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Nikon Coolpix 995 Review

May 2001 | By Phil Askey


Review based on an production Coolpix 995, firmware v1.6*

Nikon announced the 995 on 25 April 2001. It marks the latest incarnation of a series of Coolpix cameras which started back in 1998 with the 900. The design team for the 995 had a tough job, they had to evolve one of the most popular and revolutionary digital cameras produced thus far, the Coolpix 990.

The first Coolpix camera, the CP900 was deceptively ...erm... cool. It embodied the distinguishing characteristics of a design mix that has not appeared on other lines. Stripped of its slab-like exterior appearance, the form and function of the heart of this camera can be seen as a type of design forsight. The totally enclosed, non-protruding zoom lens, the optical viewfinder as close to the optical path as is technically possible, the split swivel design that places the optics in one part and the computer / power / storage / data ports in the other and the data I/O scheme that allows the camera's operating system to be upgraded in the field... One may comment on any of these as isolated features, but as an orchestration of ideas they bring a certain unmistakable compact flexibility to the cameras.

But Nikon had another idea in mind that survives right up to the newest model. The solid, fixed converter lens and/or accessory mount with its small, 28mm threaded ring creates an immediate link to an idea few other manufacturers have exploited, and none as well as Nikon. From the 900 to the 995, two wide-angle lenses, a super wide-angle fisheye, and two definitively sharp telephoto lenses make the entire 9xx series into "system" cameras. The fact that Nikon has been able to maintain this 28mm threaded ring through increases in the physical size of the imaging chip (the 990's chip is around 10% larger than the 900/950 imager) without having to redesign the converter optics is slightly amazing from a technical point of view.

Now this newest model joins the lineup with the 28mm threaded ring intact, ready for all the accessories one may have already acquired. Nikon, you couldn't have known when you designed the 900 that the features of the 995 would still maintain so much of your original thinking, but it appears you deserve some sort of "oracle" award for the consistent design components of the Coolpix 9xx line of products.

Note that we will be reviewing the European Coolpix 995, the only difference between it and the US model is the red inset in the hand grip rather than purple, otherwise the models are exactly the same.

Editoral supplied by Peter iNova

* UPDATED July 2001: I have now updated this review with results from a full production Coolpix 995 with firmware version 1.6. The following sections have either been completely re-written, updated or simply verified. (In some cases parts of the review remain unchanged from that posted initially).

  • Displays
  • Menus
  • Timings & Size
  • Features
  • Image Quality
  • Compared to...
  • Conclusion

Note: a few samples (and samples in the second gallery) were taken when the camera was loaded with firmware 1.5 (early European shipping firmware), the camera was later updated to 1.6. As far as we know firmware 1.6 does NOT include any image quality or performance changes, the only thing it fixes was the portrait shot bug (where a line was painted down the image if shooting with the swivel rotated towards you).


Heritage

The Coolpix 900/900s

The "9 series" range started back in 1998 with the 1.2 megapixel, 3x zoom, Nikon Coolpix 900 (E900), soon to be followed by the updated 900s (E910) this was the first time we saw the swivel design and also opened peoples eyes as to what a digital camera was capable of. I admit my first (real) digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 900s, soon to be followed by a Canon Pro 70.

The Coolpix 950

In 1999 came the 1.92 megapixel, 3x zoom, Coolpix 950, a completely re-engineered camera of a quality over and above what we'd seen in the 900. It was well received by reviewers and owners alike, despite some shortcomings (chromatic aberrations and a few non-ergonomic functions) it soon became the de facto 2 megapixel digital camera (and is still used for comparison purposes today). Many other 2 megapixel digital cameras came, despite some very close competition (Olympus C-2000Z & C-2020Z) the Coolpix remained the favourite prosumer digital camera.

The Coolpix 990

Last year saw the 3.14 megapixel, 3x zoom, Coolpix 990. Not just a step forward in resolution the 990 had improved ergonomics, better build quality and a raft of new "prosumer" features which delighted both Coolpix aficionado's and new buyers alike. The 990 saw the introduction of the 5-area spot AF, focus confirmation, a new aperture diaphragm, USB connectivity, sharpness control, histogram and highlighting, fine tunable white balance and many more. The 990 soon established itself as the top 3 megapixel consumer digital, the one all other manufacturers aimed to beat.


Evolution

At PMA this year Nikon revealed the 995 to me. Aimed as an evolution rather than a revolution, the 990 is a strong camera and rather than starting from scratch and loosing a lot of that proven technology, Nikon wanted to show that they are listening to owners (and journalists) and have introduced a raft of new features (and fixes) based on the feedback they've received.

Changes / improvements over the Coolpix 990

  Nikon Coolpix 995 Nikon Coolpix 990
 
Body LCD portion - magnesium alloy,
Lens portion - polycarbonate plastic (Glass fibre 15%)
All magnesium alloy
Lens 4 x optical zoom, 38 - 152 mm equiv. 3 x optical zoom, 38 - 115 mm equiv.
Lens max aperture F2.6 - F5.1 F2.6 - F4.0
Sensitivity Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800 Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400
Resolutions 2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
1024 x 768
640 x 480
2048 x 1536
1024 x 768
640 x 480
AF accuracy 7,123 steps 4,896 steps
WB auto bracket Yes No
Saturation control Yes No
Noise reduction Yes, menu option No
Shutter speed 8 sec - 1/2300 sec (plus Bulb) 8 sec - 1/1000 (plus Bulb)
Quick review button Yes No
Swivel lock Yes No
Flash Pop-up (designed to reduce redeye) Fixed internal
Flash range 10 m (32.8 ft) 9 m (29.5 ft)
Power Nikon EN-EL1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable included or 2CR5 Lithium 4 x AA batteries
Storage Compact Flash Type I or II * Compact Flash Type I
Weight no battery 410 g (14.5 oz) 411 g (14.5 oz)
Weight inc battery 454 g (16.0 oz) 509 g (18.0 oz)
Dimensions
(inc. grip)
138 x 82 x 63 mm (5.2 x 3.2 x 2.5 in)
(w x h x d)
149 x 79 x 65 mm (5.9 x 3.1 x 2.6 in)
(w x h x d)

* IBM Microdrive is not officially supported by Nikon but newer Microdrives (512 MB / 1 GB) are known to work without any problems (other than performance / battery life considerations).

Those are the specification / design differences, let's get on to examine the camera in a little more detail and see what other improvements have been made...

NOTE: The camera used for this review is just one step away from mass production and has a newer firmware than those reviewed on other sites.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this review (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (normally 960 x 720 or smaller if cropped) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This review is Copyright 2001 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey.

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