The massive lens barrel makes the Nikon CoolPix L100 look like an intimidating, advanced digital camera, but the opposite is a lot closer to the truth. It’s an easy-to-use point-and-shoot digital camera with a big zoom lens that’s suitable for almost any situation.
The Nikon CoolPix L100 has a 10-megapixel sensor and a 15x zoom lens with an aperture of f/3.5 at its widest point and f/5.4 at its maximum zoom point. It can take pictures as wide as 28mm, or zoom up to 420mm. This means it's a versatile digital camera that can be used for close-ups, portraits, landscapes and even action photography.
It’s a digital camera for the casual user who doesn’t want to fiddle with advanced settings, yet wants to be able to zoom in to objects from a great distance. Facilitating the ease of use of the camera is a graphical menu with clear labels, and a minimalist approach to physical controls; the Nikon CoolPix L100 doesn’t even have a mode dial! You have to change modes by pressing the scene button and selecting the preferred shooting mode from the screen. There’s isn’t a manual mode; instead you can choose from one of the 14 available scene modes, easy auto mode or auto mode.
The camera aims to make picture taking as simple as possible, and it has a few interesting features to help you. It has a face detection feature with a smile shutter and a blink warning. It seems gimmicky, but the smile shutter is fun to use. It works very well when there is one person in the frame, snapping a picture automatically as soon as that person smiles; if there are two or more people, it won’t wait until everyone is smiling. The blink warning worked as advertised; it scanned the faces in our shots after they were taken and highlighted one person who blinked, and another person whose neck might have blinked! Like we said, it can be fun to use these features.
Pictures need to be framed using the 3in LCD screen, which can be hard to view while shooting outdoors on bright days. Our test images turned out vibrant for the most part, and they were very clear. Even when viewed at their maximum 10-megapixel size, small details were still discernible, colours weren’t blotchy and noise wasn’t noticeable. Images taken at maximum zoom were clear, but did look a little soft. Chromatic aberration was a problem in many shots, but it wasn’t overly noticeable unless viewing photos at their full size. Nevertheless, if you take photos with the intention of cropping them closely to focus on small details (such as a distant sign, for example), the Nikon CoolPix L100 will facilitate that task adequately.
At its widest point, the lens does produce a noticeable amount of distortion, which is manifested as a curve primarily along a vertical line. Wide angled pictures of buildings will look curved. The camera does have a built-in distortion correction feature, which tends to make objects look a little fatter as it counters the effect of the distortion. When taking photos of buildings and objects, take one with distortion correction disabled and one with it enabled to figure out which effect you like most.
Because there is no way to change the aperture size and shutter speed, you have to rely solely on the camera to get the exposure right, and in our tests it wasn’t always perfect. On a bright day, it often over-exposed light colours in our photos. There is a shortcut button for changing the exposure compensation, which is handy in this situation. In auto mode, the white balance can also be changed, as can the colour mode (from standard to vivid), but you can’t change the metering mode.
The focus also can’t be changed, apart from invoking the smile shutter. The face detection feature was hit and miss, as it sometimes struggled to focus on more than one face at a time. For the most part, though, the Nikon CoolPix L100 focused quickly and accurately on our subjects, and it was good at taking macro shots (it can take these 1cm away from the subject).
It’s a very quiet camera. You won’t hear the motor focusing the lens, and if you disable the sound effects in the setup menu, you also won’t hear the shutter. This makes the CoolPix L100 virtually silent, and it’s a little inconvenient when using the automatic smile shutter, as you won’t hear shots being taken.
The Nikon CoolPix L100 has a very comfortable shutter button and hand-grip (which houses four AA batteries), and its zoom function is swift. There are only a handful of buttons to learn how to use and the flash has to be popped up manually.
We liked the camera's speed. It can take up to 20 shots in continuous shooting mode, before stopping to commit the photos to the memory card. Its image stabilisation also works very well, as we were able to take relatively clear pictures in low light situations with shutter speeds between 1/20th and 1/10th of a second. If too high an ISO is selected by the camera when using high ISO mode in low light then noise will ruin the pictures.
So despite being a very automatic camera, the Nikon CoolPix L100 has left us with a good impression overall. We think it’s a good model to consider if you want a camera with a big zoom that’s also very simple to operate.