Nikon’s Life range of easy to use compacts has seen a revamp in recent months and the L19 sits mid-way within the range below the (yep, you guessed it) L20 and oddly, the range topping L100 but above the, wait for it … L18!
The camera’s plastic bodywork may not inspire but the styling allows the camera to sit neatly in the hand. The top plate sports a large shutter release and smaller on/off button, camera shooting mode and playback buttons just behind.
The spartan back plate provides a disappointingly small and fiddly zoom control while a ubiquitous four-way jog control encircles a central OK button and is joined by a delete and menu button.
That’s your lot in terms of controls which helps ensure Nikon’s easy to use “Life” series ethos is maintained. The menu button provides access to the meat of the camera settings (as you’d expect) but this makes it necessarily slow when switching settings such as white balance and the colour options. You can adjust resolution/quality and the shooting mode and that’s about it.
The latter options provides single, continuous and multi-shot modes that can shoot a quick-fire sequence of 16-images combined, collage fashion into a single shot, so handy to get shots of fast moving subjects as a sequence of smaller thumbs.
However, the continuous setting provides shooting at around one frame per second and you get BSS or best shot selector, which shoots a sequence of ten images and the camera “picks” the sharpest image and dumps the rest.
The motion detection works well enough but because it bumps up the sensitivity from the camera's automatically adjusted 64 to 1600 ISO range, noise problems can be an issue as the sensitivity creeps up, particularly when it goes above ISO 800.
However at the lower ISOs, noise is well controlled and without detail leeching too, which is a refreshing change. Other clever kit includes the Smart portrait system that combines smile detection with a blink warning along with the way the camera processes the portrait shots helping you get the most from your people pictures.
The Easy Auto mode is designed to let you turn on the camera and shoot without worrying about settings since the camera "chooses" settings based on the scene before the lens. You get 16-scene modes to choose between as well, so you can tailor the camera to specific shooting situations such as party, night portrait, and landscape and macro modes.
The 5cm macro mode reasonable for this level of camera as is the nice lens, which provides a fairly limited wide angle end of 41mm but a respectable 145mm full zoom ratio. The lens is however sharp and fairly distortion free. However the focus system is a little hit and miss, particularly in Macro mode where it seems to get confused by more cluttered scenes and it’s not the fastest of AF systems either acerbated by slight shutter lag, typical of a camera at this level.
White balance (WB) control is great in all but the auto mode, a disappointment given the likely purchaser of this camera is not going to be tinkering much with WB settings, but at least you do have manual control of WB, unlike the ISO settings.
WB under fluorescent lighting, images are disappointingly orange hued while in mixed lighting … ditto. Set a particular white balance to the WB performance dramatically improves.
Images are saved onto SD/SDHC cards though MMC cards are not supported. Powered by dual AA cells, you’ll be able to get the camera powered up anywhere as AA’s are widely available and my concerns that the supplied alkaline batteries would do no mare than a few were unfounded.
After over 100-shots and plenty of reviewing, they’re still growing strong, so Nikon has managed to control the power usage really well. To that end the large screen is nice to have and has a great anti-reflection coating but the lack of an optical viewfinder means you cannot save power by switching the screen off.
Interestingly, the camera’s flash is ideal for little more than a fill-in, but flash exposures are very good indeed and the one nod to more advanced usage is the inclusion of exposure compensation to brighten or darken scenes the (fixed) metering finds harder to handle though I must say, it usually provides an excellent balance.
Overall then the L19 provides a simple to use camera with enough automated kit to satisfy most users, Nikon’s D-Lighting is also included so you can adjust images (in playback mode) to balance shadow and highlights but without loosing detail in either. It works well enough.
Apart from a small zoom control, the Nikon Coolpix L19 has a great control layout that’s easy to fathom thus making handling very simple indeed. In fact, the L19 provides exactly what you would need or expect from a point and shooter that’s combined with some excellent automated Nikon features and good low ISO image quality.