The Nikon Coolpix L3 is the midrange member of Nikon's simple, inexpensive L-series digital cameras. The 5-megapixel camera sports a 3X optical zoom lens, a handful of useful scene modes, and a small price tag. It's not the fastest, sharpest, or sleekest digital camera on the market, but this little shooter produces good-looking images for the price.
Compact and light, the L3's silver plastic body is fairly stylish for such a low-end camera, though at just less than 1.5 inches thick, the Coolpix L3 is a little too fat to slip into your jeans. Fortunately, its light frame weighs less than six ounces even with an SD card and two AA batteries, making it comfortable to carry in a jacket or purse.
Controls are simple and direct, though thicker-fingered users may find the recessed buttons awkward. The top side of the camera holds a large, round shutter-release button and a smaller, rectangular power button. The latter isn't as responsive as we would've liked, and it needs to be held down for a few seconds to start up the camera.
The back panel holds the rest of the camera's controls. A small zoom rocker; a mode slider for switching between automatic, scene-assist, and movie modes; a four-way-plus-OK control pad; and menu, review, and trash buttons sit next to the Coolpix L3's 2-inch LCD. The control pad lets you navigate the camera's menu system or directly access the flash, timer, and macro modes.
Like most low-end, budget digital cameras, the Coolpix L3 is light on features. ISO sensitivity is set automatically, although white balance and exposure compensation give the user some degree of control over images. Nikon somewhat makes up for the lack of manual controls with an ample assortment of 15 scene presets that configure the camera to shoot under special situations, such as in a museum or against a backlight. The movie mode shoots VGA clips with sound at 30fps. This is a significant step up from its little brother, the Coolpix L4, which can shoot only silent movies at 15fps. While the Coolpix L3 doesn't have an image-stabilization mode, it does detect possible blurry photos as you take them based on a handful of camera settings, such as shutter speed, and prompts you to save or delete the questionable image.