Nikon Coolpix 990 Review
The 990 now offers control over the internal sharpening algorithms in the camera, you can choose from Auto Sharpening (different sharpening automatically applied depending on image content - dodgy ground), three levels of sharpening (Normal being about the same as the 950) or no sharpening at all (for the purist photographer in you). The samples below are 100% crops of different sharpening levels for the same scene.
Camera settings: ISO 100, Aperture Priority, Metering: Matrix, F5.7, Focus Locked, White Balance: Cloudy, Measured light: 9 EV.
|Auto Sharpening||High Sharpening|
|Normal Sharpening||Low Sharpening|
For every day shooting I found myself sticking to Normal Sharpening, Auto Sharpening seemed to give very similar results, but again the manual didn't expand on exactly HOW the camera decides what sharpening to use for what scene circumstances.
Readers of my reviews will know I'm not a huge fan of digital zoom as it's often a badly implemented and seldom used (by owners) marketing "ploy" to sell cameras which don't have an optical zoom. The 990 does indeed have optical zoom, and has a range of digital zooms which can be used on top of the standard 3x optical zoom. These zooms range from 1.2x to 4.0x in 0.2x steps. They are however simply cropping (selecting the mid part of the image) and sampling-up, the only advantage in doing digital zoom inside the camera is (a) if you don't have any photo software to magnify (and interpolate) the image or (b) to digitally zoom without zooming the JPEG artifacts.
Camera settings: ISO 100, Aperture Priority, Metering: Matrix, F5.7, Focus Locked, Sharpening: Normal, White Balance: Cloudy, Measured light: 9 EV.
|Full Optical Zoom, No Digital Zoom||Full Optical Zoom, 2x Digital Zoom|
|Full Optical Zoom, 4x Digital Zoom||Full Optical Zoom, Photoshop 2x Bicubic|
Here I've included a Photoshop 2x Bicubic sampled image, simply cropped to 1024 x 768 then resampled up to 2048 x 1536, results are almost identical to the 2x Digital Zoomed 990 image, which is pretty good considering how little horsepower their is inside the 990 and how quickly it performs the digital zoom.
The manual focus on the 990 is much improved from the original 950, now with 50 steps from a Macro-happy 2cm up to Infinity. Add the new "Focus Confirmation" preview sharpen and it's easy to see where the manual focus is (makes detail stand out on the LCD display).
Camera settings: ISO 100, Aperture Priority, Metering: Matrix, F4.0, Sharpening: Normal, White Balance: Cloudy, Measured light: 8 EV.
|Manually focused on foreground||Manually focused on background|
Aperture Priority Mode (A)
Aperture priority is where you designate the aperture and the camera calculates the best shutter speed, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the aperture will flash on the LCD screen. Used properly Aperture Priority can be invaluable as it has a direct effect on depth of field (the distance in front and behind the focal point which will be in focus when taking the shot). Example of aperture priority (simple example F11.0 produces more depth of field than F4.0) - for more read my digital photography glossary:
Camera settings: ISO 100, Aperture Priority, Metering: Matrix, Focus Locked, Sharpening: Normal, White Balance: Cloudy, Measured light: 8 EV.
|F4.0, 1/11 sec (short depth of field)||F11.0 1/4 sec (more depth of field)|
Shutter Priority Mode (S)
Shutter priority is where you designate the shutter speed and the camera calculates the correct aperture, if the exposure is outside of the cameras range (either over or under exposing) the shutter speed will flash on the LCD screen. The two samples below show two examples of places you may use Shutter Priority. For the image on the left we use it to bring the shutter speed up to 1/1000s while using the flash to freeze these water droplets splashing on a plug. For more read my digital photography glossary:
|[another example to come]|
|ISO 100, Shutter
Priority, Metering: Matrix, AF, Sharpening: Normal, WB: Flash, Flash
On, Flash Comp: -0.3 EV
Exposure: 1/1000s, F5.6
Manual Mode (M)
The 990 now includes a full manual mode, in this mode you have complete control over the exposure system, you can define both the shutter speed and aperture setting (press MODE to switch between each). In Manual Mode you also have access to Bulb shutter speed (shutter stays open for as long as you hold the shutter release button).
When setting the exposure in Manual mode a meter like this is is displayed on the LCD viewfinder (value repeated on the top Control Panel as a value) indicating the amount of over or underexposure with the selected settings.