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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 3:Design

Review First Posted: 3/1/2000

Nikon continues the swivel-lens design of the Coolpix 900 and 950 models with the Coolpix 990. With its ability to swivel just shy of 360 degrees, the lens can be pointed back towards the user, straight ahead or straight down to the ground, while keeping the LCD screen oriented for easy viewing. The camera body is compact and light weight, measuring approximately 5.9 x 3.1 x 1.5 inches (15 x 7.87 x 3.81 cm) with the lens stowed in its upright position and weighing about 13.1 oz (371.4 g) without the batteries.

With the lens facing forward in its normal "stowed" position, the design of the front of the camera remains quite minimal. The lens itself doesn't protrude much from its barrel and the built-in flash and front side of the optical viewfinder fit snugly beside it. Beneath the lens barrel are the external flash sync socket and the dioptric adjustment dial for the optical viewfinder. On the very inside of the hand grip is the DC power input jack, covered by a soft rubber flap. Interestingly enough, Nikon swayed from their usual black and red design features to an updated combination of black and purple, and a rainbow reflective logo on the front.

This shot shows the camera with the lens unit rotated to the position most people will use it in. This orientation orients the LCD panel vertically, while the lens, flash, and optical viewfinder face forward.

Looking at the top of the camera body, there's a small status display panel (helpful for conserving batteries by not using the LCD monitor), the Power/Mode dial, shutter button, a couple of function buttons and a small command dial that 's used to change certain camera settings. An exceptional feature on the 990 is that the Mode and +/- buttons on the top panel also double as Function buttons, programmable through the Setup menu in Manual exposure mode to access various exposure options. This was designed specifically to allow one handed operation, as you can hold down one of the buttons with your index finger and scroll through the chosen options with the command dial. This is a nice design change from the earlier Coolpix models, which were decidedly two-handed cameras.

The majority of the controls are located on the back panel of the camera, along with the LCD monitor. The layout of the controls is, again, very similar to the preceding Coolpix models. The Monitor and Menu buttons live at the top of the LCD panel, with the zoom controls and rocker toggle button off to the right side. Beneath the LCD are several controls for macro, manual focus, flash, quality, size and a few others. When the lens is pointed frontwards, the optical viewfinder is visible from the back panel. Two LEDs located directly beside the viewfinder report the status of the autofocus and flash.

We like the bulky hand grip on the right side of the camera which enables a firm, secure hold on the camera. (We noted that this feature is somewhat larger on the 990 than the earlier 950, making for a more secure grip.) The soft rubber surface fits directly under your fingers, providing additional friction for a good grip. Located inside the hand grip are the serial and USB I/O jack (a dual interface), the video output jack, the CompactFlash compartment and an attachment for the carrying strap. The digital and video inputs live beneath a soft, flexible rubber flap that quickly and securely snaps into place. The placement of the CompactFlash slot makes it easy to change cards when mounted to a tripod and the plastic door simply flips open and snaps shut. (The sturdy design of the CompactFlash door addresses the single most frequent complaint of 950 owners: The flimsy plastic flap used to cover the memory slot on that model. There is no access light to let you know when the camera is accessing the card, so you'll have to pay attention to the LCD monitor or the small status display to know when it's OK to change cards. (It's important to never remove a memory card while the camera is writing to it, lest you corrupt your images or even damage the card.)

Finally, the flat bottom of the camera holds the battery compartment and a metal tripod mount that are unfortunately too close together to allow battery changes while on a tripod. The battery compartment has a sliding lock that keeps the door tightly shut.

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