Several weeks ago, during one of the many trips to local charity shops with my darling, adorable wife, I spotted a small, leather camera case in the jewelry display. I suspected it to be some sort of digicam, so imagine my surprise when I opened it up and found the Nikon Lite•Touch Zoom AF.
The camera came with a roll of film already in it, and I shared pictures from that roll last month. In that post, I promised a “proper review” of the camera later, so, after putting a fresh roll of Lomography Color 100 through it, here you go!
Nikon released the Lite•Touch Zoom AF (aka, Zoom 300) in 1994. It sat near the top of the compact lineup, as far as I can tell, with only the 700VR (with what Nikon claims is the World’s first optical vibration reduction lens) beating it out for features.
I haven’t been able to locate a manual, but the Lite•Touch seems to be virtually identical to its successor, the Zoom 310, with a 35-70 f/3.5-6.5 autofocus lens that focuses down to .6m (~2ft). (Should you have better information on the Lite•Touch Zoom, please let me know.)
There’s a QD version, which adds a date imprint and a switch that applies a panorama mask, but this version is the non-QC variant, and I’m fine with that.
To paraphrase Biggy: mo features, mo problems.
When powered off, the lens retracts into the body, but there’s no lens cap, and I wound up with fingerprints on the lens more times than I would like, and I worry some about scratching it. You can’t have everything, I guess.
Power is supplied by a CR123A battery. The Zoom 310 manual rates the battery at 20 rolls of 24 exposures or 13 of 36 exposure rolls, with 50% flash usage. Given that I started with a partially used battery (from another thrift store find) and have only shot two rolls with it, I can’t confirm or deny battery life, but it seems a bit lower than other cameras that use this same battery (if my memory serves), and without a manual for the Zoom 300, I have no idea if anything changed between it and the 310, or if the QD function reduces battery life.
In any case, I had no battery issues, and the Zoom 300 worked flawlessly.
The zoom lens is stepless, which is very interesting. Most compact cameras with zoom lenses that I’ve handled and reviewed have stepped zooms (see the Minolta Freedom Action Zoom 90, for example). I’m not sure that really offers anything, but it’s nice to know that you can hit 47mm or 59.5mm, rather than being locked to 35, 50, and 70, or whatever arbitrary points the manufacturer set.
The options are fairly (and thankfully) limited, with 6 buttons on the top panel. From left to right: On/Off, flash settings (Auto, Off with fixed infinity focus, Off, On, Auto Slow sync), Red Eye reduction/Self Timer (red eye reduction on, red eye reduction and self timer on) all in a little row on the left side, and the shutter release, wide, and tele buttons (and a tiny, recessed force-rewind button nestled between them) all falling easy to the finger on the right side.
The on/off, flash, and self timer buttons are very hard to push, often requiring repeated presses from my big clumsy fingers. I suppose that’s a bonus, for the settings buttons anyway, but trying to turn the camera on to grab some quick action is near impossible.
The Zoom 300 is fairly comfortable in the hand, but there’s no real purchase for your fingers, and just a little ridge for the thumb that my aforementioned big, clumsy fingers never really finds. But otherwise, the ergonomics are fine.
If you notice, the door hinge is on the left side (if you’re looking at the back). So, yes, the film goes in on the wrong side, and are upside down relative to the edge code markings. I used to find this a bigger deal than I do now. It adds a trivial few seconds to negative conversion time in Capture One, but otherwise isn’t a huge issue.
The back does have a little window, and opening up the back, I’m surprised by all the foam light seals in there. There’s one around the window, and one next to the window, plus a group around the takeup spool. (I only noticed it now, while writing: apologies for not including a picture.) So if you come across one of these, know that the seals may need replacing at some point. The ones on the takeup spool side of this camera look a bit gummy, but they’re still ok for awhile, I think.
I had the roll of Lomo Color 100 in the Lite•Touch for 17 days, from 1/10 to 1/27. I was in a really angry mood for about the first week, then totally disinterested for several days, and finally finished the roll on a hike around the Mineral Wells State Park.
Early on, I thought to see how quickly the camera could shoot, wind on, and get ready to fire again, so I shot these three pictures while speeding down a little road near my house. I was probably doing about 35mph and covered maybe 300 yards in the time it took to make these, so it’s fast enough for most of my shooting, but I wouldn’t take it to a sporting event (golf, maybe, or curling, perhaps, but nothing fast paced).
All in all, the Lite•Touch performed admirably, producing sharp, well exposed pictures in virtually all circumstances. The flash tends to pop with some regularity, even in fairly bright light, but shutting it off was quick enough, if not particularly easy. The autofocus is blazing fast, never hunts, and seemed to pick the right subject every time, and it focuses close enough to get a good selfy too, so I have almost no complaints about it.
This is my third (I think) late-80s/early-90s Nikon compact thrift store find. The One Touch 100 was my previous favorite, and the Fun Touch 2 was middling enough that I never reviewed it, but I think the Lite•Touch is easily as good as the One Touch, and given its zoom lens, and relatively tiny size, I think it’ll stay in my stable for awhile.
|Ease of Use
Overall, I give the Lite•Touch a solid 3.9 stars.
I picked this Lite•Touch up for $7.98, if I recall, from the Goodwill. I looked around on the ‘bay, and prices for these are crazy. I’ve seen as much as $149 for one in similar condition to mine. Knowing what I know about this camera after shooting it, I wouldn’t pay more than $30 or $40 for a clean copy. It’s good, but it’s not $150 good.