There’s nothing more ideal than a simple point-and-shoot if you want an easy-to-use digital camera for casual shooting and 4x6 prints without spending too much. The Nikon Coolpix L27 and L28 are two budget point-and-shoot digital cameras out of the 17 models that Nikon launched around a month ago. Both models are stylish and compact, come in attractive body colours and feature 5x zoom lens. What sets them apart is the resolution. The L27 has a 16.1 megapixel sensor, which is a common feature these days. At a whopping 20.1 megapixel, the L28 has the highest resolution in its class—sounds interesting? Here’s our take on it.
A 20 megapixel point-and-shoot with 5x optical zoom
Design and features
The L28 is not larger than a pack of cards. Weighing in at 164 grams (with batteries), it’s quite portable and doesn’t burden the pocket. The camera is available in four colours. Go in for pink or silver if you like light shades. Prefer dark? Go in for all-black or maroon. Note that only the front part of the shell (including the sides) is coloured and sports glossy finish. The rear half bearing the LCD monitor and control panel is matte black. The front of the camera features the AF-assist light and a tiny flash strobe in one corner. The lens of the L28 starts from 26 mm and extends to 130 mm, which translates to 5x optical zoom. The zoom comes in handy to shoot close-ups from short distances. However, the lack of optical image stabilisation makes it challenging to get blur-free handheld shots in low light.
Slim and compact design
The rear of the camera is dominated by a 3-inch LCD monitor and the control panel to its right. The control panel comprises a 5-way D-pad and a dedicated button for video recording in the top right corner. The D-pad has shortcuts to the function you would use the most—flash settings, EV, macro mode and self-timer. Buttons for selecting shooting modes and playback button lie above the D-pad. Right at the bottom are buttons for menu and delete.
Uses a pair of AA batteries
The L28 is powered by a pair of two AA batteries, which is an advantage in one way. If the camera runs out of juice, you can use spare batteries as it isn’t difficult to find AA batteries.
The L28 is a point-and-shoot in the literal sense. It doesn’t offer much than allowing you to point at the subject and shoot. You can choose from four shooting modes—Auto, Easy Auto, Scene and Smart Portrait. The Easy Auto mode analyses the subject and scene and uses optimal settings. All you can do is just adjust the EV, enable or disable flash and use the self-timer. The Auto mode is equivalent to Program mode minus ISO setting. You can set the white balance, use the burst mode and colour options in addition to what’s available in Easy Auto mode. Colour options include Vivid, Black-and-white, Sepia and Cyanotype. The Scene mode has 18 presets including the usual ones such as Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Sunset, Food, Fireworks, Backlight and Pet. Smart Portrait is a notch better than the Portrait scene preset. You can use skin softening and smile timer (releases the shutter when the subject smiles). The camera uses face detection for this feature. A useful feature is the option to crop photos when you’re viewing them. You simply have to zoom into the part of the frame you wish to crop and then press the Menu button to save what you see on the camera’s screen as a separate file. We would have liked if there was an option to apply colour effects to photos in playback mode. Here, you can only apply skin softening, rotate the frame and rescale the photo to 640 x 480 pixels (Small Picture). The Small Picture comes in handy when you want to rescale photos for uploading to social networks and online galleries.
The L28 offers four shooting modes – Scene mode selected
Video recording is supported at up to 1280 x 720 at 30 fps. Optical zoom is locked while shooting videos, but you can use digital zoom, which isn’t of much help.
The user interface of the L28 is pretty straightforward. The lack of too many controls explains this camera is for those who want a no-nonsense point-and-shoot. Even if you’re a novice, you’ll get used to this camera in a matter of minutes. Most probably you won’t need to refer to the user manual at all.
Build quality and ergonomics
Despite being a budget camera, the L28 has a premium feel. The quality of the shell and buttons is very good and the curvaceous design is spot on. The camera is perfect for single-handed use, but we suggest using the wrist strap. The bulge around the battery compartment and a dimpled thumb grip next to the video recording button lend a good grip. You’ll find it comfortable to use even if you have large hands. The buttons and D-pad are slightly small due to the compact form, but they have a good tactile response and are in comfortable reach of the thumb.
A digital camera should initialise in a jiffy so that you don’t miss any golden moment. The L28 takes around 6 seconds to get ready to shoot from the time you press the on/off button, by which time you may miss a great shot. Also, the time taken to resume from standby (around 3.5 seconds) is too long. Even worse is the time lost between shots. We used a 16GB SDHC card (Class 6) and measured the time taken to save the image (20 megapixel) and resume shooting. The L28 takes its own sweet time (around 8 seconds). When set to 10 megapixel, the time between shots was around 6 seconds. On an average, the file size of each 20 megapixel photo is 8MB and that of a 10 megapixel photo is 2.1MB.
The photo quality of the L28 is just about average. Even 20 megapixel shots taken in broad daylight are noisy. The noise is in the form of coarse grains, especially in dark areas such as dark colours and shadows. To top this, colour noise and chromatic aberration results in colour deviation and undesirable fringing against backlight and light colours. However, these flaws are only noticeable when you view the photos at 100 percent zoom. They look pretty good when you view them rescaled to your monitor’s resolution. One of the benefits of a high resolution sensor is that you can get high resolution cropped photos. But for that, the quality of the photos has to be good, or else the flaws will be apparent in the cropped results, as in the case of this camera. We find the use of a 20 megapixel sensor gimmicky. The camera would have been better off with a 12 or 14 megapixel sensor and good optics.
The quality of video recording is also average. Due to the lack of optical IS, you have to keep your hand steady to avoid shaky videos. Also, you have to pan very gently to avoid jitter. We have seen entry-level smartphones take better quality videos than what this camera does.
Sample shots (click on the photos for full view)
A 20MP shot rescaled to 1280 x 720 - looks good?
A 100 percent crop of the above image – aberration and noise galore
Looks nice, but note the purple fringing at the top corners
A 100 percent crop of the above image – colour noise and coarse grains
Macro shots look nice
Shot using Vivid Colour setting
Verdict and price in India
The Nikon Coolpix L28 is priced at Rs 5,950 (MRP) and you get batteries, charger, 4GB memory card and a pouch. The price may sound attractive for a 20 megapixel camera, but it isn’t. We suggest you stay away from this camera and look somewhere else. You may want to have a look at the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W710 or Canon PowerShot A2500, which are priced almost the same.
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