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I’ve reviewed a lot of digital SLRs and other expensive high-performance cameras recently, so I thought it was about time I took a look at the other end of the market, the budget-priced low-spec compacts. Never one to do things by halves, this week I’ve got the cheapest camera I’ve ever reviewed, and rather surprisingly it’s a Nikon.
The Coolpix L4 was launched in mid-March this year at a recommended price of just £129.99, but now a few months later you can get it for under £80 from a number of online retailers, as well as a few high street stores. In fact you’d have to try pretty hard to pay three figures for it.
Despite its bargain bin price, the L4 is every inch a Nikon. It is elegantly designed, compact and extremely well built. The body is made of plastic, but it feels strong and solid, with no worrying creaks when squeezed. It’s finished in an attractive glossy silver colour with chrome trim and certainly looks a lot more expensive than it is.
The L4 is very compact, measuring just 86.5 x 60.5 x 34.5mm, easily small enough to slip unobtrusively into a pocket, and weighing approximately 165g with batteries. Unusually for a pocket compact the L4 is powered by two AA batteries, which have the big advantage of being readily available throughout the world, making it an ideal camera to take on holiday.
The L4 has a resolution of “only” 4-megapixels. This may not sound like a lot these days, especially when compared to the 10MP Casio EX-Z1000 I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, but it’s worth remembering that just five years ago this would have been one of the most powerful cameras on the market. 4MP is more than enough for photo-quality snapshots, and even blown up to A4 it won’t look too shabby. There’s a lot more to picture quality than just megapixels.
As you might expect for the price the L4 is a very simple camera, with just the basic functions for snapshot photography, although it does have a few surprises in store.
Because of this simplicity the control layout is very straightforward. Most of the major functions are available from external controls, including flash mode, macro setting and self timer. The brief shooting menu gives access to image quality, white balance and exposure compensation, as well as continuous shooting modes, Best Shot Selector and a limited range of colour options including sepia and cyanotype (blue tint).