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The Nikon 990

So what have been the developments over the past two years?  Bigger, better and cheaper, of course!  Having had the Nikon CoolPix 900 since mid-1998, I've been watching the developments in digital cameras, both from Nikon and from other manufacturers.  Nikon went through the 900S, a slight update of the 900, and then into the 700, 800 and 950 cameras.  With the 950, they added many controls that traditional photographers want - control over aperture, shutter speed and so forth.  The 800 is a simpler, cheaper camera with a more limited zoom, and I think the 700 was fixed focal length, so of no interest to me.  Our cameras since 2001 are described here.

Nikon have just brought out the CoolPix 990, in the middle of 2000, and I recently had the chance to handle this camera.  Many of the annoyances of the 900 have gone, and the image quality has been enhanced in many ways.  For example, the CCD sensor is "3.3 megapixels" - which means the highest resolution is 2048 x 1536 (H x V) pixels.  This should be adequate for 10" x 8" prints indistinguishable from conventional photography.  Both 1024 x 768 and 640 x 480 resolutions are available as well.  They have also improved the interpolation used for the digital zoom, so there is less need for the add-on 2X  teleconvertor.  Comparing images in detail from the 900 and 990 using the digital zoom, the 990 images are clearly superior, with a much reduced "blockiness" due to the 2X digital zoom.  Of course, the higher CCD resolution means larger image files, which in turn demands bigger memory cards, so when you sell off your Nikon 900 you might as well sell the smaller memory cards as well!

The handling of the camera is even better than the Nikon CoolPix 900, the body is slightly chunkier, but the controls fall very nicely to hand.  The influence of the Nikon support forum is obvious, with issues like a metal tripod bush, a lens cap, a viewfinder hood and so forth now resolved.  

I'm sure one or two other digital cameras give the same excellent image quality and offer the same range of control, and there may even be others which take standard AA (R6) size batteries and CompactFlash memory cards.

Yes, I bought one!


Getting pictures back into the camera

One problem you might have encountered is that you cannot read processed pictures back into the camera.  Perhaps you want to rotate some pictures from landscape to portrait, alter the brightness or crop them to exclude some annoying feature.  You make all the alterations and write them back to the camera.  Does it display them?  No it doesn't!  You ask Nikon and they say this is impossible!  Want to bet?  I have program called TVwriter which will take any JPEG image and convert it to a DSCnnnnn.JPG file that the 990 will display quite happily.  Now you can make a slide-show with all the pictures you want!  More information about TVwriter.


Coolpix 990 - beginner's hints and tips

Both Cecilia and I have 990's and have been very happy with them.  Cecilia writes: 

"When I got mine I bought it priced and packaged as a "kit" which included a case, as well as charger and extra memory.  This just happened to be the best all round offer at the time.  I've found I have a more experimental approach to photography with digital.  It really is a different way of working, and I find I am taking lots more photos, knowing one can delete all but the best.

"Rechargeable batteries are absolutely essential.  For extended trips away from home involving a lot of photography, I try to leave one set recharging overnight but take three sets so that I am not caught short.  I now use a more "intelligent" charger, rather than the one that came with the kit.  It senses the voltage change at end of charge and thus one can top up the charge at a convenient time without always having to let the batteries completely discharge in use.

"I have bought enough memory cards for the longest likely trip away from a computer, so I don't have to do much editing in the camera just in order to save memory.  Then back home we have a SanDisk compact flash reader which is extremely convenient for downloading the photos.  I have not felt the need for any other accessories.  David has telephoto and wide angle adaptors bought as funds permitted.

"We do use our cameras in rather different ways.  I'm frequently away on geology field trips - it was the lighter weight of David's 990 compared with my old conventional camera gear that initially convinced me to go digital. I've been pleased with close ups of rocks and fossils. The swivel design and use of the display monitor has enabled me to photograph into awkward corners and crevices, and I like being able to zoom in on the monitor on playback to check that the required feature is indeed in focus.  I recommend doing this as focus in macro mode isn't always what you expect.

"I've sometimes had rather dark results when the flash was activated on auto, but have just made adjustments to the photo with Paint Shop Pro.   I just haven't got around yet to discovering and experimenting with exposure issues and all the features the 990 offers.

Neither of us have bought filters - we haven't found the need.  There are folk who like to have a UV filter on the lens as a protection - whilst I did this on my 35mm camera these optics are smaller and less vulnerable.  If you did want to be pedantic about spectral response, I guess you could get some filters because the response of the 990 extends outside the visible wavelengths which sometimes leads to unexpected colouring in flowers (blue especially), but I don't know of specific filters aimed at this.

Batteries and memory are the key things to get right - we use Maha chargers with 115 and 230V AC adaptors - and think of a good way to organise all those photos when you get home!  A database, perhaps?  You should also think about what Quality Setting you want to use - it has a major impact on the number of photos per memory card.  There is now a UK supplier for Maha chargers and batteries - Nevada at http://www.nevada.co.uk - look in their Accessories section.

There are a lot of very helpful folk on the e-groups Coolpix 900 list, so I would strongly recommend joining that list by e-mailing: coolpix990-subscribe@egroups.com

Copyright © David Taylor, Edinburgh   Last modified: 2015 Jan 18 at 09:32