Nikon Coolpix L310 Review
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The Nikon Coolpix L310 is a 14.1-megapixel superzoom camera with a 21x optical zoom lens (25-525mm), sensor-shift Vibration Reduction, 720p HD movie recording with stereo sound and a 3-inch LCD screen. Other highlights include 17 scene modes and Nikon’s Smart Portrait System with Smile Timer, Blink Proof and Red Eye Fix and Skin Softening technologies, a 1cm macro mode and AA battery power. Available in black, the Nikon Coolpix L310 officially retails for £199.99 / €236 / $199.95.
Ease of Use
Nikon have been making these super zooms for many a year so by the time they released the Coolpix L310, they should have it all nailed down. Indeed, the controls are positioned in a way that they're easily available to searching fingers or thumbs. All the functions are set to the right of the camera so that the left hand can be used to hold it steady. Excepting the flash release button which is situated on the left of the flash housing unit.
Shaped roughly like a box, the Nikon Coolpix L310 has a large grip for holding easily and - if you're daring - you could try some one handed shooting. Probably best not at full zoom though. The size of the grip is multi-functional, though. As well as allowing you to hold on to the camera a lot easier than if it wasn't there. It also acts as a counter balance for the large lens barrel that holds the 21x optical zoom. The focal range of the camera is 4.5 – 94.5mm or 25 – 525mm in 35mm terms. The grip also holds the four AA batteries that slot into the bottom of the camera next to the SD card. SD stands for Secure Digital and is the type of card that is accepted in the Nikon Coolpix L310. There are multiple types available and the L310 takes every version including the newest, which is the SDXC card.
Only the power button and shutter release adorn the top plate with the zoom rocker circling the latter. A large speaker sits next to these buttons with the microphone located just behind the flash unit. On the back, a 3 inch LCD fills most of the space available so the buttons have to be crammed into a tight space on the right of the camera. Still, there's enough space for a decent sized thumb rest. At the top of the Nikon Coolpix L310, the button with the red spot is for direct video recording. This allows you to start recording video without having to access the video mode in the menu system. This feature appeared a few years ago on some Casio cameras but it's unclear who actually developed the idea as many manufacturers brought out similar cameras at the same time.
The resolution of the Nikon Coolpix L310 is 14 megapixels. This gives a resolution dimension of 4320x3240 pixels on a 1/2.3 inch CCD sensor. It's interesting that Nikon haven't shoved a couple of extra million pixels in there just to make it a little more tempting to the point and shoot crowd who think resolution is the most important factor in a digital camera. Obviously, you're more clued up than that. In fact on a small sensor like this, a lower resolution is a benefit.
The L310 is a mix of build qualities. For example, the casing is plastic which is typical of the L series cameras (L stands for Lifestyle and is the budget range of Nikon digital compact cameras). The camera is powered by four AA batteries which – while it's not necessarily a bad thing – you rarely find a camera more expensive that takes AA's, preferring rechargeable lithium ion versions. AA batteries are advantageous because they can be found in many shops around the world which is useful for holidays and gap years. However, despite a surge in battery technology in recent years, they still don't last as long as lithium ion do. They're also considerably heavier which can have its downsides when walking around for a day, however it also balances out the weight of the lens.
On the flip side, the battery door is well made with sturdy plastic and a lot of metal on the back to conduct the power and adds to it's integrity. The tripod bush is also made of metal. Now, this is something that's previously been the benchmark to say whether it's a budget camera or has had some money ploughed into it. Cameras in the range of the L310 generally have a plastic tripod bush, but this one is metal. It's refreshing to see that good quality items are being fitted into what would be classed as a cheap camera.
Because of where the Coolpix L310 stands in the Nikon range, the menu systems have been designed to be as simple to use as possible. The camera offers two menus; a simple Mode menu for determining the mode you wish to shoot in and the Main menu for drilling down into the more indepth features that the L310 has to offer. To access the Mode menu, press the button with the green camera icon. There's five options available including Auto (situated at the bottom despite being arguably the most used mode), Sport continuous, Smart portrait, Scene mode and Easy auto. This latter mode has been designed to make everything as worry free as possible. All you, have to do is point, zoom and press a button. The camera will decide if you're taking a portrait or landscape or macro shot (for example) and choose the appropriate mode to use to get the best results.
The Main menu is accessed via the Menu button at the bottom of the Nikon Coolpix L310. There are three tabs to the left of the screen for different sections of menus. They're allocated an icon depending on the modes that are available in it. The camera icon is for shooting modes and holds features such as resolution, ISO, continuous shooting, white-balance and colour options. The video camera represents the Video section. It allows yout o change the resolution of the video recording, focus modes, image stabiliser (on or off) and Enhanced resolution. The final icon (a spanner) is for the more core features of the camera. This area is reserved for features that you'll use rarely or will affect the way the camera operates at a computer level (ie; not picture taking). Therefore, it allows you to change things from the trivial such as the Welcome screen you see when you switch the camera on, to more important features such as formatting the card, selecting the language and setting the time & date.
The menus are very easy to follow and Nikon have made them that way purposefully. The black background of the menu has grey pages with white writing on them. The highlighter is yellow so it's easily distinguishable.
From a cold start (switched off), the Nikon Coolpix L310 can power up, focus and take a picture in a little under 2.5sec. That's on the leaner side of average, so it's a good result. In continuous mode, we managed to take eight pictures in a 10 second period. That's just under 1 frame a second, which isn't brilliant, but should be sufficient for basic use. It won't capture the stages of a balloon popping, but it will record a horse running over a reasonable distance, for example. Shutter lag is around the standard time of 0.08sec.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The playback mode can be accessed whether the camera is switched on or off. Pressing the playback mode for around 5 seconds will open the playback mode when the camera is off. A simple tap will suffice when it's on. The images will appear full screen and you can make them smaller or zoom in by toggling the zoom lever. Basic shooting information will display for around five seconds before leaving just the battery icon on the screen with the shot. There's no way to add extra information. You're stuck with The date & time, file number, resolution and image number in the sequence.
In the playback menu, you can improve your pictures slightly such as adding D-Lighting (enhances detail in shadows and caps burn out on highlights). There's provision to set a slide-show, protect any images you need to keep without risk of accidental erasing, copy and set a print order. The spanner icon accesses the same set-up menu as found in the shooting Main menu.
As soon as you open the box, you're faced with the two CDs which hold various information and software such as the full Users manual in various languages and View NX2 which is a type of editing and filing software program. There's also a quick start guide, European warranty information and a safety leaflet. Under this paraphernalia is the camera, a set of AA batteries, a neck strap and a lens cap.