feature list of the 995 first hit the net, it provoked a lot of head-scratching.
Where was the increased pixel count? Where were the significant new features?
Why did a handful of minor changes justify a new number (Nikon has previously
simply added an S to the end of a model number when making minor changes)?
On one major Coolpix newsgroup, a poll asking how many 990 users were
planning on upgrading to a 995 revealed that virtually none were. The
possible excitement of a new digital camera from Nikon was replaced by
a giant, collective yawn.
was somewhat premature.
you haven't already read my Coolpix 990 review,
please do so before looking at this one. Since the 996 shares 95% of
the features of its predecessor, almost everything I wrote there is
still relevant. In this review, I'll concentrate on the differences,
and on the Coolpix 995's performance.
what's different between the Coolpix 990 and 995? Well, here's a reasonably
like much change when reduced to a list, does it?
it's not the new features that impressed me as much subtle improvements
to the overall image quality. Specifically, noise is considerably reduced,
long exposures have fewer stray pixels, and color saturation and fidelity
on the Microdrive question. It isn't addressed in their manual, nor are
these high-capacity cards mentioned on their Web sites or in marketing
when pressed, Nikon says that Microdrives shouldn't be used. The concern,
apparently, is heat build up. Privately, you get a variant of the "use
at your own risk" line Nikon seems so fond of (e.g., "if you
scratch your D1's CCD by cleaning it with a cloth, it'll cost you a bundle
to fix," while Nikon technicians use that method to clean the CCD!).
I don't use a Microdrive in my Coolpix 995, but not because I'm worried
about heat. Since a full resolution JPEG is usually about 1MB in size,
a 128MB card works just fine in the 995. A 1GB Microdrive tempts you to
shoot with abandon (hope you like shuffling through 1000 shots to find
you shoot using the uncompressed TIFF format, you'll probably want a high
capacity storage card, such as the Microdrive. I don't think you gain
anything worth the nearly 10x increase in size, however.
Coolpix 995, like the 990, is a very full featured digital camera. Nikon
did a wise thing and didn't fool with a winner. Short of interchangeable
lenses, a flash hot shoe, and a raw file mode, there isn't much that's
missing in the specification box.
thing that doesn't get mentioned in most reviews of the Coolpix cameras
is the manual. The manual that came with the 990 was adequate, though
it didn't really discuss the why's and when's of using features. Apparently
Nikon thought the manual lacking, as the 995's manual is all new. Unfortunately,
that's not necessarily good news. First, the camera came with several
errata sheets for the manual, indicating that the manual might have been
rushed. Second, the six page "Menu Guide" (42 itty-bitty screen
shots that attempt to show the structure of the menuing system and serve
as a TOC to the rest of the manual) is, well, not much of a guide. That's
especially true since several of the errata relate to those pages.
been shooting with a Coolpix 9xx model for over two years. Each new iteration
has added features, but each model has also added complexity and contradictions.
So a warning: if you don't want to take time to read a 179-page manual,
don't have time to experiment with camera settings, and you aren't willing
to suffer a few miscues along the way, the Coolpix 995 isn't for you (I'd
suggest the 880).
Nikon didn't exactly get everything right in the transition from 990 to
995. I haven't seen most of these annoying changes discussed in other
reviews, by the way, so I'll spend a bit more verbiage discussing them
here. For example:
eject button on the CompactFlash slot is hard to get to. On
the 990, the fold-out eject button was at the bottom of card slot and
had a larger cutout above it to allow your finger to reach in and fold
out the button. On the 995, the eject button is at the top of the card
slot, and there's less room to get your finger in to fold the button
out. If you've got fat or large fingers, you'll object to the change.
The problem went from bad on the 990 to worse on the 995.
strap positions have moved to assymetrical positions on the edge of
the case (on the back side). The 990 hung from your neck in a better
balanced position than does the 995. I also don't like the fact that
this tends to push the strap towards the camera user when hanging slack.
On the 990, the strap tending to hang to the side, out of the way, when
extended front grip sticks out less from the body, but it extends
wider. If you've got a small hand, as I do, you'll much prefer the 990's
narrower grip. It's a lot easier to "lock onto" the 990's
grip than it is the 995. (And yes, we've got the same glued-on rubber
grip on the front, which has a notorious reputation for coming loose
and needed remounting.)
battery compartment door and tripod mounting positions have changed
relationship once again (the fourth time in the twist and shoot
body design), making for the need of yet another mounting plate for
those of us who use quick mounts. Moreover, the 995's battery door has
a curved bit that extends further towards the tripod mounting hole,
thus requiring an absolutely custom plate with almost no extension on
one side of the tripod hole (I was able to use a common lens plate on
the 990). Yuck.
pop-up flash raises a whole 2" above the lens center, ostensibly
to improve red eye. Sorry, Nikon, but the formula for determining red
eye is X = ( Y / 2 ) / tan(a) where: X is the camera-to-subject distance,
Y is the height of the flash above the lens, and a is 2.5 degrees. So
by positioning the flash 2" above the lens, red eye has been eradicated
all the way out to 25 inches. I don't know about you, but I haven't
taken many pictures of people when they've been less than two feet away
from me. The "TTL" sensor moved with the flash head, but it
didn't move far enough to clear the current available Nikon lens converters.
new lever that limits the swivel action of the camera (yes!) is poorly
placed (no!). If you use the 995 on a tripod, you won't be able
to access the limit lever. Frankly, the only time I'd want to use the
limit lever is when the camera is on a tripod. Worse still, those
of us who use quick mount plates on our cameras must tolerate never
being able to use it. The limit lever should be on the lower front portion
of the camera, just below Nikon's logo. Further, it should be an absolute
lock on the swivel action, not just a limiter.
has been added as a supported language. Besides
German, French, English, and Japanese, you can set the 995's menuing
system to Spanish. Mucho gracias.
a silly one: Nikon has replaced the "REC" that is stenciled
between the A and M positions of the camera mode switch with a camera
icon. Yes, that makes everything crystal clear, doesn't it? The first
time I saw it, I wanted to set the switch to the "camera icon position"
to see what that did. Why can't we just have A, M, and Play?
of things Nikon should have fixed, but didn't:
viewfinder still shows far too little of the frame (85%), and it
still has parallax in two dimensions (with the flash out of the way,
the viewfinder could have been flip-flopped to be centered at the same
horizontal position as the lens). Lens converters still block the viewfinder.
DC In socket is still on the front of the camera, where cables tend
to snake into your picture at inopportune times.
messages and menus are still a bit too Japalish (or is Englinese?).
the following message: "1 Erase Images Yes or No?" (and the
selectable options then appear in the order of No followed by Yes).
Sure, we all know what the camera means, but you'll find yourself looking
at some messages a couple of times just to make sure it means what you
think it means.
overload still impairs shooting styles. Shooting
macro focus shots with the self timer set? Well, you'll get to press
the focus button three times after every shot just to get those settings
back. Even if I agreed with Nikon's decision to cancel the self timer
after every shot, why should close up focus get canceled? (By the way,
the manual forgets to tell you that the self timer cancels itself after
the EN-EL1 lithium battery. On the plus side, you get a rechargeable battery
and a compact charger unit. And lithium batteries do better in cold weather
than alkaline or Nimh. Also, in a pinch, you can use an expensive 2CR5
battery (not easy to find while traveling) while waiting for your EN-EL1
to recharge. On the down side, Nikon's price for additional batteries
is about triple what a set of rechargeable AA Nimh batteries would cost
you, and you can't sub in easy-to-find AA batteries in a pinch. The battery
changeover was a simultaneous step forward and backward, in my opinion.
got a few new things wrong:
- If you
use an external Speedlight, the internal flash must be popped up,
even if the internal flash has been turned off via the menus. This is
because the flash sensor is on the pop-up portion of the flash.
Balance bracketing is in the bracketing menu, which means that you can
set exposure bracketing or white balance bracketing, but not both. Not
that I can think of a situation where I'd want to do that, but Nikon
continues to group features together in ways that ultimately limit what
a user can do. I'd much prefer independent features, especially since
the Coolpix supports the ability to hold multiple settings in User Sets.
- The MH-51
battery charger supplied with the camera doesn't act as an AC supply.
But the EH-21 AC adapter can charge the EN-EL1 battery. This
is absolutely silly marketing on Nikon's part. I'd prefer to have paid
a few dollars more and received both the AC and charging abilities.
megapixel 1/2" CCD
x 1536, 2048 x 1360, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640
f/2.6-5.1 (38 - 152mm 35mm film equivalent) (plus 4x digital zoom)
autofocus, spot autofocus, 50-step manual focus; close focus at
middle zoom position ranges from 0.8" (2cm) to infinity.
1 or Type II CompactFlash card (16MB card supplied)
second to 1/2300 second (some limitations in various exposure modes),
plus 60-second bulb.
ISO 100, 200, 400, or 800
TTL Speedlight with GN of 32 (10m). Slow sync, red-eye reduction,
flash exposure compensation, and external Speedlights supported
(requires optional sync terminal cord)
Video (NTSC or PAL, user selectable)
rechargeable (EN-EL1) included (Nikon claims the battery is good
for about 220 frames or 110 minutes)
110,000 dot color LCD shows 97% coverage, optical viewfinder shows
EN-EL1 battery, battery charger, USB cable, video cable, 16MB CompactFlash
card, camera strap, lens cap, instruction manual, Nikon View 4 CD
x 3.2 x 1.6" (138 x 82 x 40mm), 13.8 ounces (390g)
a close look at how the 995 does. Here's a shot at the widest zoom taken
in very difficult lighting. The metering is pretty much dead on, despite
the intense backlight (the sun is just barely out of the picture).
Here's a 400% look at the steeple in the background. There's good sharpness,
but look at the left and right edges. Once again, our old friend chromatic
aberration strikes in high contrast situations, with the left side going
purple/red, the right going green. Basically, this is the same performance
seen in the 990. If it weren't for the color shifts on edges, the Coolpix
995 would give the professional digital cameras a real run for the money.
On the other hand, the 995's lens is darn sharp in regular contrast situations.
The sharpness is so acute, that it's easy to tell that these are plastic
flowers. Indeed, the detail on the green "leaves" is nothing
short of spectacular, with only digital aliasing visible.
At full telephoto,
there's just a bit of pincushion distortion, but the image is very sharp
and contrasty. Very little loss of sharpness is evident in the corners,
and I'd say the overall sharpness is the best of any Coolpix to date.
zoomed fully to the wide position, the lens shows a great deal of barrel
distortion. There's measurable light falloff in the corners, and the corners
are distinctly softer than the middle. This is the same poor performance
we've seen with the Coolpix 950 and 990, and the corner performance gets
worse at close distances.
fidelity at any focal length is nearly perfect. The telephoto image, once
I sampled the white point, is as close to identical to my test chart as
I've seen. (My sample point on the wide angle appears to have picked up
a touch of light falloff--that's probably my fault, not the camera's.)
Coolpix 995 has all the pluses and minuses of Nikon's metering system.
For most situations, the matrix meter is perfect. In a high contrast
situation, there's a tendency towards underexposure of centrally located
The spot metering is dead on. Center-weighted metering
is difficult for those new to Nikon to master, as the weighting that
Nikon uses is very center-oriented, and there's no indicator to tell
you which area that is.
colors in a Coolpix 995 image look more subtle than those of the 990.
Part of this is the very evident lower noise level. Shadow detail has
less of a tendency to pick up blue or red channel noise, thus the shadows
degrade to black very naturally.
detail doesn't fare as well. It's very difficult to expose in a way
that preserves highlight detail. In almost every case, you're better
off underexposing slightly and using Levels or Curves to lighten the
highlights. The 990 was very slightly better at rendering bright areas
at the proper exposure, but not enough to warrant giving up the other
pluses the 995 provides.
still has defects. The redesigned lens, while giving more
telephoto reach, still has very visible barrel distortion and chromatic
aberration. Both keep the Coolpix line from seriously crossing over
into the pro world. And frankly, neither should be present on a US$900
camera. If I had time and money to spare, I'd pull the lens out of
my Coolpix and install a C mount. Sure I'd lose autofocus and automatic
aperture setting, but I bet you the resulting images would be substantially
hasn't really improved.
The pop-up flash really doesn't solve any problem well, and the TTL
sensor is still blocked by most lens converters, forcing you to use
an external Speedlight. Useful flash settings are still buried in
color LCD still isn't visible in bright light. The folks
at Hoodman should rejoice, as Nikon still can't seem to figure out
how to get an anti-reflective coating and daylight viewing into
their LCD. Canon and other cameras have better color LCDs, IMHO.
Curiously, Nikon sells a Nikon-logoed hood accessory in Japan, but
doesn't sell it anywhere else in the world.
Plenty of resolution to print 8x10" prints, and the color fidelity
is excellent. JPEG artifacts at the Fine setting are minimal. Color
fidelity is improved over the 990, as is saturation of some colors,
such as yellows. Shadow detail is better, and noise is far less present.
camera. You can play the all-automatic game, or you can manually
control virtually every feature, including things that professionals
look for, such as flash fill levels. The extra telephoto oomph gets
rid of one weakness of the Coolpix line and actually forces you to pay
attention to depth of field.
Here's another example that reveals just how well the 995 does: the shadow
areas are so free from digital noise there's almost a film-like quality
to them (note, I said almost). Again, the lens performance holds
the 995 back--virtually all the defects I can find when examing this image
at 800% are lens-induced. Still, remarkably good performance for a consumer
this Coolpix sits at the top of the prosumer digital camera heap.