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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 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 3/1/2000

Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Coolpix 990's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the Coolpix 990 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

The first thing that struck us about the Coolpix 990 was how sharp its pictures were! The earlier Coolpix 950 showed excellent sharpness and detail, but the 990 clearly raises this performance to a new level. Resolution was the best we've seen out of the digicams we've tested to date (early March, 2000), although in fairness, we have a number of 3 megapixel models yet to go. 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.)
Color was very good as well, with excellent saturation across the spectrum. The only weaknesses we could find were a slight tendency to undersaturation in bright yellow hues, and the (very common) problem with the tricky blues in the model's pants and flowers in the outdoor shots. (For whatever reason, many digicams tend to produce rather purplish hues in these colors, and the 990 fell prey to that tendency somewhat as well.) Overall color was very good though.
True to its heritage from Nikon's high-end film cameras, exposure accuracy and control were excellent in the 990. Nikon's apparently added a matrix-evaluating white balance function to the 990, making its auto white balance algorithm a bit more sure-footed. For really tough lighting situations though, we still found ourselves using the manual preset white balance option, a feature we really like to see in digicams we test. (Note to other high-end digicam manufacturers: This is a "must-have" feature for high-end prosumer cameras!) The addition of a true iris-based aperture in the 990 was a significant improvement over the 950's three-aperture system, and very welcome.
As is the case with most digicams, the Coolpix 990's optical viewfinder shows less of the subject than the final image does, displaying a fairly typical 86% of the final area in wide angle and 88% in telephoto mode. The LCD viewfinder was almost 100% accurate though, a very welcome feature for shots involving critical framing (as so many of our test shots do).
Like the '950 before it, the Coolpix 990 is a spectacular macro performer, with a minimum area coverage of only 0.78 x 0.58 inches (19.69 x 14.77 mm). Combined with the 990's 3 megapixel resolution, the detail it can record is literally microscopic!
At the bottom line, the Coolpix 990 delivers a solid upgrade in image quality and resolution relative to the already-excellent Coolpix 950, with some of the best detail and sharpness we've seen yet in a digicam. (At least, as of early March, 2000.)

The Coolpix 990 is an exceptional follow-on to the already excellent Coolpix 950. The list of added features, options, and capabilities is too long to include in a brief conclusion, but suffice to say they're both extensive and eminently useful. Virtually every aspect of the camera's performance has been enhanced or extended, and the result is a true 3 megapixel powerhouse. Despite its incredible array of features though, its fully-automatic Auto record mode makes it easy enough for even the rankest amateur to use. (Set it in "Auto" mode, and hand it to your spouse with no worries or explanations.) For power users, the 990 sports one of the best-designed user interfaces we've had the pleasure to work with. Nikon clearly listened to users of the Coolpix 900 and 950 in developing the 990, and the results show: We're confident in predicting that this will be a very popular digicam, among both amateurs and professionals!

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