Nikon Coolpix L820 Review

May 22, 2013 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Nikon Coolpix L820 is a high-zoom digital compact camera featuring a 30x optical zoom, back-illuminated 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, 1080p FullHD video and EXPEED C2 processor. Nikon cite the L820 as being clever with images by utilising the zoom, user friendly interface and back-illuminated sensor for low light picture taking. In this test, we'll see if it's just as clever as they predict. The Nikon Coolpix L820 costs around £219.99 / $279.95 and is available in black, rose, blue and plum.

Ease of Use

Straight from the large zoom stable of Nikon's L series cameras, the Coolpix L820 is the top of the range model. It's host to an array of forward thinking technology, such as ED glass, stereo sound, FullHD video and a back-illuminated CMOS sensor. However, being in the Lifestyle section of Nikon's range also means that it's incredibly easy to use.

The immediate external design of the Nikon Coolpix L820 hasn't been altered to reflect any of the easiness. The top and back – where all the buttons are – is much the same as any compact camera that's designed for a more adept photographer. The usual amount of buttons are present and in the typical locations. On the top plate, the small power button nestles slightly into the body to prevent itself getting pressed accidentally. The large shutter release sits on the edge of the grip with the zoom rocker wrapped around it. However, the L820 is a large zoom camera and will need some steady holding. You can help the steadiness of the camera by placing a hand under the lens as a support. When you do this, your thumb will land on a lens based zoom switch.

The L820 has a huge zoom range. It's a 30x optical zoom which starts at 22.5 and goes out to a teeth aching 675mm. That's the distanced in 35mm terms, which is what we normally base our scale on. The actual zoom range is 4mm to 120mm and this all correlates to the size of the sensor. The 35mm version is simply a “scaled up” comparison, but is much easier to understand. The lens incorporates ED (Extra low Dispersion) lenses to keep images as sharp as possible. The Vibration Reduction (image stabiliser) is lens based which is good news. It's always good to get a hardware option over software. The L820 uses a lens-shift system which moves the lens in real time to counteract any movement while the picture is being taken.

Nikon Coolpix L820 Nikon Coolpix L820
Front Rear

The Nikon Coolpix L820's 16 megapixel sensor is a CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semi-conductor) over a CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) which is more fuel efficient. Great for when you're using regular AA batteries instead of rechargeables. However, a CMOS sensor renowned for being less sharp than a CCD. But why is it called back-illuminated? Well, traditionally, sensors are an array of photosites (pixels) that are responsive to light. Each photosite is surrounded with the circuitry necessary to take the information to the processor but because of this, they tend to block out some light. A back-illuminated sensor has the circuitry placed on the rear, so to look at it, it looks like it's on backwards. Therefore if light were hitting a backwards sensor, it would be illuminated at the back.

As part of the L series, the Nikon Coolpix L820 is at – by comparison – the lower end of the scale. What this means is that while all Nikon cameras are built to a good standard, it's not got anything advanced in it such as magnesium alloy. It's a plastic outer casing while the chassis will be – we assume – a mixture of metal and plastic. There are a few little nuggets on the L820 that set it apart from the herd. For example, it boasts a metal tripod bush which is great for long exposures or using the camera at full zoom. The long zoom will likely drive the user to use a tripod more often, making the tripod bush a high traffic area. A metal version will last a lot longer than a typical plastic type. The battery compartment has a locking switch on it, which is great considering the camera takes AA batteries. They tend to have built up pressure on the panel and can spring out if the door is caught.

Nikon Coolpix L820 Nikon Coolpix L820
Top Flash

There are two menus to use on the L820. The Function menu is a quick access menu system to choose shooting styles without having to to delve into full menus. You can choose from a few preset easy styles such as portrait, landscape, sports or party. There's also more advanced modes such as back-lighting, panoramic and 3D photography. The L820 also features six digital filters. You can choose from; soft focus, sepia, high contrast black & white, high key, low key or selective colour.

The Main menu has three simple sections to deal with. The margins are a darker grey than the centre so you can tell when you're moving through sub-sections. The camera has allocated the three tabs to shooting, video and the main set-up. Nikon have kept everything simple in the menu systems. The main shooting menu only has five options to it, for example.

Start up time on the Nikon Coolpix L820 is fast. This is a camera that you can use around children when they do funny, candid stuff. From being powered down, the L820 will start up, focus and take a picture in just over two seconds. That's roughly half a second faster than the average speed of a digital compact camera. Now, although half a second is negligible in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to taking a picture of the kids, it's everything.

Nikon Coolpix L820 Nikon Coolpix L820
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

There's several continuous and burst modes on the Nikon L820. There are two high speed modes offering 120 or 60fps (frames per second) as well as a Best Shot Selector (BSS) and Multi-Shot 16. The more interesting ones are the two Continuous modes. One is faster than the other, but we were surprised with just how fast the High speed one is. We tested it over a ten second period, but there's really no need. It takes six photos before it fills the buffer and it does those in about three quarters of a second. The first three shots were taken before the clock moved off of the zero setting, but we took our own reactions into consideration (around half a second) and added that to the total. Once the pictures are taken, it takes around nine more seconds to get them on the card and ready to shoot again. In the Low Continuous test, the camera starts off fast enough taking around three pictures each second. It slows though and gets a rough average of 1.9fps.

Playback can be operated whether the camera is on or off. If it's off, simply hold the button down for a few seconds to activate the camera. The most recently taken picture will be shown first and will display some basic information but that disappears after a few seconds. In the playback menu, you can edit pictures to add the digital effects. That's useful if you've taken a picture in a rush or change your mind about editing. You can add D-Lighting which is Nikon's dynamic range boost. Put simply, it adds detail to shadow areas and caps burn out on highlights.

The great thing about superzooms is that they're larger, so the accessories are upgraded. You get a lens cap and instead of the wrist strap, it comes with a neck strap. You also get a USB cable and television leads. Nikon supply 4x AA batteries to get you started, but it's up to you to get rechargeable versions. The documentation consists of a Quick Start guide. It looks quite big but is, in fact, in multiple languages. The full manual is on the enclosed CD along with Nikon View NX2 – a basic editing and tagging software program.

Image Quality

All pictures were taken at full resolution unless otherwise stated. When pictures are taken at full resolution, file sizes range from around 5Mb to 6.6Mb. Knock the compression down to normal (choose the full resolution without the star next to it) and this can as much as halve the file size. This frees up space on the memory card, but pictures such as close-ups won't be as finely detailed.


The sensitivity range on the L820 is ISO 125 to ISO 3200. The lowest setting gives lovely, clear and crisp results with no sign of noise anywhere. In fact, the first slight drop in quality occurs at ISO 400 with a mild discolouration in the darker colours. This is all when viewed at 100% magnification, though, so if you're looking at them normal size then you shouldn't notice it really.

The green colouring we saw at ISO 400 is kept under control through ISO 800 but at ISO 1600, the picture gets attacked more aggressively. Edge sharpness suffers and begins to break down and primary colours are subdued in an attempt to control the noise.

It has to be said for an ISO 3200 image, the quality is exceptional on the L820. We certainly didn't expect to see results like this. Sure, there's noise present, but we expect that. Colours have been smudged and merged to dissipate salt & pepper noise and edge definition is reduced, but nowhere near as much as what we expected.

ISO 125 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix L820 has a 30x optical zoom. That's not the largest by a long shot, but to keep the price affordable, the 30x is ample. It gives a 35mm equivalent of 22.5 – 675mm. There's certainly some image loss at the edges of the frame, but that's to be expected at this wide an  angle.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Nikon compacts haven't had any benefit from a boost in sharpening previously, but the L820 seems to accept it. We put it down to the better ISO results. The smoother images will look better when they're sharper.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix L820's 16 megapixel sensor has two compression ratings at full resolution. The highest quality has a star designation next to the image size in the main menu. A typical image at this size is around 6Mb while knocking it down to the normal setting without the star will shave off roughly 2Mb of information.

High (100% Crop)

Normal (100% Crop)

quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

We really struggled to find any evidence of chromatic aberrations. It is evident, but only a bit. It's mostly seen at the edges of the frame when at the widest setting of the zoom range.

Chromatic Aberrations 1

Chromatic Aberrations 2

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


Macro is generally shot at wide-angle. The L820 will shoot macro at wide-angle from around 5cm away. When macro is activated, a small green arrow will show up on the zoom range on screen. This is the limit of where you can zoom to and still focus closely. You can't move closer to the subject, but the zoom will enlarge it in the frame for you. At that position, the lens will be around 1cm away from the subject. However, it will improve barrel distortions and increase compression between foreground and background.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


At wide-angle, the L820 does suffer from a degree of vignetting in the corners of the frame. However, let's be honest, it could be a lot worse with the focal length being that wide. The vignette soon disappears as you get to full zoom. Adding flash at wide-angle does exacerbate the problem with the light focusing centrally in the frame. It lessens as the camera zooms out but it's still a lot more visible than without the flash.

There are only four flash options in the menu which will only work if you have the flash raised. You can over-ride the flash to force it on or suppress it completely. There's also an auto mode so that the camera will use it if it needs it, but you still need to keep it raised. The SLOW mode will use a slow shutter speed to lighten up a dark background while the flash will light up the foreground. This is great for car trails with a portrait or a dark city scape with something interesting in the front.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (22.5mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (22.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (675mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (675mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

The camera doesn't suffer from giving red-eye arguably because the flash is positioned so high it offsets the light reflecting from the retina; which is what causes red-eye in the first place.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The L820 has a night shot mode in the scenes menu. It's recognised by a picture of a building with a moon over it. Choosing this option will flag up two settings: Hand-held and Tripod. Which option you choose will determine how the camera handles the scene. If you choose the Hand-held mode, it will choose a faster shutter speed and high ISO to obviate camera shake. Choosing the Tripod setting will select a slower shutter speed with a low ISO to get smooth picture results. With the strong orange street lights, the white-balance didn't quite manage to get it right, but it's not far off. In auto mode, we got to select a low ISO manually and we also got to change the white-balance. We used the preset manual setting and got a more aesthetically balanced colour, although it wasn't true to the actual scene.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)

night_auto.jpg night_auto1.jpg

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene1.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Nikon Coolpix L820 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 38 second movie is 73.2Mb in size.

Product Images

Nikon Coolpix L820

Front of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Pop-up Flash

Nikon Coolpix L820

Side of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Side of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Side of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix L820 / Image Displayed

Nikon Coolpix L820

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix L820 / Turned On

Nikon Coolpix L820

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix L820 / Shooting Mode Menu

Nikon Coolpix L820

Rear of the Nikon Coolpix L820 / Main Menu

Nikon Coolpix L820

Top of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Bottom of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Side of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820

Side of the Nikon Coolpix L820

Nikon Coolpix L820
Front of the Nikon Coolpix L820
Nikon Coolpix L820
Memory Card Slot
Nikon Coolpix L820
Battery Compartment


The L820 doesn't seem to fit into the L series of the Nikon range at all. The L stands for Lifestyle and stands for ease of use, simplicity and is aimed at photographers with a point and shoot outlook. The L820 offers much more than this. It has over-riding features, such as ISO and white-balance, that the L series generally stay away from. Don't get us wrong, it's great to see this available on the camera, but we wonder how the target audience will perceive it. The L820 has many positive attributes such as the brilliant zoom, additional zoom switch on the lens barrel, stereo sound on the video and metal tripod bush. It also has a great lens fitted because we struggled to find any aberrations or distortions. Arguably, the best part is the image quality.

We went into the image testing with low expectations, built on previous generation Nikon compacts that haven't stood up to the company's benchmark of excellence. Looking at the camera for what it is and how much it costs, the ISO performance, sharpness and colour reproduction are fantastic. The L820 is a revelation and such a relief to see.

The long zoom will need higher ISO to be used from time to time and the great news is that the L820 can handle it. Normally, we'd suggest alternative strategies to avoid raising the ISO, but it's ok here.

Long zoom cameras such as this are generally created with the travelling photographer in mind. The L820 has plenty of features available to assist the travelling photographer. The zoom is an obvious benefit when it's not convenient to get close to a subject, such as safari animals. The AA battery compatibility will help if you run out of power, you can simply pop into a touristy type shop and pick up some replacements.

The L820 sees Nikon back in the game with a quality picture taking machine that can't go unnoticed and if you're a new photographer looking for an all-in-one camera that will make it easy to go abroad with, then you have to look at this camera. 

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Nikon Coolpix L820.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is a pocket-friendly super-zoom camera with a remarkable 30x zoom lens. The Canon SX500 also offers 16 megapixels, a 3-inch LCD screen, full manual controls and 720p HD movies. Read our expert Canon PowerShot SX500 IS review to find out if it's the right camera for you.

Fujifilm FinePix S4200

The new Fujifilm FinePix S4200 super-zoom camera boasts a 24x zoom lens, 14 megapixel sensor, 3 inch LCD screen and 720p movies, all for under under $150 / £150. Does the S4200 cut too many corners though? Find out by reading our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix S4200 review...

Olympus SP-820UZ

The Olympus SP-820UZ is a bridge compact camera that boasts a 40x zoom lens with an incredible focal range of 22.4-896mm. The 14 megapixel Olympus SP-820UZ also offers a 3 inch LCD screen, 1080p movie recording and a Backlight HDR mode. Read our in-depth Olympus SP-820UZ review to find out if this super-zoom is worth the £280 / $330 asking price...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ62

Panasonic have just introduced the DMC-FZ62 super-zoom camera (also known as the DMC-FZ60), successor to the FZ48 model and cheaper alternative to the range-topping FZ200. Key highlights of the FZ62 include a 24x zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080i HD movies, 10fps burst shooting, and a 16 megapixel MOS sensor. Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ62 review now.

Pentax Optio X90

The Pentax Optio X90 is a brand new super-zoom compact camera featuring a 26x image-stabilized zoom lens with a focal range of 26-676mm. Successor to the X70 model, the X90 has a 12 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch screen, full range of creative shooting modes and can record 720p HD movies. Retailing for £329.99 / $399.95, does the Pentax Optio X90 offer enough to match its super-zoom rivals? Gavin Stoker finds out in our Pentax Optio X90 review.

Samsung WB5000

The WB5000 / HZ25W is Samsung's first entry into the big boy world of all-in-one super-zoom cameras. Offering a 24x zoom lens with 26mm wide-angle setting, the WB5000 literally has most photographic subjects covered, for both 12 megapixel stills and 720p movies. Throw in a range of hand-holding smart modes for beginners and RAW format and Manual mode for advanced users, and Samsung could be onto a winner at their very first attempt. Read our expert Samsung WB5000 / HZ25W review to find out if Panasonic, Olympus et al have anything to fear...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300 is a new premium super-zoom compact camera. A 50x, 24-1200mm lens, a 20.4 megapixel CMOS sensor, 1920x1080 50p Full HD video with stereo sound, high-resolution tilting 3-inch screen, manual shooting mode, 10fps continuous shooting, and a full range of creative shooting modes are all offered by the HX300. Read our detailed Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300 review to find out if it's the right bridge camera for you.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Nikon Coolpix L820 from around the web. »

The Nikon Coolpix L820 was announced in January 2013 and is a superzoom camera with a 30x optical zoom lens. It also has a 16 megapixel sensor and full 1080p HD video recording. The L820 comes in plum, blue, red or black and costs around £220.
Read the full review »


¹ Based on CIPA Standards for measuring life of batteries.
² When recording a single movie.

Product name COOLPIX L820
Type Compact digital camera
Number of effective pixels 16.0 million
Image sensor 1/2.3-in. type CMOS; approx. 16.79 million total pixels
Lens NIKKOR lens with 30x optical zoom
Focal length 4.0-120 mm (angle of view equivalent to that of 22.5-675 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
f/-number f/3-5.8
Lens construction 12 elements in 9 groups (2 ED lens elements)
Digital zoom magnification Up to 4x (angle of view equivalent to that of approx. 2700 mm lens in 35mm [135] format)
Vibration reduction Combination of lens shift and electronic VR (still pictures), Lens shift (movies)
Motion blur reduction Motion detection (still pictures)
Autofocus (AF) Contrast-detect AF
Focus range [W]: Approx. 50 cm (1 ft 8 in.) to infinity, [T]: Approx. 1.5 m (5 ft) to infinity Macro mode: Approx. 1 cm (0.4 in.) (when zoom is set to middle position) to infinity (All distances measured from center of front surface of lens)
Focus-area selection Center, face detection
Monitor 7.5 cm (3-in.), approx. 921k-dot, wide viewing angle TFT LCD with anti-reflection coating and 5-level brightness adjustment
Frame coverage (shooting mode) Approx. 97% horizontal and 97% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Frame coverage (playback mode) Approx. 100% horizontal and 100% vertical (compared to actual picture)
Storage media Internal memory (approx. 65 MB), SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
File system DCF, Exif 2.3, DPOF, and MPF compliant
File formats Still pictures: JPEG; 3D images: MPO; Movies: MOV (Video: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, Audio: AAC stereo)
Image size (pixels) 16M (High) [4608 x 3456(fine)]; 16M [4608 x 3456]; 8M [3264 x 2448]; 4M [2272 x 1704]; 2M [1600 x 1200]; VGA [640 x 480]; 16:9 [4608 x 2592]
Shooting Modes Easy Auto, Scene (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night portrait, Party/indoor, Beach, Snow, Sunset, Dusk/dawn, Night landscape, Close-up, Food, Museum, Fireworks show, Black and white copy, Backlighting, Easy panorama, Pet portrait, 3D photography), Special Effects, Smart Portrait, Auto
Continuous Shooting Single (default setting), Continuous H (images are captured continuously at a rate of about 8 fps), Continuous L (up to 38 images are captured continuously at a rate of about 2.1 fps), Continuous H:120 fps (50 frames are captured at a speed of about 1/120 s or faster), Continuous H:60 fps (25 frames are captured at a speed of about 1/60 s or faster), BSS (Best Shot Selector), Multi-shot 16
Movie 1080(fine)/30p (default setting): 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 1080/30p: 1920 x 1080/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 720/30p: 1280 x 720/16:9/approx. 30 fps, iFrame 540/30p: 960 x 540/16:9/approx. 30 fps, 480/30p: 640 x 480/4:3/approx. 30 fps, HS 240/8x: 320 x 240/4:3, HS 480/4x: 640 x 480/4:3, HS 720/2x: 1280 x 720/16:9, HS 1080/0.5x: 1920 x 1080/16:9
ISO sensitivity (Standard output sensitivity) ISO 125-1600; ISO 3200 (available when using Auto mode)
Exposure metering mode Matrix, center-weighted (digital zoom less than 2x), spot (digital zoom 2x or more)
Exposure control Programmed auto exposure and exposure compensation (-2.0 - +2.0 EV in steps of 1/3 EV)
Shutter Mechanical and CMOS electronic shutter
Shutter speed 1/1500-1 s; 1/4000 s (maximum speed during high-speed continuous shooting); 4 s (when scene mode is set to Fireworks show)
Aperture Electronically-controlled ND filter (-2 AV) selection
Aperture range 2 steps (f/3 and f/6 [W])
Self-timer Approx. 10 s
Flash range (approx.) (ISO sensitivity: Auto) [W]: 0.5-6.0 m (1 ft 8 in.-19 ft); [T]: 1.5-6.0 m (5-19 ft)
Flash control TTL auto flash with monitor preflashes
Interface Hi-Speed USB
Data Transfer Protocol MTP, PTP
Video output Can be selected from NTSC and PAL
HDMI output Can be selected from Auto, 480p, 720p, and 1080i
I/O terminal Audio/video (A/V) output; digital I/O (USB) HDMI micro connector (Type D) (HDMI output), DC input connector
Supported languages Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese (European and Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Telugu, Tamil, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese
Power sources LR6/L40 (AA-size) alkaline battery x 4 FR6/L91 (AA-size) lithium battery x 4 EN-MH2 rechargeable Ni-MH battery (available separately) x 4 AC Adapter EH-67 (available separately)
Battery life ¹ Still pictures: Approx. 320 shots when using alkaline batteries, Approx. 870 shots when using lithium batteries, Approx. 540 shots when using EN-MH2 batteries; Movies (actual battery life for recording) ²: Approx. 1 h 5 min when using alkaline batteries, Approx. 3 h 25 min when using lithium batteries, Approx. 1 h 50 min when using EN-MH2 batteries
Tripod socket 1/4 in. (ISO 1222)
Dimensions (W x H x D) Approx. 111.0 x 76.3 x 84.5 mm (4.4 x 3.1 x 3.4 in.) (excluding projections)
Weight Approx. 470 g (1 lb 0.6 oz) (including batteries and a memory card)
Temperature 0°C-40°C (32°F-104°F)
Humidity 85% or less (no condensation)
Supplied accessories Camera Strap, LR6/L40 (AA-size) alkaline batteries (x4), Lens Cap LC-CP28 (with cord), USB Cable UC-E16, Audio Video Cable EG-CP16, ViewNX 2 CD, Reference Manual CD
Optional accessories Battery Charger MH-73 (includes four EN-MH2 rechargeable Ni-MH batteries), Rechargeable Ni-MH batteries EN-MH2-B4 (set of four EN-MH2 batteries), AC Adapter EH-67, Hand Strap AH-CP1

Your Comments

Loading comments…