Nikon Coolpix L120 Review

February 25, 2011 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix L120 produces images of acceptable to good quality for a small-sensor superzoom camera. We have seen better image quality from cameras that cost significantly more, but at the price point it is being marketed at, the L120 does a commendable job. The lens is pretty sharp in the centre, and generally passable along the edges. Images taken at longer focal lengths tend to be less sharp than those captured in the wide to moderate telephoto range. Note that distortion correction is applied to all images automatically, with no manual override available. Chromatic aberrations are noticeable along contrasty edges, but are perfectly acceptable for a 21x zoom. Noise reduction is pretty heavy-handed, with the result being that none of the photos appear truly noisy, but the images lack fine detail, especially at the higher sensitivity settings. Photos taken at ISO 800 in neutral light print OK at 10×15cm / 4×6”, but ISO 1600 is best reserved for on-screen display only. The highest sensitivity settings of ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 - which are only available at a resolution of 3 megapixels to begin with - can really only be enjoyed if downsized to 640×480 pixels or less, i.e. Web size.


The Nikon Coolpix L120 has 8 sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 6400, although ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 are only available at a resolution of 3 megapixels. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix's 21x zoom lens provides a very versatile focal length of 25-525mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




Here are two 100% crops - the right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are slightly soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

At full resolution, there are two JPEG quality settings available including Normal and Fine, with the latter being marked with a star in the menu. The L120 does not save images in a Raw format.

Fine (5.08Mb) (100% Crop)

Normal (3.28Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Nikon Coolpix L120 kept chromatic aberrations largely under control during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Nikon L120 has a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix L120 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Off, On and Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m. Vignetting is not a major issue with the L120, irrespective of whether you use the flash or not.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (525mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (525mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Coolpix L120 is hardly the ideal tool for night photography, as the longest shutter speed is 2 seconds and you cannot set it manually. The shot below was captured at a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 400.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

The Nikon Coolpix S8100 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Off (100% Crop)

On (100% Crop)

1/8th sec / 25mm
1/2 sec / 525mm

Colour Options

The Nikon Coolpix L120 offers a range of colour options including Standard, Vivid, Black-and-White, Sepia and Cyanotype. The images presented here show the differences across these options.