Review based on a Production Model Nikon Coolpix 990, Firmware V1.0
Probably the most eagerly anticipated digital cameras of 2000. Last year I made that statement of the Nikon Coolpix 950. This years Coolpix 9xx has already achieved the same cult status and it's not even yet available in the shops! Then why all the attention?
The Coolpix 900
Well, it does come from good breeding. The 9xx range started way back in 1998 with the Nikon Coolpix 900 (E900), soon to be followed by the updated 900s (E910) this was the first time we saw the swivel design and also opened peoples eyes as to what a digital camera was capable of. I admit my first (real) digital camera was a Nikon Coolpix 900s, soon to be followed by a Canon Pro 70.
The Coolpix 950
Last year came the 950 a completely re-engineered camera of a quality over and above what we'd seen in the 900. And it was well received by reviewers and owners alike, despite some shortcomings (chromatic aberrations and design-lame ergonomics) it soon became the de facto 2 megapixel digital camera, and in fact I still use it as my base comparison in reviews (stay tuned). Many other 2 megapixel digital cameras came, despite some very close competition (Olympus C-2000Z & C-2020Z) the Coolpix remained the favorite pro-sumer digital camera.
What does the "megapixel war" mean to the digital photographer? Back in November 1998 when I was shooting with my Coolpix 900s I was stunned by the image quality, looking back on it now our expectations have certainly come a long way in a short time. Now we expect as good-as (if not better than) scanned 35mm slides, the flexibility of a pro-SLR, small enough to carry everywhere and enough pixels to generate prints that can fill your wall.
In the Coolpix 9xx family it's easy to trace the increase in resolution over time:
- 1998: Nikon Coolpix 900s (E910), 1280 x 960, 1,228,800 effective pixels
- 1999: Nikon Coolpix 950 (E950), 1600 x 1200, 1,920,000 effective pixels
- 2000: Nikon Coolpix 990 (E990), 2048 x 1536, 3,145,728 effective pixels
The 950 had 56% more sensors than the 900. The 990 has nearly 64% more sensors than the 950. The 990 has 256% of the image gathering sensors of the 900s. More sensors mean more pixels in the image and that means several things::
- Ability to print larger at the same resolution (10" x 7.5" @ 200dpi for the 990)
- Higher quality images, when the image is reduced in size (down sampled) for normal monitor resolutions (web publishing for example)
- Places higher demands on the quality of the lens system. Many experts agree that we're already close to the limits of standard lens systems to focus a sharp image down onto these tiny very high resolution CCDs (in fact the lenses found in most 3 megapixel digital cameras use glass of the same quality as only the most expensive 35mm systems), thus we're more likely to encounter problems such as chromatic aberrations as pixel count increases
- Increased storage demands, more pixels equals more bytes at the same quality. However, flash memory manufacturers are keeping up with this demand (and rubbing their hands together in the process).
- Increase internal processing demands, more pixels need to be processed in quicker and quicker times as photographers demand "pro-sumer" performance (cycle times) from digital cameras (high spec CPUs and specialised DSP chips)
In my personal opinion we'll reach a maximum pixel count, a level at which pro-sumers (those willing to spend upward of $1000 on a digital camera) will have enough pixels (probably around the 6.6 million pixel point - 3000 x 2200) and already demands are rising for increase CCD dimensions (physical size, to deal with some of the lens expense and problems), higher sensitivities (digital cameras are notoriously poor at higher sensitivities) and even completely new CCD designs (apart from April Fools jokes that is).
The Coolpix 990
In usual Nikon fashion the 990 was announced in unison globally on the 27th January 2000 at 8 AM Tokyo Time. The look was familiar if a little restyled, most significant was the increase in resolution to 3.34 megapixels (2048 x 1536) and the addition of some neat new features and a sigh of relief from 950 owners due to solutions to some long term Coolpix gripes. Adding to some confusion (and still) is the fact that the US models feature a purple/blue insert in the rubberised hand grip and non-US models (Europe / Asia) feature a red insert. As I'm now based in the UK the model I'm reviewing has a red insert, it is otherwise identical to the US Coolpix 990.
Full Circle: vs. Coolpix 950
So the big question on the minds of Coolpix 950 owners will be: Is it worth upgrading? My advice would be to read the whole of this review, analyse the features and image quality, find some more reviews and then decide (the 950 is still a very fine camera). Here's a very quick summary of the 990 vs. 950:
What's Totally New?
- 3.34 megapixels (2048 x 1536 vs. 1600 x 1200)
- 7-blade Iris Diaphragm for better aperture control
- Five-area spot meter and AF points (just like an F100)
- 256 zone matrix color white balance sensing
- Coordinated adjustment of f/stop and shutter speed in Flexible Program mode
- Color adjustment of factory white balance settings
- New flast jog pad for rapid menu access
- USB connectivity
- Improved ergonomics (better button layout, control wheel on back, new menus)
- QuickTime movies (40 seconds at a time)
- Fine tunable white balance
- Sharpening control
- Full manual mode (with under / over exposure meter)
- Histogram and overexposure highlighting (very D1)
What's Changed / been fixed?
- The CF card slot is now on the side of the camera making it easier to load/unload on a tripod
- The CF compartment door is now sensibly designed
- New 3:2 image ratio mode
- Brightness +/- and Contrast +/- improved
- Zoom lens parking selection of wide/tele/memory
- Flash EV compensation menu +/- 2.0 EV
- Continuous zoom digital zoom
- Continuous zoom playback magnificiation
- Massively improved tripod mount with metal thread and rubber base
- The swivel, though not lose on the 950 is even stiffer and more solid on the 990
- Improved hand grip, bigger makes it fit in the hand more snug, all rubber now
- Bigger and better internal buffers (no waiting)
- Self-timer now operational in Macro mode
- Sensitivity (ISO) control in Shutter Priority mode
- Fixed aperture mode for studio flash shooting (aperture stays fixed throughout zoom range)
- Improved LCD, better controls over LCD brightness and hue
- Larger top information LCD with more detail
- New "info.txt" photo information dumped on CF card (contains exposure info for each frame)
- A string for the lens cap (whoopee! - ahem)
- Switchable Video output (PAL/NTSC can be chosen from menu - one global firmware?)
What's still missing? (ever wonder why they didn't call it the Coolpix 1000?)
- CompactFlash Type II support!
- Wrist Strap! (Hand camera.. not a neck camera)
- Belt soft case (there was one with the 950...)
- Anti-reflective coating on the LCD (that plastic cover is still shinny)
- Histogram mode in image review / record mode - histogram only available in playback
- Supplied rechargeable batteries and charger
|Montréal Dépaneur Out of Business DP by MarioSS|
from Your City - Out of Business
|Wish You Were Here by Dutch Newchurch|
from Street musician playing
|Flight of a Puffin by cjf2|
Instagram is currently testing a major change to the app's profile layout: replacing the 3-photo across grid with a 4-photo grid... and some users are NOT taking the news well.
A report by USSRPhoto is shedding some light on the return of the famed Zenit camera brand. It seems the full-frame mirrorless camera they're working on will be made in part by Leica using components from the Leica SL.
According to a reliable Korean report, Samsung is developing a smartphone sensor that's capable of super slow motion. Translation: Samsung's next batch of Galaxy smartphones may be able to shoot 1,000fps.
This simple photograph of a seahorse and Q-tip has taken the internet by storm. We spoke to photographer Justin Hofman about how it was captured, and what it means to him.
After a massive leak last week, Profoto has officially debuted the Profoto A1: the company's first on-camera flash system that they're calling "the world's smallest studio flash."
"When the first hyperfocal distance charts were designed, someone decided that an acceptably sharp background contained some blur — enough to notice in a medium-sized print [...] After that point, nearly every other hyperfocal chart followed suit."
The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (also known as the EOS 200D) is the company's impressively compact entry-level DSLR. Packing a 24MP APS-C sensor, DIGIC 7 processor and Dual Pixel AF, it promises a lot of bang for the buck. And while not mind-blowing, it handles most tasks very well.
Correct these four common composition mistakes and your photos will be more balanced, tell a better story, and lead your viewer's eye where you want it to go.
The rugged, compact 360° action camera Kodak unveiled at Photokina in 2016, the Kodak PixPro Orbit 360, is finally available in the United States.
iOS 11 launches tomorrow, and it'll save all of your pictures in a new high efficiency image format called HEIC. Fortunately, there's now a converter that will let you turn those photos back into JPEGs.
Photo protection company ImageRights recently released a new service that lets non-subscribers take advantage of their streamlined copyright registration system that checks for errors and fills out all the required forms for you.
What's the difference between a $200 circular polarizing filter and a $100 circular polarizing filter? Roger Cicala at Lens Rentals put six different filters through a few tests to find out.
A flurry of leaks reveal that GoPro's upcoming Hero6 will shoot 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 240fps, will cost $500, and is scheduled for announcement/release on September 28th.
Before he became the iconic director whose name we've all heard, a teenage Stanley Kubrick struck up a business relationship with New York’s Look magazine. No surprise: he was an incredibly talented photographer.
WD's new G-Technology G-Drive mobile SSD R-Series is a portable solid state option for photographers who want the reliability of an SSD in a rugged water and dust-resistant package.
Fast, stabilized and affordable is an appealing combination when it comes to lenses. With its latest 24-70mm F2.8, Tamron aims to upgrade autofocus speed and stabilization. We've got a full gallery from this updated full-frame zoom.
Photographer Clay Cook tells the story of his most ambitious photographic dream and career goal coming true: photographing A-list actress Jennifer Lawrence.
In an interview with a Chinese website, Nikon Japan's Director of Development dropped a bombshell, saying that a Nikon mirrorless camera "must be full-frame."
Here's a side-by-side spec comparison of two flagship devices with particular attention to the things that really matter – at least to people who prioritize photography features.
A month and a half after revealing the finalists of the 2017 EyeEm Awards, the photo sharing community and licensing marketplace has finally revealed the winners.
Photographer Josselin Cornou tells the breathtaking story behind two beautiful photos captured while snorkeling with humpback whales in Tonga.
The Sony RX10 IV is a fixed lens camera with a 1"-type sensor and 24-600mm equivalent lens that can shoot 4K video or stills at 24 fps, but that's not what we think is interesting about it. The addition of phase detection autofocus is pivotal to all those features.
The announcement date is set! Google will reveal their next generation Pixel phones—their response to Apple's shiny new iPhone X—on October 4th. Let the smartphone camera wars begin.
Sony just debuted three palm-style 4K camcorders that steal a bit of speedy phase detect autofocus technology from the company's RX10 IV. In fact, they kind of improve on it.
Earlier today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn's atmosphere, ending a 20 year long mission. Here are 21 of our favorite photographs captured by this incredible machine and its makers.
Fans of film photography should keep an eye out for the widespread theatrical release of Kodachrome, a movie staring Jason Sudeikis about the final days of the iconic film stock.
Photographer Manny Ortiz breaks down the pros and cons of shooting natural light vs off-camera flash, and explains why he chooses to shoot one, the other, or both in any given situation.
A leaked product page and a bunch of leaked photos shows Profoto is preparing to release its first ever speedlight: the Profoto A1 Air TTL
The Yashica camera brand disappeared in 2003, but a new teaser video and website hint at a comeback. Excited?
Western Digital just debuted a new, higher capacity WD Gold internal hard drive. The new drive offers 12TB of storage and class-leading reliability to the tune of a 550TB/year workload rating.