Like all super-zoom cameras the most obvious feature is the lens. The L100 follows the recent trend to include wide-angle capabilities, and has a 15x zoom equivalent to 28-420mm, with a maximum aperture of f/3.5-5.4. Many recent super-zoom cameras, including Nikon’s own Coolpix P90 (review coming soon) have optical zoom of well over 20x, but these are only really useful when used with a tripod. For a camera designed primarily for hand-held use 15x is about the practical limit. The L100 features sensor-shift vibration reduction to reduce movement blur at longer zoom settings.
The L100 is a very simple camera. It has the same shooting modes and menu system as the Coolpix L20 point-and-shoot compact, and is just as easy to use. Virtually all camera functions are automatic, with the extent of manual control limited to image size, white balance (although this defaults to Auto), drive mode and a very short list of colour options (vivid, black and white, sepia or cyanotype). Even these options are disabled in Easy Auto mode, in which only image size is adjustable.
There are no manual exposure options apart from the usual exposure compensation of +/-2EV, and there are no focusing mode options apart from toggling macro mode on and off. The surprisingly powerful flip-up flash has five modes, including red-eye reduction, forced flash and night portrait mode, making it the most complicated feature on the camera.
Apart from the Auto and Easy Auto modes, the L100 has a Scene mode with 14 scene programs including panorama stitching and backlight compensation, a movie mode capable of shooting 25-minute clips in VGA resolution at 30fps with mono audio, and a special mode with three additional features. It has a Sport Continuous mode, which restricts the image size to three megapixels but can shoot 30 frames at up to 13fps, a Smile Shutter mode which uses face detection to trigger the camera when the subject smiles, and a High ISO mode which also restricts image size to three megapixels but sets the up to 3200 ISO.
You might think that having such a limited range of features and options would prove restricting, and to a certain extent it does, but there is a certain Spartan appeal to the L100’s simplicity, and there’s no denying that it is ridiculously easy to use. Not having to worry about details like ISO setting, metering, focus point, shutter speed or depth of field – since you can’t adjust them anyway – means you have to just trust the automation and concentrate on composing your picture, and the excellent zoom range and responsive control gives it a huge amount of versatility in this respect. It is a nice camera to use, and soon grows on you.