Record mode display

This is an example of some of the settings which are overlayed (manual mode) over the live preview image "LCD viewfinder", in this example we have: Macro mode, Flash inhibited, Central focus point selected, Auto ISO, Matrix Metering, Programmed Exposure, 1" shutter speed, F3.9 aperture, FINE compression with 73 frames remaining.

The five area focus selection is a great addition to the 990, it gives you the control to focus (and meter if AF-area spot metering is enabled) at any one of five points. You can change the selected focus area using the Multi Selector on the rear of the camera.

In this example we're already half-pressed the shutter release and are ready to shoot. After shooting a preview is displayed briefly (this can be disabled) and while the image is being flushed to the CF card you can cancel the save by pressing the focus button.

Here's a breakdown of the vast amount of possibly overlayed data in manual record mode:

1 Zoom indicator 16 Shutter speed
2 Digital zoom 17 Exposure mode
3 Focus mode/manual focus distance 18 Metering mode
4 External flash indicator 19 Continuous (Multi-shot) mode
5 Flash mode (built-in flash) 20 Exposure bracketing indicator
6 Battery indicator 21 Auto-exposure lock
7 Image sharpening 22 White-balance lock
8 White-balance program 23 Best-shot selection
9 Sensitivity (ISO equivalency) 24 Lens converter indicator
10 Image adjustment 25 Current folder
11 Image size 26 User set number
12 Image quality 27 Self-timer indicator
13 Number of exposures remaining 28 Auto-exposure target (spot metering)
14 Exposure compensation 29 Focus areas
15 Aperture (f number) 30 Exposure display (manual exposure mode)

Focus Confirmation

Focus confirmation can be set to Off, On (always) or MF (manual focus only). It works by applying a sharpening mask to the image displayed on the LCD. This enhances the image to make areas of the image "in focus" stand out more than the rest of the image, it deliberately over emphasises the point of focus. A very useful feature...

Focus Confirmation off Focus Confirmation on

Playback display

Display of an image starts in the same way as the 950, that is a blown-up thumbnail is displayed immediately with the egg timer (you can interrupt and scroll between images, and it's very fast with only a 0.5s delay), around two seconds later the display quality improves as the camera has loaded the full resolution image from the CF card.

Once the full image has been loaded it's overlayed with the following data:

• Date & Time
• Folder
• Filename
• Image quality
• Frame number

Rolling the command wheel to the right displays two pages of detailed information (example):
FOCUS AF      

Rolling the command wheel to the left displays a brief exposure summary:

• Filename
• Focal length
• Shutter speed
• Aperture
• Focus mode
• Selected AF area (if applicable)

Rolling one more time to the left displays the excellent histogram as first seen on Kodak's DCS series of Professional Digital Cameras. Then appeared on the Nikon D1 and has now made its way to the Coolpix 990.

The histogram is a graph of the distribution of tones across the full brightness range (example on the left is a little underexposed).

Overexposed parts of the image blink white and black (useful but I'd like to have seen this in the preview in record mode).

It's useful to have this amount of detail during playback when you're out shooting in the field. Sometimes information such as the histogram helps you to decide on re-shooting the scene, however I'm amazed that Nikon haven't made this available in record mode, you'd normally use a histogram such as this immediately after shooting (such as the Kodak DCS series & the D1) the image to decide on whether you need to tweak the exposure, having to switch to playback just to enjoy the feature is a hassle.

Pressing the thumbnail (Flash) button displays nine thumbnails, pressed again it displays four thumbnails. Pressing Tele zooms into the current image, you can zoom from 1.2x up to 4.0x in 0.2x steps, scroll the zoomed image using the Multi Selector.
Pressing the delete (Focus) button displays a confirmation page, use the Multi Selector to move down to Yes then push right to perform the delete. Optionally you can choose delete -> selected from the play menu (detailed later) to mark images and delete all at the same time.

The 4x zoom combined with smooth scrolling is considerably better than found on the 950 with it's poor 9 position "loupe". The two different levels of thumbnail help you to get closer to the image while still being able to compare them side by side.