Nikon Coolpix 995 Review
The 995 shares more than a passing resemblance to its older brothers, and many elements of the body are either exactly the same or very similar to the 990. The split body swivel design is carried forward, maturing slightly with the addition of the swivel lock, a small switch on the base of the camera which allows you to lock the lens portion at 90 degrees (it actually just stops the lens being pushed past 90 degrees), extremely useful for those heavy add-on lenses (no need for third party "wings" any more).
Other noticeable ergonomic changes are the the slightly smaller (and flatter) hand grip, I personally preferred the 990's slightly bulkier hand grip but your mileage may vary. On the left (lens portion) side the new 4x zoom lens causes the bulge on the bottom and the pop-up flash is responsible for the bulkier top. Also note the new locations of the neck strap harnesses.
The command wheel is the same as on the 990, as is the mode switch, shutter release button, control buttons (add the quick view button) and 4-direction controller. The compact flash compartment door has changed shape as has the connections compartment. The battery compartment door has changed based on the new Lithium-Ion battery, though its opening mechanism is similar.
Plastic or "it's the wrong way to Tip-perary"
Ah yes, probably one of the most contentious details about the new 995 (apart from the various cries of "ugly" from the Nikon Talk forum), is the fact that the lens portion of the camera is made of plastic, the LCD portion remains as the same magnesium alloy used in the 990. Having said the P word it's worth noting that this is high quality, high impact stuff, definitely thicker and stronger than found on other digicams and certainly at first glance very difficult to distinguish from the right portion of the camera (at least until you touch it).
Here's my theory on why Nikon HAD to use plastic: The 995 is virtually the same weight as the 990 without batteries (all but 1 g), the new Lithium-Ion battery weighs about the same as 1.8 AA NiMH batteries. Every 990 owner will tell you that the 990, without batteries and with its lens portion twisted 90 degrees, will tip onto its lens side.
|Coolpix 995 with battery inserted||Coolpix 995 with battery removed|
The same is true of the 995, except it's more complicated. There's more glass in the lens and the flash mechanism is heavier. If Nikon had made the lens portion case from the (slightly) heavier magnesium alloy the camera wouldn't be able to stand upright; the weight of that Lithium-Ion battery simply isn't enough to balance it. However, with the lighter plastic case on the lens side, the camera (just) balances flat on its rubber "foot", indeed it's so finely balanced that if you push it over onto its lens, it will stay there.
UPDATE: Despite my theory (which is accurate but not the primary reason), Nikon have confirmed that the new lens / flash system moulding is very complex and would have been too costly to manufacture.
Side by side
Well, first of all lets deal with how the 995 looks compared to the 990. This scale, top-down view animation (which I should have patented after my 990 review) gives you a good impression of the differences. The lens portion is slightly shorter (thanks to the pop-up flash) and the hand grip slightly less deep (thanks to the new battery).
(click for larger 1.2 MB animation)
Below you can see a comparison of the 995's size next to Sony's DSC-S75 and Nikon's own Coolpix 880.
Nikon, pretty much past-masters at the ergonomic design game (after several generations of development), are still pretty much on the ball. I found that the flat face of the hand grip didn't tuck itself into my palm like the 990's hand grip; your mileage may vary. All the controls you'll need fall usefully under your forefinger and thumb, and the small "ridge" which was designed into the 990 for thumb grip has been made slightly larger on the 995 (a good thing). Despite it's "unusual" design, the 995 remains one of the nicest digital cameras to hold and use for any amount of time.
Top "Control Panel" LCD display
|*1||Displays: Program Exp/Manual: Aperture/Shutter speed (press MODE to switch), Aperture Priority: Aperture, Shutter Priority: Shutter Speed as well as exposure compensation, manual focus distance, ISO sensitivity etc.|
|*2||Frames remaining / Exposure condition / Image transfer indication|
(Reproduced with permission from Coolpix 995 manual)
|Louvre Museum pyramid by Didier Quan|
|Oka Frozen Leaf 2002 DP by MarioSS|
from The Dead Leaves of Winter