The Nikon Coolpix L120 is a relatively cheap megazoom camera that's dead simple to use. There is nothing difficult about this camera at all — simply point it, adjust the zoom if it tickles your fancy, and press the shutter button. The camera will do all the work and you won't have to think about any exposure settings at all. You can select a scene mode or a different ISO setting if you want to, but that's about it.
Because the Coolpix L120 is an automatic camera, it can sometimes struggle in situations where the light is too bright and with scene that have a lot of dynamic range. That said, its overall quality is decent for uploading photos to social networking sites or printing them at up to A4 size. It has a 14-megapixel sensor and a 25mm wide-angle lens with a 21x optical zoom, which results in a massive range of 525mm.
If you want an inexpensive camera (that's to say, one under $300) with a versatile lens, then the L120 is definitely worth considering. With built-in image stabilisation, images shot at maximum zoom actually look quite clear and aren't spoiled by camera shake. This depends on whether you're shooting in bright light or in relatively dark conditions; for the latter, you'll definitely need to make use of a tripod and the timer.
The clarity and colour accuracy of the L120's images are decent, and you can get some good results with this camera when the lighting conditions are right. However, it has noticeable problems when exposing bright scenes. Highlights will often be blown out and chromatic aberration will tarnish areas with high contrast objects. This is similar to other inexpensive compact cameras such as the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FH2 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W530. Furthermore, shooting in dark environments will result in images that look a little feathered around the edges and poorly defined if the camera decides to use an ISO speed above 400. When a high ISO speed is used, you should avoid cropping photos as these blemishes will become a lot more visible.
You can see the chromatic aberration clearly in the light areas where the sky is poking through the leaves. Furthermore, the highlight on the trunk is blown out.
With its 21x optical zoom, the L120 does a good job of getting nice and close to distant subjects.
Pictures can be framed through the good quality 3in LCD; however, like the screens on most compact cameras, it can be mighty difficult to see while outside on a bright day without any shade. Apart from that, the L120 has simple controls and it's easy to operate — it even has two zoom rockers so that can use whichever one is more convenient for you. Its shutter button has a distinct two-step feel to it and there is a beefy handgrip so that you can hold the camera comfortably.
The handgrip is beefy as it needs to house the four AA batteries that power the camera. The good thing about the camera using AA batteries is that you can just pop into the nearest store and purchase more if you ever run out of juice while you're out and about. There is ample room for your thumb on the rear of the camera and also a dedicated button for video recording. A mode dial is missing, but you can change from auto mode to one of 17 scene modes by pressing the 'scene' mode button just next to the main menu controls.
In video mode, the L120 will struggle to quickly adjust to changing light. It can't autofocus while in video mode, so you'll have to select the focal length you want and stick with it for an entire scene. Videos are recorded in MOV format at a resolution up to 1280x720.
For $299, the Coolpix L120 is definitely worth it if you want a big-zoom camera, but just bear in mind that it will struggle to properly expose images when there is lots of bright light or dynamic range. Apart from that, its image quality is decent and photos taken at the maximum zoom will look clear if the light is good. We also think it's a very comfortable and easy camera to use, making it a good choice for novice photographers.
Become a fan of PC World Australia on Facebook
Follow PC World Australia on Twitter: @PCWorldAu