brands, though. The 5x Nikkor lens has a 38-190mm focal length and is equivalent to a 35mm film camera format. The max aperture is f/2.9-5.0 which should allow for some good zoom shots. Another thing that helps the L1 stand out a bit is the large 2.5″ LCD screen on the back. This comes at the loss of a viewfinder though.

In total, there are a total of 13 buttons on the camera which do everything from snapping the photo to bringing up the menu. The buttons are all self explanatory and are easy to use. On each side of the OK button, you have the contrast control, timer, macro setting and flash setting. When you are inside the menu, these buttons also act as navigation.

Compared to the two year old Pentax Optio 30, the L1 is only a tad larger.

Inside the menu, you have countless options available. You can adjust the picture output resolutions, white balance, color balance, macro settings and much more.

Overall, there’s nothing really mind blowing about the camera, but the lens is probably better than you will find on similar models elsewhere.

Image Quality

One of the best ways to show off a cameras capabilities is to grab some macro shots. Of course whenever flowers or interesting objects are along the way, it gives a good chance to take some macro shots. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. You can view full versions of the images by following the links below each. Warning though, the full resolution images are near 1MB each.

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

1024*1365 ~ 2112*2816

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

1024*768 ~ 2818*2112

One thing the L1 excels at is the ability to retain the correct coloring and shading of your picture. Really, what you see is what you are going to get when it’s on your PC. Compared to some other cameras I have used, this one does an outstanding job of keeping the natural colors that we seen in the first place. Speaking of comparisons… let’s compare some shots with a Casio Exilim.

Image Quality Comparison

To compare photo quality to another camera, I used the Casio Exilim EX-Z120. Casio isn’t a major name in cameras but the Exilim is actually quite good for the price range. It’s got a slightly larger resolution capability, at 7.2MP and has a 7.9-23.7mm / 1:2.5-5.1 lens.

Note: All of these pictures are completely un-edited minus the addition of the camera name. Please excuse the dirty keyboard!

This was an interesting test, because I love taking macro shots. The L1’s color was actually quite off when you look at the keyboard, while the Casio was smack on..

As mentioned in the previous page, the L1 is able to retain the great natural colors of outdoor scenes. The following is a great example of this.

One quick benefit of the L1 is that it has a better zoom capability than the Exilim. I was able to get much better close ups of the following objects, but the quality output from each camera is very close.


The Coolpix L1 has a lot to offer, and there’s no doubt it’s a decent camera for the first time camera user or someone who just wants the ability to take really quick photos without worrying about them looking horrible. Fact is though, this camera is probably not the best choice as it stands. There are a few problems that just may sway you away from a purchase.

First things first. I found the batteries would die unbelievably fast. I never actually timed it during use, but they died far quicker than I expected. This was using the included batteries and my own personal rechargeable batteries. The second main problem is the delay between picture taking. Heck, the camera is slow in general. Turning it on takes about three seconds. If you suddenly need to take a quick picture, the load times of the camera will probably get on your nerves after a while.

Even though I didn’t share any videos taken with the camera, you are not missing much of anything. Not that great video quality is expected from any digital camera, the noise level in the ones taken with the L1 were horrible. These are the primary issues I had with the camera. Perhaps if I owned the camera and used it on a regular basis, some opinions may change, or I could very well find more problems, I don’t know.

Ahem. Besides the fact that the camera is clunky, it does take some great pictures, although some will need tweaking. Some outdoor pictures, especially of a rather large landscape came out over exposed. As you can see in the picture of my back yard though and in some others, the color the camera captures is extremely nice. The 5x optical zoom is welcomed when attempting for great macro shots. As you can see in some of the photos, it pulls off these shots pretty well.

Overall, I am awarding this camera a 7 out of 10. The only reason it doesn’t receive a 6 is because the camera does take rather good pictures for the most part and the coloring is great. This is still a good camera for the average photo snapper, but you may want to look elsewhere for a less stressful camera to use :)

If you wish to discuss this review, please feel free to do so in our related thread!

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