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Nikon 995

by Philip Greenspun, 2001


Suppose that you're eating at an outdoor cafe and see an interesting picture materializing. Pull your Nikon Coolpix 995 out of its case (the camera is too large to fit in a pocket). Remove the lens cap. Twist the body so that the optical and digital viewfinders are both facing you. Turn the camera dial from Off to "A" (careful not to turn the same switch all the way to "arrow" or the camera will be in playback mode and incapable of taking a picture). Press the shutter release. Nine seconds later, the camera will take a photo.

Digital photo titled lobster-pot-provincetown Digital photo titled provincetown-drag-queens

You had some previous experience with digital cameras and you knew that you'd want to show this magnum opus to your friends at the table. So you held the shutter release down in order to hold the photo on the camera's monitor. No such luck. The picture disappears. What you were supposed to do was, within a couple of seconds of exposure, use your other hand to press the flash mode button to keep the picture on the monitor. Alternatively you could have pressed the focus mode button to discard the photo immediately. Not that it really matters. Assuming it was a sunny day that lured you outside, you won't be able to view the image on the Nikon 995's LCD. It isn't multicoated against reflection.

Consider your buddy with his 35mm film point and shoot, perhaps a venerable old Yashica T4. He whips it out of his shirt pocket (typical P&S cameras are 7 ounces with battery; the Nikon 995 weighs 16 ounces). The camera is already prepared with the lens pointing forward, the viewfinder pointing backward, and the shutter release on top; no need to twist. He turns it on and the lens cover retracts automatically. Point and shoot cameras have been excoriated for shutter lag but even the worst will autofocus, compute exposure, and release within less than one second. What about creative control? Your buddy can lock the focus by pointing the camera at an off-center subject and pressing the shutter release halfway down. You can't (unless you're willing to go through a bunch of menus on the 995). Your buddy has central area metering and exposure lock, again accessible via holding the shutter release halfway down. Can you do this with your 995? Sure but be prepared to read the manual. A few times. If your buddy has color negative film loaded in his point and shoot, he has at least 10 bits of dynamic range and maybe more like 12. This means that his film has a chance of capturing detail in both the highlights and shadows of a contrasty scene. The resulting negative may be tough to print but the information is there. With your Nikon 995 you have 8 bits of dynamic range. Unless it is a cloudy day, large parts of your picture will probably end up pure white or pure black.

Your friend is crushing you photographically. He has a better tool for most purposes with a vastly simpler user interface. You're thumbing through the 178-page manual that you carry with you at all times (it isn't on www.nikonusa.com). He is thinking about photography.

What's good about the Nikon Coolpix 995? If you're willing to immobilize your subject(s), leaf through the owner's manual, and perform a few experiments, the camera can handle many specialized photographic situations that would otherwise require a much more expensive digital camera or a film-based camera system. The 995 accepts IBM Microdrives. You can pop in a 1 GB drive and take 1000 pictures before reloading. The 995 offers useful macro capabilities, e.g., the ability to fill the frame with an object less than one inch (25mm) long. The 995 can be manually focussed. The 995 accepts an extensive range of supplementary lenses, from wideangles and fisheyes to long telephotos. The 995 can average multiple images for high-quality photography on a tripod at night.

Basics

Digital photo titled eve-andersson The Nikon Coolpix 995 is a 3-megapixel chunky point and shoot camera, creating 8-bit JPEGs that are 2048x1536 pixels in size. The lens is equivalent to a 38-152mm zoom lens on a 35mm camera. This is a normal to telephoto range, suitable for portraits and isolating details within scenes. For wide angle photography you would have to purchase an adaptor lens and frame all of your images through the LCD monitor.

Digital photo titled chatham-fishing-boats The optical viewfinder offers adequate eye relief for eyeglass wearers but does not accurately represent what is being captured by the sensor. The viewfinder zooms with the lens but only shows about 85% of the image being recorded. Be prepared for some surprise elements in your compositions (see the shoe in the beach photo at right, for example).

Standard sensitivity is equivalent to ISO 100 but can be manually set to 200,400, or 800 as well. The "Auto Sensitivity" function performed poorly, leaving the camera with the lens wide open and at a shutter speed of 1/30th rather than upping the film speed to 200 or 400. Image quality suffers at ISO 400, as you can see from the image below.

The built-in flash has a guide number of 32 at ISO 100 and the camera can control modern Nikon system flashes (SB-28/28DX/26/26/25/24/22/22s).

Gallery of User Interface Horrors

Digital photo titled seals-on-south-beach-chatham Let's first consider user interface problems that arise in the camera's idiot mode. The first problem is that it isn't clear how to engage idiot mode. A Nikon N65 film SLR's mode dial contains a bunch of black and white symbols and pictographs. It also contains a big green camera icon, labeled with the word "Auto". Other Nikon film SLRs have dials with settings labeled "simple" and "advanced". With the Coolpix 995 the option to go for idiot mode is not distinguished by color, is not separated from the on/off switch, and is not separated from the "playback mode".

Suppose that a new user of the 995 has somehow managed to get into idiot mode. Our novice is trying to take a picture in a home living room. It is a bit dark and the camera would really like to use flash. How is this communicate to the photographer? Via a flashing red light next to the viewfinder. Knowing that something must be wrong, the photographer refers to the big LCD monitor on the back, where reams of text often appear. Do the words "Please slide the switch on top of the viewfinder/lens twisty to pop up the flash" appear on the screen? No. Nothing does. Our photographer is supposed to refer to the 178-page manual if he or she wants to know what this flashing means.

What about a sophisticated photographer? This person has turned the camera's off/auto/manual/playback dial to "manual". By default, manual mode is actually fully automatic as far as exposure and focus are concerned. Our photographer presses menu. There are actually three menus from which to choose. There is Shooting Menu 1, Shooting Menu 2, and Setup. These are selected by picking tabs on the far left of the screen. It isn't clear what distinguishes the two shooting menus and why it isn't simply one longer menu like the two-screen setup menu. Suppose our photographer selects Shooting Menu 1. Each item is indicated by a cryptic icon. Because nobody could possibly figure out what these mean, as one rolls the cursor over the icon a text explanation reads out on top of the screen. The fourth item is "Best Shot Selector" (BSS). The menu prints out enough text to let the photographer turn this on and off but not enough to explain what BSS is. For that, our photographer must refer to page 102 of the manual. Given that our photographer has paid for $900 of computer hardware that includes a bit-map display, why can't the menu system offer a help option for each item? In the case of BSS this would say "Useful for macro and in low light. Holding the shutter release continuously will result in up to 10 images being taken and only the sharpest being written out to the flash card." That's about 175 bytes of text.

About halfway through the design process, the engineers at Nikon must have realized that they had no clue how the camera's controls should be laid out. So they provide extra menu user interface to let the photographer finish the job! The mode and exposure compensation buttons on top of the camera, near the shutter release, are labeled "mode" and "+/-". With the main switch set to "A", they do nothing. You'd think a message would appear on the LCD saying "To activate these buttons, switch to M" but in fact nothing happens at all. In M, the mode button, in combination with the thumb dial, let's you switch among the usual shutter-priority, aperture-priority, manual, and program automation for exposure. The exposure compensation button, again in conjunction with the thumb dial, makes the image darker or lighter. These buttons are also labeled "func. 1" and "func. 2". If you wade through enough menus you can set func. 1, for example, to scroll among mountain, macro, and self-timer modes, thus duplicating a dedicated button for this purpose on the back of the camera. You could also set func. 1 to duplicate the flash mode button on the camera back. func. 2 can be similarly set. Have some fun by setting these, handing the camera to a friend, and demanding that he or she engage aperture-priority exposure or +1 stop exposure compensation.

Like the woman at the Catskills resort who complained that the food was terrible and also that the portions were too small, let's close this section with a complaint about how slow the 995 is. It is slow to wake up. By default, the camera will go to sleep after 30 seconds to save power. Waking up to take or view a picture takes an agonizing second or two. If you're accustomed to a film camera or a high-end digital SLR, this will drive you crazy.

Bundled Software

Digital photo titled provincetown-pedestrians The Nikon Coopix 995 comes with two bundled software applications. Both are image cataloging programs rather than image editing programs (i.e., you'll still have to buy Adobe PhotoShop or Microsoft PictureIt!). One is called "Nikon View 4" and the other is "Cumulus", a third-party image database management system. After installing all the software onto a Windows 2000 laptop, it was a pleasant surprise to find that Nikon View woke up upon the insertion of a flash card into the laptop's PC Card slot. A small window popped up inviting me to transfer the contents of the flash card onto the computer. I accepted the invitation, the images were copied, and the pop-up disappeared.

Where were my pictures? I started Nikon View 4 from the Start menu. The application came up, festooned with fancy 3D icons. No images. No folders. The Open command was greyed out on the File menu. After 5 minutes of clicking around, I still couldn't find the images. The help command in the application does not bring up the user's manual for the application; that comes in a PDF file on a separate CD-ROM (no, it isn't available on www.nikonusa.com).

Using the Microsoft operating system tools, I was able to find the images. They were under a subdirectory in the Nikon View 4 folder. I started Cumulus, the bundled database application. After a few minutes, I was able to create a "catalog" and import the folder containing the images from the 128 Mbyte flash card. The computer chugged away for a few minutes, presumably spending most of its time generating thumbnails. After 61 images had been imported, a dialog box came up. The monster database of 61 pictures was at the limit of the version provided free by Nikon. Would I like to visit Canto Software's Web site and pay for an upgrade? Given that (1) this is database software that uses a proprietary format, and (2) Canto Software doesn't publish Cumulus's documentation on the Web, it seemed wiser to trash the application.

Back to Nikon View 4. Perhaps it would work better on a different computer. I put the disk into a desktop computer: "This software is not compatible with your operating system [Windows NT]".

Back to the laptop. This time I tried (1) starting Nikon View 4 first, and (2) connecting the camera up via the USB cable. At first there was a reassuring dialog box about "New Hardware Found, Nikon 995". Then an error message about multiple devices not being supported. Then "Your computer must be restarted". I waited for Windows 2000 to reboot. The same little Image Transfer pop-up appeared upon reboot. I rolled the mouse over the obscure icons long enough to figure out which one was "Exit". I brought up Nikon View 4. There is a Transfer command on the File menu but it was greyed out. No images. Unplugging the USB cable from the back of the computer and plugging it back in resulted in a tree showing up in the "Select Folder" area. At the top of the tree was "Card reader" (actually the camera). Underneath was a folder entitled "100NIKON". Clicking on the folder resulted in thumbnails showing up in the main window. All of the vertically exposed images were incorrectedly oriented. However, one nice thing was that the camera settings were available in a third window.

There is no "Select All" option from Edit but with some mousing and scrolling I was able to select all the images from the folder. This caused the Transfer option on the File menu to become active. I transferred the images again. I was never asked for a folder name. No new folders showed up on any menu. It seems that Nikon View 4 is only useful for feeding images into a third-party database application. And the third-party application bundled with the 995 is only good for 61 images. And Cumulus stores images in a proprietary format that will make them tough to retrieve and process programmatically.

I gave up on the Nikon software and started up a year-old version of Canon's Zoom Browser EX software. I clicked the right mouse button and selected the "New Folder" option. I inserted the flash card in the laptop's PC card slot. It showed up in the Canon Browser as the E: drive. I doubled click on that and the thumbnails appeared. I clicked "Select All" and then dragged the mouse into the new folder. The images were transferred, albeit without camera setting information.

Batteries and Power Management

Digital photo titled captain-jim-gable Nikon supplies a rechargeable Li-ion battery with the Coolpix 995. Nikon rates this for 110 minutes of use with the LCD monitor engaged. In practice the battery was just beginning to fade after about 70 pictures taken over four days. One great thing about this camera is that the battery compartment will take a standard 2CR5 disposable lithium battery as an alternative to the rechargeable battery. So you can carry a lightweight spare or, in a pinch, buy a battery at any drugstore. The battery cannot be charged in the camera. You'll be traveling with a separate charger and cable.

The camera's clock is supposed to run on an internal rechargeable battery that draws power from the Li-ion battery. In practice this proved not to work. Despite the camera having been fitted with a fully charged Li-ion battery for several days, the internal clock lost its setting when the main battery was removed overnight for charging. When the clock isn't set, the Nikon 995 goes into "mid-1980s VCR user interface mode". Instead of the words "Please press the menu button to set date and time" appearing on the LCD screen, a tiny cryptic icon flashes continuously. If you have good eyesight and a good imagination, you may surmise that this icon represents a clock. Actually setting the date and time requires persisting through several main screens of menus and scrolling through many irrelevant options before finally getting to the date/time screen.

In the image above right, note how the camera seems to have focussed on the steel support for the boat canopy, rather than the boat captain. It really was beyond my capabilities to keep the camera set for single-shot autofocus.

Tips

Watch white balance carefully. The image at left below shows what happens when you take pictures indoors and leave everything on auto. Not too accurate, eh?

Auto White Balance Manually set to Incandescent
Digital photo titled interior-auto-white-balance Digital photo titled interior-incandescent-white-balance

When doing macro photography, make sure that you get the remote release for the 995. You'll probably want to be focussing manually, using a tripod, and having the aperture set to the minimum (for maximum depth of field). Unless you're using electronic flash, this implies a slow shutter speed and the risk of camera shake from your finger on the body's shutter release. With a standard SLR you could address this problem by engaging the self-timer. Unfortunately, on the Nikon 995 the same button that engages the self-timer is also used to select manual focus. It is therefore tricky to keep the camera in "manual focus/self-timer" mode simultaneously.

Here are some examples, playing around with house plants. Aperture was set to f/9.8 (the minimum). Camera was in aperture-priority autoexposure mode with no exposure compensation, resulting in shutter speeds of around 1/2 second. White balance was set to incandescent. Lighting was from some low-voltage track lights. Focus was set manually by looking at the LCD monitor. The camera was on a tripod and the shutter release pressed manually, though carefully. The four images below were collected from a total set of 5 (i.e., it was pretty easy to get the desired picture).

Digital photo titled orchid-straight Digital photo titled orchid-side Digital photo titled cactus-blossom-2 Digital photo titled cactus-blossom

Alternatives

If you want to carry a camera at all times in your pocket or purse, look at a smaller camera, such as the Canon Digital Elph series or the Kyocera/Yashica Finecam S3. For flash photography with a clunky point and shoot, pick up a camera with a hotshoe (e.g., Canon G1). For photography of fast-changing scenes, get a more responsive single-lens reflex digital camera such as the Olympus E-10, the Canon D30, or one of the Nikon D1s.

More

Prediction

A digital camera consists of

  • a lens to form an image
  • an image sensor to record the image
  • an electronic flash (typically)
  • a computer
  • some fast memory (RAM)
  • some slow but persistent memory (flash card or Microdrive)
  • some software in the camera
  • some software on a PC
  • a bit-map display
  • some buttons for user interface

As photographers, we want high quality and, above all, stability in the software and user interface of digital cameras. In the film world, the user interface of cameras has been extremely stable. A Nikon F3 is exactly like a Nikon F and both are reasonably similar to a Nikon F5. A Leica M6 can be immediately used by someone who bought a Leica M3 in the 1950s. All of the Canon EOS bodies made over 15 years function similarly. As far as post-exposure image processing, most of use filing system that remain unchanged for decades. Technology improvements have been gradual. We adopt them by buying a new lens or putting new film behind our old lenses. Our user interface changes very seldom and very slightly.

In the digital photography world, however, if we want to take advantage of the march of technology, we are forced into learning new software and interfaces every year. Many of these new interfaces are built by people who haven't any experience writing software.

In the world of the personal computer, the split of software and hardware has resulted in users being able to adopt technology improvements without learning new user interfaces. The latest Microsoft Windows operating system (XP; the next rev in the Windows NT/2000 family) runs on desktops, laptops, and Palm-like devices. You can get the fastest processor, the best display, the biggest hard drive, from a competitive group of hardware vendors without adopting any of their idiosyncratic ideas about user interface. Windows and applications layered on top of Windows can be difficult to learn but at least you only have to learn things once.

Basically what the world needs is a standard operating system for cameras coupled to a standard PC-based software for image database, manipulation, and publishing. The camera operating system would be flexible enough to deal with hardware that contained lens zoom rings versus lens zoom push buttons. Companies like Nikon and Canon would concentrate on pushing the state of the art in image quality, image stabilization, weatherproofing, and control placement. They'd get out of the software and user interface design business. A company called Flashpoint ( www.flashpoint.com) tried to do something like this in the late 1990s. The idea was probably a bit too early--most digital cameras were still being bought by gadget freaks--and the execution was poor (i.e., the FlashPoint operating system wasn't significantly better than code written in-house by Canon, Olympus, et al). But in my opinion this is where the industry will end up in 2010.


The camera reviewed was lent to us by the kind folks at PhotoAlley.
Text and photos Copyright 2001 Philip Greenspun.

Article created 2001

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



G. Patrick Barr , August 05, 2001; 03:58 A.M.

Ach...you Canonistas...:o)

I bought a Nikon CoolPix 990, the predecessor to the 995, about three weeks ago. This piece is a compliment to the Nikons I own already (F2 & F5) & related accessories. A plus is the ability to work with Nikon speedlights, such as my SB26 or SB28.

Besides the creative work I do for fun, I run a small manufacturing business, where we make safety equipment for heavy duty trucks. We have a new catalog due out in a few weeks, and the photos required are well suited to a digital camera.

The key feature on the 990 which caught my interest (which also applies to the 995) is its ability to directly create a high res .TIF file format. These files can be directly handed to a printing house, who can then make the required color seperations from the file, something they can't do with the .JPG's created by most consumer digital cameras. I'd have a tough time making a living at product shots, but our product is pretty down to earth, and simple illustrative shots work well with the subject. I have hired a fine local pro when elaborate lighting or setups were required, but this work is straightforward enough to handle myself.

After past experience with graphic artists and printers, I concluded a digital camera with this feature, with sufficient resolution to do an acceptable 8x10, would be the ticket. Moreover, the local Best Buy ran a closeout on the 990 (presumably to make way for the 995). I grabbed the last one for $490. That was the good news. The bad news was it came with nada.zip. No manual, no batteries, no card, no box, not even a lens cap.

An email to Nikon produced a URL where one can download either the full manual (170 pages) or a "Fast Track" manual. I chose the latter. After exploring the menus, it was fairly easy to get acceptable results.

I added a 32 MB flash card to start, just purchased a 128MB card. With the 32 Mb card I bought a SanDisk card reader, which plugs into a computer's USB port. Included is their software, which basically allows Windows to read the card like another disk drive, letting you open, copy, or delete files on the card. When set to full resolution, the 990 will create a 8-10Mb .TIF file. One can select a variety of smaller .jpg formats, convenient for snapshots or email.

I have occasionally had trouble getting WordPerfect to read and insert the Nikon jpg's, but the problem went away if I would open the files in another image editor, and re-save them.

For accessories I have added the Wide (.66x) adaptor, which basically allows the lens to get down to the equivalent of 25mm (in 35mm film format). A fisheye converter and two telephoto adaptors are also available. I also added the Nikon flash bracket, which includes a TTL sync cord, allowing use of the Nikon AF speedlights. $40 buys you the set of four Nikon 28mm filters.

The CP 990 is indeed useless for action photos, between shutter lag and computer warm up. I will admit, however, I am spoiled by my F5, which is about as good as it gets for action shots. The fussy interface will also slow you down in switching to different operating modes. The first batch of batteries, four Lithium AA's, lasted about 120 shots. I have since switched to rechargeable NiMH, which appear to work fine and should save cost in the long run. And you thought F5's eat batteries!

The LCD screen is okay for gross viewing of images, but for critical work you'll want to take a along a laptop, where the image can be carefully studied for exposure, framing, details, etc.

All in all, the camera looks like it will easily meet my needs. No, it's no F5, nor will I ever make posters from its images, but the quality is satisfactory, and the workflow is convenient for my subjects. The rotating halves of the camera make viewing easy when in odd positions. I have barely scratched the surface on its capabilities.

The first try at a creative shot was downright humbling...a lily I grew was blooming, and in my office at work I snapped one shot. The on-camera flash gave unpleasant shadows, so I turned off the internal flash, connected an SB28, bounced the flash off the ceiling, and got a nice image...way too easy!

Image Attachment: stargazer_detail.jpg

Joshua I. Divack , August 05, 2001; 09:59 A.M.

My firm purchased the Nikon 990 for use with the website. In addition to the many things Phil pointed out, I would like to emphasize the significant "shutter lag". I never quite know what will end up recorded, since I never quite know when the picture is actually being taken. This is enormously frustrating.

Joachim Gerstl , August 05, 2001; 12:36 P.M.

Such a shame!

I own a Coolpix950, skipped the 990 and thought about bying the new one. Till I hold one in hand: 3.3 megapixel ( not very impressive ), 8Bit colordepth ( ??? nothing but a joke, 12Bit is standard now ) and a wider zoomrange but still a very slow lens ( state of the art is: Canon Powershot 38-380/2.8-3.5 !! ). The shutterdelay is very little ( yes it is ) the problem is the autofocus. The result is the same. If objects move you never get what you want. DON`T BUY THIS CAMERA. I´m sure Nikon is able to do it better and will do it soon.

Andrew Grumet , August 05, 2001; 05:28 P.M.

Nikon sells a filter set for 990 series cameras, containing a UV filter, a circular polarizer, and two neutral density filters. Unfortunately, the effects of the circular polarizer (why I bought the filters in the first place) can only be viewed on the LCD screen, making it very difficult if impossible to detect a correct setting in bright daylight. In addition, the lens cap will not fit on the front of the circular polarizer. Caveat emptor!

Edward Kang , August 05, 2001; 07:00 P.M.

The Nikon 995 is a modification of the 990. No more.

Phil talks about how the digital camera world eschews UI convention, while the normal photographic keeps it constant. This may be the case with Nikon's top of the line digital P&S's, but it is not the case with Canon's G1, which has the exact same cheezy dial used on the EOS bodies, in addition to two wheels which change the aperture and shutter speed. Sounds familiar?

A photographer only needs control over film speed, focus, aperture, and shutter speed. The rest can be as archaic as a Crown Graphic, or as feature-laden as a DV camcorder. I don't care if I need to navigate through twenty menus to turn my pictures coffee-toned, or to turn the camera into a voice or video recorder. What I do care about is being able to control photographic fundamentals established over more than a hundred years quickly and easily.

WTF?

Jay J. Pulli , August 06, 2001; 12:46 P.M.

Bravo! A real camera review from a real photographer, not a PC reviewer or a feature tabulator. I can't tell you how many times people have come up to me while I've been shooting with my M6 or F5 and said "why don't you just get a digital camera?" I should photocopy Philip's article to hand out on such ocassions. It would be much quicker than explaining to those digital converts why I still use film. But they don't have time to listen to me, they are too busy looking for more batteries.

William Nicholls , August 06, 2001; 05:08 P.M.

I have to admit I share a disdain for many of the design shortcomings of my Coolpix 990. The 995 hasn't improved things much. The LCD is still mirror-shiny, the optical finder is a joke, and accessory lenses obscure the flash exposure sensor.

Some of the comments don't reflect how an experienced user works with the camera. You can twist the body and turn on the camera simultaneously, for instance. That doesn't make the 990 an instant grab shot camera, but then any point and shoot zoom 35 with a retractable lens will take as long to ready itself for use. What's really slow on my 990 is the autofocus.

I could add to the list of gripes, but I've found some peace with the CP 990 in the role where it works at its best. I use it for studio-style product shots where its ability to function with multiple Nikon Speedlights lets me do lighting setups that would only be possible with modeling lights and a polaroid back on another camera. I can immediately see if I need to make a change and can home in fast on the right lighting. I've paid for the camera many times over creating images for brochures and packaging layouts.

Considering the cultish loyalty that the majority of Coolpix users have for their cameras, perhaps the difficulties that Phil and I have with them don't matter much to the market.

Stephen C. Murphy , August 06, 2001; 07:34 P.M.

Philip says, "The lens is equivalent to a 38-152mm zoom lens on a 35mm camera. This is a normal to telephoto range, suitable for portraits and isolating details within scenes."

Not exactly.

While the equivalent FOCAL LENGTH may be 38-152mm, don't expect your depth of field to isolate any details like a fast portrait lens would with a 35mm SLR. At any focal length, including the telephoto end, this camera will have a depth of field closer to a super-wide-angle lens on a 35mm camera (e.g., almost infinite) rendering those distracting backgrounds in all their well-focused glory. In order to pleasantly blur distracting backgrounds with the 995 (or virtually any other digital P&S) you will have to use one of the accessory 2X telephoto adapters (and probably a tripod) and shoot wide open. Also, note that "wide open" on the 995 is not that wide (f4.0 or something). The really great thing about the 995 is the macro mode that renders wonderful detail without any external lenses or adapters. If you want to sell postage stamps or wristwatches on eBay, this is the camera for you!

Dan Brown , August 07, 2001; 08:51 A.M.

I recently bought a Coolpix 880, which is a smaller version, but decent with its 3.34 Megapixel CCD. What floored me about this camera was the utter lack of a predicable time between pressing the shutter release and the actual picture taking event. It can be a fraction of a second to several seconds. I have tried all the programming options. It is impossible to take a "decisive moment" shot. And the things eats $12 2CR5 batteries at a rate higher than the cost of film and processing, so there is no cost savings. Totally bogus! Now I use it for selling stuff on ebay. It will be on that list pretty soon too.

Glen Campbell , August 07, 2001; 12:07 P.M.

Just to correct a small misstatement. You mentioned, "And Cumulus stores images in a proprietary format that will make them tough to retrieve and process programmatically". The Cumulus database is indeed proprietary, but what it does is actually index the content on your hard disk. In other words, the image is still stored in its original form (.JPG, .TIF) and can be edited using your normal tools. You can even modify Cumulus so that it uses your preferred photo editor for editing the images. It might be a "proprietary" database format, but it's widely used for content management in the publishing industry; I use it to maintain information on around 6,000 images of my own, and it's quite handy to be able to index everything by location, name, type of animal, color, etc.

David Goldfarb , August 07, 2001; 09:10 P.M.

I have the 990, and it looks like the interface problems were carried over into the next version.

I usually use mine in manual mode, and that reduces the shutter lag somewhat, but it's still nothing like a manual camera. I've reassigned exposure control to the "Func. 1" button, and focus to "Func. 2." The idiotic thing about this is that if you don't press any buttons and turn the thumbwheel, you change the exposure (press func. 1 to toggle between aperture and shutter speed). In order to focus manually, you have to hold down func. 2 while turning the same wheel. In almost every photographic situation, the focus needs to be adjusted a lot more frequently than the exposure, so it would be nice if focus adjustment could be the default, and you could press a button to set exposure, but it just can't be done that way. I guess they expect most users to leave it on "P" anyway.

I did write to Nikon to suggest a firmware revision for this, if it could be done, but I doubt they would spend any money on anything but the next model.

J. W. Wall , August 10, 2001; 06:28 P.M.

The Kodak user interface is far easier to use than the Nikon 995 you described -- such as the Kodak DC4800 -- and much less money than the Nikon. Not sure about optics.

J. W. Wall , August 11, 2001; 12:16 P.M.

Just to update: Many innovative and easy-to-use features, but the optics of the Kodak DC4800 aren't up to snuff according to an interesting review with comparison tests by Phil Askey: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/kodakdc4800/

Andrew Grant , August 12, 2001; 04:51 P.M.

Jay, Phil was reviewing the Nikon 995 camera not digital camera's in general. The Nikon D1/x/h cameras are very similar to the F5 in look and feel and operation. The Canon D30 equally similar to an EOS film body. All the major controls are the same.

Anyone use to an F5 or other film SLR is not going to be happy with a consumer digital camera. The slow AF/long shutter lag, poor viewfinders and awkard controls will drive them nuts. If you have a film SLR and want to go digital buy a digital SLR that takes your lenses (if you have Nikon or Canon lenses) and be happy.

BTW This is a great site but the best digital camera reviews are at www.dpreview.com. Don't buy a digital camera until you have read its review here.

David Martin , August 13, 2001; 11:02 A.M.

Phil says the 995 is compatible with the IBM MicroDrive. I work at an authorized Nikon dealer, and we stock and sell the 995. We were informed by our Nikon rep that the 995 is not in fact compatible with the MicroDrive, and the two should not be used together. He cited excessive heat from the drive as the primary reason.

Tim Butler , August 20, 2001; 12:05 P.M.

Just FYI, the Nikon View transfer software allows you to set the transfer directory in the program's preferences dialog. I don't recall what the default is though. It certainly doesn't have to be used only with Cumulus, which I also trashed.

And transferring via a $15 Compact Flash -> PCMCIA adapter is _much_ faster than using the USB cable.

tim

Philip Greenspun , August 20, 2001; 07:28 P.M.

In case anyone is wondering what happened to the massive flame war that formerly raged in this area... I just got back from an Internet-free trip to England/Netherlands/Austria and deleted anything that didn't fit the "alternative perspective" guidelines. I'll delete this comment too within a week or two... Basically the only things that should be here are (a) actual user experience reports with the 995, (b) tips to help 995 owners take better photographs, and (maybe) (c) comments on the glorious standardized software scheme proposed at the end of the article.

David Spencer , August 24, 2001; 01:50 A.M.

I have a 990 with a 128MB card. Taking high res TIFF pictures (which end up taking 9MB) in manual mode takes *forever*. After pressing the shutter release it takes close to 60 seconds for the camera to get rid of the busy cursor and process it. Scanning the pics in 'play' mode also has a huge lag when going over these.

Maybe compactflash cards come w/ different speeds - I don't know.

I like the camera however, though I'm not a hard core photo person right now - the immediate feedback of being able to see what pics you just took is great.

Edmund Hayes , September 05, 2001; 02:09 A.M.

I just recently upgraded to the 995 from an 800. Yes as Philip stated this is not a camera to take to an event where you might what to take many pictures quickly in sequence BUT it does take wonderful pictures with GREAT color definition and accuracy. <br> Remember that most if not all digital cameras under a zillion dollars are slow in writing to "disk" so the Nikon is not alone in this respect. <br>

The macro capability is amazing on this camera, it has a great 4x zoom lens and it is built well. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a 3.3 Megapixel digital camera in the $700 - $800. One more thing, as Philip stated there are lots of new things to learn on this camera, lots of buttons to press and of menus to read but it is not that difficult to learn the ones that you will use every day. <br>

Hey I own Microsoft Office, I use Word almost every day. I am sure I only know one tenth of the things it can do BUT I there isn't another word procesor I would every recommend and I bet most people use it no matter how many buttons it has to press and play with.

Pradeep Wijayapala , September 05, 2001; 07:58 P.M.

The focus can be locked by pushing the shutter halfway down in Manual mode, just like with a Nikon SLR. I'm using a 995 with a 1GB Microdrive and haven't had any problems with it, it never gets more than slightly warm to the touch after large transfers.

Re: Nikon View 4. I only use this app to transfer images to the computer. Alternatively I just use Windows Explorer to copy the files across (it appears as a removable drive in win2k) Once that is done I use ACDsee to view, and PS6 to edit and print. NikonView4 will only work when you have the camera hooked up to the computer, the minute you disconnect the camera NikonView shuts down.

Personally I found the user interface to be fine (this is my first digital camera). The camera has a lot of features which requires a large manual to explain. Yes, for fast action shots it is almost impossible to get a decent shot, but it does produce beautiful vivid photos and that is what is important for me in a camera. Also I use the fisheye attachment to create spherical panoramas, it is very simple to do using 2 back-to-back shots.

Lisa D , September 07, 2001; 04:48 P.M.

I purchased the 995 in August to replace my failing 950. At first I was a little disappointed- the 995 does have longer lag in some respects than the 950, but shorter in others. The interface is more complex and definitely needs some work. However, as a neophyte photographer, there are many things I love about this camera. I never had the time, money, or patience to practice with a film camera; with the 995 I can quickly tell if the photo has promise or not, and I feel much more free to experiment. A wide-angle lens, a telephoto lens, and a couple filters are all I need to play. I've gotten interesting effects adjusting the light balance and experimenting with other options. Like all tools, this camera is not right for everyone. It's not very good at handling motion (you or the subject- the shutter speed tends to run slow). It was never meant to replace a professional photographer's film equipment; I'm reasonably certain that I'm close to their target demographic- stubborn young techie wannabe :) Just because it may not be right for you doesn't mean it isn't a quality product. Regarding the bundled software, I don't use any of it. I manually copy the files to my hard drive, and catalog using iView, a great little Mac app with tons of features including cataloging, comments, and web publishing.

Peter Evans , October 01, 2001; 04:37 A.M.

While I've never used the 995, I do possess a 990. Though harsh, Phil's comments don't seem unfair when applied to the 990.

However, I'd like here to ignore the camera for a moment and look at the comments on the bundled (or not) software. I bought my 990 in Japan, where no software is bundled; it was only when I paid a few extra euros for an English manual (too lazy to read the one in Japanese) that I got a CD of goodies. I've never bothered to take the latter out of its sleeve.

To me, the software is a non-issue. I too am using Windows. If I want to copy something from (or to) a CF card, I simply use whichever Commander clone I favor at the time. (Presumably Windows enthusiasts would use Explorer.) It certainly would be pleasant if the camera stored vertical photos the right way around; as it does not, I use IrfanView (free for private use, http://www.irfanview.com/ ) to kick the whole set of them around by 90 degrees (Alt-FB, "Advanced options"). Renaming? Yes, it's a pain. But I typically take three or more (stunningly mediocre) photos of anything, and certainly don't want to rename them one at a time, so I do it all via a batch file in Take Command ("for %a in (01 02 03 04) ren [etc etc]"). I could do much the same thing with a batch file at the bog-standard command prompt -- and, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, even Win2000 and the ghastly ME have a command prompt.

The 990 is slow; the 995 sounds slow too. Autofocusing with the 990 isn't as awful as it was with the 900, but it's still no great shakes; manual focusing is a pain. The firmware could be improved. All sorts of things about this camera could be improved. (Damn, the more I write, the more I wonder why I don't just dump it and blow the dust off my half-forgotten Nikon EL2!) But the bundled software is a non-issue, even for Windows users. Let's not deflect Nikon and the others from the priorities, which must include producing a less-than-stratospherically priced digital camera whose shutter unfailingly opens only milliseconds after its button is pressed.

Eric Chang , October 17, 2001; 03:19 P.M.

It seems very unfair to compare CoolPix 995, or any digital camera with similar capability, to that of a Point-&-Shoot. People are buying digital cameras not because digital cameras are easier to use, lighter to carry, or cheaper to buy. People are buying them because the final objective of taking pictures for most of us is to transfer them into a digital form for publishing or for e mailing to friends. "Easier to use than a P & S" is never the goal in designing Nikon F5 or F100 or Canon EOS, but no one would question the values of these remarkable cameras. Similarly, Nikon D1 and Canon EOS D digital cameras are becoming increasingly popular not because they are easier to use than their SLR counterparts but because they offer capabilities that the regular SLR lacks. Buying any type of camera is a choice between compromises. You can probably tell that I am about to defend the values of CoolPix995 and here it is:

I am a biologist and need to use photography to document samples. These results need to be in a digital form for publication and for presentation. Digital cameras, in general, bypass the need to shoot rolls of film and to develop them and to scan the final images into the computer. This process can become frustrating if none of the pictures turns out OK and you have to go back to do it again. The cost for making pictures is small comparing to the time that we waste. This can become a real nightmare if you have to travel far away to document these. This situation can be easily applied to other pro (i.e., photojournalists on assignment) and tourists who discover that their photos are no good AFTER they come back.

Among digital cameras in the same price range as CoolPix 995 (now around $600 in New York after rebate) the image quality of CoolPix is outstanding, and it is also very versatile. With very inexpensive extenders, you can expand this camera from its standard zoom (35-155mm) to 24mm and 330mm, and this can be further extended digitally by 4x. CoolPix995 can do maro without any accessories. With the lens set to approximately 50-80mm, you can focus down to a few cm. Look at the pictures of those flowers taken by Philip. You can do that with this camera straight out of box.

CoolPix995 has several "sensitivity" settings, which is equivalent of using ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800 films. You can switch between these any way you want. Can we do that with a SLR in the middle of a film with a fixed ISO? You can also adjust "White balance" to tell the camera about light temperature. It is not hard to set this, even though you do have to read the manual first. I still have to read the manual after I bought the F-100. Worse, however, after I read the manual of F100, I still have to carry color correction filters and various films in order to shoot under different lighting conditions. With the CoolPix995, you just have to click the buttons a few times. What if you want to switch to B & W photography? No problem, with a few clicks, you are ready to go.

Finally, very few digital cameras, or P & S, on the market in the same price range as CoolPix995 allow you to select Exposure Modes and to perform Exposure Compensation. Not only CoolPix995 allows you to do both, you can also determine Exposure manually, and it even gives you the option to adjust focus manually. Like F5 and F100, in CoolPix995 you can select one of the five focusing areas as your primary focusing area. Again, similar to the professional cameras and far exceeding those of P & S, in CoolPix995, you can choose matrix, center-weighed, or spot metering. All of these collectively offer you lots of tools for making creative photos, similar to what you can do with a good SLR.

I agree with you all that the user interface of CoolPix995 can be dramatically improved and that the AF speed and can be faster. However, I stress that one must also look at the host of wonderful features that it can bring to your world of photography. CoolPix995 is not a good choice for those of you who just want to take a snap shot and send it to friends by e mail. ( I would not buy a Nikon F5 or Canon EOS for that either!) It is too much a camera for that in terms of complexity, price, and the size of the camera. However, if you need a digital camera for around $600 to give you nearly all the creative tools that a SLR camera can offer, take a good look at CoolPix995.

ivan wayne , November 01, 2001; 10:29 P.M.

Great review. After using a Sony DCS-S75 camera for three months for medical photography I gave up in frustration. I can't tell if it is shooting in focus. The contrast range is poor. It is slow. I rediscovered my canon SLR system. Wow! What a concept. Fast, focus preview through the lens, great contrast range, and colors are right on every time. Digital has a great potential convience factor, the cameras are just not up to the existing 35mm quality level yet.

J. Harrington USA (Massachusetts) , November 02, 2001; 08:42 P.M.

There was mention of shutter lag on the Nikon 990 and 995. I have found shutter lag greatly reduced by keeping the shutter button half way depressed before a critically timed shot. If more than one shot is needed in sequence, the lag is bad.

I have dozens of 990 images on photo.net and on my photography Web site.

Michael Mermagen , November 30, 2001; 01:07 P.M.

I love the coolpix camera, but maybe that's because I'm a technojunkie and more important because I like the image results this camera can produce. I'm not selling my Leica M and R system, but still, for instant gratification, hi res. photos, it's pretty awesome. Digital camera let you see the results immeadiately, not just to impress your friends, but to see if your shot came out right (long before having your slides developed). I am hoping for digital SLR's to get cheaper and more effective, however, they currently do not replace their film couterparts.

Different cameras are for different purposes and cannot be directly compared. Yes, with a Yashica T4 (which I own) I could pretend I'm Henri Bresson sitting at a cafe waiting all day for a girl to jump over a puddle. But pretend is as far as I would get, as the T4 is not even fast enough for "Decisive Moment" Photography. Keep in mind the fixed 35mm lens means you should be fairly close to the puddle.

About the Nikon, before you buy one, understand it's strengths and weaknesses. I personally did not read the manual on my first day of use and shot lots of nice images and was able to scroll through the functions I needed, erase pictures I didn't want, turn off the flash etc. whilst walking down 5th Ave. NYC. I loaded the software when I got home, plugged in the USB cable and automatically the pics came up on the screen. I open Photoshop and can retrieve the pictures right from the camera. Day 2, I read the manual and discovered that there are alot of functions and modes to explore if you need them.

There are useful reviews on the internet explaining pro's, con's and features etc. of all the cameras. The only time to be upset is if you bought the wrong camera for the wrong kind of photography.

Image Attachment: Dollhouse.JPG

gabe kostolny , December 12, 2001; 08:21 P.M.

In the above review it seems to me that Phil rattles off a long list of shortcomings, and no solutions or workarounds. Having used a Coolpix 880 and now a Coolpix 995 as my primary cameras for a year and a half, I've developed some techniques for getting around some limitations of the camera.

1) Slow focus & shutter lag
Pre-focus. Or make use of the great depth of field offered by the camera. Since the lens & sensor are so small, unless you're focusing very close, it's difficult to achieve a small depth of field unless your focal point is very close. You can use this to your advantage by manually setting your focus to 13 or 15 feet, and perhaps stopping down the aperture a bit. Using this in combination with a wide-angle lens should satisfy almost any desire for depth of field. Also, turn off the LCD to speed things up a bit.

2) Slow boot process
I generally leave my camera on with the switch set to "Manual". Then I turn off the monitor, and allow the camera to power down on its own. Doing this rather than using the switch to turn it off means that to return to a "ready to shoot" mode is as simple as hitting the shutter release. It takes a second or so to be completely ready, but you don't have to deal with the usual boot process.

3) Depth of field
While not an ideal solution, this can be limited quite well by using a large aperture and shooting from near the subject. An example:

My Hand

Additionally, it should be noted that you can use one of the add-on telephoto lenses to gain longer focal lengths with larger apertures. So adding the 2x adapter will get you around an 80mm equivalent at f/3.1 or so (if I recall correctly).

Advantages of this camera for me include the obvious instant review possiblities, available focal lengths in a very small package, and the ability to switch ISO sensitivity very easily. I also make use of the 3 different sets of settings, having preferred settings for color and black and white (center-metering, contrast, etc).Being able to modify the contrast, color balance, and color saturation is also very useful. I'm also a big fan of black and white photos, and I find that this camera provides very pleasing images (and retains good shadow detail) in black and white mode if you underexpose one stop and use contrast plus:

Erica (large image)

Take a look at the folds of blanket in shadow. This image was shot handheld at ISO 400, 1/22 second exposure using a Coolpix 995. I also find the availability of ISO 800 to be very useful. Despite the fact it's very noisy, it is very possible to use this to achieve a nice black and white "grain" effect, not to mention the added light sensitivity. I find that it's not very useful for color photography.

Mike Morgan , December 15, 2001; 12:28 P.M.

Warning: Do not by Nikon Digital products. I have an LS-2000 and a Coolpix 950.

Why? Nikon Tech support is less than ideal. Nikon software is buggy.

Tech Support: Nikon used to have a moderated forum on the internet for tech support issues. Now they have 24/7 tech support. But not so fast, you'll have to wait on hold for 75 minutes before being allowed to talk with an ID 10 T (Idiot), who thinks that CCD noise is caused by photoshop!

Software: Their software has bugs in it that have not been fixed for 2 years! 2 Years!

Earnest request:

Do not buy their digital equipment. Please do not reward mediocrity! I don't know what the alternatives to Nikon Digital are, but if you reward mediocrity, you will continue to receive it.

By the way, you should see the latest bug on their 5000 camera....if you power it up with a lens cap on it, it can get wedged so badly (its firmware) that you have to send it back for repair!!! Sounds like their system test group is falling down (yet again).

Teach the Nikon digital leadership (management/executives) that time to market with junk is worse than being a little late with quality.

Alan Krantz , January 11, 2002; 08:50 A.M.

I recently acquired this camera in the form of a gift. While I have some (many?) gripes about the camera (to follow) I disagree with some of Phil's comment with regards to difficulties in using the camera. I managed to switch the camera from Japanese (the purchaser lives in Japan), get the flash up and actually download my first image to a pc without reading the manual (though it took me a while to figure out how to downsize the image on the pc - my Mom's Windows box didn't have xv or gimp).

Having said that - I am disappointed with the size of the camera, resistance to flare, 'sharpness' at full aperture, difficulties in getting shallow dof and other features (I.e., I certainly wouldn't purchase one).

So far (though the verdict is still out) this camera has done nothing to encourage me to switch to a digital system. Looking at the photos (mentioned above -- http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=143902) I see I'm not the only one that has problems creating 'crisp' images with this camera. This is not meant as an insult - as I think it is a camera 'problem'.

I will admit the manual and ui are not all that wonderful -- but then again they also illustrate a 'problem' with digital systems. I.e., while both could be improved upon the digital rendering system (or at least the nikon 995 rendering system) is for more 'flexible' than a film camera (i.e., white balance, iso, spectrum spread, compression, resolution, ...).

One 'odd' comment I have to add - I visited micro center (wanted to replace the 8mb cf that came with the camera with a 128mb cf) and while I was at the store I plop the 8mb cf into an hp printer and in a twiddly I ended up with a nice crisp (?contradiction of above?) image of Dad.

Wei You , January 23, 2002; 03:14 A.M.

.

For an example of the DOF on the Coolpix 995, please look at this photo (on Photo.net):

http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=535441

Original picture info: 16.5mm (35mm equivalent focal length = 78mm), 1/60, f/3.5, flash, ISO 100, Low Sharpening, Saturation+1, 2048x1536 fine.

Post processing in PS6: resize to 800x600, USM (140/0.6/0).

Ianus Keller , January 27, 2002; 11:28 A.M.

My comments are on the glorious standardized software scheme which I truly love. First off, there is a wonderful similar anecdote on how digital cameras get worse in quickness as described in the beginning of the review by Alan Cooper in the first chapter of his book The Inmates are Running the Asylum, which explains how we are frogs slowly cooked without our knowledge by the frustration of technology. It even has the Nikon Coolpix 900 as an example of high tech gone crazy (you can search and read it in the linked excerpt).

But the unified software prediction does make sense to me but I am afraid of lack of so-called competition on the software field. Philip Greenspun himself took back the great bundled Zoombrowser software by Canon, which is the best I have yet seen but is made by a camera vendor. Currently both Windows XP with "My Pictures" and Mac OS X with iPhoto are implementing their standardized software schemes and are both great in doing that, but I would still love to be able to choose between this and some alternatives such as the Zoombrowser or some software like Photostreamer bundled with an online service.

Big problem is the business model for image management applications. The consumer or even the professional photographer in general doesn't see the need to pay only for the organization of their pictures. That is why the best software is bundled either with the camera, the operating system or a printing service. So how to solve that issues?

Kamil Nawrot , January 31, 2002; 06:21 A.M.

I have Nikon Coolpix E995 - bought in Poland. Has a firmware ver. 1.6 (newest than early 995 models which was described in article). In box with camera was: Photoshop 5.0 Limited Edition, Foto Station 4.5 (nice soft for indexing, describing or renaming pictures). Nikon View 4 has an upgrade (for download from http://www.nikon-euro.com/).

For me - this camera is first digital camera that I ever have in my hands. Yes it has a shooting lag - but in general (what was descibed in article)- this camera isn't for an 'lama' photographer.

I like this camera - really :)

Eric Jaakkola , February 14, 2002; 01:54 A.M.

This review was not what I hoped it would be. First of all, you cant compare the shutter lag to a point and shoot which has a fixed focus with infinity set at 4 ft. The owner of this camera will know how to use it so all it's features and complexity are mute. There was very little mentioned about the actual camera performance. I also have a correction, Phillup says you cant hold the shutter half-down on a off-center object, then move back. That is wrong, I do it all the time.

Also, you can set the LCD to review only and set the camera to sleep after 30 minutes. It uses almost no power with the LCD off. Then all you have to wait for is the autofocus which I agree is slow and probably the only weakness I see. You compensate by holding the shutter half down until you see the shot you want to take. I find that 90% of the time you can anticipate when you're going to want to take a picture enough ahead of time that you can pre-focus the camera.

Robert Mech , February 21, 2002; 12:20 P.M.

I've owned the 995 for about a month now and find it to be a great digital camera. Is this the end all of digital? Not in the least but It's an excellent camera for people who fit into the hobbyist category of photography.

I've had a Nikon FG for years of which I've taken some great photos with. My 995 is a great complement to my other Nikon. My biggest problem with other digital cameras Kodak, HP, Olympus (all of which I've tried extensively) is the lack of features. With the 995 you can control everything, just as I would my FG. Many of the above statements are untrue and there are PLENTY of work arounds for the issues. I have version 1.6 of the software on my camera and I have no problems navigating the menus. Sure you can't pick this camera up and be proficient with it, but what camera can you do that with? If you compare this to a point and shoot camera you're comparing apples to oranges. Compare it to an SLR and you get closer to the features. Like my FG, you get Manual (Control shutter & Aperture), Aperture priority, shutter priority and program mode.

I have a hard time putting any faith in an article that slams any camera, there are plenty of good features and functions to the 995. Perhaps if this article was more objective vs. sensationalism towards the 995 the readers might have a informational article of value. This article compares starts off comparing the 995 to a point and shoot. I propose you compare this.

I'm sitting at the table, I have my 995 in my camera bag, I whip it out, twist and gently press the shutter. The camera comes instantly to life (because I didn't turn it off and it's in sleep mode.) and I hit the zoom and get a great shot of something across the street. Compare that to a SLR that my friend whips out changes to the telephoto lens, manually advances the film, manually focus' and then takes the same picture. Come on, you can compare any camera that way. Be objective.

Digital is not for everyone. I shoot both mediums. Use the right tool for the right job and you'll get the results you want.

Ave Evans , April 02, 2002; 11:02 A.M.

HI, I'd like to say that, having read the depressing reviews of the 995, followed by some so-called 'work-arounds', I have just bought the camera anyway for its range of features, and have been thrilled to bits! As a 55 year old woman, who has never been bothered by ISO's or aperture settings, except with an old fashioned light-meter, but having tasted shooting a few family events with a camcorder, I shot a few photo's with the 995 on its default settings, without even looking at the manual! Brilliant! Then, when I'd read or rather quickly scanned through quite a bit of it, really started having fun getting macro shots of flowers, focusing through the window frame on the fields outside and taking some good quality shots of ...(well,I'd better not say, but it was fun!).

There are easy ways to review the current just-taken photo ie. the Quick view button, or the middle button under the monitor that acts as a 'pause' button and holds the picture for viewing. The image can then be deleted immediately by pressing the left button, or, a slight press on the shutter puts you back in shooting mode. (That is no 'work-around'! It comes directly from the manual, like depressing the shutter slightly to focus in 'manual' mode!)

Moving the focus point to the sides or top and bottom with a single press of the arrows on the right hand dial (multi-selector) is simplicity itself, when you don't want to 'lock' the focus by holding down the shutter half way with the steady green light on by the viewfinder!) The menu button gives you the options that needn't be read up in the manual and some of which are pretty obvious (even to the uninitiated!) Like any learning, it is best to find out what the problems are (like reviewing the pictures instantly) and then to read up what is available in the light of actually needing that info. That way it stays in your head. The play back is useful to gain memory after a few shoots, but needn't be touched in a shooting session!

Why bother with the 'poor' Software (now updated and pretty extensive) when you can buy a cheap card reader? You use it like a drive on the computer. So easy to drag and drop your picture folder on to the desktop, thus deleting it from the compact flash card.It takes a few seconds! (That means the camera is ready to go again immediately and I did it several times in the first couple of hours!) If you have an art program for the PC, as most people would when buying a camera of this type in this price range, then you can load in a picture, adjust the levels and save it again under any name, after rotating if that is required. Having a 'nice' photo album is just an option.

Just wish that I'd bought a 995 type camera years ago, as I now have the thrill of shooting and sending 'BASIC' quality images through e-mail, taking super quality images at a couple of touches of a button (QUAL) or just making instant cards for a friends who drop by, using a smaller size option (the letters in the bottom left hand corner of the display) and NORMAL quality. (Just happens that I've had a few people round for my birthday and it was my present!) I can't believe that people criticize this camera for features (like size and weight) that must have been obvious before purchasing! It does come with a strap and case you know! Aren't you fascinated by having a macro picture of your chewed finger-nails? At 2 cm!!! Not something achieved by others in this class. Perhaps not, but this camera is so much fun and offering black and white of this quality as well just leaves me itching to turn the world into pixels! I, personally, found the manual extremely helpful and it is on the NIKON page for downloading now anyway, so sections may be used. Hope that there is someone else out there who knows what they want, is prepared to do some research for the right options and then ENJOYS what they've bought,like me! This camera is going to be super for snaps and for serious recording too!

Pierre Caillaud , January 05, 2003; 10:22 A.M.

I have had a Coolpix 990 for some time now. I thought it was great when I first had it.

Now all I can think about is that I took about 100 pictures with it in 2 years, which comes down to a price per picture of around $5. So much for digital being cheaper.

The user interface is unusable. Phil told a lot about it, I'll just add a thing : when it powers off, the zoom resets itself, and all settings are lost. So when you want to take another picture you have to go through all settings again, including zooming.

I can leave my EOS on without draining the battery. It can stay put with the lens prefocussed and all settings done waiting for something to happen. Then I just have to press a button.

I love the twisting screen though. Too bad the rest of the camera is unusable. They should have put a twisting screen on the Dimage 7 and it would be ultimate.

Chris Combs , February 09, 2003; 03:57 P.M.

I've shot 8,200 photos with the 995. Total time from "reach in bag" to shot captured is under five seconds; as soon as you've got the camera in your paw, click the Power/Mode switch over two notches, and as soon as you've got it out in the open, twist the left-hand side. Simple. Easy. Fast. And why not hit the clearly-labeled and -explained "Quick Play" button if you want to show your most recent shot to a friend?

If you're willing to invest the time required to learn this camera, it's a godsend. The controls are vastly superior to its successor, the 4500.

Lester Anderson , January 08, 2004; 07:36 A.M.

I have used the Nikon Coolpix 995 for some time now, for both general work (e.g. holidays, views etc) but also for professional glamour photography work. I find the camera works very well under most lighting conditions, and is equally at home in a studio setting as out!

I used to use the Nikon View software on our old PC, but since upgrading to a new system with Windows XP, the images can be transferred automatically by just connecting the USB cable. A very handy utility if you want to transfer things quickly and easily.

I normally keep a 128Mb card in the camera and shoot in full size fine mode. Allowing for variations in the complexity and colours present in a scene, the average JPEG size comes in at around 980Kb and so potentially I can get up to 120 images on one card, more than enough for a modelling session.

I have tried the macro setting a few times, and it is really impressive at the close focus of 2cm, unless you have a very steady hand always use a tripod and possibly also the cable release for low light levels.

Although the 995 has been superceded by the 4500, the camera is more than adequate for most users needs, professionals and amateurs alike. The absolute quality and size of images will never equal that of film, but then again it is a new medium and a lot of creative work can be done from a digital image.

Lester

Bob Smith , June 23, 2004; 11:15 P.M.

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