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Design

The Coolpix 3100 is smaller than the Coolpix 885 it supersedes (and the Coolpix 4300 it shares much of its design with), it's also has a softened (rounded) and more balanced appearance than that camera. The design lends itself to both easy of use and an unthreatening 'comfortable' feeling, especially useful for complete beginners. The front of the camera is highlighted by the chromed finger grip (which does actually serve a purpose), the rear has just enough space for the pad of your hand to form a good hold. My number one complaint with the design of the camera is the 'flick' power switch which I kept mistaking for the zoom controller.

Side by side

Here beside the Canon PowerShot A70 you can see that the Coolpix 3100 is notably smaller, it is also lighter by 122 g (4.3 oz). Both cameras use a 1/2.7" three megapixel CCD sensor and have a three times optical zoom lens. The weight difference can be accounted for by the 3100's smaller size and use of just two AA batteries, the A70 requires four.

In your hand

In your hand the Coolpix 3100 feels surprisingly small and light, however its design means that it's a "snug" fit into the palm of your hand, the soft edges are comfortable and good finger grip provides a good hold. The Coolpix 3100 is almost an ultra-compact, if we're being analytical I suppose it could be classed as subcompact. Overall it really is just the right size and just the right weight.


LCD Monitor

On the rear of the camera you will find the 1.5" 110,000 pixel TFT LCD. The screen has a good anit-reflective coating which cuts down glare and makes it easy to use the camera outdoors. Resolution and brightness are both very good, better than we have come to expect for an entry level digital camera.

One fault with our review camera is fairly easy to see in the image on the left, the actual LCD screen wasn't mounted squarely inside the camera body (it's out by a degree or so).


Viewfinder

The Coolpix 3100 has a normal 'optical tunnel' viewfinder, which is pretty much what we have come to expect from most compact digital cameras. Unfortunately this is also the most basic form with no dioptre adjustment, no parallax correction lines and not even a center cross / bracket area. The viewfinder provides approximately 82% frame coverage.

The two lights beside the viewfinder indicate the following:

Red Steady Flash will fire when picture is taken
Red Flashing Flash charging, camera not ready to take shot
Green Steady Auto Focus locked
Green Flashing Auto Focus can not lock


Battery Compartment

The Coolpix 3100 is powered by either two AA batteries or a single CR-V3 which slide into the hand grip via a compartment door in the base of the camera. Note that the European Coolpix 3100 kit comes with two NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger. I would recommend at least one more pair of NiMH batteries to carry with you.

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