Experts' favorite cheap ultrazoom camera, the Nikon Coolpix L820 was built with travelers in mind. Its 30x zoom lens captures close-ups of all the sights. It uses AA batteries, so you'll never run out of power. And it's cheap, so you won't be too heartbroken if it gets lost, stolen or damaged. One downside: It's bulky and heavy. If you prefer a pocket-size camera, try the 10x-zoom Canon PowerShot Elph 330 HS (Est. $200).
Big like a DSLR, but easy like a compact camera. Bulky even for an ultrazoom, the Nikon L820 is a 4-by-3-inch brick that weighs over a pound. Still, it could fit into a roomy jacket pocket, says Gavin Stoker at TechRadar.com. It's comfortable to hold, with a big rubber hand grip. It may look like a little digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, but the Nikon L820 is strictly a point-and-shooter. It's easy to use, testers say -- the buttons are exactly what and where you'd expect to find them on a cheap camera, and the menu is easy to navigate. You won't get an eyepiece viewfinder at this price, but the 3-inch LCD screen is clear, bright and nicely sharp. The image back there does get "very wobbly and juddery" on mega-zoomed shots, though, Stoker says.
Brisk speed and nice images. A big zoom on a cheap camera usually spells bad photos -- but not here. The 16-megapixel photos look beautifully clear and crisp in bright light, and dimmer-light photos look fine through ISO 800. Full-HD video looks good, too, although fully zoomed photos and videos can get blurry unless you use a tripod. Speed is no problem: The Nikon L820 can start up and shoot in just over 2 seconds. "This is a camera that you can use around children when they do funny, candid stuff," says Matt Grayson at PhotographyBlog.com. Unusual for a camera these days, the Nikon L820 runs on four AA batteries. Battery life is pretty decent; expect 320 shots with a set of regular alkalines, up to 870 shots with lithium AA batteries.
Plastic, but sturdy. The Nikon L820's shiny plastic body looks chintzy to testers, but it "doesn't feel as creaky" as it looks, says Gavin Stoker at TechRadar.com. PhotographyBlog.com's Matt Grayson agrees, pointing out a couple of nice, durable touches like the metal tripod bush (something you'll be using a lot to steady the enormous zoom) and locking battery compartment (necessary to hold the heavy AA batteries).
"Teeth-aching" 30x zoom. The 30x zoom is the big story here. It captures 22.5 mm wide-angle shots, all the way to a "teeth aching" 675 mm, Grayson says. At TechRadar.com, Stoker zooms in to capture striking close-ups of water birds in the wild. An in-camera panorama feature works well. The Nikon L820 also comes with the usual array of preset scene modes (like Fireworks and Snow) and in-camera retouching (like skin softening). It's bigger than most cheap cameras, and it comes with more accessories: a lens cap, neck strap, USB cable, AV cable (there's an HDMI jack, but you'll need your own cable) and four AA batteries.
Keep in mind that it's a cheap starter ultrazoom, and you might be "pleasantly surprised" by the Nikon Coolpix L820, Stoker concludes after a lengthy test. It's plasticky and images can get blurry at full zoom, but overall sharp photos earn this easy-to-use camera a 4-star rating out of 5.
Review: Nikon Coolpix L820 Review, Gavin Stoker, Aug. 5, 2013
After a full test, Bell awards the Nikon L820 a 4-star (out of 5) Recommended rating. It's heavy, and you get very limited manual controls, but it delivers good photo and video quality and a huge zoom for the price.
Review: Nikon Coolpix L820 Review, Daniel Bell, May 9, 2013
Grayson comes away impressed after testing every aspect of the Nikon L820. Expecting a mediocre cheap camera that's all zoom, he's pleasantly surprised by the Nikon's image quality.
Review: Nikon Coolpix L820 Review, Matt Grayson, May 22, 2013
ConsumerReports.org puts more than 130 point-and-shoot digital cameras through their paces, including the Nikon Coolpix L820. Editors rank the cameras from best to worst based on their photo and video quality, ease of use and more.
Review: Nikon Coolpix L820, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
5. Choice magazine
The Nikon L820 earns a spot on this Australian magazine's What to Buy list, along with 10 other cameras under $600 (out of 69 tested). Like ConsumerReports.org, Choice thoroughly tests the cameras and rates them for ease of use, photo and video quality, etc.
Review: Basic Digital Camera Reviews, Chris Ruggles, July 8, 2013
By far one of the best-rated cameras here, the Nikon L820 averages 4.5 out of 5 stars in more than 100 owner reviews. This is a good place to find out how the camera handles real-life scenarios like photographing and video-recording wildlife (one review includes a video of deer playing) and kids' sports.
Review: Nikon Coolpix L820, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of August 2013