Compared to...

When Canon announced the G1, it was clearly a competitor to the 990. With a very similar feature set, lots of manual controls, the same 3 megapixel imager and 3x optical zoom, it was instantly a new contender for the top 3 megapixel prosumer digital camera position.

In my review of the G1 I compared it to the 990 (both on features, specifications and image quality), my overall conclusion was mixed. The G1's colour was definitely better but on the whole the two cameras were fairly evenly matched for image sharpness and resolution. Feature wise however, the G1 took the lead. Now along comes the 995, still 3 megapixels, but now with a 4x optical zoom lens, a pop-up flash, CF Type II support (albeit not Microdrive) and various new features.

Obviously if you're considering the 995 the G1 would be its nearest contender, so this is the camera I've chosen to use for our main comparison. First of all, let's compare specifications and features:

  Nikon Coolpix 995 Canon PowerShot G1
Street price US$ 900 US$ 900
Body LCD portion magnesium alloy,
Lens portion plastic
Magnesium alloy front,
Plastic rear
Body design Split body Single body with flip-out LCD
Ergonomics Good, nice hand grip Average, no hand grip
Lens zoom 4 x optical zoom, 35 - 152 mm equiv. 3 x optical zoom, 34 - 102 mm equiv.
Lens aperture F2.6 - F5.1 F2.0 - F2.5
Lens thread 28 mm 58 mm with optional adapter
CCD 1/1.8" 3.3 megapixel 1/1.8" 3.3 megapixel
Max resolution 2048 x 1536 2048 x 1536
Aspect ratio 4:3 or 3:2 4:3
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
1024 x 768
640 x 480
1024 x 768
640 x 480
Image modes TIFF, JPEG RAW, JPEG
JPEG modes Fine, Normal, Basic Super Fine, Fine, Normal *1
Digital Zoom x1.2 - x4.0 in x0.2 steps x2 or x4
Sensitivity Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800 Auto, ISO 50, 100, 200, 400
AF mode Single, Continuous Single, Continuous
AF illumination lamp No Yes
AF focus areas 5 selectable 1 automatic
AF distance Normal: 30 cm
Macro: 2 cm
Normal: 70 cm
Macro: 6 cm (W), 70 cm (T)
AF / MF confirmation Yes, very visible Yes, slightly visible
Auto bracketing Yes, 3/5 images, +/-1 EV Yes, 3 images, +/-2 EV
WB auto bracket Yes No
WB fine tuning Yes No
WB manual preset Yes Yes
Noise reduction Yes, menu option Yes, auto above 1.3 sec exposure
Exposure modes Auto, P, AP, SP, Man Auto, AP, SP, Man, 6 scene modes
Metering 256 segment, center-weighted,
spot, spot AF area
Center-weighted, spot
AE Lock Yes Yes, single button, plus stitch assist
AE compensation +/-2 EV in 0.3 EV steps +/-2 EV in 0.3 EV steps
Shutter speed 8 - 1/2300 sec (plus Bulb) 8 - 1/1000 sec
Shutter priority 15 positions 40 positions
Aperture priority 10 positions 13 positions
Continuous 1.8 fps @ 2048 x 1536
3 frames @ Fine resolution
1.3 fps @ 2048 x 1536
10 frames @ Fine resolution
Quick review Yes No
Contrast control Yes Yes
Saturation control Yes Yes
Sharpening control Yes Yes
Movie clips 320 x 240, 40 sec, no audio 320 x 240, 30 seconds, with audio
Audio clips No Yes
User memories 3, selectable 1
Self timer 3 or 10 seconds 10 seconds or IR remote
Remote control Optional accessory Supplied IR remote
PC remote control No Yes, supplied software
LCD 1.8" on twisting body section 1.8" flip-out and twist + anti-reflective
Viewfinder Optical Optical
Play magnification 1.2x - 6.0x 2.5x - 5.0x
Flash Pop-up (designed to reduce redeye) Fixed internal
Flash range 7 m (22.9 ft) 4.5 m (15 ft)
External flash Synch terminal Hot-shoe
Tripod mount Metal Metal
Power Nikon EN-EL1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable Canon BP-511 Li-Ion rechargeable
Battery power 4.8 Wh (2 hr 30 mins) 8.1 Wh (3 hrs)
AC adapter Optional Supplied
Storage Compact Flash Type I or II Compact Flash Type I or II
Storage supplied 16 MB 16 MB
Microdrive supported Not officially Yes
Weight no battery 410 g (14.5 oz) 418 g (14.7 oz)
Weight inc battery 454 g (16.0 oz) 494 g (17.4 oz)
(inc. Grip)
138 x 82 x 63 mm (5.2 x 3.2 x 2.5 in)
(w x h x d)
120 x 77 x 64 mm (4.7 x 3.0 x 2.5 in)
(w x h x d)
Volume *2 502 cm3 407 cm3
Startup speed Fast Average
Operation speed Fast Very Fast

*1 Super-Fine offers virtually lossless JPEG quality.
*2 Calculated by measuring individual body components.

As you can see, despite being in the same market area the two cameras both have their own strengths and weaknesses. It's clear at least from a specifications and features point of view, that you would have to go down this list and decide which features are more important to you before choosing a winner at this stage in the race.

Image Quality Comparison

Here we turn to my now standard still life scene, A few notes about this sample shot: Lighting - 2 x 800W studio lights with dichroic daylight filters bounced off a white ceiling reflector. Both camera set to aperture priority and auto white balance. All other settings factory default. Both cameras aperture was stopped down to get the optimum sharpness from the lens.

What became clear early on in this comparison is the apparent difference in what each camera's sensitivity actually equates to. We found that the G1 at ISO 50 was just as sensitive (required a very similar exposure for the same brightness image) as the 995 at ISO 100. Thus the 995 is probably over-reporting its sensitivity and the G1 is probably underreporting.

Image portions below are of a 120 x 90 crop which has been magnified 200% using nearest neighbour re-sizing, apart from the last which is a 240 x 180 crop.

Nikon Coolpix 995 @ ISO 100 vs. Canon G1 @ ISO 50

Nikon Coolpix 995
ISO 100, 1/6 sec, F5.5
Canon G1
ISO 50, 1/4 sec, F5.6
Nikon Coolpix 995 Canon G1

Although there doesn't appear to be a huge amount of difference we can clearly pick up on a few details: As we expected the G1's ISO 50 images are cleaner (less noise). The G1 also seems to handle blues better than the 995, the 995 handles reds better (last crop, much better red / orange than the G1), otherwise they are pretty evenly matched. Kudos to Nikon for keeping the noise down at ISO 100.

The G1 also seems to gain from its larger, faster lens. Detail is sharper and better defined (though it's clear that the 995 has applied less in-camera sharpening that the G1). The apparent softness of the batteries in the 995 shot was so surprising that I went back and re-shot the scene but there was no improvement. Is the "9 series" lens structure starting to show its age?

Nikon Coolpix 995 @ ISO 100 vs. Canon G1 @ ISO 100

Nikon Coolpix 995
ISO 100, 1/6 sec, F5.6
Canon G1
ISO 100, 1/8 sec, F5.6
Nikon Coolpix 995 Canon G1

Here things start to get more interesting. The 995 is clearly cleaner (less noise) at ISO 100 than the G1. It's somewhere between the G1's ISO 50 and ISO 100.