Nikon Coolpix L26 Review
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The Nikon Coolpix L26 is a point and shoot digital compact camera with 16 megapixel resolution, 720p movie recording, a 5x optical zoom, 3-inch LCD screen and intelligent auto mode. Designed for ease of use over all else, it's aimed to appeal to the happy snapper that simply wants to take pictures and not have to worry about the settings. The Nikon Coolpix L26 is available in black, silver and red costing around £89.99 / $99.95.
Ease of Use
The Nikon Coolpix L26 follows in the tradition of the other models in Nikon's L series. It's an easy to use, small, lightweight digital compact camera designed to take all the hard work out of picture taking. The slim features of the camera are only broken by the grip that bulges at one end. It's handy for gripping the camera and also houses the two AA batteries that power it. On the front is a 5x optical zoom lens that starts at a 35mm equivalent of 26mm.
On the top is a small power button which is located next to the shutter release that has the zoom lever wrapped around it. The 3 inch screen takes up the majority of the back with all the buttons stuffed down the right side. 9 raised dots constitute as the thumb rest and the direct video button is there as well. Below is the tried and tested layout of four buttons around the circular navigation pad. The pad lets you move through menu systems in the camera but also doubles up as self timer, flash, macro and exposure compensation modes when the menu is not in use.
As an entry level camera, the Nikon Coolpix L26 is designed to keep the costs low so don't expect anything fancy. However it's a nice looking little camera. It's aimed at the complete amateur in the market for a camera that has a respectable brand name but doesn't boggle them down with science and manual over-riding features. What Nikon have done is secreted everything away so that the camera has some pretty cool tech under the hood but you can't get to it.
Looking at the hardware, the Nikon Coolpix L26 has an EXPEED C2 processor which is Nikon's dedicated image processing chip. It's the processor that converts the image into file data after boosting colours, sharpening edges taking away unnecessary information and reducing noise. It's not the fastest processor Nikon do but it's perfectly ample for this camera.
The Nikon Coolpix L26 is all about simplicity and Nikon are arguably the only company to remove ISO over-ride as standard. It's a big shout out to consumers that this is even easier to use than any other camera. But is that a good thing? The camera will need to have a highly intelligent computer to make sure it uses the right ISO to get the pictures as smooth as possible. But then will the type of person looking at this camera care about that? Well from a photography point of view, they should but that's not necessarily the case. That's not a bad thing though. No-one said you have to worry about these things and it's those worries that put people off buying a camera with lots of manual modes. Enter the L series. What the camera does have is a menu of different shooting modes for when you're in a certain scenario such as in a museum or watching fireworks. There's also a few colour options such as vivid, black & white, sepia and cyanotype.
The Nikon Coolpix L26 is built to a respectable standard for the price. It's a plastic casing and while we couldn't find much information about the internal structure, we assume it to be plastics based too. Although not as strong as a metal body, it makes the camera lighter which can be more important to some. It certainly feels solid enough and the AA batteries give it some weight. The tripod bush on the bottom of the camera is expectedly plastic. A small rubber door covers the USB port which is situated next to the battery compartment, the door of which feels sturdy with no play and a plate of metal to strengthen it.
Despite the USB port, you shouldn't really need it with a little investment. You see, the L26 is Eye-fi compatible. This means that with an Eye-fi SD card (Eye-fi X2 or later) you can wirelessly transmit your pictures to your computer, phone or tablet. The card works by storing transfer information until it hits a free wifi spot then uploads automatically.
Navigating around the Nikon Coolpix L26 is a simple affair. Pressing the green camera opens up shooting options such as easy auto, scene modes, smart portrait and auto. The smart portrait mode is great for kids and family shots. As well as the traditional red-eye fix (uses software to locate and eradicate red-eye completely), the camera also has skin softening software, a blink detector and smile detector. With the latter mode, the camera will take a picture as soon as it detects the subject smiling. You don';t have to hover over the shutter release button.
The main menu has been simplified to within an inch of its life. There are only four options in the shooting menu when the camera is in auto mode (the most manual mode the L26 has). Here you can change the resolution, adjust the white-balance, change the drive to continuous shooting or play with the previously mentioned colour options. The video menu has only two options for resolution and focusing modes. If you decide to switch to full time focusing on this, the camera will continue to adjust the focusing which is good for moving objects but will drain more power.
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We managed to get two pictures in the first second of using the continuous shooting mode and a further five in a 10 second period because the Nikon Coolpix L26 slows to download from the buffer onto the memory card. Start up time is pretty fast at under two seconds from pressing the power button to be able to take a picture. We also looked at shutter lag which we recorded at 0.08 seconds which is standard for a digital compact camera.
In playback the menu has a couple of features that are useful for editing. The D-Lighting option is a dynamic range expansion program. It works by retrieving detail in dark shadow areas and by capping burn out on highlights. The skin softening feature is useful for portraits if you forgot to use the smart portrait mode. On top of that there's options for creating a slide show, protecting your more treasured pictures from being accidentally erased, rotating and copying among others.
In the box there's a quick start guide which looks daunting as it's so thick but is in fact multi-lingual and the English version is only a few pages long. For the full manual, there's a CD inside. A second CD supplies Nikon View NX2 editing software. The cameras also comes with a wrist strap, batteries and a USB cable.