Conclusion - Pros

  • Class leading image quality, great resolution, colour balance, sharpness
  • Plenty of pixels (2048 x 1536)
  • New 7-blade Iris Diaphragm increases exposure options and aperture selection
  • Lots of manual features including shutter priority, aperture priority and full manual modes
  • Lots of purists features (TIFF, no sharpening, no image effects)
  • Good control over internal imaging algorithms (contrast, sharpness and saturation control)
  • Continuous focusing cuts down AF lag
  • Fast processing, little delay, large internal buffer
  • Good construction, strong case
  • Much improved menu system
  • Improved one-handed grip
  • Little need for the "digital darkroom"
  • Split twist body (well I like it)
  • Control over flash output
  • USB connectivity

Conclusion - Cons

  • Chromatic Abberations visible at wide angles
  • Barrel & Pincushion distortion
  • Still a little red channel noise in blue skies
  • Low light / Long exposure noise
  • Self-Timer cancels itself after each shot
  • Low light AF is poor, the Coolpix's need an AF lamp!
  • Noisy focus system
  • Flash still causes red-eye
  • Histogram not implemented in record mode preview (in playback mode it's just a bit of fluff, in record mode it's a useful tool)
  • Plastic cover over LCD needs an anti-reflective coating (though the LCD on the 990 is much improved since the 950)
  • CF slot can be awkward to extract card
  • Still no support for Compact Flash Type II cards
  • TIFF still not the ideal choice for uncompressed (CCD RAW or 100% JPEG?)
  • Still no rechargable batteries supplied with the camera... what will beginners do?

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Nikon Coolpix 990: (3 megapixel compact prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 9.5
Image quality 9
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 8
Value for money 10
Cult status value 10

Where should I start? Nikon have taken one of the most capable, reliable and popular digital cameras of 1999 and brought it up to the next level. They've avoided simply upgrading the imager and have updated the camera inside and out, lots of new features, fixes to old niggles and improvements on what was already a great digital camera. Probably the best 3 megapixel digital camera under $1000 (time will tell, I'll be reviewing some more soon...).

UPDATE 28/Apr/2000: Just got some feedback from other 990 owners to hear that the focus noise I heard (grind grind) wasn't just my early production model, I had put it down to that in which case I've now mentioned this in the "Cons" section.

Highly Recommended

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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