Sport & Auto
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The CoolPix L110 is a low-cost superzoom from Nikon’s “L” line of consumer shooters, and while its 15x zoom is attractive, the camera’s other features are somewhat limited. For users with modest needs, the 12-megapixel L110 offers straightforward photography at a good price, but advanced shooters will quickly outgrow the L110’s minimal feature set.
The 15x zoom is the camera’s marquee offering, covering a range equivalent to 28–420mm, which is plenty for all but the most extreme sports or wildlife shots. While other superzooms offer DSLR-style manual exposure modes, the L110 is auto-only, which is a significant limitation. Here’s two more: the camera runs on four AA batteries, rather than rechargeable lithium-ion cells (Nikon says it can take up to 270 shots on a set of ordinary alkaline cells and 840 shots on more expensive lithium AAs). And it has no electronic viewfinder, so pictures are composed solely on the three-inch LCD.
The L110 lacks the manual controls and some of the advanced photographic features of more expensive superzooms.
The L110 has just five operational modes--Easy Auto, Scene, Smart Portrait, Sport Continuous, and Auto--which are selected via a button on the back of the L110. The interface is basic in a way that makes it clear that the L110 is designed for snapshot shooters rather than photo experts. The Easy Auto mode offers automatic scene mode selection, though it uses only a handful of the more common scene modes, such as Macro, Portrait, and Landscape, and the camera often takes a few seconds to figure out the appropriate mode. You need to switch to Scene mode to choose from the full range of preset options. For capturing people, Smart Portrait mode uses face and smile detection to snap frames, though it’s a bit hit-or-miss--and depends on what the camera interprets as a smile. In a lot of cases, you’re better off with one of the other shooting modes.
Sport Continuous mode lets you shoot at speeds of up to 11.1 frames per second and for 20 shots in succession, but the resolution is limited to just three megapixels, and for some reason the camera uses a minimum ISO of 640. The manual does warn you to expect more noise and that shooting in bright light may lead to overexposure, but still…
The plain Auto mode is where you get the most control over your photographs, though there really isn’t very much to play with apart from ISO, white balance, and image size and quality. The good news, though, is that while the L110 is certainly basic, that makes the camera very simple to use. Autofocus is responsive, even at full zoom, and apart from a slight dead spot in the middle, the zoom travels quickly from one end of its range to the other.
This dead spot in the zoom becomes a lot more obvious in the HD movie mode, where the zoom speed plummets and the autofocus becomes painfully slow. But even the more expensive Nikon CoolPix P100 has the same problem--and a lot of digital cameras with movie modes don’t zoom or autofocus at all while filming. While it’s important to point out the L110’s limitations, it’s equally important to point out that it’s still pretty good for a stills camera--especially at this price.
It’s a similar story with the picture quality. The lens loses definition toward the edge of the picture, but it’s sharp in the center, even at full zoom. It’s not the best, for sure, but for the money, it’s better than we expected.
The L110 is pretty basic, and some of its features are quite slow to use or have annoying limitations. But in its standard Auto mode, it delivers good quality, it’s easy to use, and it’s very good value.
Nikon Coolpix L110
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.4.11, 10.5.8, 10.6, or later; USB port; SD or SDHC memory card
15x 28–420mm zoom. 3-inch, 460,000 pixel LCD. Autofocus and zoom speed. Value for money. Comes in snazzy red or basic black.
Very little manual control. Limitations in Easy Auto, Smart Portrait, and Sport Continuous modes.