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Nikon CoolPix 990

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

<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>

CoolPix 990 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 3/1/2000

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)

Outdoor portrait: (986k) This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal range (which is why we set it up this way!). The trick is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors and our Coolpix 990 prototype did a really nice job. We shot this image using the automatic (986k), manual (1007k) and daylight (1004k) white balance settings, with the manual and daylight settings producing very similar results that were just slightly warm. We chose the daylight setting for our main shot (986k) because we felt it offered the best skin tones and white values overall. (The skin tones were a bit warmer in the daylight-balanced version, but we felt other colors had slightly too much red/yellow in them.) The Coolpix 990 did a nice job with color balance, although it had the very typical problems with the blue in the flowers and model's pants. (Many digicams have a tendency to reproduce these with a purplish hue). Resolution and detail look very good, particularly with the small green leaves next to the model's shirt and the strands of her hair. The shadow areas also look really good with a very low level of noise (it's almost nonexistent!). We used +0.7EV exposure compensation adjustment on this shot for our main image, which managed to get the best exposure overall although it did lose the highlights in the shirt and white flowers. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/535
Aperture: F6.8
(1037k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/446
Aperture: F6.8
(970k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/543
Aperture: F5.2
(986k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/423
Aperture: F5.2
(1013k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/286
Aperture: F5.2
(1017k)


 
Closer portrait: (1021k) The Coolpix 990 does a nice job with this "portrait" shot, thanks in part to its 3x optical zoom lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this. The availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots). Our main shot (1021k) was taken with no exposure compensation at all. (We often find that this shot requires little or no exposure adjustment, since the model's face fills enough of the frame for the meter to get a good reading.) Sharpness and detail are truly exceptional in both the highlight and shadow areas, again with strictly minimal noise in the shadows. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from 0 to +1.0 EV. All shots were taken with the automatic white balance setting.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/625
Aperture: F5
(1021k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/397
Aperture: F5
(1018k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/350
Aperture: F5
(1026k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/258
Aperture: F5
(983k)


 
Indoor portrait, flash: (1027k) As noted in the main review, our test unit of the '990 was a preproduction prototype. While the test shots shown here were taken with an "A level" unit, it still had some firmware quirks. One of these was the flash operation, which seemed to drastically underexpose some shots. The flash certainly had enough power for this shot, once we boosted the exposure compensation by about +1.7 EV, we got the nice, bright shot image here (1024k). The close proximity of the strobe to the camera's lens (and its horizontal arrangement with it) made for somewhat odd shadows. We suspect the tight flash/lens spacing could also contribute to red-eye problems in pictures where the subjects are looking into the camera. (Even with a "red-eye reduction" pre-flash, close lens/strobe spacing can make red-eye hard to avoid. The 990's slow-sync flash mode worked quite well, letting us use the flash as a fairly subtle "fill" illumination relative to the room lighting. This shot (1044k) was taken with in slow sync mode, with +0.3 EV f exposure compensation dialed-in. (The flash seems to be color-balanced fairly closely to incandescent lighting, as there's relatively little blue cast in the shadows.) Of course, for the ultimate in flash photography, you need an off-camera, higher-powered external strobe unit. Fortunately, just as we were nearing the end of our evaluation period for the '990, we received a couple of Nikon's excellent SB-28DX strobe units for a special article we were working on based on their D1 pro SLR. We plugged one of the SB-28DX's (the non-DX model will work just fine with the Coolpix as well), and shot this picture (1029k), showing the beautiful, even illumination you can get with bounce-flash indoors. (Here again though, we had to use a significant amount of positive exposure compensation, +1.7 EV.)

 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (1011k) Manual or "preset" white balance options are becoming more common on higher-end digicams, and with good reason: By shooting a white target as a reference, a good white-balance preset system can completely compensate for the coloration of just about any lighting source. The Coolpix 990's preset white balance option works better than most we've tested, producing a beautifully-balanced exposure under the strong tungsten lighting of this test scene. Our main shot here (1011k) was taken at ISO 100, with an exposure compensation of +1.0EV, and with a manual preset white balance. It shows excellent color balance, although the blues of the flowers were rendered rather purplish. By contrast, shots taken with automatic (1042k) and incandescent (1031k) white balance settings showed a very significant yellowish cast, albeit less so in the case of the incandescent setting. We were a bit surprised that the 990's auto setting couldn't do a better job of eliminating the color cast from the incandescent lighting. We also shot samples here with the ISO set to 200 (1167k) and 400 (1207k). We realized after the fact though, that we'd erred in not performing a separate white-balance preset operation for each ISO speed: Both of the higher-speed settings produced a somewhat greenish cast, particularly evident in the ISO 400 sample. The higher-speed examples do show the noise impact of going to higher ISO ratings. (In the case of the 990, a surprisingly modest noise increase: The blue channel shows significant noise at ISO 400, but the red and green are quite clean. - We're accustomed to seeing more noise in the red channel than the 990 seems to generate. At ISO 200, there's still plenty of blue-channel noise, but significantly less, and the picture is quite usable, IOHO.)
The table below shows samples of images shot at ISO 100, with manual white balance, and exposure-compensation settings ranging from 0 to +1.3 EV.)

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/13
Aperture: F2.6
(1121k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F2.6
(1000k)
+0.7 EV
Shutter: 1/8
Aperture: F2.6
(1000k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/7
Aperture: F2.6
(1011k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/6
Aperture: F2.6
(980k)


 
House shot: (1111k) NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the Coolpix 990 with previously-tested cameras, here's a shot of the original (1206k) house poster.

In this shot, we preferred the automatic (1111k) white balance setting on this shot, as the color balance seemed the most accurate. We also tried the manual (1143k), daylight (1136k) and cloudy (1142k) settings. We found the cloudy setting to be very warm, daylight just a shade too warm and manual just a shade too cool. Resolution and detail are exceptional in the brick and shingle areas, as well as the shrubbery and tree limbs. There's virtually no noise at all in this image and what little there is seems to be from the poster itself. Only a small halo around the dark and light edges gives away the in-camera sharpening. A wonderful job! Our one criticism is that the color is a bit over-saturated: The grass in the poster isn't quite that green, and the bricks aren't nearly that red. The table below shows the full range of resolution and quality settings for the Coolpix 990.

Resolution/Quality series:
 
3:2 Aspect/Fine
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(1018k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(638k)
3:2 Aspect/Economy
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(344k)
Large/Uncompressed
(5633k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(1111k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(716k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(383k)
 
Medium/Fine
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(317k)
Medium/Normal
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(180k)
Medium/Economy
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(86k)
 
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(128k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(84k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(46k)


We also played around with the camera's various Image Adjustment settings, which alter the contrast and brightness. We found the contrast plus setting to focus primarily on the highlights, while the contrast minus setting darkened the entire picture. (We confess to being a bit surprised by this, really expected the contrast adjustment to not interact with brightness nearly as much - We strongly suspect this is a result of the "beta" nature of our test unit.) By comparison, the lighten/darken control did exactly what it was advertised to do: Shifted the midtones of the image without blowing highlights or plugging shadows. It also had remarkably little effect on the color saturation, given the fairly significant tonal move it made.

Image Adjustment Variations:
Auto Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1111k)
Contrast Plus
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(1161k)
Lighten Image
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1162k)
Normal Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(1119k)
Contrast Minus
Shutter: 1/22
Aperture: F5.5
(1047k)
Darken Image
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1044k)


The Coolpix 990 also offers a range of options for in-camera image sharpening, including auto, high, normal, low, and none. With cameras that offer the option, we usually recommend leaving the in-camera sharpening off for critical images, and applying sharpening after the fact, using the unsharp masking operator in Photoshop(tm) or other imaging application. In the case of the 990 though, we were frankly amazed that we couldn't beat the internal sharpening algorithm, regardless of what we did in Photoshop! At the risk of sounding a bit "over the top" on the 990, we have to say that it's *really, really sharp*!.

Sharpness Variations:
Auto
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1111k)
High
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1118k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(1091k)
Low
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1071k)
Off
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F5.5
(970k)
 


 
 
Far-Field shot: This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles, and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

Again, an absolutely exceptional level of detail, with very little noise, and good tonal range. The camera loses detail in the very strong highlights of the white-painted trim on the front of the house, but less so than many others we've tested. Corner sharpness is very good also. Our only criticism is that the color of the bricks is a bit over-saturated. Overall, an excellent performance. The table below has links to samples shot with all resolution/quality settings

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(5633k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/426
Aperture: F6.2
(1077k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/427
Aperture: F6.2
(696k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/425
Aperture: F6.2
(391k)
 
Medium/Fine
Shutter: 1/427
Aperture: F6.2
(315k)
Medium/Normal
Shutter: 1/426
Aperture: F6.2
(194k)
Medium/Economy
Shutter: 1/425
Aperture: F6.2
(96k)
 
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/427
Aperture: F6.2
(129k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/425
Aperture: F6.2
(75k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/424
Aperture: F6.2
(49k)


As we did with the "House" poster above, we shot a series of images showing the effect of different settings for the 990's in-camera sharpening. As noted, we usually recommend leaving the in-camera sharpening off for critical images, and applying sharpening after the fact, using the unsharp masking operator in Photoshop(tm) or other imaging application. In the case of the 990 though, we couldn't beat the internal sharpening algorithm, regardless of what we did in Photoshop.

Sharpness Variations:
Auto
Shutter: 1/426
Aperture: F6.2
(1078k)
High
Shutter: 1/426
Aperture: F6.2
(1108k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/426
Aperture: F6.2
(1079k)
Low
Shutter: 1/424
Aperture: F6.2
(1069k)
Off
Shutter: 1/424
Aperture: F6.2
(954k)
 


We again played with the image adjustment options offered by the Coolpix 990, with basically similar results to those we encountered in the House test above. Samples are shown in the table below:

Image Adjustment Variations:
Auto Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/412
Aperture: F6.2
(130k)
Contrast Plus
Shutter: 1/411
Aperture: F6.2
(131k)
Lighten Image
Shutter: 1/417
Aperture: F6.2
(127k)
Black/White Image
Shutter: 1/414
Aperture: F6.2
(119k)
Normal Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/412
Aperture: F6.2
(131k)
Contrast Minus
Shutter: 1/594
Aperture: F6.2
(136k)
Darken Image
Shutter: 1/418
Aperture: F6.2
(128k)
 


For this test, we also shot a series of photos showing the effect of various ISO settings in the Coolpix 990. The results were fairly typical, with the higher-ISO shots showing increased image noise. (NOTE though that, while the noise level seen in the ISO 400 sample is by no means unusual, the production cameras may not be as noisy as the samples shown here, taken from a prototype unit.) The sample images are linked from the table below.

ISO Variations:
ISO 100
Shutter: 1/255
Aperture: F7.8
(1048k)
ISO 200
Shutter: 1/489
Aperture: F7.8
(1146k)
ISO 400
Shutter: 1/879
Aperture: F7.8
(1193k)


 
Lens Zoom Range (new): The Coolpix 990's zoom ranges from focal length equivalents of 38 - 115 mm, just slightly longer than the 35-105mm lenses typical on most digicams we've tested. The "stepless" digital zoom is nice, in that it allows you to add relatively small amounts of digital zoom if the situation calls for it: As usual, digital zoom trades off image quality directly as the "zoom" level increases, since all it's doing is cropping into the CCD's image area. Our samples below were all shot at the 990's lowest resolution setting of 640x480, which means that only the 4x digital zoom sample shows significant blurring. If we'd chosen a larger image size, you'd have seen blurring at much lower digital zoom levels.

Wide
(130k)
Shutter: 1/393
Aperture: 6.2
Tele
(119k)
Shutter: 1/507
Aperture: F6.3
Digital Tele 2x
(117k)
Shutter: 1/731
Aperture: F6.3
Digital Tele 3x
(114k)
Shutter: 1/631
Aperture: F6.3
Digital Tele 4x
(111k)
Shutter: 1/481
Aperture: F6.3


"Musicians" poster: (1131k) As with the House shot, we shot samples of this using auto (1131k), daylight (1127k), cloudy (1126k) and manual (1136k) white balance options. We selected the automatic setting as it produced the best skin tones and overall color balance. Both daylight and cloudy settings came out too warm and the manual setting produced slightly blue results The auto white balance version seemed the best, although it still had a somewhat warm cast. Color saturation looks good in the model's blue robe (which is hard for many digicams to reproduce) and the skin tones. Resolution and detail are again exceptional (especially in the bird wings of the Oriental model's robe). Resolution is so high that the limiting factor here is really the poster, rather than the camera. As with the house image, the only noise we can find comes from the poster itself. Again, a very nice job.

Resolution/Quality series:
 
3:2 Aspect/Fine
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(1011k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(646k)
3:2 Aspect/Economy
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(338k)
Large/Uncompressed
(5633k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F5.5
(1131k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(718k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(387k)
 
Medium/Fine
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F5.5
(350k)
Medium/Normal
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F5.5
(191k)
Medium/Economy
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(99k)
 
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(129k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(69k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(51k)


We again played with the image adjustment options offered by the Coolpix 990, with basically similar results to those we encountered in the House test above. Samples are shown in the table below:

Image Adjustment Variations:
Auto Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F5.5
(1131k)
Contrast Plus
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(1146k)
Lighten Image
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(1115k)
Normal Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(1105k)
Contrast Minus
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F5.5
(1069k)
Darken Image
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F5.5
(1058k)


 
Macro shot: (1135k) The Coolpix 990 performs extremely well in the macro category, with a minimum area of only 0.78 x 0.58 inches (19.69 x 14.77 mm). Great detail, sharpness and color. Because of the close proximity to the subject that the macro function allows, the flash was ineffective with this test. As with the Coolpix 950 before it, if you're looking for a camera to do really close macro work with, the 990 would be an easy choice!

 
"Davebox" test target: (1068k) The Coolpix 990 again performed very well here. The usually difficult cyan and magenta color blocks look very vibrant, as does the sometimes difficult green square on the MacBeth(tm) chart. In fact, the entire color chart looks very nice. The only criticism we can find to make is that the pure yellow swatches are a bit under-saturated. The red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart look good as well, with the Coolpix 990 easily able to distinguish between the two (many digicams have trouble here and try to blend the colors into one). The subtle tonal variations in the Q60 chart are also reproduced well, with the "B" range in the pastels completely visible. Likewise, the shadow area on the briquettes turned out well, with excellent detail and barely any noise. (The bottom pair of briquettes in the deepest shadow were more or less invisible though.) We shot with the cloudy (953k), daylight (935k), auto (934k) and manual (1068k) white balance settings, choosing manual as the most accurate, based on the whites. Daylight and auto produced similar results, both slightly warm, and the cloudy setting was very warm (as you'd expect).

Resolution/Quality series:
 
3:2 Aspect/Fine
Shutter: 1/19
Aperture: F5.9
(806k)
3:2 Aspect/Normal
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(532k)
3:2 Aspect/Economy
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(317k)
Large/Uncompressed
(5633k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(1068k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(625k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(360k)
 
Medium/Fine
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(255k)
Medium/Normal
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(156k)
Medium/Economy
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(91k)
 
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(101k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(61k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(45k)


We again played with the image adjustment options offered by the Coolpix 990, with basically similar results to those we encountered in the House test above. Samples are shown in the table below:

Image Adjustment Variations:
Auto Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F8.3
(1068k)
Contrast Plus
Shutter: 1/19
Aperture: F5.9
(908k)
Lighten Image
Shutter: 1/19
Aperture: F5.9
(1024k)
Normal Image Adjustment
Shutter: 1/19
Aperture: F5.9
(1021k)
Contrast Minus
Shutter: 1/26
Aperture: F5.9
(891k)
Darken Image
Shutter: 1/18
Aperture: F5.9
(922k)


 
 
Low-Light Tests 
The Coolpix 990 did an amazingly good job in our low-light tests, producing very usable images all the way down to the limits of our test, at 1/16 foot-candle. The images at that level were rather dark, but could be brightened pretty well with an "auto levels" operation in Photoshop(tm), and noise was surprisingly low. At 1/8 foot-candles and using the ISO 200 or 400 sensitivity settings, the camera captured very bright images. (For comparison, a city night scene under typical modern street lighting has a brightness level of about one foot-candle.) The Coolpix 990 is a great low-light shooter!

We've recently changed our test procedure to insure that the cameras we test are at a uniform 70 degrees F (~21 C) when we shoot the low light tests, and we proceed from the lowest light levels to the brightest. This insures that the camera electronics and sensor are at their lowest temperature when we test under the most sensitive conditions (longest exposures, highest ISO settings). CCD noise levels are very sensitive to temperature, doubling every 6-8 degrees C. Thus, if you attempt a low-light shot after running the camera continuously for an hour or two, you'd probably get drastically worse results than those shown here. Likewise, if you were taking pictures on a winter night and the camera had equilibrated to the low air temperature, your results could be substantially better.

ISO 100
8 fc
Shutter: 1/6
Aperture: F2.5
(1012k)
4 fc
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.5
(1057k)
2 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.5
(1007k)
1 fc
Shutter: 2
Aperture: F2.5
(1012k)
1/2 fc
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(1064k)
1/4 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1131k)
1/8 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1248k)
1/16 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1123k)
ISO 200
8 fc
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F2.5
(1123k)
4 fc
Shutter: 1/5
Aperture: F2.5
(1137k)
2 fc
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.5
(1069k)
1 fc
Shutter: 1
Aperture: F2.5
(1091k)
1/2 fc
Shutter: 2
Aperture: F2.5
(1257k)
1/4 fc
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(1187k)
1/8 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1241k)
1/16 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1175k)
ISO 400
8 fc
Shutter: 1/18
Aperture: F2.5
(1248k)
4 fc
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F2.5
(1253k)
2 fc
Shutter: 1/5
Aperture: F2.5
(1208k)
1 fc
Shutter: 1/2
Aperture: F2.5
(1226k)
1/2 fc
Shutter: 2
Aperture: F2.5
(1150k)
1/4 fc
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(1275k)
1/8 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1219k)
1/16 fc
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.5
(1259k)


 
Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available). Nikon's "guide number" rating of the Coolpix 990's flash should translate to a usable range of about 7.5 feet in telephot mode (a rather modest distance, akin to that of the Coolpix 800). Our own tests were a little hard to "call", as glare from the target seemed to fool the camera into somewhat underexposing all the flash shots. There does appear to be some light falloff after about 9 feet though, so you'll want to use an external flash unit for anything other than moderately close shots. (We'd really like to see more-powerful internal flashes on digicams, particularly high-end ones like the Coolpix 990!) One solution is to shoot at higher ISO settings, but that boost the image noise along with the flash range. (We noticed after the fact that the camera for some reason slipped in shots at ISO 200 on us, for the 12ft and 14ft tests.)

Flash Range/Distance (Auto ISO): 
8 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 100
(1144k)
9 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 100
(944K)
10 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 100
(866k)
11 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 100
(828k)
12 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 200
(1050k)
13 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 100
(743k)
14 ft
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F4
ISO 200
(1073k)
 


ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: (973k) Without a doubt, the Coolpix 990 is the sharpest, highest-resolution camera we've tested to date (early March, 2000). We do need to qualify that statement though, with the observation that we're only in the earliest stages of testing 3 megapixel cameras, so there could very well be others with similar or even better performance out there that we just haven't gotten to yet. Still, we were surprised by how much more detail was evident in the 990's pictures than (for instance) in those of the prior 2 megapixel Coolpix 950: We "called" the 990's resolution at 800-850 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, with significant detail visible all the way out to 900-1000 lines. By comparison, the 950 tested out at about 800 lines horizontally (and a bit of a stretch at that), and 650-700 vertically. Overall, a significant step up in resolution, much more than we saw in digicams when going from the 1.5 to 2.1 megapixel level. (These numbers were obtained with the lens at its wide angle setting: Telephoto numbers were slightly lower, as is usually the case.) The tables below hold links to sample photos taken at every combination of resolution and image size, at both wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings. (Here's a link to an uncompressed TIFF image (9,509K!), for those with either high-bandwidth connections, or a generous endowment of patience. Note that you'll probably need to download this image to disk to view it, as most web browsers won't know what to do with the TIFF formatted file.)

Wide-Angle Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.5
(973k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.5
(642k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.5
(358k)
Medium/Fine
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.5
(263k)
Medium/Normal
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.5
(148k)
Medium/Economy
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.5
(102k)
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.5
(116k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.5
(69k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.5
(52k)


Telephoto Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.6
(1001k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(595k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(335k)
Medium/Fine
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(253k)
Medium/Normal
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(141k)
Medium/Economy
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(95k)
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(106k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F5.6
(67k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/31
Aperture: F5.6
(51k)


 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: We found the Coolpix 990's optical viewfinder to be a little loose, showing about 86 percent of the final image area in wide angle (398k) and about 88 percent in telephoto (419k). The percentages were about the same in the smaller image sizes and in the 2048 x 1360 3:2 aspect ratio (448k) size. We also noticed that framing with the optical viewfinder resulted in an image shifted down to the left/bottom. The LCD monitor was essentially dead-accurate, showing about 99 percent of the final image area in wide angle (417k) and about 100 percent in telephoto (417k). As with the optical viewfinder, the percentages were the same for the smaller image sizes and the 2043 x 1360 3:2 aspect ratio (449k) size. To give you an idea of what we're looking for, we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the Coolpix 990 does a nice job.

Geometric distortion in the Coolpix 990's lens is relatively high, with the lens showing a 1.0 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end and a 0.63 percent pincushion distortion on the telephoto end. Chromatic aberration is present but fairly low, we caught about one pixel of coloration on each side of the black resolution target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). Flash coverage looks good, with just a little falloff at the wide angle end of the lens' range.

 

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<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

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