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Nikon Coolpix L14

Inexpensive Nikon LIFE series camera takes 1,000 shots on two AAs!
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

For oldtimers, the name Nikon still conjures up high-quality, top-end single lens reflex cameras, and Nikon continutes to be very active in that space. However, the company also saw the handwriting on the wall and was one of the early adopters in the digital camera space. As a result, they have gathered a huge amount of expertise with digital imaging, and they also have not shied away from competiting, quite successfully, in the lower cost markets. The name "Coolpix" has become almost synonymous with Nikon digital cameras, and so all carry that brand name, but there are different kinds of Coolpix cameras. One of them is the "LIFE" family. These are designed to be compact, user-friendly cameras that combine good performance and easy operation with the advanced imaging technologies, all at affordable prices.

Introduced in the Fall of 2007, the Nikon Coolpix L14 is a new representative of the LIFE family. It is an inexpensive 7.1 megapixel camera that's quite powerful and flexible. Perhaps its most outstanding feature: It can shoot up to 1,000 shots on a single pair of included Lithium AA batteries. No other camera in its class can do that, and this kind of longevity certain provides peace of mind: you KNOW you won't run out of juice just when you need the camera most!.

Getting a lot for the money

If you decide to get this camera, you will not only get a genuine Nikon Coolpix camera, but also one that's as simple and easy to use as it gets. The L14 isn't one of those ultra-thin fashion statement slivers of a camera but it is certainly handy. It measures 3.6 x 2.4 inches (just a bit more than a credit card) and is 1.1 inches thick. Without batteries it weighs a minuscule 4.1 ounces. Why not just tell how much WITH batteries? Well, because Lithiums are very light, and Alkalines and rechargeable NiMH batteries quite a bit heavier.

In terms of resolution, the L14 is a 7.1 megapixel camera. That's pretty much the low end these days. But don't feel deprived. 7 megapixel is good enough for huge enlargements, and cropping is never an issue; you always end up with enough resolution.

The L14 is strictly a point&shooter, so don't look for manual controls. You do, however, get 16 "scene modes," thos being portrait, landscape, sports, night portrait, party/indoor, beac/snow, sunset, dusk/dawn, night landscape, close-up, museum, fireworks, copy (to take clear pictures of text and print), backlight and panorama.

In the past, inexpensive camers often had limited and nearly useless movie modes. Not the L14. You can record at full 640 x 320 resolution and at a lifelike 30 frames per second, with sound. Recording time is only limited by storage capacity. The one limitation is that you cannot use the optical zoom while shooting movies; digital zoom is available.

This seems to be the year where even inexpensive cameras get additional onboard processing features. Particularly hot is "Face Priority." What that means is that the camera has the ability too find a face in a picture and then make sure that it is in focus and properly exposed. With the L15, you know face priority works when a double border around the face glows green. In fact, the L14 has an enhanced face recognition function that can recognize five separate faces quickly and efficiently. The picture above shows how the L14 recognizes faces and which one it considers primary.

In the buzzword compartment, the L14 incorporate Nikon's EXPEED advanced image processing system for enhanced speed and brilliant color reproduction. A buzzword it may be, but it also works. Unlike film camers, digital cameras benefit greatly from additional onboard electronics.

There are other onboard feature: An In-Camera Red-Eye Fix automatically corrects red eye. And scenes with poor backlight or underexposed faces can be corrected with the D-Lighting function.

The camera comes with 32MB of internal memory, and uses SD caards for storage.

Operation

The Coolpix L14 couldn't be simpler to operate. It has a minimum of controls, and they are all following the commonly accepted current standard for digital cameras. If you've used a digicam before, you'll feel right at home with this Coolpix. On/off and shutter are on top, as well as a playback button and a shooting mode button. The latter is perhaps the only one that is a bit confusing: in playback mode, pushing it gets you back to recording mode. Pushing it in recording mode brings up an onscreen shooting-mode selection menu. On the back there is a four-way navigation ring with an OK button in the center. The ring doubles as a "multi-selector" so you can toggle through flash, focus, time delay, and exposure compensation settings. There are menu and trash buttons and the zoom tocker, and that's it.

Where Nikon had to economize

Only three or four years ago, the L14's 2.4-inch LCD would have been considered gigantic. Today it seems smallish and its 115k pixel resolution a bit coarse, but the display is quite bright and has a 5-step brightness adjustment to boot.

In other areas, things are basic as that is what the low price mandates. There is no image stabilization of any kind. The zoom is the basic 3X optical expected in any digital camera. That can be multiplied by a 4X digital zoom for a maximum of 12X magnificatin. The Zoom-Nikkor glass itself is high quality, as we've come to expect from Nikon. Sensitivity is automatic and can adjust up to ISO 1000, making low-light shotting possible.

Those who like to use their camera for voice recording or who like to add voice annotations to photos are out of luck. The L14 doesn't do that. That is sort of odd as there is a microphone, and sound is recorded with movies.

Overall

Overall, what you get with the Nikon Coolpix L14 is a basic but competent 7.1 megapixel Nikon camera at a most attractive price. It is strictly a point & shooter with no manual control, but you do get 16 shooting modes. The camera is compact and light, fits into just about any pocket, and is ultra-simple to operate.

Even though it is an entry-level camera, it has a good Nikon lens, can shoot VGA movies with sound and at a full 30 frames per second speed, and there are even onboard goodies like face recognition and red-eye reduction. Perhaps one of the main attraction of the L14 is its ability to shoot a full 1000 pictures on a single set of Lithium AA batteries. That is just plain amazing.

We like:

  • A real 7.1 megapixel Nikon at a very low price
  • Up to 1,000 pictures from a single set of two AA Lithium batteries
  • Very simple to use and operate
  • Face recognition mode
  • Full speed VGA movies with sound
Not so much:
  • Relatively small and low-res LCD
  • No voice recording or sound notes
  • No image stabilization
Specifications Nikon Coolpix L14
Status Added 09/2007
Camera Type Compact
Size 3.6 x 2.4 x 1.1
Weight (oz.) 4.1 without batteries
Effective Pixels 7.1 mp
CCD Type 1/2.5
Max pixel size 3072 x 2304
File formats JPEG, WAV, Quicktime
Compression fine, normal, basic
Movie recording (best) til full, with audio
Max movie pixels 640 x 480 with sound at 30fps til full (digital zoom only)
Voice recording none
Lens 6 elements, 5 groups
Focal length 6.3-18.9mm (38-114mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3X/4X
Image stabilization none
Aperture f/3.1 - f/5.9
Focus modes Auto center or face-priority
Focus minimum/macro 2 feet, 4 inches
Shutter speed 1/1000 to 2 sec (4 sec in Fireworks scene mode)
Sensitivity (ISO) auto (ISO 64-1000)
Autofocus system Contrast-detect AF
Metering 256-segment matrix center-weighted or spot
Autofocus system contrast type: spot/multi
White-balance modes auto/6 presets (manual, daylight, incandescent, fluorescent, cloudy, flash)
Shooting modes auto, 16 scenes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 2.4" LCD (115k) 5-level brightness
LCD type outdoor viewable
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 13 feet
Flash modes 5
Camera internal memory 23MB
Storage Medium SD Card
I/O AV out, digital IO (USB)
Battery type Two alkaline/lithium AA or rechargeables
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 1000 images qith Lithium, 440 with alkaline
List Price US$149.99
Contact www.nikon.com

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