Steve's Digicams

Posted 3/4/2000
(updated 10/18/2000)

Click for a QTVR tour of the Nikon Coolpix 990
Click on the 990 for 360-degree QTVR tour

The Nikon Coolpix 990 is the first of the new wave of 3.34-megapixel resolution digital cameras. It retains the best features of the Coolpix 950 like the razor sharp Nikkor 3x zoom lens, the closest macro capability of any digicam, the highly durable magnesium alloy body and the unique swiveling lens design.

It now includes many of the user-requested improvements (CF card slot on side, USB connectivity, improved battery life, better LCD) and adds powerful new features like multizone autofocus, autoexposure bracketing, Flexible Program mode and a 7-blade iris diaphragm for real depth of field control.

The 990's 3.34 megapixel CCD delivers a non-interpolated image resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels with an uncompressed TIFF image file of just under 10MB in size. Recording modes include still image capture at up to 2 frames per second in full resolution, 320 x 240 QVGA at 30 frames per second and a new movie mode that shoots 40 seconds of (silent) QVGA Motion-JPEG at 15 fps.

Nikon Coolpix 990

Nikon has finally answered the question of how to keep the lens cap with the camera. They now include a "lens string" that slips around the joint between the two sections of the camera.

Nikon Coolpix 990

The Coolpix 990 has an exclusive Multi-Area autofocus mode for quick composition without interruption. It searches the 5 zones for closest subject or sharpest subject. It is a direct descendant of Nikon pro film and D1 digital SLR cameras.

The 990 also features a 50-step manual focus, Nikon’s 256 element Matrix metering and new 256 element Matrix white balance system to insure the best possible exposure and color balance in every shot.

New is a 7-blade iris diaphragm for true depth of field control and versatile exposure control with four exposure modes:

  1. Programmed Automatic (with Flexible Program)
  2. Shutter Priority - (bulb [max 60 secs], 8s, 4s, 2s, 1s, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/750, 1/1000)
  3. Aperture Priority - (in wideangle: F2.5, 2.8, 3.1, 3.5, 3.9, 4.4, 4.9, 5.5, 6.2 and 7.0 - in telephoto F4.0, 4.4, 5.0, 5.6, 6.3, 7.0, 7.9, 8.9, 9.9 and 11)
  4. Full Manual control of both shutter and aperture.

In the "P"rogrammed automatic mode there are more options available via the Flexible Program mode. By rotating the command dial the "P" changes to a "P*" and each click brings up a different combination of shutter speed and aperture values that yield the same exposure.

Exposure compensation and Auto Bracketing capabilities are also included.

Nikon Coolpix 990

The 990 has a USB 1.1 interface which makes downloading those large image files to a PC or Mac a snap. This is a dual I/O port supporting both USB and serial RS-232 connections. Nikon does not supply a serial port cable and the NikonView software is not capable of controlling the camera other than image downloads. The 990 now has user-selectable video output (NTSC or PAL). This eliminates the need to build two different camera models but the 990 will come in two different color schemes. The North American cameras will be charcoal grey with a purple colored finger grip (as shown here), the European models will be the black and red scheme used on the Coolpix 950's.

Nikon Coolpix 990

Another thing that can be connected to the Coolpix 990 (or the 880) USB port is the new MC-EU1 wired remote control. The MC-EU1 allows you to trip the shutter and operate the zoom lens in A-Rec or M-rec modes. In Playback mode it lets you scroll forward or backwards through the stored images.

An even more powerful record mode operation is available for time-lapse recording. There are two modes: Interval Mode A begins when you push the release button and repeats at the programmed intervals. Interval Mode B is the same but the camera begins automatically after a preset amount of time has elapsed.

The remote's shutter button is like the one on the camera and has a half-press position to set focus and exposure and trips the shutter when fully depressed. The LCD panel on the MC-EU1 shows the settings for the interval modes and also displays the camera modes (A-Rec, M-Rec, Play) and "Busy" while writing to the CF card. There is a builtin illuminator that can be turned on so you can see the LCD display in the dark.

Note: The Nikon 990 requires firmware v1.1 or greater to use the MC-EU1. Most 990's shipped with v1.0

Nikon Coolpix 990

The 990's CompactFlash card slot is located on the side, making it easy to change cards without removing it from a tripod. Nikon is supplying a 16MB 8x high performance Lexar CF card.

This is a CompactFlash Type I slot, it is not Microdrive compatible.

Nikon Coolpix 990

Nikon has bundled one of Lexar Media's new and fast 8x speed, 16MB USB-enabled JumpSHOT CompactFlash cards. Included is a mail-in coupon for the JumpSHOT USB cable for $9.99 (50% discount) if you'd like to have an untethered way of downloading your images.

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Lenses & Options

Coolpix 990 Specifications

 CCD 1/1.8-in. high-density CCD; total number of pixels: 3.34 million
 Image size 2,048 x 1,536 pixels
XGA-size (1,024 x 768)
VGA-size (640 x 480)
3:2 (2,048 x 1,360) selectable
 Lens 3x Zoom-Nikkor; f = 8-24mm (equivalent to 38-115mm) F2.5-4 with macro; 9 elements in 8 groups; all glass
 Autofocus Contrast-detect TTL AF; 4,896-step autofocus control including macro range
5-area Multi AF or Spot AF selectable
 Focus modes 1) Continuous AF mode (when using LCD monitor)
2) Single AF mode (when not using LCD monitor and/or selectable from shooting menu)
3) Manual [50 steps from 2cm (0.8 in.) to infinity with Peaking indication]
 Shooting distance 30cm (11.8 in.) to infinity
2cm (0.8 in.) to infinity in Macro mode
 Optical viewfinder Real-image zoom viewfinder
magnification: 0.4~1.1x
frame coverage: approx. 85%
diopter adjustment: -2~+1 DP
 LCD monitor 1.8-in., 110,000-dot, low-temp. polysilicon TFT LCD
brightness/hue adjustment
frame coverage: approx. 97% (through/freeze image)
 Auto OFF mode 30 sec.; can be set manually (1/5/30 min.)
 Image Storage uncompressed TIFF or compressed JPEG
 Media CompactFlash (CF) Card Type I
 Shooting modes Fully automatic ([A]-REC) mode
Custom ([M]-REC) mode (three combinations of mode settings can be memorized)
 Shooting menu 1) White balance
2) Exposure metering
3) Continuous
4) Best-Shot Selector (BSS)
5) Converters
6) Tone compensation (Auto/Normal/More Contrast/Less Contrast/Lighten/Darken/Monochrome)
7) Image Sharpening
8) Digital zoom (stepless, up to 4x)
 Capture modes 1) Single
2) Continuous
3) Multi-Shot 16 (16 frames in 1/16 size)
4) VGA Sequence
5) Ultra High-speed Continuous (approx. 30 fps for 80 QVGA-size images)
6) Movie (40 sec. for QVGA-size images at 15 fps)
 Exposure metering 4-mode TTL metering:
1) 256-segment Matrix
2) Center-Weighted
3) Spot and
4) Spot AF Area
 Shutter Mechanical and charge-coupled electronic shutter
Bulb (max 60 secs), 8 sec. to 1/1,000 sec.
 Aperture 7-blade iris diaphragm
3 EV range in 1/3 EV steps
 Exposure control 1) Programmed Auto with Flexible Program
2) Shutter-Priority Auto (with Sensitivity control)
3) Aperture-Priority Auto
4) Manual; Exposure Compensation (±2 EV in 1/3 EV steps)
Auto Bracketing (5 steps within ±2/3 EV)
 Exposure range EV -2~+15.5 (W), EV -0.8~+16.7 (T) (ISO 100 equivalent)
 ISO Sensitivity 100, 200, 400 or Auto
 White balance 1) Matrix Auto White Balance with TTL control
2) 5-mode Manual with 7-step fine tuning (Fine/Incandescent/Fluorescent/ Cloudy/Speedlight)
3) Preset
 Self-timer 10 sec. or 3 sec. duration
 Built-in Speedlight Guide number 9/30 (at ISO 100, m/ft.)
 Flash control Flash modes:
1) Auto Flash
2) Flash Cancel
3) Anytime Flash
4) Slow Sync
5) Red-Eye Reduction
 External Speedlight Multi-flash sync terminal connects to external Nikon Speedlight SB-28/28DX/26/25/24/22 through the Multi-Flash Bracket Unit SK-E900; built-in Speedlight can be canceled when using external Speedlight(s)
 Playback menu 1) 1 frame
2) Thumbnail (4/9 segments)
3) Slide show
4) Zoom playback (stepless up to 3x)
Histogram indication & highlight point display
Peaking indication
Hide and protect attributes can be set to each image
 Delete function Deletes all frames or selected frames
 Interface USB interface; Serial interface (Windows: 115kbps, Macintosh: 230kbps)
 Video output NTSC or PAL (selectable)
 I/O terminal Power input
Video output
Digital output terminal (USB/Serial)
Sync terminal for external Speedlight
 Bundled Software NikonView Version 3, Altimira Group's Genuine Fractals 2.0 LE, Canto's Cumulus 5.0 LE Image and Asset Management Software, iPIX's Immersive Imaging Software, and QuickTime Video Version 4. Great Photo! image correction software for Mac and PC to be added by June 2000. The Reference CD-ROM includes Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0, Instructions for Using Nikon View Version 3, and Nikon's "Guide to Digital Photography" (Online Camera Manual for the CoolPix 990).
 Power requirements 4 x 1.5V alkaline "AA"-size batteries; 1.5V FR6 lithium or 1.2V Ni-MH “AA"-size batteries can also be used; AC adapter (optional)
 Battery life Approx. 1.5 hrs. when using LCD monitor and four 1.5V alkaline "AA"-size batteries at normal temperature (20(C/68(F)
(W x H x D)
Approx. 5.9 x 3.1 x 1.5 in. (2.5 in. at grip)
(without battery)
Approx. 370g (13.1 oz.)

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