Despite its advanced specification and market-beating price, the L210 doesn’t immediately look all that threatening. It’s a fairly nondescript design, a simple rectilinear body, half metal and half plastic, with chrome trim. It’s available in silver, red with black trim and the black’n’chrome of my review sample.
Despite its small size it handles quite well, with plenty of room on the back to grip it, and a strap lug that doubles as a thumb rest. On the front is some small detailing that provides a small amount of purchase for the fingers.
The control layout looks fairly innocuous too, but here I have to list a couple of problems. The zoom control is a wide switch mounted on the back of the camera, and I really don’t like it at all. I found it awkward and unresponsive to use when shooting, and the six-step range is quite restrictive. The other controls are also less than ideal. There are four small buttons on the back as well as a standard round D-pad. These are silver, with etched labels that are also silver, making them very difficult to read unless you hold the camera to the light at just the right angle.
This is unfortunate because the L210 does have an unnecessarily complicated control system with three separate menus. The “E” button menu offers a small range of picture controls including colour balance pre-sets and optional control over sharpness, contrast and saturation, with a surprisingly wide range of adjustment.
The “Fn” button activates a live on-screen menu controlling picture size and quality, metering and drive modes, ISO and white balance setting and exposure compensation, although not AF area selection. That instead is found on the main menu, along with the Auto Contrast Balance and basic setup functions.
As well as this there are the usual second functions on the D-pad, including flash mode, macro focusing, display mode and self timer. As is usually the case the camera has a Program shooting mode in which all options are available, and an Auto mode in which all but the most basic options are disabled.
The third main shooting mode is “M” for manual. In this mode the L210 offers a limited degree of manual exposure control, but only to the extent of selecting minimum or maximum aperture, or the shutter speed between 1/1500th and 8 seconds.
As well as these shooting modes, the L210 has a selection of basic scene modes, a portrait mode with face detection, and a useful guide mode which explains what the various camera functions do and when to use them.