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Although Nikon is best known for its high-quality SLR cameras, used by top professionals the world over, it also has a strong reputation for its compact cameras, which, with only a few exceptions, mange to combine Nikon’s superb build quality with stylish appearance and good value for money. As a case in point, we have the CoolPix L6.
The L6 was launched last September alongside the CoolPix L5 that I reviewed last week. It is a basic six-megapixel, 3x zoom model with a 2.5in monitor screen. It is currently available for around £123, which might sound quite cheap for a good quality compact, but is actually slightly above the market average. In terms of specification it compares with the likes of the Olympus FE-210 (£95), Kodak EasyShare C653 (£100), Pentax Optio E20 (£100), Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S500 (£100), Ricoh Caplio RR630 (£110) and Fuji FinePix F20 (£135). So far, so average, but the CoolPix L6 has one extraordinary ability. Nikon claims that it has the longest battery life of any digital camera on the market, capable of over 1,000 shots on a pair of AA cells.
This is quite an audacious boast, and it is indeed most likely true, but whether Nikon can claim all the credit for it is debateable. The L6 is supplied with two Energizer E2 Lithium batteries, high powered lightweight non-rechargeable AA cells specifically designed for small high-tech devices like digital cameras, and which have been available in most good electrical stores for several years. It is these batteries that provide the L6’s seemingly miraculous performance. As it happens I tested the Energizer Lithium batteries when they were first introduced in 2001, comparing their performance to a range of other popular AA batteries, and I found that in a digital camera they lasted well over five times as long as the next best performer. I’ve recommended Energizer E2 Lithium as the best AA digital camera batteries ever since.
So while the L6 may well run for over 1,000 shots using these particular batteries, using normal alkaline batteries or Ni-MH rechargeables its performance, while still very good, is rather less spectacular. Nikon claims 540 shots with Ni-MH cells and 400 with alkalines, but it’s important to remember that the performance of both these types of batteries varies depending on a number of factors, such as temperature, humidity and the way in which the camera is used, as well as the age of the batteries. I tested the L6 with two 2300mAh Ni-MH rechargeables that I’ve been using for about 18 months, and I was only able to take 270 shots, about half with the flash, before the batteries ran out. While this is still a very creditable performance, it’s not quite as good as advertised.