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Nikon Coolpix L11 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £74.00

While I was testing today’s camera, I kept getting a sense of déjà vu. It’s happened before, but the last time it was because I was mistakenly testing a camera that I had already reviewed several months previously. In this case that is almost also true, but not quite. Back in March I reviewed the Nikon CoolPix L10 an ultra-low budget, ultra-simple 5-megapixel snapshot camera. Today, seven months later, I’m reviewing the Nikon Coolpix L11, an ultra-low budget, ultra-simple 6-megapixel snapshot camera. The two models are so similar that at first glance they look completely identical.


From the front at least there are indeed no differences. The L11 uses the same plastic body as the L10, but like the other camera it is strong and solidly made, and finished in an attractive metallic silver. It has the same f/2.8 – 5.2, 3x zoom lens, and even the flash, microphone and self-timer LED are in the same location. It runs on two AA batteries, so the body is slightly thicker on the right-hand side to accommodate them, however the L11 is still a very slim camera, measuring 89.5 x 60.5 x 27 mm, a millimetre thicker than the L10. It is also 10g heavier at 125g without battery or card. Typical AA batteries usually weigh around 25g each, so a pair of them puts the weight up to around 175g, which is quite heavy for such a small camera.


Also very similar is the price. The L11 is currently available for as little as £74, which is a price that is hard to beat for a decent digital camera. There are only a handful of models that even come close, and those are listed in the review of the L10 linked above.


The top plate as well is identical to the L10, with the on/off button, shutter button and speaker. It isn’t until you look at the back of the camera that you might notice a difference. The L11 has a larger 2.4-inch monitor, although it is still only 115k pixels, so it’s not actually any sharper. Apart from the screen size however, the back of the L10 is very similar to the L10, with the same arrangement of simple controls. However to make room for the screen the buttons and D-pad are slightly squashed up, and correspondingly slightly more fiddly to operate, although they are still larger than average so I doubt many people will have a problem.

Like the L10, and indeed like most of the other models in Nikon’s L (for Life) series, the L11 is very, very simple. It has a very limited number of features and virtually no manual control at all. Even the ISO setting is fully automatic with no manual option. The automatic setting can go as high as ISO 800 though, which is two EV higher than the L10, giving correspondingly faster shutter speeds. The camera has three basic shooting modes; either program auto, video mode or scene mode, selected via a small slider switch on the rear. There are 15 scene modes, including a face detection portrait mode, panorama assist, back-light compensation and the usual array of landscape, sports, night portrait, fireworks etcetera. In program auto mode, the only menu options are picture size, white balance, continuous shooting, Best Shot Selector (an anti-blur warning system) and colour options, which are limited to just five choices. There are no metering options, autofocus options or picture adjustments.


Again in common with the L10, the L11’s performance is impressive for such a low-cost camera, and embarrasses some models costing twice as much. It starts up in a little under two seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot cycle time of approximately 2.3 seconds. In continuous mode is shoots at an impressive 0.7 seconds per shot, although this slows down noticeably with a slower memory card. The flash cycle time is a bit on the slow side though, taking approximately seven seconds to recharge after a typical flash shot. The larger sensor produces slight larger image files, and at full size and resolution a 1GB SD card provides enough storage space for 333 pictures, or just under 20 minutes of TV-quality video. As with any camera running on AA batteries, battery duration will depend on the type of cells used. I was running it on a pair of 2100mAh NiMH rechargeables and was able to take well over 100 shots without the charge level meter even appearing.


As with other L-series cameras, and indeed with most of Nikon’s recent compact camera models, the autofocus system is something of a weak point. It performs well enough in good light, but slows down noticeably in lower light levels, and since the L11 has no AF assist lamp it won’t focus at all in dark conditions.

I was surprised to find that despite the obvious similarities between the L10 and L11, the latter has significantly better image quality. Whether the 6MP sensor simply suits the lens better, or some slight changes have been made to the lens for this model I do not know, but the L11 suffers from slightly less wide-angle barrel distortion, and the image is noticeably sharper right across the frame, with no trace of the slight chromatic aberration that I noticed on the L10.


Even more surprisingly, colour rendition and dynamic range also appear to be slightly better, and the exposure is also more consistently accurate, resulting in better shadow and highlight detail. The overall level of detail is also better, thanks to the higher sensor resolution. There’s a lot more difference between a 5MP and a 6MP sensor than there is between 7MP and 8MP. Because the ISO cannot be manually adjusted, my ISO tests were naturally a bit hit-or-miss, but the overall noise levels at the maximum of 800 ISO did not appear to be particularly bad, indeed not much worse than the L10 at its maximum of ISO 200.


”’Verdict”’

In light of its superior picture quality and higher resolution, and the fact that it is available for about the same price, the Nikon Coolpix L11 is significantly better value for money than the L10. In fact I have seldom seen such excellent value. If you’re looking for a nice simple compact, maybe as a holiday camera or as a gift for a child, it is got to be at the top of your shortlist.

”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum ISO setting has been reduced to let you see the full image, and below that a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality.”


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The L11 has no manual ISO control, so only way I could ensure minimum ISO setting was to use the flash. The picture is over-exposed due to the reflective surrounding, but the image quality is good, with nice smooth tone.


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The automatic ISO setting has a maximum of 800. There is of course noise at this level, but the colour rendition isn’t too bad.


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This is the full frame at the maximum ISO setting.


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”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image.”


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Here’s my usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture.


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The overall level of detail is pretty good for a 6MP compact.


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The L11 seems to produce slightly less barrel distortion at wide angle than the L10, despite having the same lens.


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Nice and sharp at the centre of the frame.


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Still nice and sharp at the edge of the frame, with no chromatic aberration.


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”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image.”


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Colour rendition is excellent, with all the tones of this tree at the turn of the season.


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This contrasty shot is perfectly exposed.


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The wide end of the zoom is equivalent to 37.5mm, about average for a 3x zoom compact.


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The telephoto end of the zoom range is equivalent to 112.5mm.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 10
  • Image Quality 8

Features

Camera type Digital Compact
Megapixels (Megapixel) 6 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 3x
Image Sensor CCD
LCD Monitor 2.4 in
Flash modes Red-eye Reduction
Video (max res/format) 640 x 480
Memory card slot Secure Digital (SD) Card

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