First things first. I really like the look of the Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 120ED. It’s a lovely little unit in a tasteful shade of champagne with gold accents. Do you remember when cool consumer goods came in champagne? Microwave ovens, amplifiers, tuners, er… that’s probably it.
The camera switches on when you open the clamshell which is useful. It protects the lens and is less fiddly than using a button and much more definite. A lot of its contemporaries from the early 2000s had clamshells like the classic Olympus Mju series, the Olympus AF Twins, one or two of the Pentax Espios and some Canon Sure Shots. I like cameras with clamshells, as I can be less precious about them and just drop them into a camera bag with other cameras or accessories or put one in a pocket without the cases they come with.
That said, I really didn’t want to damage the beautiful finish on this one so I kept it around my neck when I took it out.
It was a busy week for me so I had to rush the test of the camera. It was cloudy outside so I took it and a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 for a quick walk around a shopping centre.
I sat in a café, ordered a coffee and I loaded up the Tri-X. As I closed the film door I listened to it wind on and the cacophony was loud enough for to draw some looks from the other diners. I thought it might have a problem but each subsequent frame sounded the same. Despite its noise the frames advanced quite quickly compared to most compacts which is an unexpected plus when you want to take a number of shots in quick succession. As far as my research went it did not have a dedicated burst mode like some other units so I chalked it up as a plus.
At its widest setting of 38mm the viewfinder has a significant curvature, especially at the top and bottom of the frame. This caused the briefest of worries that my shots my end up looking a bit ‘Lomo’ but it’s not an SLR so what you see in the viewfinder will be slightly different from what goes through the lens and therefore I did not expect the actual photograph to display this fault. As it was an overcast day and I was planning to take it indoors I didn’t really use the zoom as I wanted to make the most of the available light and I didn’t have a tripod with me so I pretty much stuck with the lens at 38mm.
Although the zoom lens is smooth and silent it’s a bit slow to zoom out but retracts very quickly.
The film advance on the Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 120ED is noisy and having a champagne finish with gold trim won’t help you out in the street photography game either. The Dad camera has been defined as one that is packed with features, most of which you probably would not even use, but the Lite Touch is the kind of camera your 90’s mum might own. It’s elegant, has a few useful features but is simple to use. The auto focus is quick enough and the flash settings cycle between auto, off and infinity focus, slow sync and red eye reduction. You don’t need much more than this on a point and shoot. To borrow a phrase “It’s a camera that gets itself out of the way” and allows you to shoot without having to think too much.
I’m quite happy with the way this little camera managed to deal with the mix of natural light and artificial. The grain is much more pronounced in this shot.
Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 120ED doesn’t do anything that my other compact cameras don’t do but that’s not its fault. In 1999 when it was new most compact zooms had lenses that went from 38mm to around 90mm so the Lite Touch is not special. A 24mm or 28mm lens would be nice but does a zoom lens really have to go out to 120mm? It does not have as many features as anything from the Sure Shot range or any of the Pentax Espios. I won’t be holding onto to it. It’s a nice enough camera to hold, nice to look at and because of this I’d probably be a precious about its shiny finish over the long term. Maybe I’ll give it to my mum.
You can find a curated collection of thought provoking analogue art and info about a range of workshops and photo walks on my Instagram – londoncameraproject