Years ago, Nikon was one of the first major companies to come out with a high-quality point-and-shoot camera for the serious photographer. That camera, the Coolpix 900, had a 1Mp sensor and cost around £400. Eleven years later, you can pick up Nikon's 8Mp Coolpix L19 for around £90.

Aimed squarely at the snapshot shooter, the Nikon Coolpix L19 is a great alternative to a mobile phone camera.

The Nikon Coolpix L19's compact, sturdy design is easily pocketed, while its handgrip and controls layout make for simple one-handed operation. The 2.7in LCD screen is good enough that you shouldn't have a problem viewing it in daylight, although it can show streaking artifacts when used in very bright light.

Like other cameras at this price, the Nikon Coolpix L19 lacks an optical viewfinder.

Nikon Coolpix L19: auto mode

As with all snapshot cameras, you'll predominantly use the Nikon Coolpix L19 in auto mode. Nikon has actually included two auto modes: a standard auto mode that makes all critical exposure decisions for you, and an Easy Auto mode that attempts to identify your shooting conditions and automatically switch to an appropriate scene mode.

In most cases during testing, the Nikon Coolpix L19's Easy Auto mode didn't do a particularly good job of identifying the scene, so you're usually better off with standard auto mode.

Auto mode is capable, with fast, accurate autofocus that performs very well in daylight or night shoots. The Nikon Coolpix L19's metering is also very good, although it occasionally overexposes; sometimes it has trouble with bright highlights, and other times it has trouble with bright reds, which can get blown out to a supersaturated red that lacks detail.

Like most point-and-shoots, the Nikon Coolpix L19 includes lots of scene modes, which tailor the camera's decision-making to specific situations.

This Coolpix doesn't include as many modes as other cameras we've tested, but its more refined set is a little easier to work with, because the assigned situation for each mode is more obvious. The most useful scene mode is the Nikon Coolpix L19's Night Portrait mode, which allows you to shoot flash portraits at night without rendering the background completely dark.

In general, flash performance on the Nikon Coolpix L19 is weak, with flash pictures often exhibiting a strange color cast and poor exposure.

The Coolpix L19 has a 2.7in LCD.

The Nikon Coolpix L19 has face detection that automatically identifies faces and focuses on them, as well as smile detection, which is supposed to automatically take a picture when the subject smiles. As with other cameras' smile-detection feature, the Nikon Coolpix L19's doesn't really work.

Nikon has crafted a nice interface for the Nikon Coolpix L19. You can change modes with a single button on top of the camera, and quickly invoke playback mode using a dedicated playback button.

As with many Coolpix models before it, macro shooting is a standout feature on the Nikon Coolpix L19. The camera can get incredibly close to a subject when in macro mode, producing sharp, impressive results.