Nikon Coolpix L3 Design
The Nikon Coolpix L3 is one of the nicest looking entry-level models I've tried. Though it's made primarily of polycarbonate, the camera's gun-metal grey chassis has a nice metallic feel to it, accentuated by a stainless steel band that loops over the left side and top of the camera. A slight swell on the right side of the Nikon Coolpix L3 -- from the user's perspective -- serves as a good handgrip and the solid metal shutter button is satisfying to press. At 3.6 x 2.4 x 1 inches (91 x 60.5 x 26mm), the Nikon L3 is small enough to fit in a purse or handbag and at just 5.4 ounces (153 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 L3's front panel contains the 3x zoom lens, built-in flash, built-in microphone and the self-timer 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 telescopes out an additional 1/2-inch (or a whole inch from the body) into its operating position. A slight swell in the body beneath the Shutter button acts as a handgrip, and comfortably aligns your fingers as they wrap around the Nikon Coolpix L3.
In the middle of the right side of the Nikon L3 is a raised steel 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. Along the bottom edge is the power cord channel cover for the optional AC adapter and its dummy battery.
On the opposite side of the Nikon Coolpix L3 is the connector compartment, protected by a rubbery cover that remains attached to the camera; beneath is the Video Out / USB jack. The rest of the left side of the camera is taken up by an attractive chrome band.
The top panel picks up the chrome band from the left side of the camera. From left to right on the panel are the speaker, the Power button and the shutter button which is set in an oval indenture that provides a nice place to put your finger.
The remaining external controls are located on the Nikon Coolpix L3's rear panel, along with the 2-inch LCD monitor. An LED below the LCD indicates the Flash status (charging or ready). 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. Below that is a disk-shaped Multi selector, accessing Flash, Macro, 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 the Nikon software loaded onto it. Just below the Multi selector are Playback and Erase buttons. Below those buttons is the Mode Selector switch which toggles between Auto, Scene, and Movie modes.
The Nikon Coolpix L3 has a flat bottom panel. The battery compartment door and plastic tripod socket are next to each other making quick battery changes while mounted to a tripod a little tricky. The hinged, plastic door covers the battery compartment, releasing with a sliding switch, 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 L3 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 L3's exposure when halfway pressed, and releases 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.
Zoom (W and T) Buttons: Located in the top right corner of the Nikon Coolpix L3's back panel, these buttons control the optical and digital zoom (when enabled) in any record mode. In Playback mode, the "W" button activates the index image display mode, while the "T" button controls digital enlargement of the captured image.
Multi Selector: Just right of the LCD, this small silver disk features four dots indicating each direction and 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 enables the D-Lighting function.
In Record mode, the arrow keys control specific exposure features. The Up arrow controls the camera's Flash mode, producing a popup menu of options (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, Slow Sync, and Off). The Left arrow activates the Nikon Coolpix L3's Self-Timer mode, and the Right arrow activates Exposure Compensation control, while the Down arrow 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 L3 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 L3's Playback mode. Pressing and holding it with the Nikon L1 off powers the camera on in Playback mode.
Erase Button: Lower right of the Multi-controller, this button pulls up the Erase menu while in either Playback or Record mode.
Mode Switch: At the bottom of the back panel, this ribbed 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 Nikon L3's back.