The 6-megapixel Nikon Coolpix L2 offers only the bare necessities for picture taking but, for its class, delivers excellent photos that require minimal effort. The Coolpix L2 squarely targets casual photographers, and more experienced users may be frustrated by the camera's lack of controls. Cash-strapped entry-level photographers may want to check out the L2's cheaper siblings -- the 5-megapixel or the 4-megapixel .
The Nikon Coolpix L2's battleship-grey plastic body is slender and lightweight at 170g when loaded with two AA batteries and an SD card. This attractively designed camera will fit easily in larger pockets and feels comfortable worn around the neck on a lanyard.
Although the camera's 51mm (2-inch) LCD seems small in comparison with other models' 64mm (2.5-inch) screens, it's bright and viewable in almost all conditions -- an important characteristic since the Coolpix L2 lacks an optical viewfinder. Under low light, the display takes longer than usual to brighten, but the control layout is roomy and comfortable to use.
To the right of the LCD sits a rocker for the camera's 38mm-to-118mm (35mm equivalent) 3x zoom lens, plus menu, playback and delete buttons. A four-way controller near the bottom edge of the camera switches between automatic shooting, the 15 scene modes and a VGA movie mode.
Nikon equipped the Coolpix L2 with several useful features, such as Face-Priority autofocus, scene assist, D-lighting, automatic red-eye removal and Best Shot Selector. D-Lighting is extremely handy, allowing you to automatically brighten underexposed images in playback and to save the adjusted picture as a copy.
Besides preset white-balance options and exposure compensation, the Coolpix L2 has no manual controls. Picture-quality options are limited to size (in megapixels), with no choice of compression, ISO sensitivity, shutter speed or aperture, nor does the camera indicate the settings it's chosen.
Despite the Coolpix L2's simplicity, image quality is surprisingly good. Shots have pleasing colours, although automatic white balance bleaches beige walls and curtains white. Test images are mostly sharp and crisp. The Nikon L2 has solid macro capabilities, although it's tricky to get the subject in focus -- at wide angles, the camera is frequently unable to focus. We noticed occasional purple halos along high-contrast edges, but the camera did a decent job of preserving highlights and shadows.
The Coolpix L2's overall glow is dulled by its performance. It requires 4.5 seconds to wake up and inflicts a shutter lag of 0.9 seconds in the best conditions. Under the worst, it can take up to 2 seconds between shutter press and image capture, and with the flash active, it hesitates almost 7 seconds between shots.
The extremely bare-bones Nikon Coolpix L2 is a sluggish performer that takes some very good pictures for a budget model. If you want extremely simple, one-button shooting, the Coolpix L2 might be for you. Just don't plan on shooting the kids or pets.
Edited by Will Greenwald
Additional editing by Kate Macefield