With a 10Mp sensor and 15x optical zoom, there could be more than meets the eye with the Nikon Coolpix L100.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Specification
- Zoom: 15x optical (28-420mm)
- Resolution: 10Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.33in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Max. image size: 3648x2736
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO80-800 (auto only), 720-3200 (HiISO or Sport)
- Storage: 44Mb internal, SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Centre, face detection
- Normal focusing: 50cm
- Close focusing: 1cm
- Metering types: Matrix, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 2sec-1/4000sec
- Flash: Built-in 0.5m-11m (wide), 0.5m-9m (tele)
- Monitor: 3in TFT LCD
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: 4x AA batteries
- Size: 110x72x78mm
- Weight: 355g (excl. battery and card)
For £219 you get 10Mp, 15x optical zoom and pretty much everything done for you. The Olympus SP565 UZ at £259 also has 10Mp, a larger 20x optical zoom and creative control such as shuter and aperture-priority.
Alternatively the Sony DSC-H50 offers a slightly lower 9Mp, similar 15x optical zoom and a Carl Zeiss lens.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Features
As part of the 'Life' series, the Nikon Coolpix L100 sits in the Nikon range towards the bottom end. Still, a 10Mp sensor and 15x optical zoom aren't anything to be sniffed at. On the surface it does seem that the only reason this camera was released was to satisfy the consumers who wanted a big zoom and nothing else.
The top is basic with many of the features you'd expect to see on a bridge camera missing.
The back doesn't have much more with only a few buttons to help you make your selections. The idea is that the camera handles it all.
The Nikon Coolpix L100 holds in a 15x optical zoom with Vibration Reduction for the zoom and distortion control for the wide shots.
The reason I say this is because the camera, like the others in the 'L' range, is sparse in features. You can tell that simply by looking at the exterior. A power button and shutter release, with the zoom rocker wrapped around it, are all that adorn the top where you'd expect to see a command dial with exposure compensation and dedicated ISO buttons.
You won't find the latter on this camera because there isn't an option to change the ISO unless you select the HiISO option and even then it chooses from between ISO720-3200.
On the back is the expected 3in LCD screen and very little else. A few buttons are sat to the right of the screen for changing the mode you're in or selecting macro, flash and drive options. The main modes are brought up for selection when you press the camera button. Easy auto makes everything point and shoot to a level I don't normally experience. In this mode, the main menu allows you to change the resolution. That's basically it for that mode, if you want to do anything else, you'll have to choose the normal auto mode found at the bottom of the list.
There are only fourteen modes in the scene menu which is a little unusual for a camera that essentially takes control away from you. This could be down to the predictive auto systems that all cameras are having installed in them since Panasonic developed it. It works in the normal auto system and detects what type of photograph you're taking then adjusts the mode the camera is in to suit. Of course, it can't tell when you're in a museum so there's an option for that in the scene selections.
There's also the possibility that it could get it wrong, so options such as macro are still accessible on the navigation pad. I sit here complaining about this but secretly I'm happy because it means that we're not having more and more features added to the cameras with each new release, so maybe Panasonic did us a favour in that respect?
Looking at the menu and it's just as simple as the rest of the camera. I mean that in a complimentary way as it doesn't get too confusing. In auto mode there's only two tabs to choose from for recording options and set up. You can also change the resolution, white balance, drive modes, colour options and take advantage of the distortion control. This could be a distinct advantage with the wide angle lens as it will cause distortion otherwise they wouldn't include the feature on the camera.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Build and handling
As part of the range that it's in, I didn't expect much but holding it feels surprisingly solid. There's little wobble in the lens and I can happily report that the camera has a metal tripod bush.
It only takes AA batteries which won't give you a comparable performance next to its lithium ion cousins but they're easier to come by if you do run out of power. The SD card slot is in the same chamber as the batteries and this gets to me. Li-Ion batteries usually have a catch to stop them falling out but AA batteries have nothing like that. Open the catch the wrong way and they all fall on the floor and you don't just have one square battery to chase but four round ones that roll all over the place.
The Nikon Coolpix L100 feels comfortable to hold with its chunky grip allowing plenty of space to grasp and letting the index finger fall straight onto the shutter release. The flash is a manual pop-up type in the way that it doesn't even have a button to activate a mechanical switch. You have to get your fingernail under it and flip it up yourself.
Despite a resolution of 230,000dots, the screen is very bright and colourful with only a mild hint of motion blur and the purple banding seen at bright areas soon disappears when the camera compensates for the light.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Performance
There are three modes to take advantage of in the drive mode although one of them isn't technically a continuous shooting mode. Continuous mode takes five shots in ten seconds giving it a rating of 0.5fps (frames per second) which isn't the best but the camera is capable of up to 13fps. BSS stands for Best Shot Selector and works by taking several images and choosing the best one from the bunch. Not really continuous shooting as it doesn't record all images but uses the feature in its execution.
Finally, you can choose multi-16 which takes 16 small thumbnail shots and places them all on one image. I've often thought about what benefit this mode could have and I can only come up with it being a handy option for making a zoetrope.
I flicked the camera into sports mode to see if I could find the 13fps mode and it seems that this could be the one. It managed to take 31 images in just over three seconds which is actually a little under 13fps but I'm testing the camera in more realistic terms and not a laboratory.
Looking at the colour test chart image, I really like the colours with blue punching its way out and there's a decent result from the the other colours as well. Red is a little muted but not unappealing and the skin tone tile looks nice so I can't wait for the portrait shots. Earth brown and forest green are rich and there's some noticeable colour coming through from the pastel tiles down the left side of the brown, orange and blue tiles. These can often be bleached out so it's good to see the Nikon picking them out.
I like the portrait image as it's given a balanced skin tone and a decent white balance result. Using auto flash wouldn't get a response as Nikon seem to prefer upping the ISO at the moment so I forced the flash and it didn't do anything to try and amend the power. A harsh reflection has appeared on the forehead and the whole image is over exposed.
I like the portrait image for skin tone and warmth while retaining good detail.
Using flash has let the camera down from an otherwise decent performance.
This is still in portrait mode so the camera and flash should work together to sort the issue before the picture was taken. Smile detection is available with the L100 and it shows a picture of a person smiling with a small graph that gets coloured in as it sees a stronger smile. To get to the top of the chart, you have to be smiling so much every single tooth would be on display.
In the lock image, I like the amount of detail that the camera has managed to capture and there's a healthy amount of depth of field. I also like the priority of colour given to green and blue as the sky wasn't that deep in colour.
I like the detail and colour boost given by the processor. Fringing is apparent but only mildly.
A 1cm macro feature allows you to get in close to your subject. Choosing macro in the scene modes does everything for you.
I found the macro mode disappointing because I found it difficult to get a lock on the subject when I was nearer than 2cm. Pressing the macro button on the back of the camera brings up a small arrow on the zoom which is where you have to zoom out to to ensure optimum focusing but I still had problems. The sample image is around 2cm away and when I tried on the item in the foreground, the camera focused past onto the background foliage.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Noise test
Distortion is off in this image which doesn't look too bad anyway. It's not until you compare them that it can be appreciated.
With Distortion on, the image is more settled. Open both up and flick between to see the difference.
Wide angle is set at 28mm which gets lots of information in the frame.
Closing in on the bridge number shows the 420mm top end quite well.
There are a number of Nikon cameras that don't feature a sensitivity option so you can adjust ISO. Unfortunately, the L100 is one of them and it's really quite unnecessary. Even the most basic digitial cameras have ISO change in the menu but not the L100.
The noise test proved interesting as I had to lower the amount of light in the room to force the ISO higher. I only managed to get four readings of ISO102, ISO211, ISO400 and bizarrely, ISO2438. Unbelievably specific values to allow the camera to use.
As expected, ISO100 is a nicely detailed image although I'm sorry to say that noise is coming through on the grey area at this level. Disappointingly, ISO211 has aggressive noise for such a low setting with white flecks littering the area and coloured blobs settling in for the night.
Luckily there's not a great deal of difference between ISO211 and ISO400 but the bump up to the top setting of ISO2438 has lost all detail in the petals, reduced the resolution and makes you think you're looking at a television screen.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Verdict
The ISO102 test.
The ISO211 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO2438 test.
I'm not a big fan of cameras that don't allow much scope for creativity but I found myself really liking the Nikon Coolpix L100. Sure it has its problems such as no ISO adjustment, having trouble with macro and that I couldn't just press the shutter button to get out of the menu but had to backtrack out of it before I was allowed to take a picture. The flash also needs addressing when forced flash is selected or some good pictures could potentially be ruined.
If you've always wanted a bridge camera but couldn't afford it or you didn't like the look of all those pesky buttons and switches, this could be your ideal camera.
Nikon Coolpix L100: Plus points
Metal tripod bush
Nikon Coolpix L100: Minus points
Auto modes take the fun out of taking pictures
Noise needs controlling better
Macro wouldn't focus to specified parameters
The Nikon Coolpix L100 costs around £219 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Nikon Coolpix L100