There can't be many people who have ever seen a digital camera who won't recognize Nikon's distinctive split body design. It's become a bit of a design classic. Nikon has taken this popular and successful design and improved it. The new surround makes the entire structure stiffer, provides protection for the lens and flash when turned into the vertical position and produces additional real estate along the top, bottom and left side of the camera.
One of the first thing that strikes you about the Coolpix 2500 is just how small it is. This camera is only a little bigger than Sony's DSC-P5/P9 and the Coolpix 2500 is thinner. Clearly there have been some compromises to achieve this, the 2500 has no viewfinder and no video output. The viewfinder probably won't be missed but I would have liked to have seen video out.
Another striking design decision has clearly been in the aesthetic appearance of the camera, it has stylishly designed curves and indentations which not only look good but make the camera 'feel nice' in your hand. The striking light blue and silver body hints strongly at the target audience, to me the design is a great success. Kudos Nikon.
Side by side
For anyone who's ever seen or handled a Coolpix 990 or 995 the image below should give you a good idea of just how small the 2500 really is. This is a camera which you can drop in a coat pocket or bag without a second thought, there are no bulky protrusions or buttons. How stylish does that camera on the right really look?
In your hand
Despite its lack of a distinguishable front grip holding the Coolpix 2500 is surprisingly easy and comfortable. The smooth rounded corners and logically designed rear mean the camera sits in the palm of your hand with your finger just over the shutter release. Extra stability can be achieved by supporting the left side of the camera. Camera balance is good, with batteries and a card the camera is almost perfectly 50/50 weight balanced.
The Coolpix 2500's rear LCD is of the newer bright 1.5" 110,000 pixel variety. It's recessed into the body slightly and (at long last!) has an anti-reflective coating. The camera setup menu allows you to control LCD brightness by a total of five levels (+/- 2). If I had any concern it would be that the screen itself does not have a thicker protective window over it (unlike say Sony's DSC-P5 which has a protective window and anti-reflective coating). That aside the 2500's LCD monitor is bright, sharp and clear.
The 2500 features a 3x optical zoom (37 - 111 mm equiv.) F2.7 - F4.8 internal zooming, internal focusing Nikkor lens. When you consider its diminutive proportions (quite a bit smaller than the 950 / 990 / 995) and internal mounting it's impressive that Nikon has managed to squeeze all that into such a small space. The maximum aperture of this lens is comparable to other ultra compact 2 megapixel digital cameras (such as Canon's Digital IXUS 300, Sony DSC-P5) which use extending lenses.
The 2500's swivelling lens can 'lock' (it's a notable click position) into one of three forward facing and two rearward facing positions (although the camera can also be used anywhere inbetween). The three forward facing positions are shown below. For those who have not used a swivel lens mechanism before it provides you with a surprising amount of freedom for waist level and overhead shooting. It's also very useful for macro shots which are normally at waist or lower levels. In total the lens may be swivelled rearwards (self-portraits) by up to 90 degrees and forwards by up to 135 degrees.