By trying to bring down the cost of its range of digital compact cameras, Nikon appears to have sacrificed a measure of build quality. The CoolPix 4100 is an extremely light and not particularly well assembled camera.

Still, Nikon will probably claim that it's spent the money on the lens, CCD and processor instead, in order to produce the best possible quality of images for the money.

And guess what? Nikon is probably right. The lens on this singularly unimpressive-looking compact is incredibly sharp; there are absolutely no signs of softness anywhere in the image. The processing is pretty good, too, with few signs of JPEG artefacts. Colour-wise, the 4100 tends towards the green area of the spectrum, but that's nothing that can't be sorted with a bit of tweaking in Photoshop. There is limited colour control within the camera so that you can switch between regular and vivid saturation.

As far as usability goes, there's not much to get your teeth into. A choice of Automatic or some scenes is all you get. Don't ask where the manual settings are as there aren't any. Sorry... this is for snapshots only.

Both flash and macro settings are available directly on the back of the camera, and it will remember which settings you chose - even when the camera is turned off. So if you like your flash to be permanently off, then that's the way it will stay until you choose to change it. We like that feature.

Some features aren't so easy to access on the CoolPix 4100, such as exposure compensation. One thing it's missing is the option to switch from average to spot metering. So, unless you're happy for the camera to make all the decisions for you, the lack of flexibility will put off all but a few first time users. Mark Sparrow