It’s really pretty amazing what Nikon is able to offer on the Coolpix L110. For the same MSRP as 2009’s L100 ($279.95), Nikon retains that model’s wide-angle lens with 15x zoom and sensor-shift image stabilization, but increases the camera resolution from 10 to 12 megapixels and the 3-inch LCD resolution from 230K dots to 460K; added a 720p movie mode, a built-in stereo microphone, and HDMI output; added use of the optical zoom and autofocus while shooting video; and includes four AA lithium batteries for 840 shots or 7 hours of video out of the box.
Underneath all the features, though, is still an entry-level point-and-shoot camera. Shooting options are geared for automatic use. Photos taken with plenty of light are generally nice, but noticeably worsen in low-light conditions. And the shooting performance is best for still subjects, not fast-moving children, pets, and athletes.
The body of the L110, though compact, leans toward digital SLR size and not a pocketable megazoom. It’ll fit uncomfortably in a large coat pocket, but basically you’ll need to carry it with the included neck strap or in a roomy bag. Available in black and red versions, it’s a nice-looking camera and the larger body makes it easier to steady its 15x zoom lens. The deep hand grip has a textured rubber strip on it, too, helping keep your fingertips from slipping. It’s made mostly of plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap.
The controls and menu system are fairly uncomplicated, so out-of-the-box shooting shouldn’t be a problem. The menu system is broken into three tabs: Shooting, Movie, and Set up. The layout keeps you from doing too much hunting through settings, not that there’s all that much to adjust. (For example, you can’t even turn off the digital zoom.) That’s not to say it won’t take a little effort to get the most from this camera, but the basics of shooting a photo or movie are easy and Nikon includes a full paper manual if you do need help.
As for controls, on top at the front of the hand grip is the shutter release surrounded by a zoom ring; the power button is behind it and though it’s flush with the body, it is easy to find without looking. Down the right side of the LCD on back are the remaining controls. At the top, squeezed between the large thumb rest and the screen, is a record button for movies. (There is no Movie mode you have to enter, though it does take a couple seconds to start recording once you’ve pressed the button.) Below that is a shooting mode button labeled “Scene” with a playback button to its right; a four-way control pad with a select button in its center; and then Menu and Delete buttons at the very bottom. The control pad is used for menu and image navigation as well as setting the 10-second self-timer (there are no other options), adjusting flash and exposure compensation, and turning on macro focus. All in all, it’s a pretty standard digital camera arrangement.
There is no viewfinder. You’ll have to rely on the LCD for framing shots, which can make steadying the zoom lens a little frustrating. The LCD is bright enough for use in direct sunlight, however, and the high resolution helps sharpen images and text. If you use a flash at all, the one on the L110 has to be raised manually. The raising part isn’t the issue, though; unlike most point-and-shoot cameras, the L110 won’t tell you when to use the flash unless it is raised. Considering its entry-level positioning, it seems unusual to make the user decide when to raise the flash.
On the bottom is a locking door covering the SD/SDHC card slot and batteries. The camera uses four AA-size batteries. You can use alkaline, NiMH rechargeables, or lithium. Most manufacturers include alkaline batteries, which would only last about 270 shots; Nikon includes lithium cells that should last three times as long. NiMH is rated for up to 500 shots. On the right side of the body is a small DC input for an optional AC adapter. The left side has a covered panel with Mini-HDMI port and Micro-USB/AV ports.
Its design might lead you to believe that this camera would have advanced shooting modes, but the L110 is very much a point-and-shoot. There are two Auto modes on this camera. One is Easy Auto, which uses scene recognition (Nikon calls it Scene Auto Selector) and adjusts settings appropriately based on six common scene types. If the scene doesn’t match any of those, it defaults to a general-use Auto. Then there is an Auto mode, which is similar to the program AE modes on other point-and-shoots, giving you a modicum of control over your end results. You can change ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation as well as color, flash, and continuous shooting modes. Light metering is locked to multipattern unless you’re using the digital zoom, and the focus area is fixed to the center of the frame.
If you’re able to decipher the type of scene you’re shooting, it may correspond to one of the camera’s 13 selectable scene modes. All of the scenes are standards like Portrait and Landscape, and there is a Panorama Assist for lining up a series of shots that can be stitched together with the bundled software.
Nikon’s Smart Portrait System gets its own spot in the shooting-mode menu. Basically, it combines a Blink Warning, Smile Shutter, In-Camera Red Eye Fix, and Face Priority AF (autofocus) features into one mode. The System works well, in particular for self-portraits, allowing you to take pictures without pressing the shutter release or setting a timer.
Also in the shooting modes is a Sport Continuous option for capturing up to 20 photos at approximately 11 frames per second. In order to do this, the maximum resolution is reduced to 3 megapixels; the focus, exposure, and white balance are fixed at the first picture in the series; and the ISO is set to a range of 640-3,200. These things aren’t unusual for burst modes on low-end (or even some high-end) cameras, but that doesn’t make the results any more useable. You’ll capture something, although you won’t be able to do much with them beyond Web sharing.