Throwback Thursday: doing the twist with the Nikon Coolpix 950
Few cameras in the early days of consumer digital photography are as legendary as the Nikon Coolpix 950. This graphic pulled from the DPReview archives says it all:
In case you're wondering, the answer was 'yes'. It earned a 'Highly Recommended' award, with site founder Phil Askey calling it an 'important camera at an important time for digital photography.'
The thing about the Coolpix 950 that grabbed the most attention was, of course, its rotating lens (or was it the body that rotated?). It wasn't Nikon's first camera to use that design: the original Coolpix 900 has that honor.
The lens was reasonably fast (F2.6-F4), though its equivalent focal length of 38-115mm didn't make it a great choice for wide-angle shooters (and forget about selfies which, thankfully, didn't become a fad for another 15 years or so.) Nikon did offer accessory lenses for the 950: a telephoto adapter that doubled the focal length, a wide-angle adapter that dropped it to 24-72mm and a fisheye adapter with a 183° field-of-view.
The CP950 had a whopping 1/2", 2.1 Megapixel CCD, which saved those 1600 x 1200 images to a CompactFlash card. Nikon made a lot of noise about the camera's autofocus system, boasting that it had 4,746 steps, allowing it to be 'unerringly accurate.' The CP950 could shoot continuously at a speedy 1.5 fps and featured Best Shot Selector, a feature which Nikon cameras offered for many years, which took three shots in a row and picked the sharpest one. Another feature that was a big deal then was automatic file numbering.
The Coolpix 950 had a magnesium-alloy frame and feels as solid as a modern-era enthusiast camera. As you can see, it had a built-in flash. What you can't see is that it also had a flash sync terminal, and Nikon sold a flash bracket for off-camera Speedlights.
As with most cameras those days, it had an optical viewfinder along with a 2", 130k-dot LCD that doesn't look very good in 2017. The physical controls and menus may have been competitive then, but they're baffling now.
The CP950 was priced at $899 back in 1999, which is just under $1300 in 2017. That would make this Coolpix one of the most expensive fixed-lens cameras on the market. While it's hard to imaging paying that now, back in '99 the Coolpix 950 was definitely worth the price.
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