DCRP Review: Nikon Coolpix 995
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, August 2, 2001
Last Updated: Friday, October 26, 2001

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My biggest project in the year 2000 was the Nikon Coolpix 990 vs. Olympus C-3030Z review. It was, and still is, an extremely popular review. It was also a very polarizing review: when I picked the C-3030Z as my choice, I received many angry letters from Coolpix fans. My main complaints about the Coolpix were redeye problems, a lackluster movie mode, and fewer manual controls than the C-3030Z.

Most of those things have been resolved on the Coolpix 995 ($899), most notably the flash. The new pop-up flash sits atop a new 4X optical zoom lens, on the Coolpix's unique swiveling body. Are all the changes on the Coolpix 995 for the better? Find out in our review.

What's in the Box?

The Coolpix 995 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.3 Mpixel Nikon Coolpix 995 camera
  • 16MB Lexar 8X CompactFlash card
  • EN-EL1 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Nikon View 4 and drivers
  • 179 page manual (printed)

One disturbing trend with many digital cameras is the use of proprietary batteries. The previous Coolpix 900-series cameras all used AA batteries, but the new 995 uses a small Lithium-ion battery, known as the EN-EL1. This battery is rated at 650mAh. On the Coolpix 990, you could stuff in four 1600 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries. Need I say more? Nikon claims that the battery will last about 110 minutes depending on LCD usage.
Update 8/4/01: Nikon points out that this isn't a proprietary battery, and that you can buy (non-rechargeable) 2CR5 batteries in many places. That's true, but they're still expensive compared to AA's. Also, testing done by Digital Photography Review shows that the Coolpix 995 with the EN-EL1 lasted just as long as the Coolpix 990 with four 1600 mAh NiMH batteries. Very interesting, considering the different in power output.

To charge that battery, Nikon includes a separate charger that holds one battery. It fully charges the EN-EL1 in about two hours.

Aside from that, there isn't much else to complain about. The 16MB Lexar 8X CompactFlash card is still a bit skimpy for a 3.3MP camera, but at least they didn't put in an 8MB card.

Nikon has the usual lens cap, and they have a strap to keep you (or at least me) from losing it.

The NikonView software is now up to version 4, and it's still pretty mediocre. If you're looking for a serious photo editing suite, try something like Photoshop. I did have trouble with it crashing on my Mac OS 9.1 system on several occasions.

Like the other 900-series cameras, there are a number of accessories available. You can get wide-angle, fisheye, and telephoto lenses, as well as a slide copier, flash bracket, and remote shutter release cord.

Thankfully, the manual is printed and not on CD like it was on some earlier models. The quality of the manual is above average.

Look and Feel

If you've ever used a Coolpix 900-series camera before, you'll feel right at home with the 995. While a few things have changed, overall, it's the same as its predecessors. The body is made of what I'd call "quality plastic" -- in other words, it doesn't feel cheap. The camera is easy to hold, with a big right hand grip and room for the left as well. The rotating lens mechanism is "tight" and stays where you put it.

The official dimensions of the 995 are 5.4 x 3.2 x 1.6 (L x W x D), and it weighs 390 grams empty. Let's start our tour of the Coolpix 995 now, with the front of the camera.

Here you can see the two big new features of the CP995. The first is the new F2.6 Nikkor lens, which now features a 4X zoom. The focal range of the lens is 8 - 32mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 152 mm. I have to say, it's really nice have a 4X zoom instead of just a 3X lens that everyone else has. As I mentioned, the lens is threaded for accessories such as wide-angle converters and filters.

If you want even more zoom, the 995 has a "stepless" 4X digital zoom as well. But do note that using the digital zoom will reduce the quality of your photos.

The other big new addition to the 995 is the "popup" flash. Unlike some other cameras I've tested recently, the flash pops up only when you want it to. The whole point of moving the flash further from the lens was to reduce redeye -- which was one of the big complaints with the 990. I couldn't seem to find the working range for the flash anywhere. You can adjust the strength of the flash via the setup menu. If you want more flash power, you can use an external flash (more on this later).

If there's something missing on the front of the camera, it would be an AF assist lamp - for focusing in low light situations.

Rotating the lens back reveals some more items of interest:

The flash sync port (to the right) works with Nikon Speedlight models SB-28DX, SB-28, SB-26, SB-25, SB-24, SB-22s, and SB-22. You will need the optional SK-E900 Multi-Flash Bracket Unit to mount the flash onto the camera. The 995's manual insists that you only use Nikon-brand Speedlights, and nothing else.

Below the flash sync port is the diopter correction dial, so those of you with glasses can see through the optical viewfinder.

Over on the other half of the body is the power adapter. You can plug in the AC adapter (optional) or a powerpack right here.

Here is the button-filled back of the Coolpix 995.

The 1.8" LCD is bright and fluid, and useable in most situations, except outdoors, when all LCD's are useless. Hoodman USA sells LCD hoods which may help you use it outdoors.

Over on the other half of the body is the optical viewfinder. I already mentioned the diopter correction knob, which is underneath. Since the optical viewfinder is off by itself, you won't be getting any nose smudges on the LCD. The optical viewfinder has a few framing guides inside it, for composing pictures. There are also flash and focus lock lamps next to it.

The buttons above the LCD include:

  • Monitor (turns LCD on/off)
  • Menu (invokes menu system)
  • Zoom controls
  • Quick Review

Pressing the Quick Review button once will put a thumbnail of the photo you just took in the top left corner of the LCD. Pressing it again will make it a full-screen image, where you can do all normal playback operations on it.

To the right of the LCD is the four-way switch, mostly used for navigating the menu system.

Below the LCD you'll find buttons that illustrate the term "multifunction". These things do a million things each. This table should explain things:

If you... Left Button Middle Button Right Button
Press once (record mode) Landscape/Macro/Self-timer Flash Mode Image Quality
Press once (play mode) Delete Photo Thumbnail mode  
Hold down and turn dial on top Manual Focus ISO Image Size

I'll have more about many of these functions later in the review. Two notes about the self-timer mode. First, when turned on, pressing the shutter release once gets a 10 second countdown; pressing twice quickly starts the countdown at 3 seconds. The second issue, which I found annoying, is that putting the camera in self-timer mode forces the camera into macro mode. What if you want to do a regular shot without macro?
Update 8/6/01: Okay, here's how to get around this. In M-REC mode, put the camera into macro/self-timer mode. Then, hold down the macro button and turn the wheel, and you can set the focus manually. So in the case of my night shots, I could set it to infinity. Thus, you'd have the right focus, as well as self-timer turned on. Thanks to Bradford Bohonus for this tip.

Now onto the top of the Coolpix 995. The LCD info display is large, and chock full of information. Here, it's showing:

  • Mode (Shutter priority)
  • Metering (Matrix)
  • Battery (getting low)
  • Landscape focus
  • Fine Quality
  • 28 Photos left
  • Flash off
  • 1/500 sec shutter speed

To the right of the LCD info display you'll also find:

  • Mode dial (Off, Auto-Rec, Manual-Rec, Playback) / Shutter release button
  • Mode and Exposure compensation buttons (which can be changed to whatever you want)
  • Command dial

Here's one side of the Coolpix 995, with nothing to see.

And here's the other side. You can see the CompactFlash Type II slot, the included Memory Card, as well as the I/O ports for Video and Digital (USB), which are under a rubber cover.

One of the big question marks with the CP995 is Microdrive compatibility. The official word from Nikon is that they are not supported. Steve's Digicams, in their review, mentions that the 1gb worked fine for them. Since I don't have a Microdrive lying around, I couldn't test it to be sure.

Finally, here's a look at the bottom of the Coolpix 995, shown with the included EN-EL1 battery. Down here you can see the battery compartment, metal tripod mount, and a lock to prevent the lens from swiveling more than 90 degrees in each direction (useful when accessory lenses are used). You can also see the flash mechanism, towards the left of the photo.

Using the Nikon Coolpix 995

Record Mode

The camera takes five seconds to start up before you can start taking photos (in A-REC mode). In M-REC mode, where the lens position starts where it was left when the camera was shut off, it can be faster.

Depressing the shutter release button results in locked focus in under a second. When you fully depress the button, the photo is taken with a minimal delay. Shot-to-shot speed is good -- you'll wait about two seconds at normal quality before you can take another shot.

One feature that seems less common these days is the 995's ability to pause and delete photos just after they were taken. Where most cameras only show you a preview, Nikon lets you pause and/or delete the photo as well.

Writing an uncompressed TIFF file to the CF card will take roughly 35 seconds. You can do the same pause and delete with TIFFs as well, though you'll have to wait about 10 seconds before you can do so.

The Coolpix 995 has a myriad of quality and resolution choices -- take a look at this chart for more information:

  Image Quality
Image Size # Hi (TIFF) on 16MB card # Fine photos # Normal photos # Basic photos
2048 x 1536
1 10 19 37
3:2 ratio
2048 x 1360
1 11 22 42
1600 x 1200
0 16 31 59
1280 x 960
0 24 47 86
1024 x 768
0 37 69 121
640 x 480
0 86 144 229

The Coolpix 995 is a manual control lover's dream. It has more manual controls than any other consumer-priced camera out there. Of course, if you just want to point-and-shoot, you can do that too -- that's what's what A-REC mode is for.

But if you want more control, turn the dial to M-REC. One of the first choices you can then make is the mode: program, shutter priority, aperture priority, or full manual. Here's a look at each:

  • Program Mode (camera chooses best exposure settings)

  • Shutter priority mode (you choose shutter speed, camera picks appropriate aperture): choose from shutter speed range of 8 sec - 1/2000 sec

  • Aperture priority mode (you choose aperture, camera picks appropriate shutter speed): choose from aperture range of F2.6 - F10

  • Full manual mode (you choose both aperture and shutter speed): same aperture values; shutter speeds up to 60 seconds in BULB mode.

Now let's take a look at the extensive menu system, which contains all those manual controls. The menu system can be overwhelming at first with lots of weird icons, but you get used to it. Take a deep breath - here goes.

  • White balance (Auto, Preset, Fine, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Speedlight) - for many of these, you can do fine adjustments using the command dial, from -3 to +3. For fluorescent, you can choose between 3 different selections. You can also shoot a white piece of paper to choose what you want to be white, using preset mode.

  • Metering (Matrix, Spot, Center-weighted, Spot AF Area)- Spot AF Area measures the exposure at the point which you choose to focus on
  • Continuous (Single, Continuous, Multi-shot 16, VGA Sequence, Ultra HS, Movie)
    • Continuous mode shoots at 1.5 frames/sec until memory buffer becomes full
    • Multi-shot 16 takes 16 shots in a row and puts them into one Full sized image (like a collage)
    • VGA Sequence - Takes 640 x 480 sized images at 2 frames/sec until the buffer is full
    • Ultra HS - Takes 320 x 240 sized images at 30 frames/sec for 70 frames
    • Movie - up to 40 seconds of 320 x 240 video at 15 frames/sec. More later on this.

  • Best Shot Selector (on/off) - take up to 10 pictures, and camera picks the sharpest one and saves it. Best for macro and low-light shots.

  • Image Adjustment (Auto, Normal, Contrast, Brightness)

  • Saturation control (+1 to -2, plus black & white)

  • Lens - select your accessory lens here

  • User Setting - camera can remember up to 3 combinations of settings that you choose

  • Exposure options (AE Lock, EXP +/-. Exposure mode)
    • AE Lock - locks exposure settings after the first shot. Useful for panoramas.
    • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, in 1/3EV increments)
    • Exposure mode (Program, Shutter priority, aperture priority, manual) - described earlier

  • Focus Options (AF Area Mode, Auto-Focus Mode, Focus Confirmation, Distance Units)
    • AF Area Mode - in manual mode, you can choose one of 5 areas on the LCD that you want the camera to focus on
    • Auto-Focus Mode - you choose whether camera is focusing constantly, or just when you press the shutter release halfway
    • Focus Confirmation - If turned on, the outline of the in-focus area of the image is emphasized on the LCD
    • Distance Units (meters/feet)

  • Image Sharpening (Auto, normal, high, low, off)

  • Auto Bracketing (on/off/WB bracketing)
    • On - take 3 or 5 continuous shots with different exposure compensation values
    • WB Bracketing - takes 3 shots: one with chosen white balance, one reddish image, and one bluish image. I haven't seen this feature on any other camera.

  • Noise reduction (on/off) - helps to reduced hot pixels in long exposure shots. See night shot test below for examples. Note that turning this on doubles the time it takes to write the image to the card.

There are a few items of interest in the setup mode as well:

  • Monitor (LCD) options
    • Display Mode (preview and review features on/off)
    • Brightness
    • Hue

  • Controls
    • Memorize - remember camera settings when it's shut off
    • FUNC 1 & 2 - customize what these buttons do

  • Zoom Options
    • Digital Zoom (on/off)
    • Start-up position (last position, wide, tele) - choose where the lens is positioned when you start up the camera
    • Fixed aperture (on/off) - aperture remains the same when zooming

  • Speedlight Options
    • Variable Power - change flash strength from -2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments
    • Internal Flash off
    • Shot confirm lamp - turn off light that blinks when a shot is taken

  • Info.txt (on/off) - image file numbers and a range of photography data is recorded as a file called "info.txt".

Two more options, activated by those multifunction buttons below the LCD are manual focus and ISO. With manual focus activated, you can turn the command dial to select a focus distance. The ISO setting (also known as sensitivity) lets you choose from Auto, 100, 200, 400, and 800. Keep in mind that the higher you set it, the more "noise" will be in your image.

Well there you have it. Enough of that -- let's talk photo quality.

One of the hallmark features of the Coolpix 900 series has always been its macro abilities. The 995 continues the tradition, making it a top choice for those of you shooting lots of close-ups. For this test, I have not only our usual test shot, but a real world macro photo I took in Hawaii.

I think the results above speak for themselves. No adjustment (in-camera or otherwise) was made to these photos. You can get as close as 2 cm (at middle zoom position) in macro mode on the Coolpix 995.

I was pleased with the quality of the night shot I took (above). The ever-present summer fog made this worse than I was hoping for, but I think you get the idea. I took the same shot with the noise reduction feature on and off, and saw no difference. Fooling around wtih noise reduction in other situations did show a reduction in noise.

Overall, the photo quality on the Coolpix 995 is nothing short of excellent. Past Coolpix's have been the benchmark for photo quality, and the same is true here. Take a look at the regular photo gallery, plus the special Hawaii gallery for tons of samples.

Movie Mode

One area in which the Coolpix 995 hasn't improved is its movie mode. You still get up to 40 seconds of 320 x 240 video, at 15 frames/second. There's still no sound recording, but at least you use the zoom lens during filming.

Here's an exciting movie (finally!) that I took while in Hawaii. This is Akaka Falls on the Big Island.

Click to play movie (4.3MB, Quicktime format, no sound)
Note that movie was rotated for better viewing.

Playback Mode

The Coolpix 995 has a complete playback mode that has all the basics plus a few other nice features.

The basic features include 4 or 9 thumbnail mode, slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, and "zoom and scroll".

The zoom and scroll feature allows you to zoom in as much as 6X into your photo, and then scroll around in it.

How about those cool extra features? One of my favorites is the ability to delete a group of photos at once. You just mark the thumbnails you want to delete, hit a button, and they're gone.

Another interesting feature is the Auto Transfer function. You can mark photos as "Auto Transfer" and NikonView will automatically copy them to your Mac or PC when you connect the camera.

If you want more information about a photo you've taken, you'll love the Coolpix 995. You get all kinds of statistics, plus a histogram.

Moving between photos takes about a second. At first, a lower resolution picture is shown, and about two seconds later, the high resolution version appears.

How Does it Compare?

The Nikon Coolpix 995 continues to be one of the cameras to beat in the 3 Megapixel field. It's excellent photo quality, amazing macro mode, and wealth of manual controls make it an excellent choice for the amateur photographer. The biggest complaint about the Coolpix 990 was redeye; with the flash moved up away from the lens, those problems should be substantially reduced. On the downside, I wasn't too happy to see a proprietary battery in the box, and the movie mode is still not as good as other similarly priced cameras (but this won't bother most photographers). Many will wonder why they should buy a 3.3 Megapixel camera when you can get a 4.0MP camera for the same money? Most people, unless they're making very large prints, don't need al those extra pixels -- and with all the features and quality Nikon lens, the Coolpix 995 is a great choice.

What I liked:

  • Excellent photo quality
  • The camera for macro shots
  • Every manual control ever conceived
  • New 4X optical zoom lens
  • Pop-up flash reduces redeye
  • Support for external lenses, filters, and flashes
  • Lots of info about your photos in playback mode

What I didn't care for:

  • Proprietary battery
  • No sound in movie mode
  • Very complex- takes lots of time to learn

Other 3 Megapixel cameras I recommend taking a look at include the Canon PowerShot G1, Casio QV-3500EX, Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom, Olympus C-3040Z, Sony DSC-S75, and the Toshiba PDR-M70.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Coolpix 995 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the Coolpix 995. If that's not enough, Imaging Resource has one too!

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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