Nikon's L-series cameras might not be at the cutting edge of technology, but they provide decent build and picture quality at a very affordable price. That's especially true of the 12.1-megapixel Coolpix L110 superzoom, which comes with a 15x zoom and a 720p, high-definition movie mode. It's available for around £200.
The L110's 15x lens isn't much by superzoom standards, but a 30x zoom will only give twice the magnification of this one. These magnifications are pretty huge anyway, so you may only need a longer zoom than the L110's once in a blue moon.
More importantly, the lens performs well across the whole range. Too many superzooms loose definition at full zoom, which kind of defeats the object of buying one, but the L110's lens holds up well. You get a sensor-shift image-stabilisation system to cut camera shake, and the picture quality doesn't deteriorate too quickly as the ISO increases, so, as long as the light's fair, you can expect decent long-range shots from this camera.
The L110's pretty good at the wide-angle end of the zoom range too. Many budget superzooms skimp on wide-angle lenses, but this one has a focal range of 28-420mm, so there's no problem in that regard.
The movie mode's quite a surprise too. You can start filming just by pressing a button on the back of the camera. It's rather slow to respond, but you soon get used to that. What's impressive is that you can zoom while filming -- albeit more slowly than normal -- and the autofocus keeps working. You even get stereo mics. There's some jitter, the mics don't have much of a range and the definition's not as good as you'd get from a digital SLR's movie mode, but the L110 is way better than any £200 camcorder.
In fact, there's much to like about this camera. The 75mm (3-inch) LCD on the rear is bright and sharp, thanks to its 460,000-pixel resolution. That's twice the normal resolution for LCD displays, and quite a surprise on a camera of this price. It also goes some way towards making up for the lack of an electronic viewfinder. The zoom and focus speeds are good, and pictures show great colour, contrast and clarity.
The controls are basic, though. More expensive superzooms boast a full set of program-auto-exposure, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual-exposure modes, just like dSLRs, but you don't get those with the L22. You just get scene modes, and a full auto, smart-portrait, sports and program AE mode, although you can at least fiddle with the ISO and white balance, for example.
More expensive superzooms offer the controls you'd expect from a dSLR, but the L22 is more like a budget digital camera with a long lens. But is that a bad thing? The small sensors in superzoom cameras put a cap on the quality they can achieve, so why pay more? If you're that serious about long-range action or wildlife photography, for example, you really need a dSLR anyway.
It's easy to pick holes in the Nikon Coolpix L110's specs when you compare it to other superzooms, but its solid performance, build quality and handling make it terrific value. In fact, it makes you wonder whether more expensive superzooms really are sufficiently superior to justify spending the extra cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet