In terms of general performance the L10 acquits itself reasonably well. It starts up in just over two seconds, and shuts down again in the same amount of time. In continuous mode it is surprisingly quick, especially for a budget camera. It can rattle off shots at a rate of one every 0.7 seconds, and appears to be able to keep this up until the memory card is full. However the secret of its speed is that it doesn’t pause to re-focus between shots, so make sure your subject isn’t moving about too much.
Battery life appears to be exceptionally good. Using standard alkaline batteries I took well over 200 shots and the battery level indicator was still reading full. The JPEG files saved to the memory card average around 2.4MB, about average for a 5MP camera, which means that a 1GB SD card is enough for an average of 396 shots, or 19 mins 40 secs of video shooting.
As with some previous L-series cameras, in fact quite a few of Nikon’s recent compacts, the AF system is a bit hit-and-miss. In good light it is usually fine, focusing in under a second, but sometimes it just misses and fails to find focus at all, and it also gets a lot slower as light levels fall, eventually refusing to focus once it gets darker. Unfortunately the L10 has no AF assist lamp, so it won’t focus in darkness. To pre-empt the inevitable questions from our more observant readers, that LED above the lens is just the indicator for the self timer.
The flash is also a bit weak. The stated maximum range at wide angle is three metres, but this is a bit generous; for adequate exposure I’d say its closer to two. It is also rather slow to recharge, limiting flash shooting to one shot every eight seconds, but at least frame coverage is good.
The L10’s one real weakness is unfortunately image quality. I found that it had a serious tendency to over-expose nearly everything, resulting in burned-out skies on landscape shots and blown out highlights on flash shots. The automatic ISO setting seems to set 200 ISO for all low-light and flash shots with no way to override it, and at this setting there is quite a lot of image noise visible.
The lens produces quite a lot of barrel distortion at wide angle, as well as noticeable chromatic aberration, and there are also problems with purple fringing on the many burned-out highlights.
Colour rendition was adequate, but let down by the exposure problems. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by all the six and seven megapixel cameras that I’ve been using lately, but I also found that shots lacked fine detail. That said however, you’d be hard put to find better quality for the price.
For a budget camera the L10 has much to recommend it, with superb build quality, sensible and attractive design, good performance and excellent battery life. It even has some features that you’d not expect to find this far down the price scale. It’s only weaknesses are poor low-light focusing and less-than-sparkling picture quality, but if you’re on a very tight budget you have to make certain sacrifices.