On first contact, the L610 may feel a little unusual. The camera's plastic casing isn't particularly flattering but the L610 is evenly balanced and nice enough to handle—largely thanks to the big, deep grip handle on the front of the camera, complete with textured rubber finish. Probably in the interest of cutting costs compared with the S8200, the pop-up flash in the L610 isn't motorised—there's a little switch you need to flip each time you want to use the flash.
The L610 has a TN-type LCD screen with 460,000 dots, which isn't too surprising for a camera at this price point. Quality could clearly be better. Apart from the tight viewing angles associated with TN technology (the screen soon looks dark when viewed from below), speckles of noise appear onscreen in low light (even if the image does remain smooth) and colours aren't displayed accurately. It's therefore advisable to check your snaps on a computer screen before you go about deleting any of them.
The Coolpix L610 is a relatively easy camera to use. In fact, pretty much everything is taken care of automatically. Note that there are only a handful of manual settings on offer here, including a P mode and a Scene mode, just like the Nikon L110.
The results in this part of our review are almost identical to what we saw with the S8200. Start-up takes just under two seconds, which is still quite rare in the world of superzoom compacts. Photo-to-photo turnaround takes under a second and a half, which is within average. The autofocus works quickly in good light at all focal lengths, and although it does slow down in low light, it's faster here than in the S8200.
The Nikon L610 gives similar performances to the S8200, largely due to the fact that the two cameras use the same lens and sensor.
The L610 is within average when it comes to handling digital noise. Noise is barely visible at 100 and 200 ISO. It starts to appear at 400 ISO and remains at an acceptable level at 800 ISO. Beyond that, smoothing gets quite strong and detail is wiped out.
The L610 lens lacks a little consistency at wide-angle but sharpness levels are excellent in the middle of the frame. The image loses precision as you zoom but remains comparable with the S8200.
The L610 films 1080p HD video at 30 frames per second. The video image is relatively detailed, smooth and very contrasted, with darker zones that soon block up.
Audio quality is disappointing, though, as even if voices are correctly rendered, everything just sounds too metallic. Another downside is a permanent buzz noise in the background that can be heard in quieter scenes.