Nikon Coolpix L820 Review

May 22, 2013 | Matt Grayson |

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)

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ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

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ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

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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.



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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)

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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)

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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

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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)

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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)
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Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

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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)

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Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

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