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Nikon CoolPix 990

Nikon updates the hugely successful Coolpix 950, with 3.34 megapixels and numerous enhancements

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 3/1/2000

Executive Overview
We're pleased to report that the Coolpix 990 takes all the best features of the previous 900 and 950 models and combines them with a host of new ones that make this camera really shine. The swivel-lens design is one of our favorite design elements, as it greatly enhances the camera's optical flexibility. Additionally, the control layout stayed relatively the same but with a few additional features, such as the programmable Function buttons. (These programmable buttons make one handed operation of the camera much more feasible under varying conditions.) The camera provides both a real-image optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor display for image composition. A nice feature on the LCD is the very extensive information display that reports a variety of exposure information, including aperture and shutter speed settings. In Play mode, the LCD gives an equally informative readout on captured images and also offers an index display of thumbnails and a playback zoom option.
Optically, the Coolpix 990 is equipped with a 8 to 24mm, 3x zoom lens (equivalent to a 38 to 115mm lens on a 35mm camera), made up of nine elements in eight groups (all made from environmentally friendly glass, we might add). New to the 990 is the seven blade iris diaphragm design, which greatly extends aperture control over the earlier 950. Zoom is easily controlled via the W and T buttons on the back panel and the settings menu even allows you to select the Fixed Aperture feature, which keeps the aperture constant while the lens zooms. A 4x digital zoom can be turned on and off through the settings menu and offers an "stepless" incremental zoom range from 1.1x to 4.0x. We should also mention here, that the 990 has a nice variety of focusing options, including Continuous and Single autofocus as well as a manual control. Under the autofocus setting, you can set the desired focus area, or let the camera decide on its own (which displays a complex target series on the LCD panel and bases focus on the object closest to the lens). With manual focus, you can select a peaking feature that shows what part of the image is in focus, as well as a distance scale to help in difficult situations.
Exposure-wise, we greatly enjoyed the flexible options under the Manual Record setting. When you turn the camera on, you have the option of a completely Automatic or Manual Record mode, in addition to the Play mode. Under the Automatic Record mode, the camera handles everything, from the shutter speed to the white balance, but when you switch to Manual Record, your options multiply greatly. Within the Manual Record mode, you can select either Program, Flexible Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual exposure modes. Program does exactly as it sounds and selects the aperture and shutter speed, but you now have absolute control over white balance, exposure compensation, etc. Flexible Program does the same but instead lets the user select from a variety of aperture and shutter speed combinations. Aperture Priority and Shutter Speed Priority are also pretty self-explanatory, letting the user select one value while the camera selects the other. Finally, Manual gives you total control over everything, a feature we really like. Shutter speeds are adjustable from eight to 1/1000 seconds (with a bulb setting for longer exposures) and apertures range from F/3.5 to F/9.8.
The Coolpix 950 already offered outstanding features like Best Shot Select and a variety of continuous shooting modes. These are all repeated on the 990 and accompanied by a few new ones. In addition to the Continuous and Multi-Shot 16 shooting modes, the 990 also offers an Ultra High-Speed Continuous (approximately 30 frames per second with a total of 80 QVGA shots) and a Movie mode (up to 40 seconds of QVGA sized images at 15 frames per second). There's also an Auto Bracketing feature that brackets as much as two stops up and two stops below the set exposure, producing a total of five images. We really enjoyed these features and the amount of creativity and flexibility they allow. We were also pleased with the return of the extensive white balance menu from the 950 (Auto, Preset, Fine, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent and Speedlight) and the variety of metering options (the famous 256-element Matrix mode, Center-Weighted and Spot). Also, under the settings menu, we enjoyed the ability to alter the in-camera sharpening as well as increase or decrease the contrast or turn the image into monochrome black and white. Not to mention the ability to connect an external flash and use with or without the built-in flash. This camera is so feature laden, it's hard to find lack to complain of.
The Coolpix 990 uses CompactFlash for image storage and runs on four AA batteries. We found the camera a little power hungry (partly because of our reliance on the LCD monitor during the studio shots), so we highly recommend keeping a couple sets of spares around or working with the AC adapter when possible. The camera supports both USB and standard serial connections (using a dual purpose port), for quick connection to a PC or Mac. (The availability of a USB connection is decidedly good news on a high-resolution camera, especially one that can make nearly 10 megabyte uncompressed TIFF files like the '990!) There's also an NTSC video cable (European models ship with PAL) for connecting to a television set.
What a camera! We really love the almost excessive amount of control and think that you will too. The Coolpix 990 gives you as much control as you want, but also offers the luxury of sitting back and letting the camera do all the work as well. With its bevy of exposure options, compact portability, and high image quality we think this camera will be very popular.

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