Nikon Coolpix L840 Review

May 20, 2015 | Jack Baker | |

Image Quality

Whilst the L840 may look a bit like a DSLR from the outside, inside is a tiny 1/2.3” image sensor just like you’d find in most compact cameras. As a result, image quality is no better than a camera a fraction of the size, but that’s not to say the L840 performs badly.

Photos snapped in daylight are vibrant, accurately exposed and look good when viewed at typical sizes. However, zoom in to 100% image size and the camera’s small-sensor limitations are evident. Detail isn’t quite as crisp as you might expect and is slightly smeared to a point that there can be a subtle watercolour effect.

This phenomenon becomes more apparent when shooting distant detail in landscapes, and also if you’re zoomed in, where the camera tends to ramp up the sensor sensitivity (and therefore increases its detail-smearing noise reduction processing) to help avoid camera shake.

Shooting in low light also causes a loss of detail due to overzealous noise reduction. Consequently grain is well subdued at ISO800, though colour speckling is apparent in areas of neutral tones. It’s slightly more of the same at ISO1600, but images taken at this sensitivity are still usable as detail loss isn’t too apparent when viewing at 50% image size or smaller. Even at ISO3200 noise levels aren’t distractingly high, and the L840 also improves on the outgoing L830 by adding an ISO6400 setting. This, however, is better for marketing than real-world use, such is huge image quality reduction caused by excessive grain, detail smoothing and low colour saturation.

There are few flaws with the L840’s 38 zoom lens though. Only a hint of barrel distortion is visible when shooting geometric subjects at maximum wide angle and there’s no noticeable pincushion effect when zoomed in. Corner sharpness is also respectable, however chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is easily visible around areas of high contrast.

Noise

The Nikon Coolpix L840 has seven sensitivity settings ranging from ISO125 to ISO6400 at full resolution.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

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ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

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ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg
   

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

 
iso6400.jpg  

Focal Range

The L840’s 38x zoom lens achieves a maximum wide-angle focal length equivalent to 22.5mm, and is capable of a telephoto reach of 855mm (in 35mm-camra terms).

22.5mm

855mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

File Quality

Shooting the Nikon Coolpix L840 at its maximum 16.0MP resolution with Fine JPEG compression quality produces images around 7MB in size. You can choose to downgrade to Normal quality at this resolution, whereby the file size roughly halves.

Fine (100% Crop)

Normal (100% Crop)

quality_fine.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Macro

The L840’s lens will focus as close as 1cm from your subject when the lens is at maximum wide-angle, and it even manages to focus fairly closely when zoomed in.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

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Flash

The pop-up flash on the L840 has four settings: Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Fill flash & Slow sync. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5m shows the flash provides even illumination with the lens zoomed in, though some minor vignetting is visible in the wide-angle shot.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (22.5mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (22.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (855mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (855mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Whether the flash is set to standard Auto mode or Auto with red-eye reduction, the camera successfully avoids any trace of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
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Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

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Vibration Reduction

Getting sharp shots at the kind of long focal lengths the L840’s lens is capable of would be almost impossible without Vibration Reduction. This scene was captured at 1/13-second with VR enabled and 1/10-second with the system off. With identical aperture and ISO sensitivity settings, Vibration Reduction has made all the difference between a blurred and crisp image.

Vibration Reduction On (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction Off (100% Crop)

antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

Night

This mode includes two sub settings: Tripod and Handheld. In Tripod mode the L840 captured this scene at the base ISO125 sensitivity with a 1-second exposure to reduce image noise and maximise detail. In Handheld mode the results are similar to leaving the camera set to Auto, as it resorts to ISO1600 to achieve a faster shutter speed.

Night Handheld

Night Handheld (100% Crop)

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Night Tripod

Night Tripod (100% Crop)

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Effects

The L840 offers nine filter effects, all of which are previewed live and recorded at full resolution. Your options are: Soft, Nostalgic sepia, High-contrast monochrome, Selective colour, Pop, Cross Process, Toy camera effect 1, Toy camera effect 2, and Mirror.

Soft

Nostalgic Sepia

effects_01.jpg effects_02.jpg
   

High Contrast Monochrome

Selective Color

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Pop

Cross Process

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Toy Camera 1

Toy Camera 2

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Mirror

 
effects_09.jpg  

Easy Panorama

The L840’s panorama mode (hidden away in the ‘Scene’ setting on the mode dial), enables you to take 180-degree or 360-degree pans. Results are generally free from any stitching anomalies and are fairly detailed. However, the final size is a relatively small 4800x920 resolution for standard 180-degree pans, and 9600x920 for wide 360-degree rotations. The system also occasionally throws a wobbly at the start of a pan and fails to record.

panorama1.jpg

panorama2.jpg