One of the fastest point-and-shoots we've seen, the Nikon Coolpix L18 has much to offer, including a huge 3-inch LCD, 23MB of built-in storage, and the ability to zoom while shooting video. It comes with its share of caveats, too, but overall we recommend this camera.
Easy on the Eyes, Easy to Use
The L18 is roughly the same size and shape as the Panasonic DMC-LS80 but with more rounded corners and fewer buttons. Also, the zoom lever is on the back rather than around the shutter. The camera mode and playback buttons are inconveniently placed on top, rather than the back of the camera. We also wish the memory card slot were on the side instead of the bottom.
We love the 3-inch LCD. It's large, sharp, and bright, and you can choose whether you want to start with a standard welcome screen, show a favorite picture, or display menu options as icons or text. Most users will want to select text, because many of the icons are unfamiliar.
With only a handful of controls, commands, and menus, the Nikon Coolpix L18 is one of the easiest cameras to use. Simply turn it on, choose one of its four modes--Auto, Scene, Movie, and Easy Auto mode--and begin shooting. It's also very easy to tweak the settings, but the number of options is somewhat limited.
You Are In Control, Sort Of
In all still modes, you can set macro and exposure compensation and activate the self-timer. If the shot selector is on Single Frame, you can also set five flash options. Only in Auto mode can you choose resolution, white balance, shot selector, and color options. Choose Easy Auto or Scene, and pressing the menu button bypasses those choices altogether and displays only setup options, although Scene also lets you choose resolution. The L18 offers 11 Scene selections.
The L18 features face-recognition technology, though it isn't a user-controlled option. In most shooting modes, it's always active and works well. The camera lacks optical image stabilization, however. Instead, it automatically boosts the ISO and shutter speed when it detects motion. This helps reduce blur, but it also diminishes image quality.
Blazing Performance, Mixed Image Quality
This point-and-shoot is among the fastest we've seen. It boots up in a blazing 1.2 seconds, and at the single shot rate, and with the flash off, it can fire a frame every 1.5 seconds. In Continuous Shooting mode, it can capture a frame every 1.3 seconds until you take your finger off the shutter or the memory is full (the focus remains unchanged, however). The L18 also has a Multi-shot 16 selection, which shoots 16 tiny images in a single frame in only one second--good for analyzing golf or tennis swings.
The L18's overall image quality was mixed. On our still life shots, exposure was slightly dark, colors muted, and nothing was really sharp and crisp. Our indoor available light shots had a slight blue cast. However, outdoor and action shots were sharp and well exposed, with excellent color.
Good Video Quality
We were impressed with both the video quality of the L18 and how easy it was to make a movie. Videos can be shot in VGA (640 x 480) resolution at a full 30 fps, and 320 x 240 at either 30 fps or 15 fps. As with theKodak EasyShare M863, you can use the L18's optical zoom while filming. The videos were jerk-free and well exposed, though you'll have to hold the camera with both hands while zooming to avoid jitters.
Nikon Coolpix L18 Verdict
We had great fun using the Nikon Coolpix L18. The similarly pricedCasio Exilim EX-Z9is more versatile and sophisticated, but the L18 is a fast shooter. You won't get bogged down with distracting options and parameters, and at the end of the day, you'll get good stills and videos.