Last week I reviewed the PowerShot A490, the ground-floor model in Canon's compact camera range. Today I'm taking a look at the equivalent model from Nikon, the CoolPix L22. One of Nikon's new launches for Spring 2010, the L22 is a 12-megapixel budget compact featuring a 3.6x zoom lens and a sharp 230k 3-inch LCD monitor. It was announced at the same time as the almost identical 8-megapixel CoolPix L21, and together the two cameras are the bargain-basement entry level of Nikon's compact range. The L22 currently sells for around £80, and the L21 for around £70.
Nikon's cheaper cameras enjoy the same good reputation as its more expensive models, and despite its low cost and lack of features there's a lot to like about the L22. The body is plastic, but the build quality is comfortably above average and the simple design has good ergonomics. The rounded shape is thicker on the right-hand end to accommodate the two AA batteries that supply the power, and the back is shaped to provide a comfortable thumb grip. The L22 isn't an ultra-compact, and is suited more for a handbag or jacket than for a shirt pocket. It's longer but slightly lower and thinner than the Canon A490, although it is also slightly heavier. It is available in black, champagne silver and the attractive burgundy red seen here.
The external hardware is better than most budget compacts. The 3.6x zoom lens has a zoom range equivalent to 37 – 134mm, which while not particularly wide-angled is at least longer than average. The LCD monitor in particular is surprisingly good, a high-quality 230k three-inch screen, slightly recessed to avoid damage, and with a very good anti-reflective coating. The angle of view is also very good in all directions except downwards, arguably the one direction where is matters most. The simple controls are large, operate with a nice positive feel and are clearly labelled, and the camera is comfortable and easy to use.