The 990 takes much of its design from the 950. The case material is the same strong magnesium alloy (though the paint is now charcoal gray and more matte), the case has been tweaked in several places: The lens part of the camera is slightly thicker, on the LCD part the top right has a thumb grip to make holding the camera more stable, the hand grip is deeper and molded to fit your hand perfectly, the addition of wraparound rubber makes it feel VERY secure.
Top down differences between the 950 and 990
Weight balance is very good, holding the camera in one hand the camera doesn't tip to the lens side as the batteries (the main weight) are in the palm of your hand. Stablising the camera by holding the lens barrel is as natural as with all previous 9xx's (trust me it may look like a funny design but get it in your hand and it'll feel very natural). As I mentioned previously the swivel feels much stiffer than the 950, not only in the turn but each of the 90 degree lock positions (270 degrees of movement).
One thing that was more noticeable than on the 950 was the noise from the focus system, it's definitely louder with a grind-grind noise for each focus.
Control layout is much better, the control wheel on the rear now falls under your thumb and makes using the zoom and control wheel easy. The new 4-way jog wheel ("Multi Selector") makes menus and overall control much more straightforward (no fiddling with the zoom controls to navigate menus). The two top controls can be user assigned, by default the control the MODE and EXPOSURE COMPENSATION but you can assign various functions to them.
The 950 was a comfortable camera to use, the 990 goes one step further, Nikon have molded the hand grip (it even has a slight bulge about 2/3 down) to fit the average palm perfectly, it feels so comfortable and contacts your whole hand, fingertips tuck into the flat recessed part of the grip. Add to this the fact that the whole grip is now rubberised (rather than just a little pad) and the 990 is now one of the nicest cameras to hold and shoot in one hand, bringing your other hand up to hold the left portion and your fingers naturally fall into the recessed part of the lens barrel. Great ergonomics.
Rear LCD Display
|Nikon Coolpix 950 LCD||Nikon Coolpix 990 LCD|
Here's a comparison which will please many people. The LCDs above were shot on the same image (available here) with both cameras displaying the same photo (LCD brightness set to + on both). you can see the 990 LCD is smaller than the 950 (1.8" vs. 2.0") however you'll also notice how much brighter the 990 LCD is. So gone are the woes over using the 990 LCD in sunlight. Well, yes it's much better.. I'd like to have seen a different material used to protect the LCD than the "same old" reflective plastic cover, an anti-reflective coating such as found on the Canon S10 / S20 would have been perfect.
Top Information LCD
The top information LCD (or "Control Panel" as it's referred to in the Nikon documentation) is noticeably bigger than the one found on the 950, and there's now a lot more information displayed including shutter speed / aperture (switchable by tapping the MODE button) and all major function information.
Below is a diagram shamelessly copied (and heavily edited) from the supplied "Nikon Guide to Digital Photography with the Coolpix 990".
The viewfinder on the 990 is identical to that of the 950, and therefore still too small to be used seriously. The design of the 9xx series makes using the viewfinder easier than most digicams (because your nose doesn't get in the way) but unfortunately this viewfinder still leaves A LOT to be desired.
Frame coverage through the viewfinder is 85% which means that using the viewfinder you're only looking at 85% of what will be captured.
The view through the viewfinder gives you the bracketed focus target (and AF focus position), the broken line on the left indicates parallax error (the left of the frame) when shooting at closer than 90 cm (1 yard).
For those who do use it there's a dioptric adjustment located below the viewfinder.
Rear light indicator shows the status of:
|Flash Red Steady||Flash charged and will fire when photography taken|
|Flash Red Blinking||Flash is charging|
|AF Green Steady||Focus lock, ready to shoot|
|AF Green Blinking||Unable to focus|
The battery door is of a completely different design than that of the 950, it fits within the handle and the batteries are oriented differently (to make space for the new horizontally mounted CF slot and make the handle thicker). The door is a little tough to close push down on the latch then slide the latch forward to lock it.
The battery compartment door is an improvement over the 950's. One slight improvement could have been the addition of a spring to hold the latch in the closed position, you could just press the door closed.