Along with other digital cameras in this series the Nikon Coolpix L20 is the most straightforward digital cameras I can recall testing. Sure a large part of this is down to its minimal set of features, but if you are looking for complete simplicity the Coolpix L20 is very hard to beat.
Key features include 10 megapixels and a 3.6x optical zoom lens. This gives you enough power for larger prints and although the amount of zoom available is near to the minimum expected it is still enough for a host of standard, social shots. Nikon has also included a large size LCD screen. It is 3 inches in size.
As you would expect for this type of camera the price has been kept relatively low. The body is made out of plastic and although too large for most pockets it is still a compact model. There is a raised, grip area on the front. This can help you to hold the camera steady when taking a shot.
The Coolpix L20 is one of a decreasing number of digital cameras to be powered by AA batteries. Cameras at this end of the market still tend to be battery hungry despite advances in technology so you will save yourself money in the longer term if you also invest in some good quality, rechargeable batteries.
Looking at the features that are available you get a standard movie mode and a selection of predefined scene modes. The movies produced should be of sufficient quality to playback on a TV screen, although it is worth stating that there is no widescreen TV mode and no High Definition settings. I use the landscape scene mode for any scenic shot I take with most Nikon digital cameras. I find this helps to stop sharpness falling away as you move out towards the edges of a photo.
You can focus from 5cm away from a subject in macro mode. I found my close up shots to be of good quality. When shooting bright shiny objects using macro mode you may have to look out for purple fringing showing up where your light source catches the subject. That problem aside you will have to pay considerably more to notice a significant difference in the quality of your close up shots.
A smile shutter mode has been incorporated for if you like the idea of firing off a shot automatically when the camera detects someone is smiling. I think this is a bit of a gimmick, but you might find it comes in handy now and again.
Shutter lag times for a single shot were in line with other similarly priced digital cameras, but I did detect the camera slowing considerably when reeling off more than one shot at a time. The camera is also a little slow to turn on and take the first shot.
There has been a glut of this type of camera introduced during the spring of 2009. Nikon themselves has introduced two new cameras with Canon, Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony also pitching in with new offerings. Out of the cameras I have tested so far the Coolpix L20 along with the Coolpix L19 is the easiest to use and is just a shade behind the Canon Powershot A480 when it comes to picture quality. I especially like the amount of brightness Nikon manage to bring out in pictures even with cheaper cameras like this one. One downside when it comes to picture quality is that the corners of photos can be noticeably darker when the lens is not zoomed in at all. This is down to an imperfection in the lens and is difficult to overcome.