The Nikon COOLPIX L820 is a super-zoom with a 30x range and a 16 Megapixel sensor. It has DSLR styling in a smaller form factor than the more expensive models that offer an even longer zoom range like Nikon’s own 42x COOLPIX P520 and Canon’s 50x PowerShot SX50 HS.
The COOLPIX L820 replaces the COOLPIX L810 which remains in the range at a lower price point. The new model has a longer zoom range, extending the telephoto by nearly 100mm from 585 to 675mm. The other major upgrade is the sensor, with a new 16 Megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor replacing the CCD of the same resolution in the L810.
The new sensor provides better low light performance with a sensitivity range that extends up to 3200 ISO as well as better quality 1080p30 HD movie recording and faster continuous shooting with a six-frame ful resolution burst at 8fps as well as a raft of faster reduced reolution options. At its core, the COOLPIX L820 remains a point and shoot with a very long zoom and it’s aimed at beginners and casual snappers who want the same reach as more advanced camera without the complications of manual exposure modes and the like. As such, it’s a little disappointing that it lacks built-in Wifi and GPS. That’s one of the many differences between it and its main competitor, the Canon PowerShot SX510 HS which I’ve compared it with below before offering my final verdict.
Compared to Canon PowerShot SX510 HS
Super-zooms are mostly about lenses so lets talk about that first. Like the PowerShot SX510 HS, the Nikon COOLPIX L820 has a 30x stabilised optical zoom. The range isn’t quite the same – the COOLPIX L810 starts at at unusually wide 22.5mm equivalent super-wide angle, which could be an attraction if you shoot a lot of landscapes or interiors. The drawback is that its 675mm maximum telephoto won’t get you quite as close in to the action as the 24-720mm lens on the SX510 HS. In practical terms though (as illustrated on the first page), these are quite small differences at both ends of the zoom range, so I’m happy to describe their coverage as being essentially the same. The COOLPIX L820 is a little chunkier than the SX510 HS and it’s heavier, in part due to its four AA batteries which provide it with around double the number of shots providing you use optional Ni-Mh rechargeables.
The sensor in the COOLPIX L820 produces 16 Megapixel images, larger than the 12 Megapixel shots of the PowerShot SX510 HS, but in my tests the quality of the COOLPIX L820 wasn’t quite up to the standards of the lower resolution sensor in the Canon. Both models have a 3 inch fixed LCD screen and a built in flash and they’re similar in terms of their design and control layouts.
But beyond that lie some pretty fundamental differences. The COOLPIX L820 is a basic point-and shoot compact, lacking the PASM exposure modes of the PowerShot SX510 HS. You can set the ISO sensitivity manually and adjust exposure compensation, but that’s about as far as it goes. And while the COOLPIX L820 has a handful of special effects, the PowerShot SX510 HS goes much further with Creative effects, and Live view controls for easy operation. In it’s favour, the COOLPIX L810 offers Easy panorama, 3D and HDR backlighting scene modes.
Both models offer 1080p full HD video, but the COOLPIX L820 has a wider range of movie modes including iFrame, now dropped on the SX510 HS, and three high speed (i.e. slow motion) video modes, one at 720p, compared with only two modes (and no HD slow motion) on the PowerShot SX510 HS. The SX510 HS does have the excellent movie digest mode though. The COOLPIX L810 has a wider range of continuous shooting modes with a faster full-resolution 8fps burst mode, though not all work at the full resolution of the sensor. Finally, the COOLPIX L820 lacks built-in Wifi or GPS, a serious ommission these days, when most people want to share images quickly and easily. In contrast the SX510 HS sports Wifi and can embed GPS data recorded by a smartphone log.
Depending on your region, the COOLPIX L820 could be cheaper than the PowerShot SX510 HS, and if what you’re looking for is an uncomplicated point-and-shoot model with a long zoom, a good range of video modes and the convenience of AA batteries, its well worth considering. But if you want more control over exposure, a wider range of effects and feature modes and Wifi connectivity in a more compact and lightweight body, the SX510 HS is well worth the extra money.
See my Canon PowerShot SX510 HS review for more details.
Nikon COOLPIX L820 final verdict
Like its predecessor, the Nikon COOLPIX L820 is a no-frills budget point-and-shoot superzoom. It’s uncomplicated, easy to use and provides a zoom range that’s more than long enough for most subjects. But just because you’re not interested in manual control doesn’t mean you don’t want other things, like the ability to share your photos over Wifi. On a budget model aimed at casual snappers this is a serious shortcoming.
Ignoring that, the COOLPIX L820 has plenty of other things going for it, not least a very capable stabilised zoom lens with an unbeatable wide angle, a cool Easy panorama mode, a great range of continuous shooting modes and decent battery life. Beyond that the two things that are most likely to attract interest are its low price and ease of use. Nothing wrong with that and there are few other options if those criteria are high up on you list. In which case I can certainly recommend the COOLPIX L810, though it misses out on a Highly recommended primarily due to the lack of built in Wifi. If you want built-in wireless and manual control too, go for the Canon SX510 HS compared above.
(relative to 2013 super-zooms)
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20