Our First Take
Nikon's Coolpix L830 (MSRP $299.95) follows in the well-established path laid down by previous L-series cameras. It's upgraded in the most important way a compact zoom point-and-shoot can be—there's more zoom this time. In what looks to be a classic case of camera sequelitis, Nikon took the L820 and added 4x more optical zoom.
Other than that, this is the same compact-bodied travel zoom that has been on the market since last January. Packing a 16-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilization, and a tilting LCD, the L830 is a prime case of a camera designed around the guiding principle of bang-for-your-buck. At just under $300, it might be the perfect choice for those looking for just enough camera.
Design & Usability
Compact and comfy
For many users, a true DSLR or a DSLR-style superzoom is just too big and uncomfortable. Thankfully, the L830 continues to provide a full feature set in a body as svelte and ergonomic as its predecessors. This camera might not be Canon S120 small, but it's way more compact than any ILC—particularly when you take its massive optical range into account. And it's also a lot less complex, which will be a big plus for some users.
A pronounced grip on the right-hand side is a natural fit for your hand, with a pleasing diamond-patterned texture on the rubber coating. Given its low price, it wasn't feasible for Nikon to go all out on the L830, but the company definitely knew which traits it needed to emphasize to form a positive first impression. The L830 is also light enough to comfortably carry on longer outings, from hikes to travel abroad. Either in your hand or on a strap, this featherweight camera won't fatigue you like a heavy DSLR might.
The 3-inch, 920k-dot LCD tilts vertically, giving you ample creative flexibility when it comes to framing shots. It's a feature that, after using it, is hard to live without. While the L830's screen might not swing out and rotate like the panel on Fujifilm's FinePix S1, it moves enough to allow you to shoot over the heads of big crowds or position the camera at a low angle for more dramatic compositions.
And if you're a nonconformist on a budget, Nikon offers the L830 in its signature candy apple red in addition to the standard matte black. It's a finish that's proven popular on the company's entry-level DSLRs.
Just a pinch more zoom for good measure
For the low, low price of $300, you get a pretty capable little camera. The headline feature is obviously the 34x optical zoom, which has an admittedly slow f/3-5.9 aperture range. That means you'll be somewhat limited when it comes to low-light photography. Nikon tries to remedy the situation by including Vibration Reduction technology, but experience tells us that shooting in dim conditions will still be a challenge.
Full-HD video capability is also a big selling point. A big, easy-to-press record button provides a quick way to start shooting 1080/30p video whenever you want. And the included HDMI port lets you send your footage to the big screen without hassling with adapters or transferring files to your computer.
Like previous L-series models, the L830 runs off of AA batteries. Whether that's a good thing or not depends heavily on user preference, but there are a few incontrovertible up-sides. First, it means you're not paying for the charger. Second, it means you can easily find replacement cells, no matter where you are. Third, a good set of rechargeable AAs (hello, Sanyo Eneloops) will usually last far longer on a charge than most proprietary lithium-ion packs.
While WiFi would have been a slam-dunk addition, it's not surprising that Nikon left it out to hit the $300 price point. As the bottom-rung of Nikon's point-and-shoot hierarchy, the L-cameras don't need it all, they just need to be inexpensive.
It's cheap, and it has the reach you need.
While you can't fit the CoolPix L830 into your pants pockets, it seems like a camera that hits the sweet spots of both price and features for most mainstream camera buyers. What Nikon has done here is take a proven camera and tack on a bit more zoom—it's a formula you can't really argue with. But until we get one into our labs, it'll be hard to peg down exactly what's different from the outgoing model.
Since the low-end is falling out of the camera market, we think that Nikon made a good decision to apply a minor refresh to a model that has a clear audience. Smartphones simply don't have optical zoom, and this camera has a whopping 34x. In addition to cranking out decent photos, that's all the camera companies need to stress in order to win over photographers who have outgrown their phones.