Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2048 x 1536 JPEG image @ NORMAL compression (around 800KB per image).

File Size Notes: All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.

Because of the way the 990 redisplays images in play back mode I refer to an "Initial image" in the timings below, this is the stretched thumbnail displayed with the egg timer, about two seconds after that the full resolution image is overlayed.

Auto Focus LAG is pretty difficult to time on the 990 as it features a Continuous AF mode (which most people will use out of preference). Typically the Continuous AF has already got a fairly good focus lock before you half-press the shutter-release leading to very short LAG times (great). However sometimes when you half-press the shutter-release it gets confused and loses what was a good AF lock (yep, it's the same as the 950 in that respect). Using Macro mode also seems to affect the AF (makes it scan through the focus range).

Symbols: ~ = roughly / approximately.

Action Time taken
OFF to REC 4.0  
OFF to PLAY 3.5 "Initial image" is displayed
REC to OFF 1.7  
REC to PLAY 1.5 "Initial image" is displayed
PLAY to REC 2.3  
PLAY: Image to Image <0.6 Almost instant
PLAY: INDEX thumbnail view 1.25 Full page of 9 thumbnails displayed
PLAY: Zoom-in <1.0 Almost instant (3 sec to 4 x zoom)
Auto Focus LAG (Cont. AF) 0.5 - 1.0 Dependent on focus subject *
Auto Focus LAG (Single AF) 1.0 - 1.8 Dependent on focus subject *
Shutter Release LAG 0.1 Very fast *
Total LAG (Cont. AF) 0.5 No pre-focus, one complete press *
Total LAG (Single AF) 1.0 No pre-focus, one complete press *
OFF to SHOT TAKEN 5.2 Switch on + Press shutter release

* LAG times are often misunderstood and so are described below:

Auto Focus LAG is (roughly) the amount of time it takes the camera to autofocus (a half-press and hold of the shutter release button), this timing is normally the most variable as its affected by the subject matter, current focus position, still or moving subject etc. This timing is an average.

Shutter Release LAG is the amount of time it takes to take the shot after autofocus, this timing assumes you have already focused (half-pressed the shutter release) and now press the shutter release button all the way down to take the shot. This timing is an average.

Total LAG is the total time it takes (not just the two above added together) if you haven't pre-focused, that is no finger touching the shutter release button, press it all the way down in one movement, this new timing is how long it'd take if you were in one of those spur-of-the-moment situations. This timing is an average.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to "flush" the image out to the CF card (when the egg timer disappears from the LCD if you don't interrupt it). You can interrupt the image review (as long as you're not shooting in TIFF mode) by half or full press of the shutter release to take another shot. If image review is disabled you can just shoot at will.

This in no way affects the ability of the camera to "recycle" and shoot again (as long as you're not shooting in TIFF mode), the 990 has a large internal memory buffer (32 MB) even shooting as fast as you possibly can you're never waiting for the camera to flush the image away (unless you shoot TIFF).

The table below defines the maximum number of shots which can be taken in a row before the camera makes you wait (measured as "wait before restarting") for space to become available in the internal buffer. Camera settings: Manual Focus (to remove any focus delays), No Image Review.

Size / Resolution
Maximum shots in a sequence Wait before restarting
2048 x 1536 Basic 8 3 secs
2048 x 1536 Normal 4 6 secs
2048 x 1536 Fine 2 10 secs
2048 x 1536 Hi (TIFF) 1 40 secs

It appears that the 990 is "bottlenecked" writing data out to the CF card, it shares its processing power for writing data out with the rest of the camera, thus if the internal buffer fills you have to wait for it to be emptied before you can start shooting again.

The estimated number of images per 16 MB CompactFlash card is given as a guide to beginners (as that's what's bundled with the camera - differs with region).

Action Time taken
Compression Ratio Average
File size
Images on a
16 MB CF card
Store 2048 x 1536 Hi (TIFF) 44.2 1:1 9,287 KB 1
Store 2048 x 1536 Fine 7.9 1:4 ~1,200 KB 10
Store 2048 x 1536 Normal 6.8 1:8 ~800 KB 20
Store 2048 x 1536 Basic 6.0 1:16 ~400 KB 40
Store 2048 x 1360 (3:2) Hi (TIFF) 40.0 1:1 8,231 KB 1
Store 2048 x 1360 (3:2) Fine 7.8 1:4 ~1,100 KB 11
Store 2048 x 1360 (3:2) Normal 6.7 1:8 ~700 KB 23
Store 2048 x 1360 (3:2) Basic 6.0 1:16 ~350 KB 46
Store 1024 x 768 Fine 5.9 1:4 ~320 KB 40
Store 1024 x 768 Normal 5.7 1:8 ~170 KB 79
Store 1024 x 768 Basic 5.3 1:16 ~110 KB 151
Store 640 x 480 Fine 5.5 1:4 ~120 KB 100
Store 640 x 480 Normal 5.3 1:8 ~80 KB 187
Store 640 x 480 Basic 5.3 1:16 ~60 KB 333

Continuous / Movie Modes

The 990 features five continuous shooting modes. Under test conditions they equate to:

Continuous Mode Frame Size File Format Approx. frames per sec (LCD review on) Approx. frames per sec (LCD review off) Max no. of frames
Continuous* 2048 x 1536 JPEG 1.6 1.6 9
Continuous* 1024 x 768 JPEG 1.8 1.8 40
Multi-shot 16 512 x 192 JPEG 2.2 2.3 16**
VGA Seq. 640 x 480 JPEG 1.6 1.8 44
Ultra HS 320 x 240 JPEG 30 30 80
Movie 320 x 240 MOV 15 15 40 secs

* Shot with BASIC compression
** 16 frames on 1 JPEG image (2048 x 1536)

Battery life

Battery life on the 990 was about the same as the 950, it's possible to shoot for about two hours with the LCD on and a good set of NiMH rechargeable. My current favorites are a set of Sanyo 1500mAh NiMH's which just last and last. The 990 does feature more aggressive power saving features (such as shutting the screen off early). Obviously the continuous focus can take its toll on the batteries so turning the Monitor off when you're not shooting also disables continuous focus and you get the double benefit from that.

Sad to see that Nikon didn't take the opportunity to launch their flagship consumer digital camera with a decent set of NiMH's and a charger (haven't they seen what Olympus have been doing for over 18 months now??)...

UPDATE 24/Apr/2000: Just been out shooting for 4 hours (120 shots) on one set of 1450mAh (Olympus) batteries. Camera was switched on the whole time I simply used the MONITOR button to turn the LCD on and off to save battery power when I wasn't shooting... This performance is defintely an improvement over the 950. One note though, I would like to have seen the MONITOR button positioned closer to the zoom controls to make it easier to switch off the LCD when not in use.