What really lets the L14 down is its performance. It starts up in just under three seconds, which isn’t too bad, and shuts down again in just over two. It has a shot-to-shot time of approximately three seconds in single shot mode, which is a bit slow, but in continuous shooting it can manage more than a shot a second, which sounds pretty respectable. The usefulness of this ability is somewhat limited though, because the speed is very inconsistent, and there is no audio cue when it takes each shot, so you just have to press the button and hope. What really slows it down in actual use is the AF system, which takes nearly two seconds to focus in good light. In only slightly lowered light conditions it frequently fails to focus at all, but instead hunts around for nearly three seconds before beeping its failure. In typical social situations, exactly the sort of place a camera like this is most likely to be used, this extremely poor low-light focusing makes it very slow and annoying to use. Using the built-in flash is a also very slow process, taking around ten seconds to recharge before another shot can be taken. Despite this the flash is in fact somewhat underpowered, with a useful range of only a couple of metres.
To add to the L14’s woes, it’s image quality is also pretty terrible. It has severe image noise problems at anything other than its very lowest ISO setting, which is unfortunate since the other “selling point” of this camera, proclaimed by a sticker on the front, is its 1000 ISO maximum sensitivity. ISO control is fully automatic, so as soon as light levels drop even slightly it pushes the sensitivity up, producing very noisy images in all but bright daylight conditions. As well as this, the lens quality is very poor, with a generally low level of sharpness getting much worse in the corners, and both wide-angle barrel distortion and telephoto pincushion distortion. I took a lot of test shots with the L14, and found most of them unsatisfactory, often for several reasons at once.
The Nikon CoolPix L14 is designed to be an easy point-and-click camera, simple enough for anyone to use, even those for whom the wheel represents dangerously advanced technology. However it fails at this purpose due to its extremely slow and unreliable low light focusing, lousy image quality and generally slow operation. It is well made, light and easy to handle, and fairly robust, but even a child would quickly become frustrated by its limitations. There are much better cameras costing not much more money.
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