In terms of performance the L100 isn’t exactly sparkling, but it’s not too bad either. It starts up in a little under three seconds, and shuts down again in about two and a half seconds. In single-shot mode and maximum image quality it can shoot once every 1.5 seconds for three frames, but then it slows down to about a shot every three seconds. In continuous shooting mode it shoots at about 1.5 seconds per frame, but it’s hard to judge accurately because there is no audio cue to let you know when it’s actually taking a picture.
Not so long ago Nikon was having some problems with the autofocus on its zoom cameras, but thankfully those days are long gone, and the AF system on the L100 is much better. It’s not the fastest in the world, but it’s quick enough and doesn’t slow down too much at longer zoom settings. It is of course at its best in good light, but its low light performance isn’t bad either. The only weak point is the AF assist lamp, which is a bit weedy and only has a useful range of about 1.5m.
The best news is the image quality, which is very good under almost all circumstances. Not too surprisingly the results are pretty much identical to the Coolpix L20, which means that exposure and focusing are pretty much perfect all the time. However it also means that colour rendition in standard mode is distinctly over-saturated, and Vivid mode is eye-searingly lurid. Bright reds and yellows tend to appear as featureless blobs of colour with no detail.
The lens quality is very good, with excellent edge-to-edge sharpness at all focal lengths, and what little barrel distortion it does produce is corrected automatically in camera. It does suffer from a bit of chromatic aberration towards the edges of the frame, but I’ve certainly seen a lot worse. The overall level of detail is very good, and with file sizes of around 4.3MB they’re not over compressed, but nonetheless images have a distinctly over-processed look.
One difficulty is assessing image noise. The L100 has no manual ISO control, and it seems that its automatic setting can be any value between 80 and 1600, however when I was able to convince it to shoot at 400 ISO it produced nice clean pictures with very little image noise. The high-ISO setting at three megapixels is a bit ropey, but then that setting would only be used under extreme circumstances anyway. All in all the L100 produces good quality pictures with a minimum of fuss.
The Nikon Coolpix L100 is a virtually unique camera combining the simplicity of a fully automatic point and shoot compact with the big wide-angle 15x zoom lens and image stabilisation of an advanced super-zoom camera. It is well made, sensibly designed, small enough to be readily portable, and takes very good snapshot pictures in almost all situations. It is a bit expensive compared to some possible rivals, but it is a very likeable little camera.