Nikon Coolpix L310 Review
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
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.
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 lowest sensitivity rating on the Nikon Coolpix L310 is ISO 80. The results from this setting look great. There's no noise evident in any pictures with this rating, edge definition is sharp and the colours are faithfully reproduced. However, to use this setting, you have to have the camera in the brightest light possible and either not zoom in or use a tripod. This is one of the main drawbacks with having a long lens with a tiny sensor; the lack of light. This loss in available light means you more often than not have to ramp the ISO up. We shot on auto ISO in our sample shots to get a variety of results as well as see if there was a minimum setting the camera wouldn't go below. While there's no discernible pattern, we found that the camera would generally stay around ISO 800 if no sky was in the shot – even when flash was used.
Being highly critical, there's a smidgen of noise starting to creep in to the darker areas of our test images but it can only be seen at full magnification. Normal viewing will have no bearing on it and we're perfectly happy with our shots at ISO 100. Start to step through the ranks and it becomes more noticeable even from ISO 200. Green spots appear in the darker sections which exacerbates at ISO 400 as well as a noticeable drop in sharpness. Edge definition begins to suffer as the noise reduction takes it's toll.
At ISO 800, noise reduction software tries to remove colour noise by desaturating the picture. This affects natural colour in the image and they start to look wishy washy. Edge definition is beginning to fail more dramatically at this setting. By ISO 1600, the noise reduction software has removed all detail from black areas in a bid to reduce noise. Edges are looking dicey and colours are even more pallid. The final two stages use a reduced resolution in order to remove some of the noise issues by allowing the pixels that are in use to try and remain cool. Heat generated from neighbouring pixels can create a type of digital noise. By spacing them out, it's less likely to affect the pixels that remain in use. Image detail returns to a degree but colours are still bland. By the final ISO 6400 setting, even the image detail has started to decay.
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)
The focal range of the Nikon Coolpix L310 is 4.5 – 94.5mm or 25 – 525mm in 35mm terms. Surprisingly, that's pretty low by today's standards. It's a 21x and with cameras coming out now with up to 40x optical zoom, a 21x seems as though it's coming up a little short. Still, it got us closer to where we wanted to photograph but couldn't either through restrictions of the area we were in or general lethargy. At wide angle, there's a degree of barrel distortion.
We found that in images where there's a lot of fine detail, adding to the already sharpened images won't help in the slightest. However, with images that have clean lines or simple detail, it can help to run the pictures through the basic Sharpening tool in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
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 L310 does not save images in a Raw format.
Fine (5.75Mb) (100% Crop)
Normal (3.03Mb) (100% Crop)
We did find instances of chromatic aberration, although it's fair to say that some of the evidence found on shots taken outside were lens flare. When it does occur, it's on high contrast lines towards the edges of the frame although we did see instances of it nearer the centre of the frame.
Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 3 (100% Crop)
Chromatic Aberrations 4 (100% Crop)
The macro focusing on the Nikon Coolpix L310 is 1cm according to the Nikon website but we couldn't get near that range. We were more like around the 5cm distance. Zoom can be used in macro and a small blue bar will appear on the zoom range on-screen to indicate when you leave the macro range.
Macro (100% Crop)
Whether you use flash or not, the Nikon Coolpix L310 suffers from vignetting very mildly at wide-angle. The flash doesn't remove this, but it doesn't matter that much because it's only a trace.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (25mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (25mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (525mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (525mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, both the On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings cause a tiny amount of red-eye.
|Flash On (100% Crop)
Red Eye Reduction
Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Nikon Coolpix L310 has a night scene mode which is accessed via the Scene menu. It's represented by a building with a crescent moon over it. In this mode, you don't get to adjust the ISO and in our shot at dusk, it used a rating of ISO 400. Switching to Auto mode, we changed the sensitivity to ISO 80 and took a shot. The exposure was one second. Image quality is by no means perfect. The image is blurry from digital noise with some over sharpening from the processor in in the highlights. Noise is obvious in the Scene shot. It's difficult to make out any reasonable detail, although the exposure is more balanced thanks to more light being recorded.
Night Auto (100% Crop)
Night Auto (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix L310 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Shooting Mode
Rear of the Camera / Shooting Menu
Rear of the Camera / Playback Menu
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
While out shooting with the Nikon Coolpix L310, we had a bit of a tough time because one of the days was really overcast and dull. In a situation like this, you expect the camera to step up to the plate and do what it has to in order to get the best shot. We found that we had to reshoot a number of times or use a tripod to make sure the shot was steady. Even in auto ISO, sometimes the pictures weren't sharp, because of camera shake.
Of what pictures we did take that looked sharp on the screen, around a quarter of them weren't when viewed on a computer screen. It was a predicament because the drizzle prevented us from checking each shot in order to keep the camera dry. It's always a different story when you get the pictures home, though and luckily, we had the chance to revisit.
The Nikon Coolpix L310 is easy enough to use. Once you get a hang of the controls, you can get to them quickly without any fuss. We found that the batteries died sooner than we anticipated, but as luck would have it, we weren't out and about at the time. We did use the batteries provided by Nikon and it's always dicey predicting whether they'll be ok.
Despite our reservations on the build quality, it's a solid little camera to hold. There's no need to use kid gloves as it can hold its own with the rest of them. We like the lockable battery door, although given the pressure that AA batteries put on the door, it's a standard requirement. We especially like the metal tripod bush. It's a small thing but a good one.
The only failing of the Nikon Coolpix L310 in terms of image quality is the bad noise performance. The range goes up to ISO 6400 and really the camera should be able to cope better than it does. Image quality was starting to show signs of failure at ISO 200. Noise reduction on the DSLRs is excellent, so it perplexing why it's this bad on the L310. There are a number of mitigating factors, such as the smaller sensor and lower classification of camera. But if people see how good a Nikon DSLR performs, they'll expect a similar performance and will be disappointed with the L310.
That being said, the rest of the image quality is pretty good with nice colours, sharp edges and good contrast. If you're looking for a superzoom that does everything for you, take a look at the Nikon Coolpix L310.
|Ratings (out of 5)
|Value for money
Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix L310 from around the web.
The Coolpix L310 was added to Nikon's Life range in February 2012 and is a budget, 21x optical zoom camera. It is available in black for £149.95.
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|1/2.3-in. type CCD; total pixels: approx. 14.48 million
|21x zoom NIKKOR; 4.5-94.5 mm (35mm  format angle of view: 25-525 mm); f/3.1-5.8; Digital zoom: up to 4x (35mm  format angle of view: Approx. 2100 mm)
|Vibration Reduction (VR)
|Combination of image-sensor shift and electronic VR (still pictures)
Electronic VR (movies)
|Motion blur reduction
|Motion detection (still pictures)
|50 cm (1 ft. 8 in.) to infinity (∞); Macro mode: 1 cm (0.4 in.) to infinity (∞)
|7.5 cm(3-in.), approx. 230k-dot, TFT LCD
|Internal memory (approx. 102 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards*1
|Image size (pixels)
|14M (High) [4320 x 3240?], 14M [4320 x 3240], 8M [3264 x 2448], 5M [2592 x 1944], 3M [2048 x 1536], PC [1024 x 768], VGA [640 x 480], 16:9 [4224 x 2376], 16:9 [1920 x 1080]
|ISO 80-800, ISO 1600/3200*2/6400*2 (Manual setting is enabled in Auto mode), ISO 400-3200 (Sport continuous mode)
|Four LR6/L40 (AA-size) alkaline batteries (supplied), four FR6/L91 (AA-size) lithium batteries (optional), four EN-MH2 rechargeable Ni-MH batteries (optional), AC Adapter EH-67 (optional), Battery Charger MH-73(optional)
|Approx. 420 shots with alkaline, 1130 shots with lithium*4, or 690 shots with EN-MH2 battery
(W x H x D)
|Approx. 109.9 x 76.5 x 78.4 mm (4.4 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.) excluding projections*5
|Approx. 435 g (15.4 oz.) with battery and SD memory card*5
|Four LR6/L40 (AA-size) alkaline batteries, USB Cable UC-E6, Strap, Lens Cap LC-CP22, ViewNX 2 installer CD
|Four FR6/L91 (AA-size) lithium batteries, four EN-MH2 rechargeable Ni-MH batteries, AC Adapter EH-67, Battery Charger MH-73, Audio Video Cable EG-CP14