Super-zoom cameras are often also referred to as bridge cameras, because traditionally they have occupied a position between the everyday consumer territory of compact cameras and the more exotic land of the digital SLRs. Most of them have optional manual exposure, multiple metering and autofocus options and other advanced features, which can make them a bit of a daunting prospect for anyone who doesn't know the difference between aperture and shutter speed. The majority of the camera-buying public just want a camera that they can point and click, and be assured of getting a good picture in most situations, without having to fiddle around selecting the right shooting mode or worrying about the ISO setting.
Unfortunately this has meant that most consumers have been restricted to 3x zoom compacts, but now Nikon has produced a super-zoom camera with the simple controls of a point-and-click compact. It's called the Coolpix L100, and I'm taking a look at it today.
The L100 doesn't have many direct rivals, but there are other baby super-zooms which are a lot cheaper than its £230 retail price, including the Fuji FinePix S2000HD (£150) and even cheaper still the Kodak Z8612 IS (£110). Both of these models include a range of manual options and advanced controls.
At first glance the L100 is not a particularly impressive-looking camera. It is small for a super-zoom, measuring 110 x 72 x 78 mm, and looks even smaller due to the lack of the usual viewfinder turret sported by most bridge cameras. However when loaded up with four AA batteries it is surprisingly heavy for its size, weighing approximately 455g ready-to-shoot. On picking it up it immediately feels like a quality camera, and closer examination reveals Nikon's usual excellent build quality and finish, with tight fit lines between panels and solidly mounted controls. The battery/card hatch has a locking catch and the tripod bush is made of metal.
The shape of the body is similar to most other super-zoom cameras, with a prominent handgrip and large lens barrel. The grip is quite wide, to accommodate the batteries, but due to the size of the camera it is rather short, and there's not a huge amount of room between the grip and the lens barrel. Nonetheless the camera is comfortable to hold, and the rubber coating on the grip and the textured thumbgrip on the back make it secure and easy to hold steady with one hand.
The L100 has no viewfinder, but it does have a very good three-inch LCD monitor, with a resolution of 230k dots and a good anti-reflective coating. It's sharp, bright, and works well outdoors in bright sunlight, and it even has a good viewing angle all round, except from below. If you hold the camera above your head, as you might to shoot over a crowd, the viewfinder image virtually disappears.