Nikon Coolpix L12 Design
The Nikon Coolpix L12 is made primarily of polycarbonate plastic, but the camera's silver body has a nice, almost metallic feel to it. It doesn't feel at all cheap in the hand, despite its low cost. A slight swell on the right side of the Nikon L12 -- from the user's perspective -- provides a subtle but reasonably secure handgrip and the shutter button is satisfying to press, with a solid feel and the right amount of resistance. At 3.6 x 2.4 x 1 inches (91 x 61 x 26mm), the Nikon L12 is small enough to fit in a purse or handbag and at just 6.0 ounces (170 grams) with the batteries and memory card, it won't weigh you down. For my money, this is one of the best looking and best designed cameras in its price range.
The Nikon L12's front panel contains the 3x zoom lens, built-in flash, built-in microphone and the self-timer/AF Assist lamp. A shutter-like lens cover protects the lens when not in use, and automatically slides out of the way when the camera is powered on (eliminating the hassle of keeping track of a lens cap). When powered on, the lens quickly telescopes out an additional 3/4 of an inch from the body into its operating position. A slight bulge in the body beneath the Shutter button acts as a handgrip, and comfortably aligns your fingers as they wrap around the Nikon Coolpix L12.
In the middle of the right side of the Nikon L12 is a eyelet for attaching the wrist strap. Behind the eyelet is a plastic hinged door that hides the slot for the SD (Secure Digital) Memory card, with a flap covering the A/V output jack above it. A small rubber flap on the bottom edge covers the hole for the cord of the optional AC adapter and its dummy battery.
The left side of the camera is featureless.
The top panel carries several control buttons. From left to right on the panel are the speaker grille, the Vibration Reduction button, One Touch Portrait/D-Lighting button, power button and the shutter button.
The remaining external controls are located on the Nikon Coolpix L12's rear panel, along with the (large) 2.5-inch LCD monitor. The Zoom rocker button top right of the back panel controls optical and digital zoom, as well as some Playback viewing options, and the Help function. Below it is the Menu button for accessing options in Record, Scene, or Playback mode. You can access either the Shooting menu or the Playback menu depending on which mode you are in when you push the button. Below that is a disk-shaped Multi selector, accessing Flash, Macro, Exposure Compensation, and the Self-Timer options, in addition to navigating menu screens. A separate OK button in the middle of the Multi-selector confirms selections. This button can also be pressed to initiate picture transfer when the camera is connected to a computer that has Nikon's PictureProject software loaded onto it. Just below the Multi selector are Playback and Erase buttons. Below those buttons is the Mode Selector switch which selects between Auto, Scene, and Movie modes.
The Nikon Coolpix L12 has a flat bottom panel. The battery compartment door and plastic tripod socket are farther away from each other than on earlier models, making quick battery changes while mounted to a tripod a little easier. Next to this is the Image Link connector, compatible with Kodak's line of Printer Docks. On the other side, the hinged, plastic door covers the battery compartment, releasing with a sliding latch, which then allows the entire door to slide to the right and swing open. The two AA batteries will fall free when this door is opened.
Nikon Coolpix L12 External Controls
Shutter Button: Just to the right of the power switch, the large Shutter button sits on the front edge of the top panel. This button sets the Nikon Coolpix L12's exposure and focus when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Power Button: To the left of the Shutter button, the power switch turns the camera on and off with a push. A green power lamp set into the Power button will come on during startup momentarily. The green lamp blinks once a second when the LCD monitor powers down.
One Touch Portrait/D-Lighting Button: To the left of the Power button is the One Touch Portrait button. In record mode, pressing it enables Portrait mode, face-priority autofocus, and auto red-eye reduction features. When in playback mode, pressing this button displays the D-Lighting menu.
Anti-Shake Button: Located on the top panel to the left of the One Touch Portrait/D-Lighting button, this button enables the camera's Anti-Shake mode, which is designed to reduce blurring from minor camera or subject movement.
Zoom (W and T) Toggle: Located in the top right corner of the Nikon Coolpix L12's back panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom (when enabled) in any record mode. In Playback mode, the "W" side activates the index image display mode, while the "T" side controls digital enlargement of the captured image. The "T" side also helps in the menu system by offering hints about each option in every menu. The Zoom toggle is also the volume control for sound memos and voice recordings.
Multi Selector: Just right of the LCD, this small silver disk controls a variety of camera functions, with an OK button in the center. In any Settings menu, pressing the four sides of the disk navigates through menu selections while the center button confirms menu selections.
In Playback mode, pressing the right and left sides scrolls through captured images. Pressing the center OK button lets you add a sound memo to the picture being shown. Pressing it when picture has an existing sound memo will play it.
In Record mode, the Multi Selector controls specific exposure features. The Up direction controls the camera's Flash mode, producing a popup menu of options (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, and Slow Sync). The Left side activates the Nikon Coolpix L12's Self-Timer mode, and the Right side activates Exposure Compensation control, while the Down direction activates the Macro focus mode. All of these settings are confirmed by pressing the central button once the selection has been made.
When connected to a computer with Nikon's software loaded, pressing the center button triggers a "one touch" upload of selected images to the computer.
Menu Button: Above the Multi Selector button, this button displays the settings menu in any Nikon L12 operating mode. It also dismisses the menu display.
Playback Button: Below and to the left of the Multi Selector button, this button accesses the Nikon Coolpix L12's Playback mode. Pressing and holding it when the Nikon L12 is turned off powers the camera on in Playback mode.
Erase Button: Lower right of the Multi-controller, this button calls up the Erase menu while in either Playback or Record mode.
Mode Switch: At the bottom of the back panel, this slide switch selects the camera's main operating mode. Choices are Auto, Scene, and Movie.
Battery door retention slider: On the battery compartment door is a small gray slider that locks the battery door until it is slid toward the side of the camera.