To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Nikon Coolpix L21 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £69
inc VAT

There’s a complete lack of frills, but with respectable image quality and simple controls, it’s just right for a budget point-and-shoot camera


1/2.5in 8.0-megapixel sensor, 3.5x zoom (41-145mm equivalent), 169g

While mid-price compact cameras are caught up in an ill-advised megapixel race, a welcome side effect is that budget cameras are far from being under-specified. The Nikon L21 is one of the most affordable cameras we’ve ever seen, and its 8-megapixel sensor, a 2.5in screen and 3.5x zoom lens look promising.

The good news extends beyond the headline features, with an AF lamp to help with autofocus and an orientation sensor so portrait-shaped photos are rotated automatically. This sensor proved to be fairly unreliable in our tests, though. The lens’s 41-145mm focal length range lacks a wide-angle capability and its f/3.1-6.7 aperture isn’t particularly fast, but these aren’t deal breakers.

At this low price, all we really ask from the L21 is not to mess up too badly. On the whole, it rose to this challenge. The controls are about as basic as they come but there is control over white balance, exposure compensation and flash, plus self-timer and burst modes. Face detection helps produce balanced exposures, and there’s even a smile detect mode for automatically capturing demented grins.

Performance is faster than many cameras costing twice as much. We measured 2.8 seconds to switch on and shoot, two seconds between subsequent shots and 1.1fps in continuous mode. The autofocus was on the slow side, though, and it sometimes misjudged scenes to produce completely out-of-focus shots.

In-focus shots lacked biting clarity and detail, particularly in the corners of frames. In bright light photos weren’t vastly better than from a decent camera phone. The optical zoom and reasonably powerful flash helped distinguish it from mobile phone shots, though. The flash was necessary to avoid blurry motion in low light, but exposures were balanced and the camera picked sensible settings for each occasion.

We had pretty modest expectations for a camera this affordable, and although the L21 didn’t exceed them, it didn’t disappoint. It’s a solid choice for casual users – particularly children – for whom a pricier, more complicated camera would be inappropriate.

Basic Specifications

Rating ****
CCD effective megapixels 8.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.5in
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 2.5in
LCD screen resolution 230,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 3.5x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 41-145mm
Image stabilisation none
Maximum image resolution 3,264×2,448
Maximum movie resolution 640×480
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats JPEG; AVI (M-JPEG)


Memory slot SDHC
Mermory supplied 19MB internal
Battery type 2x AA
Battery Life (tested) 500 shots
Connectivity USB, AV
HDMI output resolution N/A
Body material plastic
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier 6.0x
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 169g
Size 61x92x28mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £69

Camera Controls

Exposure modes auto
Shutter speed auto
Aperture range auto
ISO range (at full resolution) auto
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 5 presets, manual
Additional image controls none
Manual focus No
Closest macro focus 5cm
Auto-focus modes multi, face detect
Metering modes multi, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, smile detect