Nikon Coolpix L12 Digital Point & Shoot Camera

Reviewed by: Jack Reikel, June 2007
Published by: Nikon USA, Nikon Canada
Requires: An interest in digital photography; Nikon PictureProject software runs on Windows 2000, XP and Vista or Mac OS X version 10.3.9 or later; only built-in computer USB ports are supported for image capture
MSRP: US$199.95, CAN$229.95

Nikon is in a race for the point & shoot digital camera crown, an honor it once owned for years after the release of the legendary Coolpix 900 series in 1996. Oh those were the days. Now there are upwards of ten competing models from a dozen manufacturers at almost every single price point. With ten distinct price points, that amounts to a lot of consumer choices. So if you're in the market for a competent digital camera right now, how are you supposed to choose from the vast array of models? For one thing, you could read this review (and our other digital camera reviews too of course). You can also visit your local camera store and start checking out the various models, features and functions, track down the experts in the store and ask them specific questions. In any event, you won't go wrong by browsing what's on offer at the Nikon counter.

The Nikon L12 Digital Point & Shoot camera is a 7.1 megapixel model featuring a 35-105mm compact zoom lens (3X optical zoom), 2.5" TFT LCD monitor, SD card storage, 21MB internal memory and a movie mode. The L series is comprised of three siblings, L12, L10 & L11, but only the top-of-the-series L12 offers Nikon's Vibration Reduction lens stabilization feature. The camera runs on two 'AA" batteries (supplied) but we recommend purchasing a good charger and a couple of pair of good quality rechargeable batteries. Keep a pair in the camera and a spare pair in the camera bag or case. The camera is also supplied with a wrist strap and we suggest you use it in order to help hang onto this lightweight.


As David Pogue recently proved yet again during a man-on-the-street print quality test using identical images shot with three different cameras at three different resolutions between 5 and 12 megapixels, it's not the megapixels that count as much as the quality of lens, sensor, lighting and photographer combined. In fact, unless you're going to crop small areas from a 7 megapixel print and blow them up to 8"x10" or larger, you will probably never need anything more than 6 or 7 good quality megapixels. As professional photographer Ken Rockwell has also repeatedly pointed out, in the right lighting conditions outdoors, it's really hard to tell the difference between a lovely composition photographed with an inexpensive point & shoot and the same thing shot with a $2,000 digital SLR. All things being up to some reasonable standard of quality, an inexpensive point & shoot can provide you with years of delightful photos and great memories.

I took the little Nikon Coolpix L12 on a short trip to Erie, Pennsylvania and Niagara Falls, Ontario. In order to keep it all honest, I also left my fancier camera gear at home. I was determined to make extensive use of the L12 and set myself up with a small Lowepro Rezo 60 camera belt pouch which has sufficient storage for extra batteries, a battery charger, spare SD cards, lens cloth, cell phone and also provides quick access to the camera. I have never shot an entire weekend of pictures with a point & shoot camera. To say that the experience was educational is putting it mildly. More accurately, I finally had a chance to experience just how good a small camera can be in a situation where I had no choice but to be patient, learn the camera's features, and adjust to the techniques which are most effective with a point & shoot. The result was satisfying. While the Nikon Coolpix L12 remains a budget model, it's also important to note that Nikon really doesn't make a bad camera. I'm pleased with my point & shoot photo weekend and I may just do it again.

For the first time ever, I actually used the built-in red-eye fix and Nikon's patented D-Lighting feature. During my low light shooting at sunset near at stretch of the Erie Canal, I managed to grab a number of underexposed pictures. But I was able to select some of the worst ones and rescue them by applying D-Lighting to lighten shadows and darken highlights. It's all more or less automatic, and it turned several shots into keepers that had been slated for deletion. The D-Lighting feature can be found in all Nikon point & shoot digital cameras.

Cons: At this price it's really hard to ask for more, but we could wish for a higher resolution LCD. While the LCD is certainly big enough, reviewing photos using the camera is less than satisfying. The zoom range is somewhat limited—to be expected in this price range—so we'd prefer to have a wider angle at the short end even if it means giving up a few millimeters at the long end. A bit of focus hunting in low light, especially indoors. The clean exterior finish can be a bit too slick in coolweather, so by all means attach and (more important) use the wrist strap.

Pros: A fast lens (f2.8 at the wide end of the zoom) coupled with a sensor that produces a good color balance works well in some indoor and other low light conditions that sometimes stump competing models. Built-in flash works surprisingly well for such a diminutive thing, producing good exposures in mixed lighting conditions. The L12 is easy to handle and the gently curved right side provides a reasonably secure grip whether shooting horizontal or vertical. The user interface displayed on the LCD screen is easy to understand and navigate. Best Shot Selection and the scene modes work extremely well, once again showing off Nikon's many generations of knowledge applied simply and elegantly in an inexpensive but competent and useful compact camera design. Need something around the office? This is it. Need a camera but still want to travel light? Consider the L12. Need a camera which is equally at home in a belt pouch, attache case, handbag or backpack? Consider the L12. At this price, you can't go wrong. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



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