Nikon Coolpix L31 Review

November 5, 2015 | Matt Grayson | |
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Image Quality

You can adjust the resolution of the Nikon Coolpix L31 and in our test, all pictures except the file size test were taken in 16 megapixel Fine mode (designated by a star in the menu). Images in the Fine mode recorded at around 6.4Mb on average while the 16 megapixel Normal setting produced images around 3.2Mb.

Looking at the pictures, there's no real discernible difference between the two. They both look as sharp as each other and both have lots of detail. The lower setting does have the advantage of freeing up more memory space if you're running out before downloading.

Noise

The sensitivity range on the Nikon Coolpix L31 starts at ISO 80, but we couldn't seem to get the camera to use that setting in the lighting set up we used. Because the L31 has no manual control over ISO we had to be creative and reduce the amount of light available in the studio by simply moving the light away from the subject. Despite our light being at full strength, the camera still chose ISO 200 as the first setting. It's likely that the lowest setting is reserved for extremely bright sunlight.

At ISO 200, images look smooth enough, so any setting lower than that should also be pleasing enough to the eye. Looking at the test shot at 100% magnification, we'd be lying if we said there was no noise. Small spots of bright blue sporadically litter the darker areas of the shot. That's quite unsettling, though the sharpness of the image shows that there's no noise control at work. Not so at ISO 500, which is the next setting we managed to record. Detail has been smoothed out in a bid to remove unwanted colour noise which gives the image a milky feeling. At ISO 800 and despite the camera's best efforts, blue colour noise is over powering the capabilities of the noise reduction software.

Our final setting of ISO 1000 shows the camera upping it's game and getting rid of that colour. We even managed to keep some colour in the picture from the subject, which has to be a positive result.

ISO 20 (100% Crop)

ISO 500 (100% Crop)

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ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1000 (100% Crop)

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Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix L31 has a 5x optical zoom which reaches from 26mm at wide-angle to 130mm in 35mm terms. It's a modest zoom range that will cover most of the things you want to photograph. Definition at the edges of the frame while at wide-angle is still good. We couldn't determine any bad barrel distortion and while the picture was less sharp, it's to be expected and wasn't as bad as it could have been on a camera at this price point.

26mm

130mm

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Sharpening

Pictures taken with the Nikon Coolpix L31 certainly do benefit from a little boost in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop. We found that just the basic sharpening can increase the quality of the image but really only when shot at low ISO. Anything higher than ISO 200 and you run the risk of exacerbating the noise that comes in on the picture.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

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Chromatic Aberrations

We found chromatic aberration on many photographs. It occurs particularly on higher contrast edges. Although they don't have to be as contrasty as we'd like. It also mostly happens in the edges of the frame, which is to be expected, but if there's a bright background – say some tree branches in front of the sky – then it can appear nearer the centre of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

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Macro

Close focusing on the L series of Nikon's Coolpix range has never been spectacular and they're not going to start now. The closest you'll be able to effectively focus with the L31 is 10cm while in macro mode and staying within the green bar on the zoom range.

Nikon's have an annoying trait of seeming to lose focus ability if you stray too close. Part of our test is to get as close as we can and we edge the camera in and test the focus in case it gets closer. When the camera can't focus, we edge back out to the previous spot and refocus again to take the test shot. With the Nikon you can't always do that. We found ourselves having to back away further to get the camera to lock focus. It's as though it had to reset itself.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

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Flash

These days flash systems built into even the most budget models of Nikon are intelligent enough that they won't bleach out skin tones unless they're at an incredibly close range. Essentially, as long as you keep a distance of 0.5m at wide-angle you'll be OK. With portraits, we didn't encounter any red-eye to speak of, so the red-eye reduction feature was redundant in our test However, should you get it on your photographs, as well as the red-eye reduction in the flash menu, there's a red-eye removal system in the Playback menu.

Aside from the natural shade on our test wall, we didn't notice any vignetting that was caused by the camera. Both at wide and zoom, flash on or flash off. The images came out very similar to each other which shows how intelligent the flash system really is.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (130mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (130mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The Nikon Coolpix L31 does have a red-eye reduction mode but there's little point in using it. Whenever we tried it, the flash with out red-eye never captured any.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
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Night

The Nikon Coolpix L31 has a Night scene setting in the Scenes menu and is depicted by a building with a moon behind it. In this mode, the camera expects you to use a tripod or something to rest the camera on. It will use a low ISO (although still at ISO 400), and a longer exposure to get the image. The darker image of the two is actually the most accurate to the conditions.

In Auto mode, the camera has ramped up the ISO to 1600 to ensure it can be hand-held without getting a long exposure which would cause camera shake. The result is a noisy, over exposed image with distorted colours. The camera was only trying to do the right thing, though, but this is the problem with only having auto ISO modes.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)

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Nigh Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

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